Aces Wild

charts, previews, saimoe musings

Prelims has come and gone, and so is the Comiket break as we are in the cusp of an explosive opening round. Before we get to that though, let’s take a closer look at the story so far with a rundown of the Prelim One Groups. Regarding the charts, I included how the second prelim qualifiers fared on their initial groups instead so we can look at the performance of the characters in a better light. Without further ado:

Group One: 545 voters

Group One usually has the most misleading numbers as the turnout is usually low. Last year Azusa had a measly 362 votes despite being in a competitive opening group (Poplar, Nadeko, and Kurimu were also in that group). Same could be said in 2007 when Nagi had a relatively low number of 500+ votes during the heydays of Saimoe and we saw her storming to the finals.

While I don’t see any of the qualifiers here winning it all or even making it to the semifinals, I can say that the characters from this opening group may be stronger than their numbers tell us. True enough, of the 16, this had the lowest turnout, but they eventually plated in a lot of characters (23) to the main draw.

Group Two: 561 voters

Ugh. Random draw showed its infamy with Group Two. This is tied with Group Fourteen as the groups with the minimal number of Main Draw qualifiers, and along with Group One and Group Fourteen, the lowest voter turnout. More likely than not, this group is doomed to be wiped out by the end of Round Three.

Group Three: 786 voters

Oh yeah. We already know that we got one of the most exciting opening Saimoe matches of all time with Homura against Biribiri, but what about the rest? While obviously the bottom half of this group is in serious trouble, the upper half, Mikoto and Homura aside, find themselves in interesting matchups.

Ika Musume finds herself facing a test with K-ON’s Mio, Ayase is in a collision course with Kokoro in Round Two, Barkhorn is paired against KamiNomi’s Shiori. Misaka #10032 is up against Kotegawa Yui, while Suzuha and Saori are favored in their openers.

Curiously enough, as stacked as this group is supposed to be, five other groups had a higher turnout than this one…

Group Four: 743 voters

Hanasaku Iroha has emerged as one of the surprises of the opening round, and the ace Ohana is obviously one of the reasons why, as she ranks 14th and 16th in votes received and vote percentage respectively. Her opening match should be a breeze, but Azusa looms in the second round. Mugi gets a floundering Tachibana Kanade in her opener.

Group Five: 846 voters

I am not surprised that Group Five ended up with the most number of votes. This is one of the most stacked groups in the prelims, and while it does not have superstar names such as Kirino, Kuroneko, Madoka or Homura, it made up for it in terms of quality. Twenty-one (eventually) got in from this lot, with two eventual prelim two winners. The top five should be safe for the first round sans Sherlock who gets a riveting match with Kuroneko.

Group Six: 793 voters

The group with the fourth most number of voters features a championship contender, a dark horse, a former quarterfinalist and the defending champ. Not much explanation needed why this group had a lot of votes, and add that to the fact that this group got twenty characters in the main draw is just gravy. That being said, Kirino getting a high amount of votes and percentage despite this is quite an impressive feat in retrospect, and rightfully so, she’s one of the challengers to Madoka’s championship aspirations.

Of concern though, is that Azusa, Shino, and Astraea find themselves locked up in challenging matches. Same can be said with Saten and Kirino in Round Two. Kurisu though, seems to be good to go until the Block Semis.

Group Seven: 668 voters

…showed us that HanaIro is something to be reckoned with and Angel Beats is dead (har). I’m actually surpised that Nako is in the top 20 in both votes (12th) and vote% (okay, 21st in this one). The group didn’t have much voter participation but it’s not as bad as Groups 2 and 14. Nako gets Cecilia in Round Two should she survive Shirayuki in the opener, while Minko is just doomed against Kirino. As previously mentioned, Tenshi gets Mugi in her first match since losing to Yamada last year. This one is definitely a group in peril.

Group Eight: 817 voters

The third most popular group. Mami and Erio had something to do with it, as they blew by their competition in this one. Former finalist Yui didn’t even come close, being outdone by contending series’ sidekicks Mayuri and Manami.

As for the matchups, Mami gets a virtual free pass in round one, Mayuri and Manami are favored in their matches, while runner-up Erio is in perhaps the second most interesting match in Round One against Group Twelve winner Char. Haqua faces tall odds against Azusa, but things could get interesting in that one.

Group Nine: 752 voters

Astarotte looked good in prelim play, but she didn’t really have much to contend with except a hard-luck Akiyama Mio . Now she will get tested as she has the possibility of being matched against Mayuri and/or Tooru. That being said, Group Nine was a weak group, and it will be proven soon enough…

Group Ten: 825 voters

The one with the second most number of votes is the closest prelim group match we saw as Sayaka edged Victorique. Sayaka is set to meet Saten in Round Two, Victorique is in arguably the toughest bracket (Block A), while Meme is gonna get bus’d as she got grouped with Erio in the match against Char. Meanwhile, Yuno looks to collect at least two wins. She really gets lucky in these draws.

