Saki: Match for Fifth Results and Follow-Up

It has almost been two years, but the match for fifth place in the 71st Inter High School Mahjong Team Tournament has recently concluded.

SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ONLY WATCHED THE ANIME ADAPTATIONS UP AHEAD. BE WARNED

As a freak coincidence, I published this post two years ago today. Imagine that.

So now I’m going to see how my predications panned out while providing commentary on this and that and various things. A lot sure has happened between chapters 160 and 188 (including some backstory for Teru and Sumire and Teru x Sumire).

Do note that the point distribution for each hanchan (game) was taken from the 71st Inter High School Mahjong Championships Match for 5th page on the Saki Wiki.

Vanguard Round

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From left to right, going clockwise: Hanada Kirame, Ueshige Suzu, Motouchi Naruka, and Onjouji Toki.

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Onjouji Toki is probably going to be the star of the vanguard match despite pushing her body to the limit during the Side A semifinals. She will likely have her way with both Motouchi Naruka, who doesn’t believe in the supernatural which leaves her vulnerable to Toki’s foresight, and Hanada Kirame.

Toki was relatively dominant in this match, which is reflected by the difference in points. Any points she lost was only due to tsumo! Even though Toki was briefly hospitalized after her performance at the semi-finals, it appears her foresight ability has evolved and she is now able to foresee even more possible outcomes.

We saw how helpless “normal players” were against Toki during the quarterfinals; excluding Hanada’s minor ability to never go bust, she and Naruka are essentially normal players. Furthermore, Gardevoir was confused by unorthodox plays and only managed to complete a single hand in the semifinals for Side B with the assistance of Tsujigaito Satoha giving her tiles to call (from what we saw). Perhaps Hanada, who demonstrated her willingness to do co-op play in the Side A semifinals, can do a repeat performance and team up with Naruka in order to stop Toki’s potential winning streaks.

Naruka won a huge baiman hand against Suzu in E-1, but she was essentially powerless after that. If Nodoka is the “normal player” who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, then Naruka is the unfortunate underdog who gets away with winning a single big hand before constantly dealing in since she doesn’t respect or believe in the other girls’ superpowers.

As for Kirame, her play in this match far exceeded my expectations. Perhaps that’s what happens when she isn’t completely outclassed by the likes of Teru or when she’s not attempting to absorb all the damage so the game isn’t over before her teammates can even play? With that being said, perhaps Sera is right in saying Kirama seems to have a sharp intuition for mahjong given how she chose a very unlikely wait that prevented a certain bombergirl from completing a yakuman tsumo.

I was partially right about Kirame’s tendency to use teamwork to overcome strong opponents, but she actually ended up teaming up with Toki to stop Suzu’s winning streak! It makes sense considering how the two girls teamed up to thwart Teru, but it seems like Toki got a little bit closer with Kirame since she started (mentally) referring to the girl as Hanada-chan instead of Hanada-san.

However, Toki’s dominance may be kept in check by Ueshige Suzu‘s explosive wins. The question is, will Suzu’s ability, which makes her stronger in response to her opponents’ strength levels, actually trigger at this particular mahjong table?

Suzu’s ability did proc due to Toki running mayhem on the mahjong table! However, she also had some counterplay against Toki’s foresight ready thanks to FunaQ. Be that as it may, she still ended up being in the red overall (thanks to Naruka’s baiman).

Sergeant Round

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From the bottom left corner, going clockwise: Nijou Izumi, Himori Chikako, Mase Yuuko, and Yasukouchi Yoshiko.

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Honestly, this round is much more unpredictable. We just have so little information on these players. Mase Yuuko has had positive scores in both the quarterfinal and semifinal matches, which implies she’s a strong player. Yasukouchi Yoshiko was mildly successful with her fast and cheap hands, but whether or not she will switch back to her old style now that she is not up against Hirose Sumire remains to be seen (if switching between styles is even possible).

I can’t believe I forgot the golden rule in Saki: there simply won’t be that much of a change in points or placements after the sergeants play. We only got to see the girls play two hands!

