It seems as if Usuzumi is about to unleash her full power upon the national tournament, and there's nothing that anyone can do to stop Eisui's diminutive walking wardrobe malfunctioning from doing so. Or is there?
As Usuzumi warms up to her task, it seems that this is Sae Usuzawa's time to shine, and she reveals her own power - the ability to quite simply block her chosen opponent's hand from forming with a simple stare. This episode also allows us a little time to delve into Sae's back story, and the appearance of a mahjong-loving new teacher at her school, who not only shows Sae and her fellow club members what she's made of but also introduces a much-needed four member to a group that have since become close friends.
Having stopped Usuzumi once, it seems as if Sae has the upper hand here, but the side-effect of her power is that it's incredibly physically draining, especially against an opponent as powerful as Eisui's finest. This really isn't helped by Nodoka, who seems to remain completely oblivious to the super-charged battle going on before her eyes, as she effectively continues to feed Hatsumi all of the tiles she's looking for to build her hand thanks to a sheer disbelief in the supernatural elements surrounding her. Then again, perhaps her stubborn refusal to believe in such things has its own advantages, as while all around her are desperately defending to keep Hatsumi at bay, up pops Nodoka to bag some points. However, has this only served to further unleash Eisui's monster?
Watching Saki - The Nationals continues to be an uneven experience for me - excitement ramps up briefly before being disturbed by a largely needless flashback (it doesn't take a degree in mahjong science to figure out that Sae likes her friends and wants to spend more time with them by staying in the tournament!) and the overall pacing of this episode was again a little sluggish with little covered over its running time and things only ramping up late in the episode. There are still flashes of what I love about Saki, but they remain too few and far between and it continues to leave me feeling a little frustrated by the whole experience.