Exaggeration in Saki, and Why it Works


The Saki franchise is pretty much driven by two things: bone-chilling mahjong plays and adorable yuri moments (or moe for those of you who haven’t seen the light yet). For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the matter of mahjong and exaggeration.


Mahjong, like many other games that depend heavily on luck, has spawned many brands of superstition and irrational ways of thinking about the game. For example, Saki’s tendency to get a Rinshan Kaihou (winning by tsumo off a draw after declaring kan) can most likely be traced to some players’ belief that they get lucky draws when calling kan. The same can be said about every girl in the series that have “powers”. Each of their abilities represent a certain mahjong superstition.

I consider Toki to be the most fearsome characters in Saki, more so than Saki herself, simply because of her ability.

What Saki does, is exaggerate these traits into superhuman abilities. Most recently in Achiga-hen, we have seen Kuro and her tendency to get all the dora in the game, as well as Toki’s inhuman intuition (chokkan). Sure, someone who plays mahjong often may fall under the impression that he/she gets more dora than others, or feel that he/she can “predict” the discards and draws of other players, but since reality is a big pain in the neck, we can’t have lightning-induced winning draws, or have static come out of resin tiles when we get to tenpai – much more pull off six consecutive Rinshan Kaihous or Haitei Raoyues. Saki makes mahjong a larger-than-life game, much like sports-turned shounen anime.

Onee-chan to the rescue!

The thing is, exaggeration in fiction serves as a way to spice up mundane events in our daily lives as boring people. Unless you’re some idiot who thinks all anime should be as realistic as possible, you should have at least watched and enjoyed an anime that makes relatively unappealing games seem like the greatest things in existence. We all want to see stuff that excites and entertains us, and Saki does that by exaggerating mahjong to Shaolin Soccer levels. It’s a really basic entertainment gimmick, and I love it.

Perhaps I should write about the HNNNNNG~ amounts of canon yuri in the franchise some other time.

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12 Responses to Exaggeration in Saki, and Why it Works

  1. Nya-chan Production says:

    “Perhaps I should write about the HNNNNNG~ amounts of canon yuri in the franchise some other time.”

    Yes, please!

  2. hiroy_raind says:

    It’s not that I wanted a more realistic take on Mahjong, but because I watched Akagi before Saki (and loved the heck out of it), I can’t really enjoy how Mahjong is interpreted in Saki (not that I hated it, just not my preference). And Akagi also had it’s own share of exaggeration, especially in Akagi’s part.

    • @fkeroge says:

      It’s the opposite for me, actually. As a psychological anime, Akagi suffered from the “explanation sickness”. It also had a very tiring way of telling its story by repeating the circumstances Akagi is in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. Honestly, it was rather annoying, especially if you already know how to play the game. Perhaps these are the only reasons why I didn’t like Akagi very much, even though it’s a pretty good anime too.

      • hiroy_raind says:

        To each his own :).
        Hahaha, I will agree that there was too much recaps. It even feels like it was padding so that it can air for 24 eps.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Padding, it is – in the purest sense of the word. Akagi could have been one of the greatest anime I have watched, but alas, the horrendous amount of repetitive narration and stock footage worked for the detriment of the show.

  3. EhNani says:

    Oh, you cracked the code. So that’s why I love Saki.

    • @fkeroge says:

      Most entertainment rely on making ordinary things grander than what they usually are in real life. I think that’s how entertainment as it is started in the first place.

  4. Cytrus says:

    Toki and Momo are scary people. (And there’s little reason for them not to abuse their abilities outside mahjong…)

    Unfortunately, we have characters with a more generic “absolute flow control” based power (Koromo, Teru) who will still win all the time.

    • @fkeroge says:

      I don’t think Toki could use her ability outside of mahjong (as far as the manga seems to suggest), but Momo could certainly use hers.

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