Mase Yuuko came out on top, noyo~

Yoshiko stuck with her quick style, but the one hand we got to see her win had her pressing forward and lowering the value of her hand in order to win, which is a lot more aggressive behaviour than what she showed us during the semifinals.

FunaQ claimed that Himori Chikako has tried very hard to get better, but FunaQ also mentioned that Usuzan’s vanguard and sergeant (and lieutenant) “are not quite on the Inter-High level of play.” To her credit, Chikako did land a baiman tsumo early into the semifinals, but she still ended up with a negative score.

Personally, I think Nijou Izumi is not going to perform well, given that she once again is a lone freshmen against 3 high school senior opponents. Who knows if the seniors will get a power-up as they attempt to claim 5th place in order to make things slightly easier for their underclassmen in the next Inter-High?

Chikako won a single hand (from what I can tell) during S-4, which happened to be a haneman tsumo! If she hadn’t scored, she would have been deeply in the red (and Yuuko would have kept 6,000 more points – she was last dealer).

Izumi is a jobber, but it didn’t look like her opponents powered-up.

Lieutenant Round

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From left to right, going clock wise: Eguchi Sera, Iwadate Yuan, Ezaki Hitomi, and Atago Hiroe.

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Lieutenant:

Atago Hiroe and Eguchi Sera will dominate while Iwadate Yuan and Ezaki Hitomi cower in fear. The fact that Hiroe and Sera are implied rivals will keep each other fired up. However, I think Hiroe might have the slight edge as she has shown to have a flexible playstyle while Sera sticks to big but slow hands. Maybe Ritz will let Yuan and Politics Girl surpass expectations given how they had terrible semifinal performances, but that seems unlikely.

I was mostly right. Sera and Hiroe did control that match for the most part. Yuan won a single hand and Hitomi won two (and one of them was very much due to Hiroe’s help in shifting the draw order). In the end, however, Hitomi and Yuan were sort of played with.

To elaborate more on Hiroe’s style, her defense is very strong even though she often pushes forward and “chases” after her opponents who are in tenpai. Most players would fold or deal in, but she often wins! That’s showcased beautifully in E-4. Also it turns out that Sera has a 45% win rate against Hiroe when they’re directly up against each other, but Hiroe usually loses to Sera when it comes to competitions with totalized scores (like in individual tournaments). This is, of course, assuming the only thing we’re looking at is the aggregate amount of points gained!

The fact that all of the players wanted to play with each other again sometime in the future got me so choked up…!

Vice-Captain Round

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From left to right: Funakubo Hiroko, Maya Yukiko, Atago, Kinue, and Shirouzu Mairu

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This is probably going to be the most interesting round for this 5th place match. Shindouji will be a good position to secure 5th place if Shirouzu Mairu manages to clear several reservations. However, Mairu typically goes for quick wins and bails in dangerous positions. What I’m saying is that her play in the semifinals, where she continued to greedily push and cleared several high reservations, was forced out of necessity. There is a chance she cannot do it again since such a playstyle does not come naturally to her.

This entire section – other than the objective statement in which I stress how Mairu needs to clear several reservations in order to have the best chance at winning this match for fifth or the subjectives guess that this round could potentially be very interesting – could be considered completely false.

Mairu had entertained the thought of going for quick, cheap hands, but at most she went with damaten in order to increase the chance of winning at the cost of not declaring riichi. She went big and didn’t go home! Even with the other three players being very focused on blocking her reservations, Mairu more or less outplayed them.

While Maya Yukiko only has the ability is to get an expensive tsumo once a day, she is capable of winning rounds without using her left hand. Maya also considers many details while she plays (unlike a certain supernova who just blindly does double riichi). She should be able to stop Mairu several times, I feel.

Hiroko Funakubo (aka FunaQ) and Atago Kinue are also detail-orientated, digital players. This means there won’t be a useless fisherwoman who deals into everything… We will have to see if FunaQ was able to successfully analyze her opponents in time. What’s interesting to note is that Kinue is FunaQ’s cousin! Perhaps they’re familiar with each other’s style. As long as Kinue isn’t too hard on herself, she may have her chance to shine.