Group Eleven: 644 voters

The Kuroneko whitewash looked to be the biggest thrashing of the prelims this year until Madoka happened. The voter turnout for this one is expectedly low (644), since there’s no “big” names here. As aforementioned though, Kuroneko get an undesirable opener against Sherlock, while Yoshika looks to be in good shape until Round Three. Miyako I think will get a win, while Tsukasa is a slight underdog against Sora in her first match.

Group Twelve: 636 voters

I was kind of surprised that this one had less voters than Group Eleven. I’m thinking that is a testament to how strong Kuroneko is in getting enough voters for her. Anyway for this group, Char posted a good vote percentage despite the low voter turnout and a clean win. You just have to hope that will help her against Erio. Asuha is a wildcard to reach Round Three thanks to a favorable draw, while Shirayuki as previously noted has a hard mode match against Nako.

Group Thirteen: 785 voters

This one had a good turnout, either because people want Shana to win her fifth straight prelim match, or do their best to prevent that from happening. It probably has something to with both though. ¬†Expectedly, Shana’s blade is not as sharp enough to dominate the group, but she did pull through in the end. The question is will she get a rematch against Cecilia again? This is more of a challenge to Cecilia as she gets Nako in Round Two (should be a riveting match). Again, Nymph is scheduled to battle against Millhiore, while Haruka, and Rin look like they can go as far as Round Three.

Group Fourteen: 550 voters

The infamous Group Fourteen which Elsea/Elysia/Elucia/LC/Elsie/Elsee destroyed. And true enough, the rest will get destroyed in their openers as well while Elsea is in cruise control possibly until Round Three. Next.

Group Fifteen: 719 voters

Well, the penultimate Prelim One is apparently tied with Group One as to the Group that eventually got in the most qualifiers for the tournament proper. Again, no superstar names in this one, but I’ll remember this group for Tooru’s last second rush. Tooru is gonna get a challenge in her second round, and same with Nano. Interestingly, Kanon and Isana have a¬† decent chance to go Round Three. This group is funny enough for that kind of Saimoe humor. Aww yeah, Random Number God.

Group Sixteen: 791 voters

Divine Buster in full effect in one of the most impressive prelim matches in recent memory. Madoka sent out a statement with a demolishing of this group and it’s not even a giveaway group. Sanya is round two/three bound, Index will finally get her first win, while Menma has a good enough bracket for her to make it to the block semis. Mikan, Cordelia and Houki will grab first round wins, but it gets harder from there.

As somebody noted weeks ago, there is a shakeup in the tiers and the character power rankings after what happened in the Prelims. Here we go:

Championship Tier

Madoka Magica

The Puella Magi definitely belong to the highest of tiers after a slew of comprehensive prelim victories bytheir Fab Five. Madoka leads the field in terms of votes received, vote margin and vote percentage, and against non-cannon fodder competition no less. Homura, on the other hand, plowed through tight competition with a convincing performance. Mami took gunned down her challengers, rookie and veteran alike, while Kyouko pulled through in the battle of newcomers. Sayaka had the most thrilling finish of all, with a close call over Victorique. And let’s not forget, their Charlotte even managed to make the cut.

I’ve mentioned this before, but that is Rozen Maidenesque performance right there, this new breed of magical girls are for real. I doubted them before the tournament started, but yeah, they are the real deal, after all.

Ore no Imouto

Perhaps the closest challenger to MadoMagi’s ascent to championship, my projections for Oreimo is right on the spot so far. Two great wins by Kirino (over the defending champion Azusa and upstart Kurisu) and Kuroneko (second biggest rout in the prelims) put them in the good spot moving forward. Let’s not forget that Manami, Ayase, and the rest of the supporting cast all had decent finishes in the Prelims, completing a well-rounded cast.

High Tier

Ika Musume

Ika isn’t a championship tier to begin with, but she looked awfully close, that was until the Prelim match against Homura showed the stark difference of one who has “it” now, and one who has a long way to go. Ika finished second, but the margin was relatively distant. One-on-one might be different, but going with what we have, Ika’s gonna have a hard time against the big guns.

Fear the squid, I still say. Her supporting cast might have underwhelming prelims, but we’ve seen an army of one too many before. And let’s just say she has a great opening match that might be the pseudo-finals of her block…

Shana

Speaking of one-girl wrecking crew, Shana is the ultimate model. The undying flame collected her unprecedented fifth prelim win, and seems to be blessed with yet another good draw. High tier? Definitely. Convincing prelim win? I’m not THAT impressed (despite it being fifth in a row? yeah, really). Head-to-head match against Mami? Looking like it very much.

