Saki has risen dramatically through the ranks- from an unremarkable newcomer to a worthy contender for the best yuri tournament series I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. :)
But, in all seriousness, I am really surprised at how entertaining this series turned out to be. In the beginning, it seemed like it would be another precious slice-of-life series about a bland moe girl with low self-esteem and a good seiyuu, who occasionally blushes and exchanges pinky promises with another moe girl...while playing a board game that would presumably bore me to tears because I had no idea what the rules were. My knowledge of mahjong is still miniscule (I'm not going to be one of those people who moronically claim that they've learned the rules of mahjong from watching Saki), but I enjoyed the heck out of watching it in this series, and I'm hoping for a second season! ^^ *fingers crossed*
After the great Momo/Yumi episode that capped off my midseason review (guess which couple in this series is my favorite? lol), the series wraps the Nodoka vs. Stealth Momoko vs. Seika vs. EPL-Ojousama Touka match with Nodoka's Nodocchi-style victory.
And finally, Saki faces off against Kazekoshi's Kana, Tsuruga's Yumi, and Ryuumonbuchi's infamous "monster" of mahjong, Koromo. We all know that Saki's going to win from the beginning, but I don't care as long as Saki gets to uses her Awesome Mahjong Abilities.
Not to mention the power of yuri.
And Kiyosumi wins the prefectural tournament, allowing Saki and Nodoka to celebrate victory as a Power Couple and the other couples to seek solace in their better halves. :)
Then in the time before the individuals tournament, we get the requisite pool episode. But much to my pleasant surprise, it wasn't the sleaze-fest that I feared it would be; it was actually a really fun episode with more cute Saki/Nodoka moments and a surprisingly (there's that word again) sweet flashback with the Ryuumonbuchi team- the best moment in it was when Hajime coolly resolved the incident at the family restaurant when Touka was about to blow her stack.
And of course, we meet Saki's estranged mahjong-champion sister Teru, who I would probably like quite a bit if she weren't such a @#&*$ about her sister.
Then the individuals tournament begins, which is noteworthy for three things:
1) I finally like Hisa x Mihoko as a viable couple, especially after Mihoko (whose constant self-deprecation and self-conciousness over her heterochromia always kind of bugged me before) lets her hair down, so to speak, and instead of moping over Hisa, decides to launch a no-holds-barred mahjong offensive against her and wins. And wouldn't you know it, now Hisa remembers her. (^_^)V
Although I still like Hisa x Mako also (I'm so indiscriminate lol) because Mako knows Hisa's true nature :)
even if Mako's Special Mahjong Ability is kind of lame.
2) Stealth Momo is out for the kill against Saki for defeating her beloved sempai in the team tournament.
and 3) The top three final winners are Mihoko, Nodoka, and Saki.
Then the Kiyosumi girls go to a summer festival and hold a training camp that they invite the Tsuruga, Ryuumonbuchi, and Kazekoshi teams to...and you know what, I'm just going to post screencaps of the yuri moments here. lol
I still like to think that the entire Kazekoshi team has a crush on their Captain. :) Unfortunately for them (especially Kana),
their beloved Captain's heart lies elsewhere. (It certainly beats doing her team's laundry constantly.)
Duh, now she is, Saki.
Two successful first dates.
Even Mako notices the yuri.
I love how hell-bent Momo is on getting her sempai into the onsen. lol
And the final, crowning Saki/Nodoka moment. ^^ I nearly screamed "Just KISS, already!!" at the computer screen during this scene. lol (It also reminded me a little of Akko's "Temple of Love" plan in Girl Friends. XD)
And finally, all four teams play mahjong together,
and we get a sneak peek at looks to be an awesome national tournament, with even more colorful (and hopefully, yuriful) competition! XD
I certainly hope that there's more eventually. I really want to see Saki
reconcile with beat the stuffing out of her sister in the nationals. ^^ But I also really came to like the cast in this series. Even Yuuki grew on me, and Koromo didn't irritate me despite being a high school student who looks and acts like a little kid.
(I hope that I didn't bungle that sentence... ^^;)
Despite the series' lackluster beginning, frustratingly unresolved ending (even though we know that Saki will win in the nationals and reconcile with Teru), and unwanted fan service (could we allow a character to enter and exit a swimming pool without the camera zooming in on her rear?), this is a good series. Highly recommended for yuri fans and/or people who want to watch a fun, cracktastic competion-themed anime. :)