Sawazaki Makoto Will Not Play Next Season, Contract Will Expire

On June 30, it was announced that the Kadokawa Sakura Knights would not be renewing Sawazaki Makoto‘s contract, meaning that he will not be playing for the Kadokawa Sakura Knights in the 2022-23 season.

In a letter posted on Twitter, the team noted that Sawazaki has been making a good recovery after his hospitalization earlier this year, but the mental and physical load of M-League, as well as other team activities, may be overbearing as he recovers. As a result, they decided not to renew Sawazaki’s contract.

Sawazaki Makoto was the 3rd round pick of the Sakura Knight in the team’s first season in 2019. In his first year as an M-Leaguer, he was a big help in scoring points, scoring +234.3pt and placing 5th overall in the individual standings. In the 2021-22 season, his team managed to get to the finals for the second year in a row and placed 2nd overall. In the 2022-23 season, his was a big contributor to the team’s success, he placed 2nd in the individual standings and scored +399.7pt. With the big start, his teammates played their best and the team eventually won their first ever championship.

In a Twitter thread, Sawazaki expressed his disappointment of not being able to help the team in the finals, but was proud of the work that he and his teammates were able to do to win the championship. He thanked the fans for all the encouragement and that he is truly grateful for it. As he recovers, he says that he will continue to play mahjong on Ron2 and the Mahjong Fight Club arcade games, as well as in professional league tournaments.

Soon after the news was released, his teammates tweeted out messages. They described Sawazaki as a team mainstay and a father. They said that they will keep the lessons that he had taught with them and that they would continue what he had started.

With the Kadokawa Sakura Knights only having three players on the team, they will having to draft one more player during the draft in early July.

The M-League Watch Team would like to wish Sawazaki well though his continued recovery and wish him luck with all his future mahjong endeavours.

Asakura Koushin, Ishibashi Nobuhiro Dropped by U-Next Pirates

On June 10, 2022, the U-Next Pirates announced that they will be renewing the contracts for Kobayashi Go and Mizuhara Akina, but will not be renewing the contracts for Asakura Koushin and Ishibashi Nobuhiro for the M-League 2022-23 Season.

Starting in the 2020-21 Season, a new rule was set in place stating that a team that does not make the finals two years in a row with the same players is forced to change their roster. As the Pirates failed to make the finals in the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 Seasons (placing 7th and 6th, respectively), they were forced to remove at least one player this off-season.

In M-League’s inaugural season, both Asakura and Ishibashi were drafted by the U-Next Pirates as the team’s original crew, with Asakura being the 2nd round pick and Ishibashi being the team’s 3rd round pick after they failed to get Suzuki Taro due to a random draw with two other teams.

In the 2019-20 Season, both Asakura and Ishibashi were major contributors to the Pirates’ success. For Asakura, he won a Daisangen in Game 5 to give the team a well-needed points boost. For Ishibashi, he was the top performer in the semifinals and won Game 11 in the finals to help the team win their first championship.

However, both of them have had their struggles in M-League. Asakura had triple-digit negatives in the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 season, as well dead hands from a false tsumo and a 237s chii. Ishibashi struggled a lot in the regular season, failing to finish any of his four seasons in positive territory.

In Asakura’s note, he apologized for not being able to do more for the team and thanked everyone for the past four years. He also said that he will do his best as both a Youtuber and as a new father.

In a tweet and his note, Ishibashi said he was disappointed by the result and also thanked the everyone for their support and all the wonderful experiences over the past four years.

Kobayashi thanked both of them for the lessons that they taught and that he will be sad that they will no longer be playing together. Mizuhara said that she will run as best as she can with the baton that was passed to her.

With the departure of Asakura and Ishibashi, the U-Next Pirates will have two drafts picks in the M-League 2022 Draft.

The M-League Watch team would like to wish Asakura and Ishibashi success in life and all of their future mahjong activities.

M-League 2022-23 Preseason: June Update

Though the M-League season ended in late April, a lot of M-League activity has happened since then! From a special match to rule changes to qualifiers, we were treated with a lot of M-League news since the end of the season. With a lot to go over, let’s get right into it, shall we?

Noodle Noodle Deciding Match

On April 28, just two days after the Kadokawa Sakura Knights won the championship, the Noodle Noodle Deciding Match (麺麺位決定戦) sponsored by Nissin Foods was played. This pre-recorded event featured

These four players played one hanchan to see who would become the Noodle Noodle Champion!

