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Ten years ago, the otherwise lowly mahjong team of Achiga Girls' Academy upset the balance of power in Nara Prefecture when it defeated the powerhouse team from Bansei High School. It eventually advanced into the Nationals, but unfortunately lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion, with one of them, ace player Harue Akado, being devastated into an early retirement, and eventually disbanded next year after a disastrous performance at the regionals alone.Six years after that fateful match, fourth-graders Shizuno Takakamo and Ako Atarashi, as well as fifth-grader Kuro Matsumi — themselves players under the tutelage of Harue, now adviser for the local children's club — befriend transferee Nodoka Haramura, who eventually moved away back in their seventh-grade at Achiga Junior High School, a year after Harue also left for a corporate league. Two years later, Shizuno sees Nodoka on television playing her way to become Inter-Middle High champion, inspiring her to reassemble her friends and help revive Achiga's high-school mahjong team.And come their first year in high school, Shizuno, Ako and Kuro, now joined by Kuro's older sister Yuu and Harue fangirl Arata Sagimori, as well as coached once again by Harue, lead Team Achiga to its first competitive season in nine years, with the former three intent on playing once again with Nodoka... even if it means going through some of Japan's most fearsome players, as well as Nodoka's teammate from Kiyosumi High School — a certain upstart freshman by the name of Saki Miyanaga.Saki Achiga-hen -episode of Side A- (咲 -Saki- 阿知賀編 -episode of Side-A-) is a spinoff of Saki, running from 2011 to 2013, written by Ritz Kobayashi and illustrated by Aguri Igarashi (of Bamboo Blade fame), which takes place concurrently with the main series.The manga received an anime adaptation that aired as part of the Spring 2012 Anime season. The first of the extra episodes, featuring the rest of Team Achiga's struggles against reigning champion Team Shiraitodai from West Tokyo (led by Saki's estranged older sister Teru), 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.
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: A fairly minor and easy-to-miss one. Sumire's "tell" for Piercing Arrow is the way she moves her right arm while laying it on the armrest of her chair. In the manga, it was fairly noticeable, especially since the chairs had high armrests. However, the chairs used in the Achiga-hen anime don't have armrests. Oops.
And the Adventure Continues: The TV season ends at the Vanguards match, while the extra episodes end with Team Achiga redeeming itself for its loss ten years ago and advancing into the finals, while Team Kiyosumi goes to their semifinals match (against quarterfinals bracket-mate Himematsu, Rinkai and Usuzan).
Awful Truth: Kirame overheard her seniors discussing 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). She remains unfazed, however, deciding that she will give her best and become the best pawn ever, even making sure none from her Vanguards' match goes under 0 against Teru.
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's is Japanese dragons, who is said to be loved by dora-gon tiles. This is commented on in the series.
Antagonist Title: Saki is the girl Shizuno must defeat before in order for her to meet Nodoka again. And the difference in their power level is steep, at least before the Lord of the Mountain Depths ability is revealed.
Badass Cape: As a bit of a Continuity Nod for the main manga, Yuuki is shown entering National quarterfinals against Eisui, Miyamori and Himematsu wearing a long red cape. Cue looks of disbelief from the rest of her team.
Batman Gambit: Played straight and inverted. Toki assumes 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: This time it's Shizuno feeling an incredibly strong pressure emanating from Saki (you know, that dorky bookworm from the main series). It doesn't help that Saki is portrayed as outright demonic when it happens. Shizuno herself has a completely ridiculous Battle Aura when she's in high spirits, turning her into a Girl On Fire.
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.
Bittersweet Ending: The end of Achiga-hen shows us the aftermath of the Side-A semifinals through the viewpoint of all four schools involved, and naturally, with only two of them moving onto the finals, it's a mixed bag:
Achiga is the big winner of the game, having not only qualified for the finals, but also overtook Shiraitodai's lead. Small wonder Harue is crying in relief after her proteges finally accomplish the one thing she failed to do ten years ago.
