It really is crunch time for the Achiga Girls mahjong team in their second round tie - Ako's hard work have put them in an all-important second place position, but with two games still to go everything is still very much up for grabs.
Up next then is Arata Sagimori, sporting a bowling glove to represent her grandmother's bowling alley (or possibly just because it looks kind of cool - more so than bowling mahjong tiles, which could have somebody's eye out... bad Arata!). Although Sagimori seems to have a jump on some of her opponents on account of her hard to fathom playing style, making her more of an enigma than Achiga's other players, things don't quite go to plan, and with the final game on the horizon Achiga slip into third place as their semi-final credentials fade.
Thus, we move on to the final game for this round, and it's up to Shizuno and her never say die attitude - an attitude that she's going to need in spades as, with the final hand of the round coming up, Achiga find themselves in third and with a hefty disadvantage over second-placed Kentani school. With plenty of opportunities to win the hand, but without the points required to qualify, passing her buy, Shizuno is determined to sit it out until the match comes to her - and come to her it does, making for a famous victory and a semi-final place for Achiga. Any celebrations are short-lived however as the full weight of their semi-final challenge dawns upon the girls: a match featuring Senriyama (once again) as well as the fearsome Shiratodai schools.
Despite having another "fast-forward moment", with Arata given little time at the table before we moved onwards, this was made up for by the nerve-wracking tension of Shizuno's game. Much like watching a football match where a single goal will make all the difference, it was surprisingly gripping stuff that played its cards (err, tiles) right from start to finish. It looks like we'll have a little more forced drama and a whole bunch of character introductions from the original series to come next episode (which airs the week after next, incidentally), but now Episode of Side-A is well and truly in the swing of things I can't wait.
Oh, and I wasn't the only one to get a kick out of Stealth Momo's appearance, was I?