Gonzo may be going completely bankrupt in addition (and likely because of) to recently making mostly crappy shows, but they’ve scored one hit at least. Superficially, Saki is about mahjong, but it’s actually more about yuri, power levels, and not wearing panties…and is a surprisingly solid entertainment experience.
Yuri Goggles Unnecessary
The central brilliance of this show is taking the very subtle yuri undertones in the manga and dropping a massive bomb on them. The only males in this show are for comic relief or made to look rather stupid, and the yuri yuri girls are constantly blushing over anything and everything related to their BFF+. Usually when Gonzo goes off on their own the results are quite disastrous, but for once they’ve done something wickedly awesome.
You’ve got plenty of pairings to choose from, some more subtle then the others. The main ship is Nodoka and Saki, who do everything from holding hands blushing while, to resting on one another, and to sleeping half naked together. Perhaps some of it is wishful thinking, but all of the emphasis is definitely deliberate on the part of the studio.
One of the most hilarious parts of Saki is the mahjong powerlevels, something that is hardly an accurate portrayal of how mahjong is played, but is amusing nonetheless. Massive amounts of luck, seeing through tiles, and other 6th sense silliness is quite pervasive. If you want an actual portrayal of something a bit more realistic you should definitely watch Akagi instead (although it has a tad of its own, but it’s much rarer and not as overbearing). In fact, Saki is a rather poor way to learn about the game of mahjong, as they don’t explain things very well and there’s actually a couple of mistakes here and there. Everyone should watch Akagi without such a prompting, but it’s important to note. I think regardless of your experience in mahjong, if you get into the show as much as everyone else you’ll be yelling out “OH SHIT SHE JUST BUSTED A RINSHAN KAIHOU IN HER FACE!” like the rest of us, even if you aren’t totally sure what it means.
Embellishing a bit on the foundation laid in the manga, the anime version shows scenes of the characters’ avatars in some fantasy world (Nodoka flashes a bunch of cleavage, gets wings and flies around, etc.) In the “real” world you also get the Geass eye from the Kazekoshi capitain (Yui Horie’s character) and Hisa’s demonic hand, among others. Some have rather stupid abilities, like the invisible girl (although that one has hilarious yuri action to it with her captain), while others are much more awesome (Hisa’s hell waits are pretty wicked). Mahjong itself is a very long and strategic game that generally doesn’t lend itself to short bouts of excitement, so they have to be given a bit of a creative license here. It’s all rather overdone and a bit hamfisted, but then again so was the erupting burning finger.
There’s no coincidence that one of the 2ch nicknames/memes for this show is “Saki is not wearing any.” The pure amount of low-angled shots and impossibly high skirts that leave little to the imagination is something else. Gonzo manages to somehow come up with new ways to lay on ultra-thick fanservice (I thought they had reached the end when the entire female cast of Strike Witches never wore pants). The best example of this was the first episode, which had full body shots of Nodoka in wet clothes, and then a well-designed shot from below as pictured above. Needless to say I was impressed with how far they were willing to go, and glad that there wasn’t a bat or something obscuring it and making it look stupid.
If you haven’t yet this is the perfect time to marathon and catch up on the first 15 episodes. We’ve just started the final match of the tournament with Saki going up against the demonic little loli. I admit I’m pretty weak for tournaments, even if they are a bit cheesy and you know who is going to win (I’ve read the tourunament volumes in Negima way too many times). If nothing else, watch it for the all-star seiyuu cast, just about everyone who is anybody has some part. In conclusion, if you can handle fanservice, yuri, over the top power levels, and don’t take your anime too seriously, you may just really enjoy this one.