Saki Achiga-hen is a spinoff of Saki, which takes place concurrently with the main series.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.The manga now has a twelve-episode anime adaptation that has begun airing in April 2012. The first of the extra episodes, featuring the rest of Achiga's struggles against reigning champion Shiraitodai, was released in December 2012, incidentally coinciding with the announcement of a sequel for the main series. The last one was released in May 2013, making a total of four extra episodes.For tropes related to the characters introduced in the series, please refer to the main franchise character sheet.
This series contains examples of:
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: A fairly minor and easy to miss one. Sumire's "tell" for her Piercing Arrow move is the way she moves her right arm while laying it on the armrest of her chair. The chairs in the semifinals don't have armrests.
The initial TV airing (without the extra episodes) also had this trope, since they stopped after the vanguard match of the semi-finals.
Awful Truth: When her seniors discussed about putting her as a pawn against Teru because she can avoid going below 0 no matter how outmatched she is (which also implies that she didn't make the team because of skill), Kirame actually did hear them. However, she doesn't hold a grudge against them.
And in her Crowning Moment of Awesome decide it's an honor to be a sacrificial pawn for her team and she will be a damn good one. She went as far as taking risk so no Vanguard go below zero, A result she inwardly stated as one she would be the most satisfied with.
Ax-Crazy: Tsuiki Moko, one of the individual players Kei invited to play with Achiga, gives off this vibe, especially when she starts giving a shark-toothed smile while playing.
Animal Motif: Kuro is (eastern) dragons, who is said to be loved by dora-gon tiles. This is commented on in the series.
Antagonist Title: Saki is the girl that Shizuno must defeat before in order for her to meet Nodoka again. And the difference in their power level is steep.
According to Koromo, Shizuno's power could nullify theirs with certain condition. So she is not that completely hopeless against Saki, and she had manage to gain upper hand against Oohoshi Awai who considered on the same level as Saki. Then again considering Saki's tendency to pull miracle one way or another, it's still up to debate how Shizuno would fare against her.
Badass Cape: As a bit of a Continuity Nod for the main manga, Yuuki is shown entering the playing area against Eisui, Miyamori, and Himematsu wearing a long red cape. Cue looks of disbelief from the rest of her team.
Badass Normal: Ako for the Achiga team, though Side A showcases many other players who manage to thrive through skill alone.
Badass Normal + Awesomeness by Analysis: Yumi from Tsuruga, as stated in Saki Character page. She trivially wins in a practice game against the Matsumi sisters despite her admitted lack of supernatural power, because she has been analyzing their game data for a long time and had already had a counter-strategy prepared.
To be fair their play style is much more obvious and only stop in drawing certain type of tiles, than Saki's kan she had managed to stop before, and Matsumi sisters are easier to counter than monster level player like Saki.
Batman Gambit: Played straight and inverted. Toki assumes that Kirame will be able to play along with her, while the inversion is that Kuro will be able to go against her nature and discard a dora.
Battle Aura: The Battle Aura strikes again. This time it's Shizuno feeling an incredibly strong pressure emanating from Miyanaga Saki (you know, The Woobie-ish girl who is the main character of the main manga). It doesn't help that Saki is portrayed as outright demonic when it happens.
Blessed with Suck: Kuro's ability allows her to draw dora to her hand. Unfortunately, this makes her playstyle painfully predictable to the point where a decently skilled player can curbstomp her.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Much to everyone's horror, Achiga-hen gets its own version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's infamous DUWANG scans for its last few chapters, due to the delay in the good scanslators receiving cleaned scans and the spoilers usually appearing on the (mostly Chinese) Baidu forums. The result? Scripts directly copied and pasted from those forums, resulting in gems like Daixing Dannote Oohoshi Awai, not Disco Dan. and Gaoya "Wen" Wennainote Takakamo "Shizu" Shizuno, and generally causing a whole lot of confusion for readers.
The translation is actually official —that's how Mahjong Genius Girls is translated in the Chinese edition— and it gives us the uber badass name Lionghuanote Dragon Flower, i.e. Ryuuka.
Amusingly enough, Haramura Nodoka is called "Yuancun He", and the scanlators have to point out that it's not a male pronoun, but her name. Note that the following quote has no capital letters in the scanlation.
"Wennai": He said, in some interview, that she'd been playing alone for about 18 months. That time He spent alone was not in vain. They made her into who she is.
Broken Ace: Akado Harue. Her team was eliminated because she lost a lot of points. She couldn't even touch a mahjong tile for years after that.
Repaired Ace: Akado Harue finally meets Kokaji Sukoya again eye-to-eye (incidentally), with nary a fear in her heart thanks to the victory of her prodigious students. And then she declares that she's re-entering the professional mahjong scene.
