Rewatching Saki Episode 1 – Miyanaga Siblings Introduction to Mahjong in Parallel Part II

To most of the fans’ joy, Teru’s flashback is continuing in the manga. The current chapter 170 is great at clarifying some new information and adding a few question marks.

Still, I think, I’m going to wait for a few more chapters before I comment on  it again. Instead, I would like to go back to the beginning tackling the first episode and looking for parallels there.

To those not up to date with the manga. Note that this is not a mere rewatch post. It has a few spoiler up to Chapter 170. 

I have  analyzed how reading and the Miyanaga siblings are linked in a previous post. Here, I would like to get a handle on the framing.

The first chapter starts with our main character reading peacefully by the riverside; as cherry blossom falls around her. Saki would have gone reading undisturbed in this state, until a single petal fell onto the page causing her to notice a beautiful girl passing by.

A nice snapshot of what’s to come. ^^

Like the petal, if the series of event in this episode haven’t happened; Instead of the Nationals, Saki would probably still be reading undisturbed, not noticing the beautiful thing that will pass her by – good friends, enjoyment of a once hated game and a chance to bring back her family together again.

Still, while I wouldn’t say that Saki’s (and perhaps Teru?) current state at the beginning of the plot to be happy. I don’t think that they are suffering either. There is a sense of peace with Saki at the beginning.

Not truly satisfaction,  but the languid grace of someone that doesn’t want anything.

An inner peace that has been  missing with Saki at the Nationals considering how much a wreak she is on the inside.

Nonetheless, I don’t think Saki regrets losing said peace and getting swept by the current events. Some things are more than worth it.

Speaking of worthy things.

Nodoka looks cute when her massive breast isn’t showing.

I wish the anime and even the manga haven’t flanderized Nodoka’s breast to ridiculous proportion. I know that Nodoka’s breast was supposed to noteworthy bu, it was also supposed to be a selling point to Nodoka, not a detraction.  And I think the anime in this instance went too far.

Which is  too bad because being an eye-catching beauty is an important characteristic of Nodoka in-universe. It is one of the chief reason why Nodoka is popular with the media. Heck, its the first thing that Saki noticed!

Speaking of said scene, there is something about it that I can’t put my finger on.

You know that many have argued that Saki have some sort of perception power? Which is sort of proven in the semifinals, when its shown that Saki can outright see supernatural phenomena that is invisible to other people. Considering the parallel on Teru-side, I wonder if I will look back at this moment and read deeper at Saki comment of “beautiful”; just like I’ve wondered why Teru’s called Sumire “kind” when they just met. After all, I’ve noticed that Saki is quite taken with Nodoka even at the very beginning.

And it is getting increasingly obvious that Nodoka parallels Sumire. As the Miyanaga siblings closest confidant and the one who set them straight whenever their flaws get to them. It is Nodoka who looks for Saki and straighten her out whenever Saki is thinking of giving up, sometimes explaining things so Saki may understand. Similarly, its Sumire who calls out Teru’s bald faced lie whether she lies to the media or denying her sister. To further the comparison, both Nodoka and Sumire are beautiful, popular girls who have well established mahjong career as well.

And lastly, we have Kyoutarou, Saki’s friend from middle school.  Since this is the only time where he is prominent, let’s take a moment to talk about him.

For the token audience surrogate, I like Kyoutaro. He’s a pretty nice guy. And while he faded off the plot as we reach the nationals. I like the implied relationships he has with the rest of the club. Saki and him have a bro like relationship.  They even have a small moments in Zenkoku at the washing machine wherein Kyou-chan interrupts Saki’s brooding for a bit. Kyoutaro also develops a similar friendship with a more vitriolic emphasis with Yuuki as well.  Heh, out of the first years, Kyoutaro is more distant to Nodoka which is kinda hilarious considering his crush on said girl.

Anyway, back to our conversation track.  I think that Kyoutaro doesn’t have a parallel in Teru’s ongoing plot. With the flashback going on its obvious that Saki heavily parallels Teru with some difference.

One of those significant difference is Kyoutaro.

While it is true, like what happened in the live-action you could give Kyoutaro’s role to someone else and leave the entire story unchanged. I’m one of those who believe that changing a few background details here and there have an impact even if only a little.

