THE WORLD! IS! MAHJONG!

Mahjong manga has its fair share of devoted followers, especially in Japan itself, but I feel that the genre has a direction it has yet to explore that could, if done well, be one of the best mahjong titles ever.

The mahjong portrayed in manga is almost invariably Japanese-style mahjong, but of course mahjong is a game of Chinese origins, and has found homes in other parts of Asia and even in the United States. There are some rules we kind of take for granted with  Japanese-style mahjong. For example, declaring riichi, or the act of declaring to your opponents that you’re a hair’s breadth away from winning in order to gain the opportunity to earn additional bonus points, and furiten, or the rule that trying to win off of a tile you’ve already discarded previously is significantly more difficult, are exclusive to Japanese mahjong.

Now, wouldn’t it be great to see a series about a guy (or possibly a girl) who has to master multiple forms of mahjong?

Korean-style mahjong forbids stealing tiles to complete straights unless it is to win a round.

In Hong Kong’s version of mahjong, you can actually win with a 0-point hand, ending the round but achieving nothing in return.

Taiwanese mahjong has 16-tile hands, as opposed to the standard 13-tile hand found in most other forms of mahjong.

American mahjong actually has “jokers” and the ability to exchange tiles at the start of the match.

And Japanese tiles are smaller than the tiles used in other parts of the world, so even the methods of cheating change somewhat as you go from one style to the next.

Some of the rule differences seem small, but they can have a profound impact on how the game is played, and this is exactly the sort of thing that could be exaggerated to great effect in manga format. The hero would have to adapt to every style and figure out the feel and the flow of each type of mahjong. I see it as being similar to Swan, where a young ballerina travels the world to learn different philosophies on ballet.

And if they start running out, then I don’t see why they couldn’t just start making new ones up. There’s Washizu mahjong, why can’t there be Canadian mahjong?

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12 thoughts on “THE WORLD! IS! MAHJONG!

    • Well food is the kind of thing where subtle changes to the recipe can greatly alter the end product, though still have it be tasty.

      Man, I just imagined mahjong tiles being like, cookies with a thick layer of frosting (the frosting is the white part).

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  1. I sense a story arc cut out of the Pokémon / Yu-Gi-Oh template.

    “Ah, but before your friends can be freed, you will have to play me at American mahjong, Yugi!”

    “I have already mastered Canadian mahjong, it is foolish to challenge me!”

    “But American mahjong is different! It’s Canadian mahjong… IN SPAAAACE!”

    *cue the walls dropping away and the room lifting off on the nose of a rocketship*

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  2. I always feel utterly bewildered when watching mahjong in anime because I only know how to play the Hong Kong version, so I get lost a lot of the time.

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    • The furiten and riichi rules are again a big thing when it comes to Japanese-style mahjong. The result is a very defensive game where you have to be careful not to overextend yourself, but that also requires you to occasionally do so, to take that big risk and charge into the arena shirtless.

      Also the scoring for limit hands is exponential, which means big hands are BIG.

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  3. There is a sort of “Canadian” style, the style that I invented and I live in Canada, but that is about it, other than that you can’t really call it “Canadian style”. The ruleset is called AERM and has many of the features of Japanese mahjong, including Washizu mahjong. But there are some new rules and some different rules!

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  4. >In Hong Kong’s version of mahjong, you can actually win with a 0-point hand, ending the round but achieving nothing in return.

    I love the strategic implications this has.

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