Gosick

Victorique still has me a bit skeptical, but when I look at her numbers in a certain context, it’s just hard not to believe that she belongs to this echelon. I’m gonna give her the benefit of the doubt at this stage. She was two votes shy of beating Sayaka who has a great deal huge faction support, and she left everyone else in her prelim group in the dust. In the preseason preview I said that it would be sick if Victorique can go round three or beyond and I had doubts even back then. It’s a pity she got stuck in Block A, I would have liked her chances better if she was in a more balanced group.

Dark Horse Tier

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

I missed on this one badly. Turns out I’m the one who was crazy enough to count this SHAFT series out. Erio suddenly looks like somebody who can win her block, and the majority of the supporting cast had good finishes as well. I did say in the preview that Erio can win a match or two, but again, making it through to the quarterfinals is a great possibility now.

Denpa Onna rightfully bellngs to the dark horse tier now, and certainly a character that you do not want to meet on your opening match. Tough luck, Char.

Hanasaku Iroha

I’ll believe it when Ohana beats Azusa. I’m not buying those two prelim wins right now because there wasn’t much challenge there (a washed up Tenshi and Mugi does not count). Nonetheless, Ohana and the rest of the crew did better than I originally expected (read: not much). Delving deeper though, there might be enough magic in her and enough baggage against Azusa that Ohana might end up passing the test in flying colors.

Steins;Gate

Surprise surprise. Stronger than I projected. Kurisu managed to even eke ahead of Azusa and Saten, and that’s a big deal. Mayuri bested Yui, Suzuha did fine. Steins;Gate is a sleeper series for Saimoe. Kurisu lost to Kirino, but it’s still interesting. As for their draws, it’s unfortunate that she and Mayuri ended in Block A, since as aforementioned, it’s just a tough bracket to be in. If anything, A stands for Apocalypse. And a zombie apocalypse is in order, right?

Hidan no Aria

Intriguing, winnable matches for their characters. Aria is poised to go far as Block Finals against Kuroneko (I sense an upset in this one if it ever happens). If there’s a dark horse i called correctly, I’m quite confident that this is the series. Right on the spot.

Mid Tier

Raildex

They might end up demonstrating that quality is indeed greater than quantity. While they managed to qualify eighteen characters, the draw has definitely put Railgun’s aces in a precarious position. With regard to their prelims performances, Mikoto finished behind Homura and Ika-Musume; Index got blasted by Madoka (despite finishing second); and Saten trailed behind Kirino and Kurisu. A split-vote match involving Uiharu and Saten in a match against Sayaka in the second round is just a painful nail in the coffin.

With that, it appears that my early projection of the Raildex redemption tour took a huge hit with that draw and the early favorites look like early exits now…

K-On

Never underestimate the heart of the champion they said… True, Azusa is still the champ until she loses, and she has an interesting bracket ahead of her, but I’ll hold off on tallking about that one until gameday.

Once again, I dubbed K-On as one of the favorites, but my faith seems misplaced based on their Prelims performance. I thought they’re gonna pull a Rozen (semifinals berth by Shinku, and Block finals appearances by Suiseiseki and Suigintou the year AFTER winning the championship) and be “tough outs” against potential challengers but when Azusa got badly beaten by Kirino (seiyuu joke, harhar), and Yui floundered in her group (against Manami and Mayuri), things look pretty grim. I was hoping they would put up much of a fight in the prelims. We’ll find out soon enough if Houkago Tea Time has one more magical run in them.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

Sherlock and Kokoro had good enough prelim performances, the latter even won her group. Again though, the first two groups of the Prelims are misleading in terms of strength. They draw will test them early enough with Oreimo blocking the path to glory. Sherlock will have a shot at altering the Saimoe landscape by going against Kuroneko, while Kokoro is in a round two collision course against Ayase. The odds are stacked against them.

Infinite Stratos

Strike three, I’m out. Okay, all of the five them have winnable first round matches, with Char’s match being the toughest. Beyond Round One, it gets really tough. Undoubtedly, IS did worse than I originally expected (although some say that there shouldn’t have been expectation in the first place). Houki and Laura not finishing in the top five of prelims is definitely a concern but the Main Draw is a good chance to turn things around.

Astarotte no Omocha

Another series that I clearly underestimated. These girls are not playing around. Astarotte is in A, but that doesn’t stop her from being dangerous. Asuha is poised for a block semis berth. These two finished first and second in their prelim groups. That’s it for the depth chart, but yeah, this series is not the cannon fodder that I suspected them to be.