In the recent flashback, Teru reads alone, uninterrupted until the fateful day Sumire and Teru met again. On Saki’s fateful day, Saki reads alone and while Saki and Nodoka took note of each other; Saki was interrupted by Kyoutaro, a middleschool friend.

Perhaps, I’m overthinking it. But, I think it is important that Saki has a middleschool friend and Teru for appearance’s sake does not. Perhaps, its signifies that Saki if only a little bit was able to open her heart a bit more than Teru?  Teru seems to be the more guarded of the siblings after all. (Teru uses shoumakyou to check anyone approaching her.) Saki, in comparison, is a bit defenseless.

Another thing to note is how, Teru and Sumire appear to have a more “active” personality than their parallel. Instead of being cajoled, Teru decided to make a bet and gather all the players herself. In life and in game, Teru is the one  to set the pace. Saki, in contrast, is passive in her personal life and even in game.We see many examples of it in this episode alone.

Like Saki goes along with Kyoutaro to buy the ladies lunch meal set. Saki goes along with the mahjong club even though Saki stated that she hates mahjong.

Which is  a shocking sentiment considering the present.

Check out Saki and Teru’s line and once again notice how similar and different they are at this juncture.

Teru: “Its not that I don’t like the game mahjong itself. It just brings back painful memories sometimes.” “Its not that painful. But, if I can choose I’d rather not play it.” 

Saki: “I hate mahjong. Yeah. I can play it, I guess, but I hate it. I always lost when playing with my family.”

How interesting.

At the beginning, Saki has a more negative perception of the game than Teru. No, its not a mistranslation. I listened carefully to the audio and Saki used kirai  嫌い here  Saki outright said she hates mahjong. Teru on the other hand said that she doesn’t hate the game itself but the painful memories associated with them.

Bonus points, the atmosphere of the talk nicely contrast too.

Despite  Saki’s more negative attitude toward the game, the air around the talk is joking, almost flippant. Kyoutarou never twigged that he touched on a sore button.  On the other hand, Sumire is taking everything gravely serious. Our archer is  aware and considerate that  she might be stepping on a landmine.

To be fair, while I think that Sumire maybe a bit more perceptive than Kyoutarou. I don’t think its Kyoutarou’s complete fault. Unless, he’s actively watching Saki’s body language (and perhaps even then), he couldn’t know about Saki’s trauma. Saki gives very few tells.  Not to mention that Saki gives a completely flippant answer,

“I never win when I’m playing with my family.”

Which while completely true is also entirely misleading.

Though, I don’t think that Saki was misleading Kyoutaro there. I think that Saki believed that is the reason why she hates mahjong.  As we know, Saki is entirely lacking in self-awareness….

Teru, in contrast, probably have more insight even as a child and know that the bad blood comes from the players and not the game itself.

But Saki?

It is all too easy to see Saki blaming the game  for making things worse than the players who played the game. Specially if the players in question are her family – people dear to her. Saki would probably make almost any excuses in her mind for them. It is also in-character for Saki to blame her shortcoming  thus reaching the conclusion that she can’t enjoy the game because she always lost is natural.

… Yes, I’m aware of the cognitive dissonance here. As the next segment will make abundantly clear, the fact that Saki always lost because she played +/- zero is completely wasted on her. ^^

*Edited on February 11, 2017: Confusion on translation with Saki’s line. See comment section for details.

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11 Responses to Rewatching Saki Episode 1 – Miyanaga Siblings Introduction to Mahjong in Parallel Part II

  1. Lxndr99 says:

    Wait, at the end are you saying +/-0 equals losing? Because that's not possible. When you play +/-0 you can only be 2nd or 3rd but not 4th (lose) or 1st (win). I remember Saki said 'if I lost they took away my new year's money and if I won they were angry at me'. Then Saki started playing +/-0 to avoid losing (or winning) against her family. So when she said 'I always lost when playing with my family', it must have been before she started playing +/-0 or it makes no sense.

    Sorry if I misunderstood what you said but that last line '…the fact that Saki always lost because she played +/- zero…' didn't sound right. I liked the rest of the post, especially your comparison between the pairs Saki-Nodoka and Teru-Sumire. Also don't you think Teru called Sumire 'kind' because she saw it in her mirror that she is kind? That's what I thought at least.