Shiraitodai also qualifies, but not without a hitch — it fell to second-place because most of its players badly squandered the massive lead Teru earned back in the Vanguards' match, more so with Awai, whose arrogance nearly doomed them to oblivion.
Shindouji ended its season on a bittersweet note. They fell out at fourth place, with Kirame's sacrifice ultimately coming to naught, but at least this year's performance was their best in many years (since Risa's appearance at that fateful semifinals match between Harue and Sukoya ten years ago), and Kirame was last seen trying to give them some Comfort Food through tacos she got from Yuuki, her old junior-high schoolmate, when they met earlier at the bowels of the competition venue.
Senriyama came out the worst — not only did they narrowly miss a slot at the finals (at third-place), but they also wasted Toki's sacrifice. No wonder poor Ryuuka, their last player, was last seen crying uncontrollably, while Toki sheds tears in her sleep, apparently cognizant of their fate.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Much to everyone's horror, Achiga-hen gets its own version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventures 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. Shockingly enough, 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 Lionghua'note 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: Back in her day Harue was considered one of Team Achiga's best players. Then come the National semifinals ten years ago, she lost too many points to Sukoya, traumatizing her to such extents that she couldn't even touch a tile for years after that. Fortunately she got better at the end, when she and Sukoya meet again in the finals room, with nary a fear in her eye after the current Team Achiga reaches the finals, declaring that one day she would also go pro.
Broken Pedestal: Arata toward Harue. After the latter stopped playing, Arata followed suit, refusing to come to the children's 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 rekindles their obsession with her.
Came Back Strong: Toki recovering from her (apparently life-threatening) illness gave her a limited ability to see into the future.
Cerebus Syndrome: The player whose life is threatened by her power meltdown is already clinging to life to begin with.
Combat Clairvoyance: Or 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. Later, Ryuuka gets the ability to channel the limited version of this ability, by remembering the sensation of Toki on her lap.
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 Season 1 of the main anime (which stops short of the Nationals, which is covered in Zenkoku-hen). There are nods to the Nationals arc as well, such as showing the start of the Kiyosumi match against Eisui, Miyamori, and Himematsu.
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.
Teru against everyone. As Kei warns Team Achiga, she's more like a force of nature than a person, and it shows in the Vanguard match, where she ran away with a 100,000+ lead over everyone else, while everybody else had to gang up on Teru to survive, including Kuro, whose dora-hogging streak indirectly helped them.
Achiga vs. Bansei. More extreme than Kiyosumi vs. Kazekoshi, because Bansei have only once lost a seat to the Nationals in forty years, and Kazekoshi lost because Touka assembled an all-star team for Ryuumonbuchi... whereas Achiga is just a bunch of nobodies (except Harue, who once played for the last incarnation of Team Achiga ten years ago).
Everyone vs. Teru during the National Side A Vanguards' semifinals.
Decoy Protagonist: Despite the fact that Team Achiga are intended to be the protagonists, later episodes (of the original run) 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 is roughly equal to those given to Momoko and Team Tsuruga in Season 1 of the main anime. 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, sans the bonuses which were meant to compensate for it), it makes it seem that Toki's story had replaced Achiga's.
The Dreaded: Teru, Awai ("Teru's Successor"), and 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 finale (although in her dream, she meets the elementary school version of them).
Drives Like Crazy: While the main series shows that she can drive, Achiga-hen shows just how Team Tsuruga's Satomi drives that Volkswagen van of hers. She likely took lessons from the Yukari-sensei school of driving.
Uta: Senriyama's Onjouji just played into another player's hands without having declared riichi! In her official games, this has never happened before! A real first time! Eri: Did you have to emphasize it like that?!
Eleventh Hour Superpower: 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. Unique to the anime's finale, the production decided to give Ryuuka a special ability of her own — heat vision that makes her eyes glow purple when she's 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.
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— er, lap, where Toki loves to rest.
Ryuuka : 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 three turns forward.
