After years of playing every New Year with her family, who’d take all her holiday money if she lost and get mad if she won, Saki doesn’t care for Mahjong at all. But when a friend drags her into the school’s Mahjong club for a game, they notice something extremely interesting about how she plays…
Saki is a full blown sports manga that happens to be about a board game. Several well known cliches of the genre are already apparent in both characters and premise. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the lack of framework for the game that is at the heart of the story pulls the impact out of these well established techniques.
I have no previous knowledge of Mahjong, which unfortunately made this impossible to fully follow. There are footnotes sometimes, but they don’t really help and often only emphasize that what’s happening is difficult. For example, “mixed triple chow” is explained as “three identical chows in three different suits.” Guess that would help if they ever told me what a chow was. Later the “all simple” part of an “all simple pinfu” is explained without defining “pinfu.”
And a lot of the time they don’t even footnote things. “Can you dodge my richi and change a 40-minipoint and 3-han hand to a 70-minipoint and 2-han hand?” is gibberish to me. The reader’s told that the chances of that are < 0.1%, but that’s the only way any of the “drama” of the games is conveyed – by explicitly telling the reader “hey, what’s about to happen is hard to do!” over and over. Hard to invest in the action that way.
The characters are somewhat interesting so far, but again do fit into standard roles for this type of manga which holds them back since the formula isn’t working right.
The idea behind Saki is decent and it’s not bad overall, but it’s not compelling either. I’m in no rush to continue with volume 2.