Even though the gap in points across all teams basically forces Maya to only aim for huge hands, she wins with a small 3,900 hand at one point, which is actually not the worst case scenario. Winning a small hand is better than letting her opponents score instead, right? She played very well here all things considered since she was the only one on her team with a positive net score. Plus, it’s suggested that Maya’s daily BIG WIN might be on the same level as or even higher than the double aces’ link! It’s always hard to rank abilities which guarantees different things…

While FunaQ had several moments of brilliance, she became tilted and dealt in five times in a row. Meanwhile, Kinue revealed that she actually sort of kind of slightly believes in the occult and is better off for it. And then she lost focus and dealt into Mairu’s small hand when she had a huge hand in iishanten.

Captain Match

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From left to right: Tsuruta Himeko, Shishihara Sawaya, Suehara Kyouko, and Shimizudani Ryuuka

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If Marui managed to clear a decent amount of reservations, Tsuruta Himeko may control the Captain match. This is assuming that no one can stop Himeko from winning during the rounds in which their combo is active. Despite Ryuuka’s Toki Vision, Awai’s double-riichi and Absolute Safety Zone, and Shizuno’s Lord of the Mountain Depths in the semifinals, Himeko was unstoppable during rounds in which Marui had cleared a reservation. As such, it seems that Himeko’s wins during such rounds will likely be predetermined.

Nothing juicy here. Next.

…just kidding. Himeko more or less surpassed the key! Ryuuka just had to get in the way, is all…still, exciting stuff!

Shishihara Sawaya used up a lot of Kamuy during the Side B semifinals which will not be fully recharged by the 5th place battle. Unfortunately, Hoyau Kamuy was also used up the previous day, which may have had a chance to block Himeko’s predetermined wins. Sawaya will have to hope her remaining clouds, Kamuy, and whatever else she had (which was hinted at in Saki 154) will carry her through the Captain match.

I guess I was seeing things in Saki 154. Either way, Sawaya was stuck in a tough position once again. How does it feel to be the best player on a team that consists of 3 mediocre players? I always always feel so bad for Sawaya.

Shout-outs to kamuy since Golden Kamuy is airing this season!

Although Shimizudani Ryuuka may have used up all of her Toki Vision charges during the semifinal, Toki Vision may quickly recharge. Be that as it may, I think it’s safe to assume that Toki has been resting her head in Ryuuka’s lap for the past two days whenever possible. It would be nice to see if Ryuuka lives up to her reputation of having the highest point gain average per-game within the Osaka region. Perhaps she can actually win hands without relying on Toki Vision this time.

There was no Toki vision this time around, but it turns out the anime-original ability Ryuuka demonstrated in Achiga-hen is in fact canon. Limitless Heaven cranks up her observation skills to superhuman levels! Without the boost, Ryuuka was largely a bystander, however…

Suehara Kyouko just needs to win quick hands to interrupt her opponents’ large ones. However, Kyouko may not have the proper countermeasures to deal with her opponents this time since Himeko will have predetermined wins, Ryuuka will have a version of future sight, and Sawaya will be using different abilities from the ones she used in the semifinals (admittedly, Kyouko could watch recordings of Sawaya’s previous matches to gain intel). Said tactic will also rely on her teammates creating a significant point lead before the Captain match, as her small, fast hands may not be enough to prevent an upset.

This excerpt doesn’t really account for the fact that the girls are only playing for a single hanchan (the other matches have the girls playing two hanchan) so perhaps quick wins thereotically could have been enough. I’m truly impressed with how quick Suehara is to adapt to supernatural happenings. It’s even more impressive when you consider how she’s the only completely “normal player” at the table.

Conclusion

In short…I guess I’m not sure who’s going to win this match. Every team has their share of both weak and strong players. If I really had to choose, I would say it’ll be a close match between Senriyama and Himematsu. Both Shindouji and Usuzan have three really weak players in their line-up.