    • nightsentinel09 says:

      Ah, regarding that, I'm using the anime subs for that which may or may not be correct. Unfortunately, my level of Japanese isn't enough to parse if its a mistranslation this time. If it helps; what I meant for the line and another possible translation is, " I never win when I'm playing with my family", which is more or less in line with Saki's +/- zero play.

      On the manga side, you are right in saying that Saki explained that she always got her new year's money taken away. The anime may have changed that because she will repeat the explanation to Nodoka in a few minutes.

      Hmmmm,… I may just edit and use the other translation to avoid confusion.

      As for Sumire, that's what I'm getting at. Teru called Sumire kind because she saw it on the mirror. I'm wondering if Saki called Nodoka beautiful because of similar outwardly senses as well. Note that from the semifinals match, Saki sees supernatural phenomena that is invisible to normals (Kyouko).

      • Lxndr99 says:

        …the fact that Saki 'never won' because she played +/- zero. > I agree
        …the fact that Saki 'never won' because she played +/- zero is completely wasted on her. > I disagree (no offense)

        I think the sequence of events was:
        Saki plays mahjong with her family > she always loses > she always gets her new year's money taken > she hates mahjong > she starts playing +/-0 to avoid losing or winning > she still hates mahjong.

        I think Saki is completely aware that playing +/-0 means that she can never win and she hates it but she can't help it. If she doesn't play +/-0 and she loses, they take away her new year's money, which is worse. If she wins, her family is angry at her, which is also worse.
        In the manga, the English translation by Null, Saki says to Nodoka under the rain 'I remembered to never let myself win'.

        • nightsentinel09 says:

          Yes. I agree that Saki knowing that she plays +/- 0 meant that would never win and it might have contributed to the fact that she hated mahjong. A game wherein Saki can never win ever.

          What I'm talking about is this. Even though Saki would say to Nodoka that "she remembered to never let myself win", Saki never internalized her "strength". That the fact that she can choose +/- zero every single game (a condition that is harder than winning) and making that mental connection that she could have won the game if she chose not to play +/- zero.

          And yes, I'm aware of the double think inherent in this. But, for Saki,, getting +/- zero is just something she does. It like breathing or something similar. At this point, its already so ingrained and she never thinks anything about it.

          There is even a skit played for comedy about this very thing in the next episode.

          • Lxndr99 says:

            Oh, I see what you mean. To play mahjong and to play for +/-0 became the same thing for Saki. She can't separate one from the other. Not until she meets Nodoka and the others and realizes that she can 'choose' not to play +/-0 without negative consequences. That's interesting. Thanks.

          • nightsentinel09 says:

            No problem. I'm happy to talk about this series anytime. ^^

  2. Alex says:

    Long time no see.
    Shocking how similar the two stories are.
    And Just to get this out of the way in the post You wrote"“I never when when I’m playing with my family.”
    repeat of the when instead of win.
    Moving on
    Yeah Teru is really quite bothered by Saki's endless losing streak that quite frankly is more terrifying than any winning streak I have seen even in Saki. That said was it because she was holding back that Teru got mad or some other reason.
    In any case Teru definitely handled the game more maturely though I have no idea about the handling of the situations.I can only say a number of bad things happened and at least one was at a majong table.
    Also I sometimes wonder are powers hereditary in Saki verse.
    Finally sorry Kyoutaro I nearly forgot you existed.

    • nightsentinel09 says:

      Ooops. Didn't notice that. Editing the quote.

      Speaking of hereditary powers…. it wouldn't surprise me if there are powers that can be straight out inherited or if certain families are composed of mahjong monsters or have certain trait to them.

      Speaking of that, the kanji of Miyanaga is this 宮永.
      宮 – means shrine or temple. Other readings involved are princess (member of the imperial family) or palace (imperial residence)
      永 – this on the other hand meant eternal, immortal, perpetuity.

      Interesting surname isn't it? If you squint, you could probably read:
      Saki Miyanaga as Blooming Eternal Princess
      Teru Miyanaga as Shining Eternal Princess

      • Alex says:

        Well that is an interesting surname.
        And huh guess Eisui would be another example.
        Still it is nice to see some past history that does not read like a conspiracy theory

      • Alex says:

        There is still an extra when in the quote

        • nightsentinel09 says:

          This is what I get for editing on my tablet. Heh. Thanks for pointing it out again. ^^

          And yeah, Eisui is another example of that. Ryuumonbuuchi as well with Koromo and Touka, probably.

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