Saki Achiga-hen episode of Side-A is a spinoff of Saki. If anything, this anime could be considered season 1.5 of Saki.
Anyone who has read my previous review of Saki knows that I rated it very highly, but is this spinoff of the same quality as the main series? Read on to find out more.
Saki Achiga-hen focuses on the mahjong club of Achiga Girl’s Academy as they strive to enter into the national mahjong tournament. Three of their members were friends with Nodoka Haramura during middle school, but Nodoka ended up transferring schools on her second year.
Shizuno Takakamo, one of Nodoka’s friends, sees Nodoka becoming the champion of the nation middle school tournament. This leads her to revive Achiga’s mahjong club with the goal of playing mahjong with Nodoka, just like they used to in middle school.
Shizuna Takakamo was one of the first girls that Nodoka befriended when she was staying at Nara. Shizuna has seemingly limitless energy. It is Shizuna who is the driving force behind the reincarnation of Achiga’s mahjong club. Shizuna doesn’t seem to wear much else besides her trademark track jacket and a pair of trainers.
Ako Atarashi is another of Nodoka’s friends from Nara. Ako is both neighbour and childhood friend to Shizuno. She attended a different middle school to Shizuno and Nodoka, but enrolls in Achiga Girls’ Academy after discovering Shizuno’s plan to revive the mahjong club.
Kuro Matsumi is a second-year at Achiga. She is the daughter of the owner of their town’s local inn. After the Achiga children’s mahjong club was disbanded, she continued to look after the clubroom in the hope that her friends would return. Her hard work paid off, of course.
Yuu Matsumi is the only third-year on Achiga’s mahjong club, and older sister of Kuro. Even during the summer months she gets incredibly cold, so she is always seen wearing several layers of clothing, a scarf and gloves.
Arata Sagimori is a second-year at Achiga. She is the grandaughter of the owner of the town’s bowling alley, and probably Harue Akado’s biggest fan. When Harue was defeated during the semifinals of the Nationals, Arata gave up mahjong. However, Kuro was able to convince her to play again, and she was made president of Achiga’s mahjong club.
Finally, we have Harue Akado. She is the adviser and coach of Achiga’s mahjong club. Ten years before the series, Harue got up to the semifinals of the Nationals, but was defeated there. She gave up mahjong for a while, was scouted to play professionally and then the company she played for had financial troubles so her team had to disband. When she discovers that Achiga’s mahjong club had been reformed, she seizes the opportunity to help them succeed where she failed.
Of course, there are plenty of other characters, just like in Saki. Some are new, whilst others are familiar characters. However, unlike in Saki, Saki Achiga-hen doesn’t actually offer very much time in the spotlight for the other characters. Achiga Girls’ Academy cruise through the qualifiers for the nationals, even though Bansei High School is supposed to be a big obstacle for them to overcome.
It’s hard to care for the other players sat around the table when you don’t know anything about them. It is in this respect where Saki Achiga-hen falls down compared to the main anime.
Later on, however, the mahjong matches start to follow the same formula from the main anime. I reckon that was only because those particular episodes were aired later then the rest of the series, but I guess it does help to slightly redeem it.
Before that though, it seems that focus slips from the girls from Achiga a bit. You end up cheering for one of the other teams, whilst a particular character from Achiga Girls’ Academy sits there. Like I’ve said, though, it does get better.
The soundtrack hasn’t changed much, to be honest. If you liked it in Saki, you will like it in Saki Achiga-hen. There isn’t really much else to say about that.
There are still yuri elements in there, though not from the main characters. There’s very little in the way of blushing, but there are other forms of affection on display.
My personal highlight would be the final game of mahjong, since you get to see Shizuno play properly.
It doesn’t quite match up to the standards of Saki, due to a lack of character development, at first. The last episodes help to redeem it slightly, but it is by no means bad. Definitely worth watching at least once.