Disclaimer: This is not a site review. If you're reading one of these, it's unlikely I'll ever write a site review for this anime. Probably because I don't want to pick it apart. ^_^
Saki's problem lies with its blatant imperfections. Up to around episode 15, this show is amazing. The spectacular animation and amusing characters mitigate the sometimes sluggish pacing, the mahjong sits center-stage at nearly all times in the show, and Rie Kugimiya is voice acting. What more can you ask for?
However, when the action wanders away from the board into a land where the animation budget clearly isn't as high, the show's visuals deteriorate rapidly, and the intensity evaporates, bringing the plot to a grinding halt. In addition, the main arc of the anime (the team tournament) ends with five episodes left to go in the season, causing the individual tournament arc to share the remaining morsels of screen time with two cute, but inconsequential fillers. While the plot pacing makes sense with the decision to have the second season start with the opening of the national tournament, it still feels disappointing.
The mis-handled end kept Saki out of my Top 5, but that doesn't mean that the anime failed. If you can get past the preponderance of yuri, the character development is quite solid, and I feel for each character, despite the fact that I know they are just grist for the mill of Saki's mahjong. Paired with the excellent voice acting, the strong characterization present here really sold the series. By going deep into each girl's background, she became more than a special ability and a cute design. Frankly, I'll be sad to see most of them go when the next season starts.
In the end, Saki represents a decent shounen sports anime hiding behind a bunch of girls sliding around tiles. A strong voice cast, some impressive visuals (albeit with the occasional lapse), and an interesting cast make this show worth checking out.
I should start off by saying that this isn't what I expected it to be, it was a lot more. I gave it a 6.8 but that was for a number of reasons. Animes like Saki have been around for ages, mahjong was just another way to spice it up. For example Beyblades, Yu-gi-oh, Battle B-Daman, to name a few, which doesn't help for originality points. However the fact that it was mahjong and was the first mahjong based anime I have watch left it feeling quiet different and was enjoying to watch.. and also made me want to learn mahjong (which I did). I would recommend having at least a basic understanding of mahjong before watching, unlike me and having to guess what the hell was happening every time they started playing.
A brief synopsis is that a girl named Saki is kinda pressured into a least seeing the mahjong club, since she is a fairly good player. Upon seeing her talent at getting scores of + or - 0 each game (which is harder then actually winning) the mahjong club seek to enlist her so they can prepare for an upcoming tournament. After some deliberation and some initial resentment from Saki, she eventually joins and helps them in competing for the Mahjong nationals, all while slowly building up a relationship with the originally resentful Nodoka (pink hair).
The plot was quite predictable but was picked up by the slight romance aspect, even if it was shojou~ai. Although don't be turned off by this, there is no actual pairing and so little shojou~ai i wouldn't even classify it as one. The powers and such that were put in place to spice it up seem a bit farfetched but somehow flowed with story and didn't seem too out of place, although one person in particulars power was a little bit OP but that would be going into spoiler territory.
Now I have to add animation sound and the rest because apparently if I don't I'm being bais towards story. Not that I watch anime for the sound or animation but I suppose it does help probably ALOT, So I shall add it in. Animation and effects were well done and everything seems crisp, there were a few cheap scenes were minimal animation and chibi's were used but that added to the appeal of the anime. I especially liked the over the top aura and magic effects, which ofc all mahjong players must learn before entering tournaments. Music played a big role in this anime with all of the background music heightening the feelings received from certain scenes, although this is imminent in most anime Saki managed to pull of most moment with an upbeat and face paced electronic/technoy beat. However most of the background music was just average and didn't really stand out, however the openings and endings is what really gave it that extra + to its score.
Not much to say on saki but if your a game based anime enthusiast, like mahjong or wouldn't mind a piece of shojou~ai then Saki is a nice anime to watch. I was contemplating re-watching after I learnt mahjong (because it was good enough to re-watch again), however recent news of a season 2 for Saki has left me waiting instead. (Hopefully more romance and shojou~ai in the next season hey ;P)
I might have been a bit hard on Saki, it has been a while since I watched it so the after feeling of epicness that I may or may not have gotten from it might not be there so I might give it a 7.1 or so but I can only guide and any views on Saki is just my personal opinion.
Saki is a series that falls imbetween two genres. There's too much ecchi for those who don't like it, and not enough of it for those who do. I think this sums up why a lot of people don't like Saki. But what are they missing out on?
The comedy for one, is brilliant. The constant banter and random situations bring mostly everything you expect from a slice-of-life/school-club comedy setting. The suspense in the mahjong battles is great, and the often overexaggarated moves and crazy abilities symbolizing plain moves, defeats and victories are both well made, completely out of place, yet strangely fitting! Calling it a Mahjong series with Dragonball powerups is not so very far from the truth, and though this may seem completely crazy, it works really well. Saki would not be anywhere near the same if it were not for the crazy stunts you see everybody doing.
But the factor I think makes this series REALLY shine, is the sheer amount of different characters. There are so many different people playing matches, so many different groups and schools, and every single one of them has theire own unique skill or ability. And by the end of just 25 episodes, you know every single one of them. And this, I think, is a feat in itself. There are so many series that throw a mountain of characters into the meat-grinder with unique abilities and tricks and all that jazz - but they have no soul, if I can permit myself to be so quaint. By the end of the series, they are forgotten. Saki on the other hand, manages to pull this off perfectly. There are no shallow characters. There are quite a few stereotypical characters yes, but across the board, the character cast is truly well made. And this is what I think lifting the series to the glory it deserves.
As for the Ecchi. Personally I don't mind it, but yes, it is out of place, and I can see why this puts off so many. If it didn't exist, I'm sure Saki would score well over 4 stars overall here, because there really wouldn't be anything left at all to rag at. But at the same time, I think something would be missing. A token amount of boing never hurt anyone after all, did it? ;)
Basically, Saki is about a small high school Majong club. It's members are from various years and are almost all female (one guy, but he's usually ignored anyway). The show includes a team tournament (most of the show), an individuals tournament (squished into a few episodes at the end), and random fillers inbetween (training camp, swimming, etc.) Using Majong is quite original, although the plot is otherwise ordinary.
This is one of those shows that has TONS of characters. At first, it's a bit confusing, but they did a great job of introducing them all during the team tournament. By the end of the tournament, I could place any of the characters in their school groups. In a few of the other anime I watched this season, they couldn't pull this off so the show turned into a confusing mess.
Character development was common and interesting. There was also the interesting and unexpected cute shoujo ai between two of the major characters, which was original. The only character that really bugged me was Nodoka, because of the size of her boobs (it's not an ecchi series, so they were mostly ignored, but looking at them all the time was annoying).
I have no idea how to play actual Majong. However, just like in Hikaru no Go, they make the game so interesting and entertaining, and the main standings easy to understand, so you always understand generally what's going on and it's fun to watch. The ending seemed a bit rushed, but it made me quite excited for the next season.
Great series! It lagged at times but in the long run it was truly an interesting piece to watch. Takei Hisa, my favorite in the whole thing thus far was simply superb. I loved her character to death. Saki and Nodoka’s intimate scenes really aggravated me the most throughout the whole series. I’m really hoping it’s toned down for the next season. Onward! To the Nationals!