Getting to Know the Characters: An Example

In my look back at the first decade of the 21st century, I talked about the shift towards character and the idea of “getting to know the characters.” While I think I made it pretty clear as to what I meant in the original post, I thought of a good example to explain the idea: the mahjong anime and manga Saki.

Mahjong has been a topic frequently explored in manga for decades now, with even Frederik Schodt’s “Manga! Manga!” pointing out its existence. It’s a favorite topic among salarymen and older audiences, but it wasn’t until the game was paired with moe and a heavy dash of yuri that it began reaching out to the otaku market in the form of Saki.

Anime nerds are playing mahjong in greater numbers now, and it’s not like Hikaru no Go where the manga itself explains the rules to a certain extent; characters in Saki just come in and do their thing and winning magically happens. And yet the otaku still want to play.

The reason that fans of Saki play mahjong, instead of just admiring the girls through fanart and doujinshi (and possibly their own dreams) is that mahjong is the focus of the Saki world, and by playing mahjong a person can feel closer to the characters in the series. I’m sure Miyanaga Saki fans smile every time they get +/-0 in their final scores, while achieving Haitei Raoyue is a wonderful feeling for supporters of Amae Koromo.

Performing an activity that is done by the characters gives a sense of connection, and the characters themselves make you want to connect to them through the power of their cute, moe designs and notions of very close friendship. That is the feeling of being “one” with the characters.

3 thoughts on “Getting to Know the Characters: An Example

  1. That’s an very, very interesting point there! I can completely see this. I mean, I’ve been buying fake and real swords since I was twelve so that I could try to be like the characters in Kenshin, and I still can’t resist taking Hajime Saitou’s ‘Aku Soku Zan’ stance with my blade from time to time. And literally all of my close friends have been really into boxing since we watched Hajime no Ippo. It should be no surprise to see otaku play mahjong thanks to Saki.


  2. I agree to an extent, although I think Saki does do a decent job of making mahjong look pretty exciting. While the moves don’t often represent what is likely to happen in a “real” game it fits well in line with the over the top way sports anime tend to show the sports. I remember in Princess Nine, the main character Ryo was considered to be having a bad game because she actually allowed some base runners! Shock! So while liking the characters is one reason to start playing I think Saki also does a good job of making the game seem interesting in itself.


  3. me and my sister use to play sailor moon when we were kids XD mimicking the transformation scenes and all that.

    i love HnG but i still have no real interest in wanting to play. Same goes with mahjong. maybe when i’m older i’ll get into it.

    I do think it’s good that people are wanting to learn these games because of anime though.


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