W-Well, one of my guesses for the winner was right, hahahaha…

I really wonder where Usuzan’s advisor is. Maybe they don’t even have one, like Kiyosumi. It’s so impressive they got this far in the first place.

What I really like about this match for fifth place is how all of these girls were trying to better themselves. It goes without saying that mahjong players will always try to win and improve at mahjong, but these girls pushed themselves to the limit. Toki’s foresight expanded in scope. Himeko was so very close to scoring more points than the key indicated. Hitomi didn’t blame politics a single time. That dedication is beautiful to me. It’s what makes Saki beautiful to me.

But we also got to see the better sides of various underestimated girls. Kirame was a real pleasant surprise for instance.

Ahh, I’ve blabbed on for too long.


Thank you for reading.

7 thoughts on “Saki: Match for Fifth Results and Follow-Up

  1. The latest digital release was vol. 15, which finally wrapped up the semis, so that’s where I’m at (right after all the other players sensed Shizuno’s awakened aura). Didn’t mind reading this, though, since to me the 5th place match is more like a side story – other than maybe influencing players getting chosen for World Junior teams later on, if the manga even gets that far, it’s not going to affect the main narrative very much. And I was curious.

    Random thoughts after reading this:

    How did Usuzan even make it to the semis with those three deadweights? Maybe they got a super-easy draw or something, but they’re clearly the 8th best of these 8 teams, and it’s not even that close. Mizuhara frankly looks pretty foolish for hyping them up before the semis.

    I want, no NEED, to see a head-to-head between Ryuuka and Mihoko during the individuals now. And when she walks in, Mihoko points a finger at Ryuuka and shouts, “We will decide once and for all, loud and clear, who the true OP observer is between us!” Of course, Mihoko would never do that, she’d just make her a bento instead, but it would still be awesome.

    Now I’m interested in seeing a tilted FunaQ, when this volume gets translated. One of the first things I learned when I started playing this game is how easy it is to get frustrated when you have a beautiful hand in tenpai and don’t win, and then get reckless on the next hand because you want to make up for it. That’s always when I end up getting ronned by the computer three times in a row.

    Kirame, subara! Can’t wait to see her shine. I think not having to play Teru will make anyone look better. Maybe we’ll get to see what Kuro can do when she’s not playing Toki or Teru, and then people will finally get off her back? Nah, that’s probably asking for too much.

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    1. Rinkai had enough of an advantage that they basically chose which school they wanted left after quarters – that’s how Usuzan got through, since they effectively only had to be the third best team after Rinkai focused fire on one of the other teams.

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      1. That’s right, I remember hearing that now. That seems to be Rinkai’s primary team strategy, doesn’t it? Target one of the other three schools and try to knock them out. They did it in the previous year’s semis when they first targeted Ryuumonbuchi and then switched to Gappo, they did it in the second round this year, and they came within a hairsbreadth of knocking out Usuzan in this year’s semis.

        Remy: According to the wiki, the other two schools in the second round match were Yamasu (Kyoto) and East Hakuraku (North Kanagawa), and East Hakuraku was the school Rinkai concentrated fire on. Dunno if that’s because they were the strongest of the three or the weakest of the three, though.

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    2. Ah, thanks for the heads up. Alright, so that means you know who are participating in the finals! That’s very good to hear since the spoiler warning was included with you in mind. I can post my predications on the upcoming final match with impunity, then~

      Ah, but the first two hands in the finals have started. Not sure if I should include them since they’re definitely spoilers. I’m so so so excited, ahhhhhhhhhhh.

      I think it’s very possible the manga might go that far. While the Match for Fifth raged on, there were a few panels dedicated to having Kumakura Toshi, the advisor for Miyamori, talk about something of the sort. My memory fails me at the moment, haha…

      Ritz may be aiming for the long game..!

      Cytrus has hit the nail on the head, I think. I do think Maya and Sawaya are strong, but I wonder if Sawaya would do all that well in the individuals since her powers are so time-reliant and individual tournaments, if they opt for a similar format as the one shown in the anime adaptation of Saki, would have the players playing many games.

