WARNING: Major spoilers from Achiga-hen!
It is the night after the Side A Semifinals of the 71st National Inter-High Mahjong Tournament, and the girls of Achiga Girls' Academy is celebrating their advancement to the finals — their alma mater's highest placing so far in any major tournament. Despite the celebratory mood, their adviser, Harue Akado, excuses herself for a night out with old friends... who happen to be fellow professional players of course, but this is the first time in a long while that Harue herself has seen any of them after becoming adviser, or much more than that, when she quit the game altogether after a disastrous loss at a National semifinals match ten years ago.
Yes, there's a bit of irony in how the "friends" she's spending the evening with are the very same ones she faced at the mahjong table during that fateful match — playing idol Hayari Mizuhara, color commentator Risa Noyori... and Sukoya Kokaji, the same girl who badly defeated Harue into an early retirement and then went on to launch a phenomenal career that saw her placed as high as 2nd on the world rankings, now also a commentator. And while they're all pros nownote , back then, they were just high school students too, all vying against each other for a chance to stand at the top. Much like what the current generation is doing, in fact.
And they were not alone in this.
Among them are Shino Shiratsuki, who has been playing in the hopes of seeing again her mother Nana, who disappeared one day after their first game together with her maternal uncle Kousuke, and Kanna Ishitobi, a no-nonsense girl who treats the sport very seriously and has a grudge against Hayari.
Saki Shinohayu -dawn of age- (咲 -Saki-: シノハユ -dawn of age-) is an ongoing 2013 prequel spinoff of mahjong manga Saki, written by Ritz Kobayashi and illustrated by Aguri Igarashi (of Bamboo Blade fame, who also did the Achiga-hen side-story), this time focusing on the pros, or rather, their teenage years.
- Adult Fear: Kousuke frantically searches for Shino after she disappears on him on a trip to a place that's at least twelve and a half kilometers away from where she left him.
- Brick Joke: The durian juice. For reference, it comes up again in Chapter 22, after more than a dozen chapters and a year of in-universe time.
- Brutal Honesty: A character quirk of the other Okinawan representative, Kokoro Oroku.
- Call-Back: In the prologue, Sukoya greets Harue, and says that they recently encountered one another. This is a reference to the ending of Achiga-hen, in which Harue encounters Sukoya in the playing room for the finals earlier that night, and declares her resolve to go pro one day.
- Call-Forward: Chapter 17 focuses on a younger Harue, and highlights her obsessive need to research the quirks of her opponents — something that was initially glossed upon at the start of Achiga-hen.
- The Cameo:
- The girl that stops Hayari's initial attempt at the nationals in Chapter 13 is revealed to be a much younger Uta Mihirogi.
- Surprise! You didn't think Igarashi would pass up a chance to show the Achiga girls with Harue involved. In this case, both Kuro and Yuu appear in chapter 17... As babies.
- Chekhov's Gun: Niemann, the current world champion, is mentioned off-hand during an early chapter. When she finally appears on-panel in Chapter 25, it turns out Shino's mom has been with her the entire time, apparently brainwashed to be her attendant.
- Contrasting Sequel Main Character/Foil: Shino can be considered one to Saki. Both hope to reunite their families through mahjong, but while Saki never enjoyed mahjong until playing with Nodoka and the rest of the club, Shino has fond memories of her family playing mahjong. Interestingly enough, while Saki initially upsets Nodoka by playing for +/- 0 when she could win by playing seriously, Shino upsets Kanna by playing for fun rather than competitively.
- Crapsaccharine World: For all the fun mahjong hijinks, Shinohayu is the first series in the Saki franchise that hints to a darker underbelly of the professional mahjong circuit, especially with the mention of a high-stakes super-secretive annual game in Yokohama that's apparently even attended by world champions. Early on it is theorized that it might have something to do with the disappearance of Shino's mom. This was confirmed in Chapter 25, where Nana apparently lost to Niemann, the world champion, and now amnesiac, serves the latter as part of her entourage.
- Decoy Protagonist: It seems at first that this will be Harue's story... nope! The main characters are Shino and Kanna, as well as their teammate Hayari. And then Harue herself makes her entrance into the story in Chapter 17.
- Disproportionate Retribution: One man in Hayari's chapter demands money for a cab from another man whom he blames for making him miss the bus, then plans on harming Hayari when she calls him out on it.