Hidden Depths: Teru's (brief) show of concern and surprise during the aftermath of the Vanguard match when Toki collapses after the Vanguards' match hints that under her stoic facade and utterly aggressive and ruthless playstyle, she's likely still a decent human being.
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 Show Takeover: While the first half of the anime focuses on Team Achiga, nearly the other half is devoted to Toki and Team Senriyama. Even Aoi Yuuki and Nao Touyama, voice actresses of Shizuno and Ako, respectively, comment on the matter on an interview. Producers later promised to rectify this by using the extra episodes to put the spotlight back on Team Achiga and their efforts to at least survive into the finals.
Surprisingly, Team Achiga's skill level. For much of the series, it's mentioned that the girls are very skilled, 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 — Koromo, then Yumi, Momo, Kana, and Mihoko while in Tokyo — the viewer never gets to see them win.
Later on, Harue's coaching ability. During the initial TV airing she's not shown doing any kind of coaching for her team, and pretty much lets her girls do what they want, although she does arrange practice matches. Remedied a bit by the extra episodes, when she was seen tutoring Kuro anew, still suffering from a Heroic BSOD after her near-abysmal performance during the semifinal Vanguards' match, implying she mostly does it offscreen.
Momoko just so happens to bump into Team Achiga as Shizuno and friends are going out for ramen, and leading to Team Achiga's practice match with Team Tsuruga, as well as Mihoko, Kana and Miharu.
Moments earlier, Team Achiga had noticed Harue talking with Kumakura, discussing the possibility of becoming pro.
Knight of Cerebus: Teru. It's quite telling how she manages to turn a mahjong match into something that could have killed one of the girls she was playing against. And she did all of this without being aware of Toki's condition.
Lady Looks Like a Dude: Team Senriyama's Sera is such a tomboy she finds it incredibly uncomfortable having to wear her school's uniform at Hiroko's insistence.
Long Runner Tech Marches On: The notepads and laptops from the first series have given way to tablet PCs and smartphones here. Can be explained in-series by the fact that all of those who use the latter (mainly Shiraitodai and Senriyama) are top-ranking schools from major cities, in contrast to those in the countryside, such as 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.
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: Ten years ago Harue lost too many points to Sukoya during their National semifinals match, a loss from which Team Achiga was unable to recover.
My Greatest Second Chance: Thus Harue treats becoming coach for Team Achiga to be her one last chance to overcome the semifinals, and the Achiga team does. She even declines an offer from a pro-scout until her students reach the finals.
New Transfer Student: Nodoka was one to Achiga. She later transfers out (a lot, as it turns out), and was at one point an underclassman to Team Shindouji's Kirame back in Takatobara Junior High. 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.
The Achiga girls' reaction upon knowing that they have to fight Shiratodai in their second match.
Another contestant had this during a match against Awai during the West Tokyo finals.
Team 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 at Kentani's expense.
Required Spinoff Crossover: The main manga finally intersects with this spinoff in Round 103. The characters briefly appear in Zenkoku-hen, taking a lunch break while practicing with individuals contestants.
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' restroom when she passed by Team Achiga), but the way she's seen by Team Achiga is far more intimidating.
Sacrificial Lion: Toki quickly become this. Just to underscrore how much of a threat Teru really is.
Spanner in the Works: Kuro finally working up the courage to discard a dora is the key move 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.
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. On the other hand, Zenkoku-hen shows the flipside, in that Saki also felt something strange about Shizuno. Then Koromo warns Saki about Shizumo's ability, so the latter knows that Shizu is someone she has to watch for, more so after Team Achiga was able to overcome Team Shiraitodai.
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, Team Bansei is made to look like Team Achiga's main rival (Hatsuse, who said she was as good as Ako, was unable to get a spot on their team), before getting swept off the first round alone 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. Only when Kuro finally decided to give up her dora did she manage to come back on top.
The entire Team Shiraitodai gets worfed repeatedly during the National semifinals. Toki sacrifices herself to stop Teru, Yuu completely shuts down Sumire's power, and Awai of all people gets monkeywrenched by Shizuno's Eleventh Hour Superpower, 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.