I was sooooooooooooooo tempted to make a recommendation of the two series Chidori High RSC and Saki. The parallels between the two are striking. Two high school competitive clubs, in a time of unpopularity and need of new members. A team derived mainly of first-years. A wide range of personalities that make up Chidori’s rifle shooting team and Kiyosumi’s mahjong squad. As shojo pieces, we deal with girl players and one quickly notices the dearth of boys. Each series have a character who does up her hair with a dangly red-ribbon, giving her the look of a blonde rabbit. Two characters, Hikari from Chidori and Nodoka from Saki are noted for their obbos (obbos? Oh, that was the close but no cigar solution to the less than subtle hints given in my Chidori review. A dynamic piece of female anatomy. A palindromic word composed of b’s and o’s which due to their nature, will have to include the plural ‘s,’ seeing that they come in pairs. Got it? Go! … recalculating).
But, in the case of curvaceous Hikari, it’s a case of running gag. As for well-endowed Nodoka, it becomes an obsession. But that the ecchi edge of Saki, and the reason I won’t offer the suggested recommendation. Anyone else want to? Go for it.
And, while I find many things to laud about Saki (plot, clever interweaving of characters and some pretty weird associations of person/personality/persona), my chief criticism does deal with the treatment of Nodoka’s character. She is the second person we meet in the first episode, and Saki (the first person we meet, natch!) remarks that she is an exceptionally beautiful girl. Yes, Nodoka is beautiful (except in moments when she disliked Saki … then she got very ugly), but that is not the be-all-and-end-all. She is sweet, intelligent, dedicated to game she loves and chaffs that Saki hates mahjong (momentary disaffection, due to her experiences playing it at home), and charming. All she is known for, all that people notice are the bobobs (bobobs? This is the next best guess? Puleeze! OK, new hint. The word also means the type of people with limited intellectual acumen who could never figure out riddles as this). The nastier competitors are on her case about the bags of fat on her chest. But it’s so much the ecchi approach which some might find tacky and tasteless in shojo pieces that lack depth.
The characters you meet in Saki are quite different in demeanor than the crew in Chidori. Chidori had quaint and memorable characters. The sweet and friendly Karen. The mask-wearing Komachi (a character ahead of her times, these covid-crazed times). The machine-like Maho. The soft-spoken but stoically efficient Yukio. The rough-edged but gracious Erika. The characters in Saki are … well, frightening might not be too off the mark. Saki’s teammates run a gamut. The president and control-freak Hina. The calculating and deceptively clever Mako. The energetic, taco-loving Yuki (to which I might add horny) who has all the grace of a freight train running off the rails. And these girls of Kiyosumi High are mild-mannered in comparison to the competition. Shy Momoko whose vaporous appearing and disappearing declares that non-existence is a good possibility for a girl who needs all the support of her team captain. The heterochromiac Mihoko who keeps her right eye shut, revealing a placid brown left eye; but when she opens her blue eye … powerful mahjong forces are released (the Christian cartoon Paws and Tales had something of this in the character CJ Brown, whose dual eye shades had some eerie effects). The flamboyant and ego-driven Touka to whom money was no object (in her case, I’d object for free). The cat-girl Kana, whose feline ears would pop up whenever the action heated up at the mahjong table. Though many of the girls do border on the lands of flaky, characterization was a strength; but you had to admit extravagances were taken to extremes.
Another shortfall was the treatment of mahjong. In Chidori RSC, I gained a good understanding of the sport to feel like I could go up and shoot up the town, figuratively. With Saki, I wished to learn more of game, but all I received was game jargon and whatever I could deduce from watching gameplay (nothing). There was more exposure on the public beaches and private baths and hot springs than anything enlightening in the field of mahjong play (we are talking ecchi, after all). But it’s hard to explain the general disappointment in the series approach to the ‘wonder game.’ I’m no closer to relating it in terms of mahjong. So, I’ll use chess and a little touch of parody. Two players hard at it. One pushes forward his queen’s knight with a flash of lightning, threatening a pin of the king and queen. BOOM! The opponent counters with a slide of the king’s bishop, declaring that the attacking piece is now pinned, and the ominous discovered check. FIZZZ! Undaunted, the player counters with an advance of the king’s rook along the king’s knight’s file, with the outlook of devastation on the flank if left unchecked for long. ZAP! POW! WHAP!!!!
Now, if you’re clueless about the game of chess, you’d be at a loss about the last few sentences. That’s my problem with Saki. I wished to know more about mahjong, but the storyline focused on the up-coming tournament, the cast of competitors, and the supposed excitement over a game which one would assume is fast growing in popularity. And turning characters into their avatars and whacking at each other with mystic weapons just don’t cut it for me.
And … don’t get me going on the play-by-play and color commentators ... Oh, too late … rant continues.
Well, Bill, you will have to admit that Black’s weak and pathetic 25<sup>th</sup> move was the beginning of the end for what could have been a promising endgame. White simply ripped into the exposed queen’s bishop file. … Yeah, Darrell, you could say White handed him his crown after that. Turn out the lights, the party’s over!
Ah, the refreshing streams of catharsis sweeping over me! Rant over, return to review.
Of all the features in Saki which seemed to clunk along was the character of Suga, one of few boys that showed up (and those who did tended to drool over Nodoka) After viewing the series ... where did he fit? Beast of burden for Yuki? Hapless buffoon (one of the uglier trends in modern shojo)? Perhaps Suga was the mahjong team mascot (could the high school in question be the Kiyosumi High Brain-Dead Males?). Oh, it's possibly good not to have too many boys in a pure shojo piece ... boys can act like perfect boobs around girls.