- Downer Beginning: The first chapter involves Shino's mother disappearing and her and her uncle moving away.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Richardson" for Kousuke, since he would rather not be reminded of how he used to be in a rock band.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Kousuke tells Shino to get over mahjong, believing it only hurts her by it being a reminding of her Missing Mom. He even sells (claims to, anyway) the set which they used to play mahjong together with — and by "they", this includes Nana. On the other hand, after noticing how happy Shino seems in the tournament he apologizes to her and returns the set even after Shino loses to Hayari.
- First-Episode Twist: Shino's mother disappears midway through the first chapter.
- Foregone Conclusion: Sukoya will lead her school to victory in the 61st Inter-High, and Harue was so traumatized by her encounter with Sukoya (and the catastrophic loss the last incarnation of Team Achiga suffered as a result) that she stops playing for several years.
- Foreshadowing: In Hayari's first POV chapter, she first meets Mafuka in a hospital.
- Free-Range Children: Kanna is left alone for long periods of time, and Hayari, with a little discussion, gets her mom to let her go to Tokyo by herself.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter is titled "Character: Number", based on which character it focuses on.
- Ill Girl: Mafuka Kasugai, who appears to have cancer.
- Invisible Parents: Averted. In start contrast with both the main series and Achiga-hen, the parents (or guardians, in Shino's case) of many of the characters are not only apparent, but play active parts in their children's lives. So far, we've met Hayari's mom, both of Yue's parents, and Kyouka's mom.
- Jerkass: Wakana Yonamine, one of the representatives from Okinawa, gets by through intimidation and scare tactics. However, while this might work on easily-scared middle schoolers like Shino's friend Rui, it utterly fails on Shino herself.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: The pilot chapter begins with the girls of Team Achiga celebrating their advancement to the National finals, which happens at the very end of their home series.
- Magnetic Hero: Shino has a knack of befriending people she's only played against once during a mahjong game. Kanna, Kyouko, and Hayari aside, she's also managed to get on the good side of several players in the Nationals, enough that they begin cheering for her.
- Master-Apprentice Chain: Chapter 17 reveals that it was Yuu's and Kuro's mother that initially tutored Harue on mahjong, and the latter in turn would guide Mrs. Matsumi's daughters during their run at the Nationals in the present day.
- Mega Twintails: Worn by Yue.
- Not So Different: Kanna and Hayari have a lot more in common than the former would like to admit, as both girls love to focus on their "cool" side.
- Origins Episode: For the professionals in present-day Saki.
- Otaku: Yue proudly announces that she's one, and finds the fact that her family lives so far from Akihabara a big hassle.
- Parental Substitute: Following the disappearance of her mother Nana, Shino lives with her uncle Kousuke.
- Show, Don't Tell: Shortly after Kanna's argument with her friends, she goes home to an empty house, eats dinner by herself and does an internet search for how to apologize. All this not only shows that she has No Social Skills, but gives a good idea of what her home life is like.
- Switching P.O.V.: The series regularly switches focus to a specific character and their experiences — from Shino, to Kanna, to Hayari, and to Yue so far.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: Kanna comes off as a bit of an insufferable jerk in Shino's chapters, but her own POV chapters show how much she has changed since their first encounter. In Shino's first chapter Kanna turns her away simply because she hates the latter's approach to mahjong, while her own POV shows that she also doesn't want to make her own clique feel excluded.
- The One Guy: Yuuichi Sakamura is the only male finalist at the Matsue children's tournament (on the same table as Shino, Kanna and Hayari), and so far the only male shown to have an actual chance of winning (unlike Kyoutaro).
- Tournament Arc: Starting with the second chapter, Shino enters a mahjong tournament in hopes of becoming famous and getting her mother to return.
- Tragic Keepsake: Mafuka's hairpins become this for Hayari.
- Wham Line:
- Midway through the first chapter, after a happy game of mahjong with Shino, her mom and her uncle, Shino casually narrates..."The next day, my mom disappeared."
- In Hayari's second chapter, after she gets her hairpins from Mafuka.Mafuka: I'm getting moved to a hospital in Tokyo, so, you won't be able to see me for a while. Consider it a keepsake.
- Midway through the first chapter, after a happy game of mahjong with Shino, her mom and her uncle, Shino casually narrates...
- Wham Shot: After saving Hayari, Mafuka does the same trick with a mahjong tile that the woman Hayari met in the hospital did, causing her to realize that they're the same person.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Kousuke decides to pawn off the family mahjong set, as he's convinced that it reminds Shino too much of her mother. In fact, this makes her even more unhappy when she hears what he did.
- Would Hurt a Child: One man who's angry about missing the bus plans on harming Hayari when she protests how he's taking his anger out on another man, until Mafuka intercedes.