For this game, they used a special set which featured elements related to Nissin Foods

  • The “Manzu” (萬) were replaced with “Menzu”(麺), meaning “noodles”
  • The “Pinzu” were replaced by “Donzu”, named after Nissin’s donbei udon bowls
  • The “Souzu” were replaced by “Sauce”, pertaining to the sauce on the Nissin UFO Yakisoba
    • The 1-Sauce tile that is normally a bird now features Hiyoko-chan, the Nissin Mascot.
  • The winds were replaced by the the four characters that make up the Nissin Foods (日清食品) name. These are also used for seat positions and round winds as well.
    • 日 (nichi) replaces the east
    • 清 (shin) replaces the south
    • 食 (shoku) replaces the west
    • 品 (hin) replaces the north
  • The characters for ”Hungry” (ハングリー) are put together to create the green dragon
  • The Nissin foods logo is used to create the red dragon

There was a lot of fun in the match, from Maruyama bringing a small plush of Hiyoko-chan to Kobayashi Misa and Shibukawa Nanba trying to stay on script and use the proper Nissin suits and tiles. The game was quite close until the end of the game, but Kobayashi managed to win the game due to tenpai payment in Shin 4. With the win, Kobayashi became the Noodle Noodle champion!

M-League Team Documentaries

M-League has released documentaries for all eight M-League teams, showing the daily life and game preparations of each team member. Though the documentaries require Abema Premium to watch, you can view a 15 minute preview going over all the documentaries for free.

Four Player Requirement

In an announcement released on June 1, the M-League released a small but significant update. Starting in the 2022-23 season, all teams must have four players. This differs from the previous two season, where each team is allowed to have either three or four players. This means that if any team drops a player, they must fill that spot.

Saikyousen 2022: M-League Special Match

At the end of the regular season, the Saikyousen 2022: M-League Special Match was announced. Each team will send one player to the special match and the winner of the competition will go to the finals of the Mahjong Saikyousen 2022, a big mahjong tournament in Japan with a 3 million yen grand prize and 16 players playing in the finals.

For the Konami Mahjong Fight Club, they played two hanchans to figure out who they would send. After the winning both hanchans, Takizawa Kazunori came out on top and booked his ticket to the special match

The Sega Sammy Phoenix played a single hanchan to determine who they would send. Kondo Seiichi won the match and was

The other teams chose who they would send without a match and announced it on Twitter.

  • Sonoda Ken for the Akasaka Drivens
    • Maruyama Kanako already qualified for the Saikyousen finals through “Saikyousen Strongest Female Champion” tournament
  • Okada Sayaka for the Kadokawa Sakura Knights
  • Shiratori Sho for the Shibuya Abemas
  • Hagiwara Masato for Team Raiden
    • Setokuma Naoki already qualified for the Saikyousen finals by winning the 2021 Saikyousen
    • Kurosawa Saki already qualified for the Saikyousen finals by winning the “Saikyousen Mister Mahjong Cup”
  • Mizuhara Akina for the U-Next Pirates

At the time of writing, the EX Furinkazan have not yet chosen their player, but they will be playing one hanchan on June 2 at 1300 JST to determine who they will be sending.

Contract Signing

During the off-season, all teams will have to determine who will stay on the team and who will be leaving. The deadline to announce a player’s intention to re-sign or allow the contract to expire is June 10.

On April 11, the EX Furinkazan announced that they will be keeping all their players.

On May 12, Team Raiden tweeted that they will be fighting with the same crew next season

On May 17, the Sega Sammy Phoenix announced that they will be keeping all their players as well

That leaves the Akasaka Driven, Kadokawa Sakura Knights, Konami Mahjong Fight Club, Shibuya Abemas and U-Next Pirates to decide who will stay and who will go.

For the U-Next Pirates, they are forced to replace someone because they failed to make the finals two season in a row.

Upcoming Schedule

  • June 5: Saikyousen 2022: M-League Special Match (Requires VPN)
  • June 10: Deadline to announce contract continuation and/or expiry (with the exception of Sawazaki Makoto, where the deadline is June 30 due to Sawazaki’s hospitalization)
  • Early July: M-League 2022-23 Draft
  • August: Contract signing and team composition finalization for the 2022-23 season
  • October: M-League 2022-23 Season begins

And that’s all the M-League action since the end of the season! Which players will stay in the league? How will the M-League Special Match turn out? Who will be drafted? As always, we’ll just have to wait and see!

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #11-12 and the Awards Ceremony

This is it. The final day of the M-League 2021-22 Season. After 214 games of M-League action, it all comes down to Game #215 and Game #216. By the end of the day, we find out which team will be crowned the newest M-League champions. With two games and and an award ceremony cover, let’s get right to it, shall we?

Before the Games

Our commentators of the day were the inseparable duo of Hiyoshi Tatsuya and Tsuchida Kousho.

