Another long break between episodes has once again made it difficult to get back into the swing of Episode of Side-A (this series really isn't suited to big gaps between instalments, sadly), but let's see if we can remember what the Hell is going on in the Nationals semi-final.
This fourteenth episode begins with the final hand in Ako's match - not the most successful of hands for the Achiga girl, but it still marks a broadly profitable outing for the club's third player to keep them in second place in preparation for the fourth and penultimate pair of games to see who has what it takes to make it all the way to the final.
Inevitably, this means that a whole new world of mahjong madness is rolled out to meet Arata (as Achiga's representative for these hands), who has some rather particular tricks up her sleeve thanks to Harue's tutelage. But is it enough to meet a series of rivals including one girl who can effectively pre-determine the results of her team's next player at Shindouji, and another who can effectively "fish out" tiles to build her hands to speedy perfection. Arata's biggest threat might well be Senriyama's data-hungry Hiroko however, who is initially baffled by Arata's blending of her own style with Harue's, but is she on to this little trick already?
As I mentioned in the introduction, it's really tough to get fired up about this series when there are long breaks between episodes that destroy the natural flow of watching these high-stake games play out, but once you get back into the heat of the action it's hard not to enjoy the ebb and flow of the match even when its participants are boasting ever-more ludicrous "special powers" that are now beyond the realm of the subtle and safely into "bonkers shounen" territory. Considering how ridiculous parts of the show are, it's hard to put a finger on exactly why it works so well - I'm not obsessed with the relationships between characters or anything like that, so I suppose it's just the expertly crafted tension imbued in the matches that keeps me coming back for more, and hopefully the final two episodes of this series will bring me back to the point of sitting on the edge of my seat or punching the air with glee, for that is what Saki at its best is all about for me personally.