Mid-Low Tier

KamiNomi

Kind draw for their aces, except for Haqua who is matched with the defending champion. Elsie destroyed her prelim group. Not much competition, but it was still utter destruction nonetheless. Gotta love her chances to make it to the block finals. Kanon can go as far as Block Semis in a color-coordinated match against Aria. As for the rest, better luck next time when the third season airs. Oh wait.

Yumekui Merry

Merry only managed to field two characters in the Main Draw. That casts a shadow of a doubt to the legitimacy of the duo’s strength, but the Saimoe gods have granted them a chance to surprise everyone at the right time. The draw has been kind to Merry and Isana who both have winnable matches, and by winnable in this context this means no roadblocks such as the Homuras, Madokas and Kirinos of the world.

Hidamari Sketch

Hidamari gets a chance to move closer to top ten in all-time series wins as Yuno gets a decent draw (Miyako has early matches too). The prelims performance was as expected of a five year series- underwhelming, but good enough to get by. The rest? Better luck next season.

Strike Witches

A revival in the works? Don’t count on it, really. I have to say their prelims perfomances was quite inspiring for a series that took a one-year Saimoe hiatus and aired last summer (Saimoe graveyard for most series). They scattered decent finishes in the prelims, and the draw has me thinking that team captain Yoshika will make it to round three, Sanya and Shirley round two, and the rest sadly getting broomed as they got saddled with tough openers. Not much has changed after all, since 2009.

Sora no Otoshimono

Stuck in the middle, again. Nymph might do worse than she did a year ago because her match this time is tougher (Millhi). Ikaros has Asuha/Miyako blocking her to proceed further and Astraea is in Group A wasteland. Tough.

A-Channel

This series was under the radar until their main guns started posting decent numbers. Once more, Tooru’s group-winning rally against Nano stands out as one of the memorable moments for the previously concluded qualifying round. Now Nagi, Run and the rest should channel all their energy to Tooru, or their ace is not gonna get out of the dreaded Block A alive.

Low Tier

AnoHana

Oh look, noitaminA’s gonna get two wins! Better than expected, right? Wait, if you’re expecting more than that, then forget it.

Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka

I thought they had a chance, but then I got proven wrong thrice (Eu, Tomonori and Haruna respectively). Not that I expected them to win their prelim matches, with the exception of Hellscythe. I expected them to do better. Now they’re looking like One-Round wonders as tough second round matches against Aria and Homura loom against Haruna and Eu respectively.

Angel Beats

Angel Beats is dead. Losing to Nako means Tenshi’s odds against Mugi in her round one match isn’t so good (who lost to Hanairo ace Ohana by only four). Yuri is slated to face Kirino. Ouch. Yui might keep the beats going, but in any case, a second round match against Morishima Haruka suddenly doesn’t look so lovely for the pink team.

Amagami SS

I have to say Amagami the superior version of Kimikiss and Hatsukoi Limited in Saimoe, but that’s not really saying much. Haruka will prove her ace status as she’s expected to go the furthest (far being Round Three…) as Tsukasa has a tough R1 match, and hard mode for Miya in R2. Still, that looks better than Kimikiss/Hatsukoi, both of which only managed R1 berths and nothing to do with them!

Dog Days

After Millhiore’s win in the opening prelim group, it seemed like Dog Days is destined for great days ahead. And then the rest of the cast came away with disappointing finishes. Turns out that the win is misleading upon closer inspection. Right on the spot as Underdog Days? Seems like it. Surprise me more, Saimoe.

Seitokai Yakuindomo

They got saddled by bad matchups, (except for Suzu which I am confident will giver series at least one W), but still, their prelims record showed that they might be overachieving. We’ll see soon.

Yosuga no Sora

I haven’t looked much in the numbers, but Tsukasa vs. Sora is definitely an interesting matchup. That is the now or never match for YnS, because the other two qualifiers for the series just don’t stand a chance. Oh yeah, Merry and Mugi/Tenshi wait in the wings should Sora prevail over Tsukasa. Great chance to move up in the ranks!

Other noteworthy mentions

I would have charted BakaTest and TLR but they got screwed badly by the draws enough. To-Love-Ru is in the better position as at least I am confident enough that Mikan will give her series a W. BakaTest on the other hand gets no free wins this year. Shouko gets Shana, Himeji gets Mayuri, Minami gets Yui, Hazuki gets Kuroko. Uh oh.

Fortune Arterial and Hoshikaka managed to get in a good amount of characters in, but quantity just doesn’t cut it if you can’t go with the big guns. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes.

I’ll get in depth with the other series as I preview their matches, but that’s all for now. Stay tuned later for Round One previews. Let’s end it with the last chart for this post though: Updated Saimoe Character Power Rankings heading into Round One.

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