The Achiga Girls' Academy in Nara once defeated regional mahjong powerhouse Bansei High School. It advanced into the national team semifinals but lost to the eventual champion, and the mahjong club was later disbanded.
Six years later, elementary school student Shizuno Takakamo befriends transfer student Nodoka Haramura. The two eventually enter Achiga Girls', but Nodoka transfers out of the school in the second year.
When Shizuno sees Nodoka on television the following year as the national middle school individual mahjong champion, she decides to revive Achiga's mahjong club.
A couple years ago when I started Saki, I didn't think I would enjoy a series about mahjong because I knew next to nothing about mahjong but Saki sure did change my mind. So when Saki: Achiga-hen was announced I just had to watch it, even though it focused on another set of characters. Although it was not as well done and as memorable as the original, it is still an enjoyable series and very entertaining even if you have no knowledge about the game of mahjong.
Compared to the original season, Achiga-hen is much shorter in length so the pacing of this season is extremely
fast until the last couple of episodes which is a major weakness. The fast pacing allows the story to progress faster than the original season (as this season just blazed by the prefectures). However, the reason why the original season is so enjoyable, is because of the intense rounds of mahjong that happen. These matches were very enjoyable to watch because of the epic battles between characters where each displayed their play style and their super natural ability (if they had one). In Achiga-hen we get very little of that until they face off against Senriyama in the quarter finals. During this time, the series really starts to pick up because we get to start seeing some action. The actual story itself is nothing spectacular but it is still fun to watch these girls on their journey to the final table and the struggles they endure to get there.
The girls of Achiga aren't as overpowered, and aren't as thoroughly explored as the girls in Kiyosumi. I think Shizuno is supposed to be the main character but we only get to see her play in one hand. Out of all the main characters in Achiga-hen, Kuro is the only one that develops at all (as we see her overcome one of her hurdles in life) which makes her stand out a bit from the other main characters. However the character that stands out the most in this series is Toki, who is a side character, the reason why she stands out the most is because we get to see her past, how she became part of Senriyama's team and her relationship with Ryuuka. She also makes all the matches in this series fun to watch. Other than that no other character is explored that much, making this cast of characters not very memorable. However each character is still likable, fits well in the series and each have their own unique playing style(even though I don't know what some of character's playing styles are).
The art is different from the original. The colour tone is a bit lighter and the character designs look cuter. In my opinion, this style of art actually fits the series. However the art is still nothing spectacular and nothing really stands out. Here's a fun fact, if you watch the animation of both seasons, you will see that they are nearly identical.
The sound is also done well, each of the voice actors do a good job voicing their characters, they all match their personalities. The opening Miracle Rush really fits the series because this season is more light hearted than the original. There are two endings for this series, SquarePanicSerenade which is very similar to the ending of the original series, which is sung by the voice actors of the main characters which is used when the mood of the episode is light hearted and Futuristic Player, a more serious ending which is used when the mood of the series is more serious. Both endings fit the series but are not too memorable.
Overall, the series is still very enjoyable, unique and still has that Saki charm. It's fun to watch but not as well executed as the original season because of the horrible pacing. Also I still can't wait for the last 3 episodes.
Appreciating side dishes after you have tasted the main cuisine is something I don't find feasible.
That's the case when I started watching Saki - Side A.
It wise to rate the story at the range of 6-7. Doing a side story had the potential to dive into the a whole new dimension and Saki - Side A gave a solid writing to support their cause. Side A chose to do a special adaptation to a group of girls who are directly connected to Haramura Nodoka, a deuteragonist of the Saki series. Much to my surprise is, it is given a 16 episode run which is something
I find wasteful.
As the story goes, it was the usual Saki mahjong content. A lot of occult and 1/100th chance of it happening in real games, a lot of extravagant special mahjong effects, the good mind game dialogues. However, the pacing on Side - A exceeds the main story. They literally jumped from starting point in order to catch up to the main story's plot time and connected them fluidly in order to broaden the horizon of the Saki series. Unlike the main Saki story, I found Saki - Side A too less impressive.
Adapting a main cast of boring characters, seemed to ticked me off the whole 16 episode run. I was always thinking after an episode, "Why did they bother making a 16-episode story for this bunch of characters? They should've use the budget for the Zenkoku!". It was like that until the end.
