The good thing about this experience was that I knew nothing of the technique of ‘picture drama.’ It is a striking approach to story-telling, most appropriate to those who are given to reading picture books and then trying to discover a way of sharing those stories with those who are more visual than auditory. And what better way to be introduced to the picture drama than through the Saki Universe and to see all the intricacies of this style of animation in narrating complex plot ... what little there was.
Picture drama … how to explain it? From the first scenes, I had reminiscences of shows like Romper Room (SMA!) where Miss Suzie, Miss Laurie, or whoever the teacher was introduced the book, opened to the first page, and the cameraman did the rest. Teacher read the words; the camera drifted along the illustration to indicate that the characters were moving about; children were entertained (at least back in the distant past. Not sure how today’s kiddos would take to that). That’s the weird feeling I got through all seven episodes, each about ten minutes long. It was like one frame of the storyboard popped on the scene, where the picture elements float about, zoomed in/out, panning left or right as voices speak parts. Fun’s fun, but this approach was simply simplistic.
A-P should have added the ecchi tag to their description of this piece. In the seven episodes, two contain nudity and crudity. Oddly, these are the only two with the three first-years of Kiyosumi High, shy Saki, buxomy Nodoka, and high-octane Yuki ... honestly Yuki should be doing 5-10 for statutory ra ... let's reduce this to malicious mischief and get some restraining orders. The rest are neat character studies of the other girls from the competing high schools. Heterochromiac Mihoko explains Kana's cat-like mahjong technique to a new member of the club, and then helps Kana baby-sit her younger sibling(s). Team leader Yumi is glad that her teammate Momoko is gaining more confidence in herself and is less likely to go up in smoke. Touka searches for the new member that will return her mahjong team to dominance, using herself as the standard of excellence for choosing purposes (of course!). Neat little snippets of slice of life, lived by people whose sanity you might question from time to time.
Character studies, though, aren't enough to maintain interest in any but the most rabid Saki fans (oddity, Saki herself is a minor character in this series). We learn why Saki, Nodoka, and Yuki had chosen Kiyosumi after their middle school years (Tacos, Yuki? At least you’re consistent). I thought the presentations a little like poorly produced Prezi productions where the floating picture elements make for an unsettling viewing. We learn details which we could have easily gotten along without knowing. In the end, it seemed like a cheap attempt to take advantage of the Saki phenom, using as little intelligence as possible.