      Yessss we need to know! Well, Mihoko might be weaker overall, I feel. Kyouko usually couldn’t do anything against Ryuuka (it’s implied during this match that Senriyama and Himematsu have trained against each other several times) which led to Kyouko changing her usual efficient style (and in the process imitating a certain someone’s style) since she came to the conclusion that Ryuua can read anyone’s hand if they develop it normally. Ryuuka’s Limitless Heaven also only lasts for 3 rounds at best whereas Mihoko seems to only be limited by her own shyness…? So that’s why I /think/ Ryuuka’s ability might be stronger since it’s time-limited but I definitely have no proof.

      Right? Mahjong is a game of temptation. Sometimes you want to push a hand even though it’s dangerous. Sometimes you are lured into going for a bigger hand. But sometimes those desires have to be ignored and we have to fold. Unless if you’re Hiroe, that is. But mmm it’s so sad seeing FunaQ crumble like that. We’ve all been in that position!

      That is true so my little comment is actually meaningless haha.
      Perhaps we might, but as for now she exists to essentially slow down Teru. The poor girl tries her best ;__;

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      1. Yes, predictions please! I’m looking forward to them! I don’t want to be spoiled about what’s happening in the match itself, but I’d love to see a pic of Yuuki with her new hairstyle if you have one (I did hear about that).

        The series has been teasing an eventual World Juniors arc for a long time, going all the way back to Hisa and Fujita’s conversation before the second training camp. There was also Usuzan telling Maya she’s a lock for the Junior B team, and the chatter in Rinkai’s locker room that some of them aren’t sharing information because they’ll all be opponents down the road. The only question to me is whether the series will run long enough to get there; even if it’s in no danger of being cancelled by the publisher, with Ritz taking so many hiatuses the last few years, at least some of which we know were for health reasons, we don’t know if this is going to turn into another HxH or Silver Spoon situation, or if she might decide at some point that she just can’t do it anymore.

        If Ryuuka’s ability is time limited, then wouldn’t that work to her disadvantage? I mean, Mihoko seems to be able to do it whenever she wants to, so even if she’s outclassed for three turns a game, she’d still have an edge for the other five turns plus bonus hands (assuming an East-South game) if she chose to use it, right?

        A game of temptation, that’s a great way to put it. Some of my worst deal-ins have actually come not even when I’m trying to complete a hand, but just trying to salvage a tenpai. Nothing like getting greedy for 1000 points and costing yourself 18000 as a result of it.

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        1. I’ll include that in the post, don’t worry! Yuuki is doing me so proud right now.

          Mmm don’t worry, I remember those parts. Well, we honestly don’t know. Toki is being drawn by someone else so maybe she can tell artists what she has in mind if it comes to that? I’m not sure, though…

          It should, so I’m saying that Ryuuka’s Limitless Heaven in theory should be stronger than that of Mihoko’s for the sake of competitive balance since she only has a limited time frame. If Mihoko’s ability is stronger than Ryuuka’s then Ryuuka is completely overshadowed as a player. The fact that she had access to Toki vision for a few hands after 3 years of giving Toki lap-pillows shouldn’t mean Ryuua should have a weaker ability…
          So I was unable to properly convey what I meant. I personally think Ryuuka should be able to beat out Mihoko in those 3 turns unless if Mihoko catches on to Ryuuka’s limitations (which is unlikely considering how Kyouko only figured that out after many matches with Ryuuka). But then Mihoko would be, as you said, in control of the match.
          Be that as it may, mahjong isn’t really about 1v1s and duels. Sure, Megan and going head-to-head by chasing after others via riichi is a thing, but it’s ultimately a 4-person game. The results of the showdown between Mihoko and Ryuuka could change very drastically depending on who’s playing at the table with them.

          Right? Aaaaaaaaa. I scored a daisangen on Tenhou last night and it shouldn’t have happened but the guy chose to stay in tenpai and chose the wrong tile to discard.

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