Now we’re on the real deal. The bottom half of the draw is packed, and the match-ups are very interesting, to say the least. Let’s start with this one:
E3-2: Nishizawa Ayumu (Hayate no Gotoku) vs. Kushieda Minori (Toradora)
The path to Saimoe glory is long, Hamster. On her way here, she had to contend with Saki’s Hajime, who she managed quite well. And she ousted last year’s quarterfinalist Tomoyo in a close encounter. Ayumu has to deal with opponents each round, and for the third time, it happens once more in the form of Kushieda Minori. Minorin is quite strong: she kept up with Hinagiku in the prelims, dwon round 1 easy, and destroyed her first round opponents. However, she hasn’t defeated anyone on par with her, so whether she stacks up with the likes of Hamster remains to be seen. As of this writing though, I’m predicting her strength to not dwindle, and count on her to win.
F3-1: Maria (Hayate no Gotoku) vs. Aisaka Taiga (Toradora)
The other part of the doubleheader. Another huge match. Taiga has shown she’s capable of winning both close matchups and decisive ones. Maria’s on the same trend. After finally breaking free of her curse for the first two rounds, Maria’s back again on the traditional side of things: facing powerful opponents. Kagami first, then Rena, and now Taiga. Is third time a charm in this case? Apparently so, if the numbers are to be relied on. Taiga has Maria beat in most of the categories, so we’re looking at the possibility of a Toradora sweep for this day. At the end of this match, we’ll see whether the Cinderella ending for Maria will continue, but odds are, it won’t…
(On a personal standpoint, I hope not. At least a 1-1 by me is fine).
F3-2: Nakano Azusa (K-On) vs. Furukawa Nagisa (Clannad)
Azusa has already defeated Index, who is supposed to be stronger than Nagisa, and she has also shown that she is capable of blowing out opponents as well. Nagisa hasn’t faced anyone strong, until this match.Combined with K-On block votes, Azunyan will win this one quite comfortably.
G3-1: Nagato Yuki (Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yuutsu) vs. Eruruu (Utawarerumono) vs. Suzumiya Haruhi (Suzumiya Haruhi-chan no Yuutsu)
Split votes. /match. Really though, even if Yuki is statistically stronger than the other two, the prospect of the split votes disrupting the count is huge. Therefore, Eruruu will steal this victory and return to the top 16 once more.
G3-2: Okazaki Ushio (Clannad) vs. Fukuji Mihoko (Saki) vs. Tainaka Ritsu (K-On)
Easy win for Kyapten is easy. Again, the numbers won’t lie in this match. And to think that Ritsu could only manage a tie with weakened Clannad, it’s not going to be a good day for the KyoAni contingent.
H3-1: Miyanaga Saki (Saki) vs. Sanzenin Nagi (Hayate no Gotoku)
In the round 2 report, I’ve said that I’m quite impressed with Nagi’s performance so far. She’s on her third straight top 32. She looks to return to the top 16 in top shape. This is Hayate-Saki IV, by the way, and the numbers tell me that Hayate is winning this encounter. Nagi is one of the most consistent characters in the tournament so far. Although Saki has done well on her own account, it just doesn’t match up to Nagi’s level so far. So I predict Nagi will win this one, but it will be close because the combo votes with Mihoko will make it difficult for FFDQ to win.
H3-2: Haramura Nodoka (Saki) vs. Miyamura Miyako (ef)
Compare this match with that of Utau vs. Tacos. It’s a mismatch so huge, it’s not even funny.
E3-1: Katsura Hinagiku (Hayate no Gotoku) vs. Hirasawa Yui (K-On!)
This is the biggest match of the tournament so far. It’s tough to argue against that. Both girls match up to each other well, in terms of series popularity, character popularity and Saimoe strength as evidenced by numbers. But there can only be one winner.
Here are the factors that favor Hinagiku in this match:
- Hina is fresh off the minds off the voting audience: Hayate no Gotoku S2 has just recently concluded, and it was at the very least, a fine adaptation of the manga. The non-manga readers are finally exposed to the more Hina-centric parts of the manga, and to exaggerate: with 100% more screen time as compared to season 1. On that season 1, Hinagiku reached the semifinals. But that comes with a disclaimer, by the way. More on that later. Nevertheless, that says she’s capable of winning.
- She’s on cruise control right now. She defeated both Mikan and Yami, effortlessly. Although it was a split vote, even if they did combine, it actually wouldn’t matter. Hina still wins it by at least 20%. And it bears stressing that Mikan and Yami are no small names. It was the Mikan that Top 16’d last year, and a Yami that came close to former tournament favorite Mio in her prelim group. Now compare her performance to Yui: I can say Rika, who is not at her peak, no doubt about it, is on the same level as Mikan or Yami in terms of strength. And Yui struggled against her. Were there tactical votes? We’ll never know until this match is decided.
- Experience. Hina’s been doing it for three years. Upset in the first year, bounced back in the second year. In both cases, her popularity is not at its peak. The Hina we have here, is Hina at full strength. Maybe a full strength Hina could go farther.
Now here are the arguments why Yui could possibly win:
- She’s racking up monster numbers, regardless of opponents. She bested Taiga in a heated duel in the prelims. She then routed her round 1 opponents, and then when she needed it, she racked up 836 votes against Rika in the 2nd round.
- It’s K-On. It’s KyoAni. It’s the most popular show of the spring season, no doubt about it. And Yui’s looking to be the most popular in the bunch, at least in the Saimoe voting population.
- Combo vote. On the same date as Yui’s match is Azusa’s match. Now this could be a deciding factor. For those thinking that combo vote is a myth? 611 votes for the Kana-Tacos combo in their 3rd round matches. If that doesn’t swing a match, then I don’t know what would.
- Hinagiku is untested. Last year she went to the semifinals, and who did she beat en route to Top 4? Alice Carroll, Tiffania Westwood, Ichijou Eika, Isurugi Noe, and Chiba Kirino. Not exactly elite names. And when she needed to beat a strong character, she couldn’t. She fell short to Tsukasa, albeit by only 40 votes.
- This year’s Saimoe is more or less leaning towards new blood. As of this writing, last year’s top 8 is down to two this year. Hinagiku and Nagisa. This could be another factor. History is not on Hinagiku’s side. Let’s see: 2006 Top 4: Suiseiseki? knocked off in Top 16. Shana? Top 16. Chikaru? Top 96. Fate? Top 96. 2007 Top 4: Rika? Top 96. Nagi? Top 32. Rena? Top 32. 2008 Top 4? Kagami? Out in the first round. Tsukasa? 2nd round. Nagisa and Hinagiku’s fate remains to be determined. But it’s not looking good.
The way I’m writing this it appears that Hinagiku will lose to Yui. It could very well might happen. The arguments very much favor Yui. But I’m stubborn. I failed in predicting Misaka over Mihoko, Horo over Kana, despite knowing that the odds are against them. I think third time’s the charm though. I’ll be going against the numbers again and stick with my original prediction when the draws were announced: Hinagiku over Yui. But hey, I’ve only presented the factors going for each character. At the end of the day, the voters will still decide.
To wrap it up, here’s the poster for the Hinagiku-Yui epic:
Bonus: Whenever I see a 2ch Saimoe thread with Hina on the title (it has happened several times), it somewhat gives me the feeling: hey, maybe even I, am underestimating her popularity. I’m really praying that she Hina wins though.
PS: Still taking suggestions for match titles for the following matches: Nodoka v. Miyako, Haruhi v Yuki v Eruruu and Minorin v Hamster. Feedback is also very much appreciated. Thanks ^^,