Broken Pedestal: Arata toward Harue. After Harue stopped playing mahjong, she cease playing mahjong herself, refusing to come to the mahjong club because she didn't want to see Harue "surrounded by kids" when she could be a professional. Shame, because even as kindergartener, she was able to play with the adults. Both Arata and Harue get better.
Call to Adventure: Shizu and Ako watching Nodoka playing in junior-high nationals. This rekindles their obsession with her.
Came Back Strong: Toki. Recovering from her (alluded to be life-threatening) illness gave her a limited ability to see into the future.
Can't Spit It Out: For all their troubles in reaching her, it seems that Shizuno and Ako couldn't say the many things they want to say to Nodoka when they finally meet again in the season 1 finale, simply telling her that they hope to see her again in the finals.
Continuity Nod: All over the place. Makes sense, as the series takes place in parallel with the main series, though Achiga-hen goes further, as it shows what happens to everyone after the end of the first anime (which stops short of the Nationals). There are nods to the current arc of the Saki manga as well, such as showing the start of the Kiyosumi match against Eisui, Miyamori, and Himematsu.
Teru against everyone. As Arakawa Kei tells the Achiga team in the manga, she's more like a force of nature than a person, and it shows when in the Vanguard match she runs away with a 100,000+ point lead over everyone else and never looks back, and other players including Kuro who unknowingly help with hogging Dora tiles all for herself ganging up on Teru, and yet they barely survive the match to pass the baton to next player, and it's even more extreme in Toki's case.
Cryptic Background Reference: Teru's thing that "goes who-who-wee", as mentioned by Awai. She doesn't find a chance to use it during the match against Toki.
Darker and Edgier: When playing Mahjong become a life-threatening activity, you know the series have a turn for the darker.
Cerebus Syndrome: The player whose life is threatened by her power meltdown is already clinging to life to begin with.
Knight of Cerebus: Teru, who mercilessly pound the aforementioned player in game. Yet, she couldn't possibly have known about her opponent's condition. In fact the only one in table who seemed to notice Toki's condition or at least suspicious was Hanada Kirame of all people, then again she and Toki were working together and kept sending subtle message to each other. Teru seems to focus on table alone and ignore everything else, as she didn't even bat an eye when either Kirame or Toki stopped her winning streak.
David Versus Goliath: Achiga vs. Bansei. More extreme than Kiyosumi vs. Kazekoshi, because Bansei have only once lost a seat to the Nationals in 40-years, and Kazekoshi's defeat was because Touka assembled a team of mahjong monsters from across the country... whereas Achiga is just a bunch of nobodies (except Harue, and she's the trainer, not player).
Teru versus everyone, note that the David are three players against her alone.
Decoy Protagonist: Despite the fact that the Achiga girls are intended to be the main protagonists, the latter episodes almost solely focus on Toki with the Achiga girls barely showing up at all.
This is mostly due to the amount of episodes devoted to Toki's struggle and her backstory, which roughly equal to the ones given to Momo and Tsuruga's in the first season. In that case, given Saki's longer episode count, it doesn't feel like it's taking away focus from the main characters (Kiyosumi), but because of Achiga-hen's lower episode count (12 episodes without the bonuses), it makes it seem that Toki's story had replaced Achiga's.
The Dreaded: Teru, Awai ("Teru's Successor"), Shizuno, after she defeats Awai.
Dreaming of Things to Come: Nodoka dreams of meeting Shizuno and Ako. She wonders what this signifies... and then the meeting happens in the season 1 finale (although in her dream, she meets the elementary school version of them).
Drives Like Crazy: Kanbara. While the main series shows that she can drive, Achiga-hen shows just how she drives that Volkswagen van of hers. She likely took lessons from the Yukari-sensei school of driving.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: Good lord, Shizu and her Queen of the Mountain Depths ability, which seemed to have popped up over the course of two chapters with no foreshadowing at all. See the YMMV entry about the sheer amount of Internet Backdraft this caused for the Western Saki community.
Unique to the anime's finale, the production decided to give Ryuuka a special ability of all people, in her case a heat vision that makes her eyes glow purple when she's hyper-focused. Likely to show how she's not totally dependent on someone else's supernatural powers, a contrast to how she was in the source manga, which she was.
Evolving Credits: In the same manner as the main series: whenever a crisis appears, the ED shift to a non-puni style. The first crisis in the series being Saki's appearance of all things. Please note that Saki got lost and happened to walk pass them, the only crisis is her aura made Akado Harue and Matsumi Kuro froze in terror, Shizuno flinch in shock. In Kiyousumi's perspective their resident Dojikko is js being her usual self instead of demon she portrayed in Achiga hen.
The Puni style ED also brings in other teams as they're introduced into the series.
