Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Saki - The Nationals - Episode 9

Usuzumi's power is about to build to a crescendo yet again, and this time around Usuzawa is showing no signs of blocking it as she hopes to see Nodoka play right into their mutual opponents hand.  Is Nodoka's insistence that there's nothing supernatural in the world of mahjong about to come back to bite her?

Not on this occasion, no, as the hand fizzles out without incident.  From here, blows are traded around the table without any major changes to the score before Nodoka finally does play straight into Usuzumi's abilities to end the match - not that Haramura seems to be even slightly fazed by that final hefty loss, perhaps because it leaves Kiyosumi in a strong position in second place behind continuing leaders Himematsu.

Of course, this means its time for the final entrants from each team to take their places, which sees Saki Miyanaga line up against Himematsu's Kyouko Suehara, Eisui's Kasumi Iwato and Moyamori's lofty Toyone Anetai.  It's Kyouko who makes the early running, extending her team's lead only for her winning streak to be cut short by a glimpse of Saki's trademark rinshan kaihou.  Ultimately though it's Toyone who becomes the focus of everyone's attention, and not just because of her height, as she begins "chasing" each and every one of Kyouko's riichi calls with one of her own before facing off and beating her opponent to strip her of points in hand after hand.  Having kept her ability hidden in the preliminaries, could this be a looming and surprising threat to the other teams?

It's pacing still feels a little suspect - we burned through a lot of the final match-up in short order here having spent longer on arguably less exciting fare across the series - but there were certainly glimpses of classic Saki scattered here and there within this week's episode, most ably demonstrated of course by Saki's own rinshan kaihou moment, while Toyone's abilities also add an interesting sheen to proceedings.  I can only imagine that things might slow down to focus on the final hands of this match as we run towards the end of this part of The Nationals, and now that there's all to play for hopefully this can really be the show's time to shine once again after plenty of misfiring beginnings.

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