After taking what might have been a million years, we finally reach crunch time and the final rounds of the national mahjong tournament semi-final to bring Episode of Side-A to a close.
As things kick off in this instalment, it's Awai Oohoshi who is the real threat as she rolls out double riichi win after double riichi win - a particularly problematic set of circumstances once she becomes the dealer and attempts to set herself up for a seemingly never-ending stream of victories. It takes the best that Shindouji's Himeko Tsuruta has to offer to put an end to this run, while Himeko also has some powerful hands up her sleeve thanks to her symbiotic relationship with Mairu Shirouzu to give herself a fighting chance of ensuring her team to progress to the final.
With Ryuuka channeling Toki's ability to see into the future, it seems as if Shizuno is about to be overwhelmed by the talent and assembled oddities facing her, but that would be to assume that Shizuno doesn't have an ability of her own, which manifests itself around the "mountains" of tiles which make up the wall in mahjong. From the seeds of a small victory grows something far more substantial, as Achiga come from seemingly nowhere with a view to marching on towards the final...
As per my complaint with all of the previous few episodes, it's really tough to warm up to Episode of Side-Aafter a long break between instalments, as you find yourself forgetting who is playing, what they're capable of and (perhaps more importantly still) even the score. Once you're settled back in to the show's rhythm however, it's a whole lot of fun, and although at times this final episode felt liable to run away with itself on account of its break-neck pacing it managed to summon enough tension and fascination to be enjoyable as it took us through to the climax of Achiga (and their tutor) achieving their dream. Taken as a whole, Episode of Side-A has never managed to match mainline Saki in any way, shape or form, but as a side-story it still served up a sufficiently delicious snack to leave me smacking my lips for the main course of a full second season of Saki itself. It might not be Chihayafuru by any stretch of the imagination, but who says it even wants to be?