Foreshadowing: Achiga's participation in the finals was hinted at in chapter 76 of the the main manga by Fujita, though the school itself was not directly named.
Fully Absorbed Finale: Achiga's only chance to fight Nodoka is in the national final, and Achiga-hen ended after the semi-finals.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The radar is weak in this one, but there are instances where you wonder just how they get it into a Shounen magazinenote Saki Achiga-hen is serialized in Monthly Shounen Gangan, which is owned by Square Enix. Case in point: the combination power of Mairu and Himeko. Mairu gets bondaged, Himeko gets 'something big' entering her.
When Ryuuka is drawing Heroic Resolve by remembering Toki, a light appears in her cro- I mean, lap; where Toki loves to rest.
I can feel Toki right there.
Going Commando: Shizuno. Jokes about the setting aside, Shizuno doesn't seem to be wearing anything underneath that jersey jacket of hers.
Hero Antagonist: Saki is the main protagonist of Saki. Here, she's an opponent the cast will need to defeat, although considering that their main goal is to reach the finals and meet Nodoka, they technically don't have to defeat her.
Heroic Resolve: Surprisingly, not anyone from Achiga, but Toki. She remembers how some people might be rooting for her, and then she gets her fighting spirit back. And then she tries looking threeturns forward.
Hidden Depths: Teru. Her (albeit brief) show of concern and surprise during the aftermath of the Vanguard match when Toki collapses in the final TV-aired episode hint that under her stoic facade and utterly aggressive and ruthless playstyle, she's likely still a decent human being.
Teru is shown to be outright shocked by what happens in the manga chapter equivalent, and later wonders about Toki's welfare. Definitely Not So Stoic as everyone initially expected.
Honor Before Reason: Why Toki is pushing herself to the brink instead of just sitting back (which would be relatively safer) and letting Teru run roughshod and possibly eliminate one of the other schools on the table: she wants to knock Teru down a peg, and prove that the champion isn't unstoppable.
Hostile Series Takeover: While half of the TV-aired episodes focus on Achiga, nearly the same amount of episodes are devoted to Toki and Senriyama, to the point where some viewers call the show Toki: Senriyama-hen.
Even the voice actresses of Shizuno and Ako comment on the latter in an interview. The producers later promised to rectify this by using the extra three episodes to put the spotlight back on Achiga, but many see this as being far too late to matter, especially since the said episodes won't air on TV anyway.
Ill Girl: Yuu, Kuro's big sister. She's cold all the time, to the point that she has to wear a cardigan, mittens, and a muffler during summer. She also sit under Kotatsu with all that in the heat of summer. Her first match in Quarter Final when we can hear her thought is almost sad as she called for red tiles to warm her up almost desperately as if she was trapped in the middle of winter.
Onjouji Toki of Senriyama, who might collapse in any given moment.
Informed Ability: Surprisingly, the Achiga team's skill level. For much of the series, it's mentioned that the girls are very skilled players, to the point that they defeat all of the second-placer schools in ten different prefectures barring Nagano's Ryuumonbuchi, but it seems that whenever they're pitted against characters from the main series — first Koromo, then Yumi, Momo, Kana, and Mihoko while in Tokyo — the viewer never gets to see them win.
It's a Small World After All: Stealth Momo just so happen to bump into Team Achiga as Shizuno and co are going out for ramen. No encounter can get more contrived than that...
Moments earlier, the Achiga team had noticed their coach walking with Kumakura, discussing the possibility of becoming pro.
Long Runner Tech Marches On: The notepads and laptops from the first series have given way to tablet PCs and smartphones in the spinoff. Can be explained in-series by the fact that all of those who use the latter (mainly Shiraitodai and Senriyama) are top-ranking schools in major metropolitan areas, compared to the schools in Nagano or Nara. Additionally, the main series also has Mihoko, who cannot use modern technology at all, and Saki, whose not owning a cell phone is considered strange in-universe.
Mahjong Clairvoyance: Toki's peculiar ability — if she concentrates enough, she can see the hands (and moves) of her opponents up to at least one turn in the future, but if she pushes it she can foresee up to two turns. As a drawback however she loses the ability to do so for an equal number of turns. The use of this is extremely taxing on her, given that she's not so healthy to begin with, and prior to the Nationals was only done sparingly.
Meaningful Name: Toki's name is written 怜, a less-common kanji meaning "wise". The most common form of "toki" is 時..."time".
My Greatest Failure: Akado Harue's losing many points to Kokaji Sukoya, a loss from which her team was unable to recover.
My Greatest Second Chance: Harue's becoming a coach for Achiga, and she hopes to take them to victory in the tournament, with the semi-finals being seen as the obstacle she couldn't overcome and the Achiga team does. She even declines an offer from a pro-scout until her students graduate.
