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.