For the second time this season, M-League hosted a public viewing event. Players went to the Bellesalle in Roppongi to watch the action together.

After a recap of the action on Monday, we were show the standings going into the final day.

The two frontrunners are extremely close, being separated by only 2.6pts. Still within striking range are the Shibuya Abemas, with the Konami Mahjong Fight Club in the negatives.

After the final introduction, the games began!

Intro | Game #11 | Game #12
Awards Ceremony | Final Thoughts

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #9-10

Day 5 of the M-League 2021-22 Finals marked the final Monday of the season. And though Mondays have the reputation of being the most hated day of the week, the games we watched on Monday made the day awesome! Today, we saw tenpai battles, lucky ura and lots of bonus sticks. We also saw a yakuman tenpai, another yakuman tenpai and a tie! There’s a lot of action to get into, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

Before the Games

The commentator of the day was the always exciting Hiyoshi Tatsuya. Joining him was Shibukawa Nanba from Nihon Pro Mahjong (NPM). After a recap of the results on Friday, we took a look at the standings.

The Sega Sammy Phoenix have a good lead over the Kadokawa Sakura Knights, but a 1st from the Sakura Knights would be enough to overtake them. The Shibuya Abemas and Konami Mahjong Fight Club are behind, but cannot be counted out with four more games to go.

With everyone raring to go, everyone got going!

Intro | Game #9 | Game #10

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #7-8

The finals fly by so fast, don’t they? On Thursday, we were only halfway through the finals. Today, we’re already two-thirds of the way through! On the 4th day of the M-League 2021-22 Finals, we saw riichi battles and very close games. Both games had the top two players less than 300 points of each other going into South 4. In addition to the close games, we had a big dora hand, a big ura hand and a dora ippatsu. I’m tired of rambling on, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

Before the Games

The lead commentator of the day was Matsushima Momo. Joining her were Mizuhara Akina (瑞原明奈) and Kobayashi Go (小林剛), both of them members of the U-Next Pirates. After the usual opening pleasantries and a recap of the Thursday’s events, we were shown the standings.

The Kadokawa Sakura Knights currently lead by 57.5pts, but a bad 4th or a big 1st from another team can shake up the standings significantly.

With commentators, players and fans ready to see what would happen next, the action began!

Intro | Game #7 | Game #8

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #5-6

Day 3 of the M-League 2021-22 Finals showed us why this game is called Riichi Mahjong. In just this day alone, 26 riichi calls were made and many riichi battles were fought. With the stakes at their highest, the teams needed good waits and luck on their side to move ahead. And just like players in tenpai, I’m sure that you’re waiting to read all about it! Without further ado, let’s get right into it, shall we?

Before the Games

The commentators of the day were Kobayashi Misa and former Konami Mahjong Fight Club member Fujisaki Satoshi (藤崎智). As always, they went through the highlights of Tuesday’s games and showed us the standings going into today.

The Sega Sammy Phoenix have a big lead over the rest of the pack, but all the teams are still in the race.

With the players set and ready to go, the games got started!

Intro | Game #5 | Game #6

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #3-4

Day 2 of the M-League 2021-22 Finals is complete and boy, did we see some great hands! From fast to slow, open to closed, expensive winners to cheap clinchers, we had quite the show! There’s a lot to go through, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

Before the Games

The main commentator of the day was Kobayashi Misa. Joining her were two player commentators: Nikaido Rumi (二階堂瑠美) and Matsugase Takaya (松ヶ瀬隆弥), both of them from the EX Furinkazan. After a short recap of the events of the previous day, we were shown the standings going into today’s games.

The Kadokawa Sakura Knights have held onto the lead, but the rest of the standings have flipped, with the Phoenix moving up and Konami moving down. With goals set, the games got started!

Intro | Game #3 | Game #4

M-League 2021-22 Finals: Games #1-2

The M-League 2021-22 Finals have begun! In 12 games, we will see which team will become M-League champions! With 4 teams who have never won the championship before, history will be made! There was a lot of action in the first two games, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

Before the Games

For the first day of the finals, we were introduced to Hiyoshi Tatsuya and Tsuchida Kousho, the commentators of the day. After expressing their excitement about the finals, they then showed us a recap of the semifinals. Afterwards, they showed the standings.

The Kadokawa Sakura Knights are in the lead, followed by the Konami Mahjong Fight Club, the Shibuya Abemas and the Sega Sammy Phoenix. The difference between 1st and 4th is just 64.2pts, meaning that even the 1st game can have a dramatic impact on the standings.

With the stage set, the first games of the finals was set to begin!

Intro | Game #1 | Game #2

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