New Transfer Student: Haramura Nodoka was one to Achiga. She later transfers out into Kiyosumi. She actually transfers a lot, and at one point was an underclassman to Kirame. One of her goals in the main series is to avoid having to change schools again, so that she can continue playing mahjong and stay with her friends.
Oh Crap: The Achiga girls' reaction upon knowing that they have to fight Shiratodai in their second match.
Another contestant had this during a match against Oohoshi Awai in regional.
Kentani's captain has this reaction when she deals into Shizuno's hand. Enough points change hands as a result that Achiga and Kentani switch places as a result, causing Achiga to advance while Kentani is eliminated.
Rogue Protagonist: Well, no, not really. Saki is probably just as cutely adorable as she usually is (and as the main manga shows, she was actually lost and looking for the girls' toilet when she passed by the Achiga team). But the way she's viewed by the girls from Achiga because of her Battle Aura is like this. Naturally fanart has had a lot of fun with this.
Sacrificial Lion: Toki quickly become this. Shows the audience (especially Saki audience) how big a threat Teru really is.
Spanner in the Works: Kuro finally working up the courage to discard a dora is the key event that allows her to win the final hand against Teru, as Teru is so caught off guard that she has no way respond.
Hatsuse is largely shown as Ako's friend. As she ends up going to Bansei, and doesn't make it onto their team despite at one point having been at Ako's skill level, she largely serves as an indicator of how far Ako has come.
Spit Take: One of the Kentani girls does this with tea during a tea ceremony in a flashback when the vice-captain for their team loudly calls Tsumo.
Stepford Smiler: Oh, Teru... She displays Japanese politeness to the press, but behind the door, she's a pretty damn condescending person. Probably explains why the press don't double check it when she denies any connection with Saki. This gets lampshaded when Sumire tells her that her "salesman smile is absolutely cruel", and "too different from (Teru's) normal self".
Training from Hell: Also a good excuse to have the Achiga girls interacting with girls from main series. Shizuno especially had the honor of playing Koromo, with predictable results. However, the game against Koromo is one of the catalysts for Shizuno's real power.
The Senriyama team stands out, with all the members doing their part to ensure that Toki remains in good health for the tournament, and Toki wanting to help them as best as she can.
Achiga also counts, as one of the closer-knit mahjong teams in the series.
Unknown Rival: Shizuno, the main character, considers herself a rival to Nodoka. She assembles a mahjong club just to get to the nationals and challenge her again. Meanwhile in the main manga, Nodoka has lost touch with her friends from Nara until she recognizes Kuro on TV, and meets with the Achiga team again after the Vanguard match of the semi-finals.
Shizuno: (facing the scenery outside the opened windows) Alright! Just you wait, Nodoka!
Kuro: Nagano is in the opposite direction, you know.
Shizuno: Ah yeah, I just feel like it!
After Shizuno senses Saki's Battle Aura, she knows that Saki is the rival she must defeat. On the other hand, Saki doesn't seem to feel anything from Shizuno. Um...
Known Rival: Koromo warns Saki about Shizumo's strange ability, so Saki knows that Shizu is someone she has to watch for. Especially when Shizu's school is able to come out on top of Shiraitodai. Noted that Saki doesn't look 'that' concerned as Koromo explained that Shizuno could hinder her ability to draw from dead wall and stated playing against stronger opponent is fun.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Shinmen Nagi from Sanomo carries two Japanese blades to a mahjong match. Granted, her name is samurai-ish, but that's no justification...
The Worf Effect: Interestingly, Koromo suffers from it in regard to Saki. She, one of the only players that Achiga has never defeated, mentions that she lost to Saki. This makes Saki looks utterly terrifying when Shizuno happens to pass her by in Tokyo.
In the first two episodes, Bansei High are made to look like Achiga's main rival in the first two episodes (Hatsuse, who said she was as good as Ako, was unable to get a spot on their team), before getting swept aside in episode 3.
Kuro, who is supposed to be one of Achiga's stronger players, as well as the supernatural ability to attract dora to her hand, often ends up getting dominated in her matches and losing the most points on her team.
To be fair she is not too reliant on her dora hoarding power, and the drawback is especially suck. Not to mention the opponents she lost points against is Toki and Teru; her sister, while comforting her after her quarterfinals match, points out that, as Harue said, aces often "wage a monstrous battle" in the vanguard match.
The entire Shiraitodai team gets worfed repeatedly during the semi-final. Toki sacrifices herself to stop Teru, Yuu completely shuts down Sumire's power, and Awai of all people gets monkeywrenched by Shizuno's never-seen-before ability, resulting in them falling to second from Teru's overwhelming first-round lead. They all plan on working on their weaknesses before the finals, though.