Welcome to yet another edition of Saimoe. It’s that time of the year again where we rejoice, despair and rage as our waifus face off against each other in the ultimate battle of moe.
Saimoe is definitely in an interesting position this year, for better or for worse. Coming off the heels of the most lopsided tournament ever, the 2012 Sakimoe, it’s safe to assume that the organizers will be trying to mix things up in the wake of declining numbers and just overall stagnancy. True enough, changes had to be done. Radical ones even. For the first time since the conception of the annual tourney, Saimoe will be using a repechage system. Of course, whether this will revive voter participation remains to be seen. More on this once we actually reach that stage of the tournament.
Another aspect adding an intriguing dimension to this year’s tilt – will the newcomers be up to the task of overcoming the two defining series of the past two years – the queenmakers – Saki and Madoka, both returning to make even more Saimoe history. The other side to this? Should Garupan, the consensus go-to-girls of the tournament, live up to the billing, that would mean that we will be having three consecutive steamrolls, which ultimately does not help reinforce Saimoe’s objectives. Here’s to the hope of an intricate balance to it all.
With the tournament officially kicking off in a few days, here’s a cursory look of the expected contenders from this year’s roster:
The girls in tanks are the top favorites this year having garnered immense popularity in Japan. Dubbed by many as “Saki, but with tanks”, it remains to be seen if they’re able to match up to their mahjong counterparts in the Saimoe arena. What’s certain though that they definitely have enough firepower in their armory to be one of the front-runners in this tournament. Yukari’s the one to watch out for, as she has emerged top in many informal popularity polls. The other members of the Ankou team and the likes of Anzu, Darjeeling and Katyusha are likely to have a major say too but it’s all speculative for now.
Last year’s champions were unstoppable, dominating proceedings and breaking several Saimoe records along the way as they clinched the crown with the ease of getting a tanyao. Now that they’ve won it though, the champion’s curse is with them, but that’s not going to stop them from being a strong presence once again in this tournament. They’re unlikely to suffer a swift decline. That said, the chances of Saki clinching two in a row is equivalent to striking a yakuman. While there’s always a first time for everything, don’t bet your riichi stick on it.
The 2011 champions are back, and you can sense that they have unfinished business to take care of even though they’ve already won it. Homura’s first round exit back in 2011 is still fresh in the minds of many and she’ll be hoping to make amends this time round. Also, this is an excellent opportunity to see how the magical girls fare against the Saki girls, since both were miles ahead of their competition in the past two years.
One of the major players in 2011, Oreimo is back with score to settle with the Puella Magi. Particularly the one named Sakura Kyouko. She was the one who won the block Kirino and Ayase was in after some wonderful tactical voting by the Madoka faction, and she eventually laid down the smackdown on Kuroneko, Oreimo’s last hope back then. This time, with the champions’ curse inflicted on the magical girls, Oreimo has a shot at revenge.
The Love Live girls are this year’s fresh batch of idol contestants seeking to clinch the Saimoe crown. Being one of the latest craze among the anime community in Japan, they will hope to capitalize on their current popularity. After im@s’ failure to make it big in Saimoe last year though, there are doubts on whether the Love Live idols can last the distance – but they are likely to put up a decent, if not strong showing for viewers to see.
Kyoani’s best bet for this tourney comes in the form of chuunis. Rikka was touted as one of the favorites for this year’s tournament when she first made her appearance on TV, but the sudden popularity spike for Garupan has certainly put doubts into that claim. Putting that aside, Kyoani has returned with more firepower this time round after K-ON’s demise. It remains to be seen whether the Wicked Eye and her comrades are able to reach the heights of Kyoani’s erstwhile aces.
It’s not Saimoe without strong representation from J.C Staff, and having already lost their major players in the form of the three Rie tsunderes, the girls from Henneko are one of their best bets for this year’s tournament. Tsukiko and Azuki Azusa will be major players among the debutantes, and if the draw goes their way they might have a good chance on making it far.
The last time Raildex participated in the tourney, it ended in shame as Biri Biri was revealed to have received proxy votes leading up to her eventual embarrassing defeat to Lotte in the block finals. As fate would have it though, she now has the chance to put things right as Raildex’s top ace, especially with the current anime arc being focused on her. That said, Raildex has always fallen short during critical moments, and it seems like that will be the case once again.
They were initially expected to be strong, but somehow lost some steam after the influx of shows generating more buzz. Still, expect the spiritual successors to Strike Witches to be one of the better performing newcomers to the tournament, but they’re unlikely to create this year’s vivid moments.
The basketball girls are back again, and among the 2012 upstarts they are probably the ones who have the highest survival prospect for this year’s tournament – for the simple fact that the second season is currently airing. On their first showing, they actually did pretty well despite getting off to a bad start (being one of only three debuting series to have more than 1 representative in Round 3), so they’ll hope for a kinder draw and at least a repeat of last year’s level of performance this time round.
A swing and a miss. It would be a surprise if LB actually ends up making a big impact. Nonetheless, KEY fans will still try to go for the home run, so it’s tough to count this show out, especially with relatively good sales and popularity. Expect Kud and Rin to lead the charge, but there can only be little hope.
Yuru Yuri was supposed to be one of the big players last year, but they were totally overwhelmed by Saki’s gameplan. It’s unfortunate because it’s not going to be any easier for them this year, and having aired last summer is always a disadvantage when it comes down to Saimoe. Still, expect to put up a good fight.
Haganai was one of the better-performing debutantes last year, but were of course no match for established veterans. Once again, Sena’s their best bet of getting anything from this year’s contest, but don’t expect much from them.
Fresh from airing in the previous season, the Date A Live spirits have a small advantage over their fellow debutantes, but they are unlikely to mount a serious assault for the crown. If there’s any series to compare Date A Live with, it’s Infinite Stratos of 2011 – probably a slightly weaker version too.
Both of Nyaruko’s prominent duo were crushed by Saki last year, just like every other series, and it’s going to be even harder for them this time round with new blood hoping to stake their claim. It would be bordering the realm of insanity if they actually go past Round Three or Four.
Consider it a good job if the club manages to survive past Round Three. I can see Mao scratching and clawing her way to relevance but it will be tough to stack up against this year’s seemingly loaded competition.
Lastly, let’s not forget Nanoha and Nagi have something at stake this year, vying for the sole possession of first place in the all-time wins department. As for the other series, we’ll get to them in more detail as the daily coverage of Saimoe continues in the following days.
That’s it for now, do check back for Saimoe Preliminary Round coverage starting on the 24th of July. Saimoe Fantasy 2013 is also now open for submission. Lastly, here are the groupings for the first prelim round.