As far as the content is concern, the only interesting parts for me are the cameos of the main Saki casts. They were literally limited to just 3-4 lines which is a sad watch for me. I ended up falling asleep at some intervals and never bother re-watching the missed parts. However, if I were to disregard the relation to the main Saki series, Side A should've been able to touch at least the border of my interested portion however, it was like convincing myself that 1+1=3 which spells impossible from the very start.
Art and Sound remained faithful. Aside from the OP/ED themes, the bgms were still retained in order to drag the feel of the original Saki series to this side story. The character designs also remained similar and is visibly better than the 2009 version.
To be fair, Side A finishes strong however, it still drives me nuts as to why this was adapted to a 16 episode run. A 5-episode OVA compressed should've done the trick. The adaptation is full of annoying flashbacks that will either reveal a trick or two, or some 3rd rate drama to make the audience empathize with the characters but in my case, OH CRAP. I felt uninterested all throughout.
Finishing, Side A had some good scenes however, it felt they have overdone their part as a side story. For spoilers, pardon me, I cannot help but root for their adversaries in the whole 16 episode run and I don't feel like cheering for the Achiga girls in the finals.
The girls in Saki: Achiga-hen were childhood friends of Nodoka. It starts off showing their elementary friendship. In the beginning, it was cute, funny.....but then Nodoka left, and just like how the girls were trying their best to catch up to Nodoka, this anime was trying it's absolute hardest to catch up to the greatness of it's parent story.
For the entire first half of the series, everything felt rushed. You don't see any real majong games, and although you know the girls have grown in talent, you don't actually get to see it happen. It was almost like a summery, rather than it's own show.
Then once they finally catch up to the prequel, it slows down and becomes a great show. By the last handful of episodes, it really finds it's flow, and you get to see great majong games and great characters. You get to see the personality of Saki's sister, and you actually get to see her play :) Old friends show up in this anime, and new ones are made. If you loved the Prequel to this anime, then you will really like this one!
Story - starts at a 7 and ends at an 8, almost 9. It was cute, but maybe instead of rushing through the entire first half, they could have broken the series into 2 seasons, or spread the story out over more episodes.
Art - I liked the characters in Saki. As always, some of the hairstyles draw a huge question mark for me, but I didn't see any real flaws in it. It wasn't the best art out there in my eyes, but it was really good....actually, to be more precise, it was very CUTE. This anime was more so CUTE than it's predecessor. So in art, I'll give it a 9.
Sound - I'll give it a 9. It extraordinary, but it wasn't bad at all. I like the voices of the characters.....but I do question if Teru's voice was that high in the first series of Saki...I know she only spoke once, but I could've sworn the timbre of her voice and the tone was a little different...........but maybe it doesn't really matter since she only said like 1 word in the prequel (as far as I can recall)
Character - I'm tempted to compare these characters to the prequel. But in truth, the reason why I liked the Saki characters better than the Achiga girls, is because I got to know them better. This show was so busy trying to catch up, that you didn't get to really know the characters as well as you may have wanted to.
Enjoyment - I really enjoyed the show! However, because of the rushing to catch up, I really thought the were headed to the exact match that the previous show left off at.....ok, I don't want to write any spoilers, so I'm going to stop here and leave it at that. This show is cute, and by the end, it reminds you of why you like the Saki series so much! :D I give it an 8.
Overall - 8. This show had lots of potential, and even with the few hiccups the series had, the show managed to find its pace and hold its own. It was very good :)
I said "Achiga-hen Side-A Episode is too hardcore for my taste." But I went and watched it anyway since it wouldn't hurt.
It's more of the same: CGDCT ("Cute Girls Doing Cute Things)". The dreaded "moe" animu; and said cute thing is mahjong.
The lot of them have weird powers to help them win. And IMMHO, this BULL$#!7 needs to stop. Else, they need to use their powers on something a bit more fruitful than playing games. (I heard "taking over the world" is pretty popular. :P )
And, as with the lot of CGDCT animu, there are TOO many cute girls herein. I stand by my opinion
that Koihime Musou is created only because the reality-challenged slobbering otaku-base would rather masturbate to cartoon girls instead of actually learn history. But this takes the same amount of teeth-rotting cake.
Not to say that guys shouldn't run behind the skirts of animu chicks in order to escape the harshness of reality. But watching animu like this reminds me of visiting a mosque (that one day, long time ago) where the opposite sexes aren't allowed to intermingle. It all felt pointless and it's something I should never invest my time and money into.
It would be nice if animu wasn't created by and for grass-eating herbivores...