Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Manga Review: Saki volumes 1-2

Saki was a show that didn't impress me when it first premiered in spring '09, but by the time it hit its halfway point I thought that it was a lot of fun. The characters were all likeable, the flashy mahjong-theatrics were entertaining, and there were several yuri pairs.

The anime and manga have virtually the same story. Miyanaga Saki is a first-year high school student who has issues with playing mahjong because of her stupid family. (Although her big sister Teru somehow managed to become a top-ranking competitive player in the same environment.) After relishing victory for the first time while playing with the Kiyosumi mahjong club, she joins it along with her old friend Kyou, former middle school tournament champ Nodoka, taco-fanatic Yuuki, oddly talented second-year sempai Mako, and third-year club president Hisa (who might be my favorite character). They all aim for the National Championships, but have to win the prefecturals first. The first volume covers the build-up to the tournament (my favorite part being when Hisa sets Saki and Nodoka up to play against a pro player so they'll realize how much they need to improve and start training seriously), while the second volume covers the qualifying matches for the prefecturals and Yuuki being brutally smacked down by Kazekoshi's president Mihoko in the first prefectural game.

While it is nice to see the characters introduced again in these volumes, especially after the other teams start showing up, the series hasn't hit its stride just yet. It takes some kind of talent to make a story about characters competing in a game that I don't know how to play entertaining, but this still isn't Saki at its best. (Admittedly, even though I don't know how to play mahjong, I can at least follow that it's kind of similar to bridge, in some respects.)

I actually prefer the anime's rendition of this part of the story. I shouldn't directly compare the anime and manga versions, but it's inevitable. The kinetic, (literally) electrifying visual flair of the games is more immersive with color, animation, and supporting background music. The anime also plays up the yuri subtext between the characters more. (High fives to the anime writers for that. ^_^) But the manga hasn't reached the part of the series where the yuri really kicks in (comparatively speaking), so I'll see how it turns out. It's a fun series, anyway- the characters' enthusiasm for competing against strong opponents is infectious in any medium.

Story: C+ in volume 1, B- in volume 2
Art: C+ (It does what it needs to do without extraneous clutter, although the character designs are bland. I could really do without the service.)
Overall: See Story

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