Let’s start with the obvious: what we did not get in 2011 and 2012, we will finally see unfold this year. For better or for worse, we are set for the proverbial clash of the titans: Saki vs. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the two of the most dominant series that ever (figured) in the Saimoe stage. Whether or not this rivalry will end up like the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha-Rozen Maiden of old, we will find out soon enough.
This was hardly unexpected. Saki and Madoka were tabbed as two of the three factions predicted to play a major role in this year’s contest, along with the disappointing Girls und Panzer (more on this later). The Titanic Two romped through the preliminaries, by winning seven of the sixteen preliminary groups.
As fate may have it, the two series’ respective aces have dodged each other so we will have to wait a little bit more – Prelim Group Eleven’s Miki Sayaka-Miyanaga Teru encounter is hardly ace matchup material, but it was intense enough to serve as an appetizer. We did get to see some of the top players tested – Akemi Homura had to hold off a serious challenge by Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai’s Nibutani Shinka to preserve her group win. Resurgent Yuru Yuri, represented by Toshinou Kyouko forged a tie for first place with Haramura Nodoka, the Saimoe paragon of consistency.
The aforementioned Chuunibyou and Yuru Yuri did show off their capability to provide some resistance to prevent a Saki-Madoka finale. Takanashi Rikka and Akaza Akari won against quality opposition. The same can be said about Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko’s Azuki Azusa. Nevertheless, Atarashi Ako’s crushing win in the amazingly deep roster of Group Fourteen served as the ultimate warning to all comers – Saki won’t be satisfied with only one championship to quell the previous heartbreaks.
Saki, Madoka, Chuunibyou, Yuru Yuri and Henneko are only five of the eighty series represented in this year’s main event. They did account for all but one of the top fifteen vote getters. The vote percentage chart shows more challengers. Oreimo’s Aragaki Ayase notched a convincing win in Group Seven. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita’s main character definitely not in a decline, along with Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Kashiwazaki Sena. It is worthy of note that Haiyore Nyaruko-san, Hyouka, the Raildex franchise did manage to post group wins, albeit arguably lesser competition.
The preliminary round has usually been a good indicator of what to expect. And expect, maybe we did too much of Girls und Panzer. Sure they have fourteen in the Main Draw, but in the face of tight competition, they have floundered. Aces Akiyama Yukari and Nishizumi Miho yielded to Kaname Madoka and Ako, and those were not even close. Love Live is looking to suffer the same fate as 2012’s Idolmaster. Little Busters needed to make a bigger impact. Vividred’s operation ended in failure.
There are other takeaways from the concluded preliminaries and bracket drawing, but I’m going to get to them once the time is right (read: once the series’ relevant representatives get to compete in their respective match days).
Round One: Block A, Day One Preview
The introduction of repechage meant that each match day for Round One will feature four matches instead of the usual three.
Kanoe Yuuko (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia)
Mizutani Shizuku (Tonari no Kaibutsu-ku)
Hanaki Yuka (Natsuiro Kiseki)
Mushanokouji Iwai (Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge)
I thought it Iwai wouldn’t cut it against the Saimoe competition, but this tournament has a way of changing minds. Forget about miracles here, the way Yuuko, Yuka and Shizuku performed in the prelims (not more than 70 votes), Iwai’s gonna look like a monster, and that would be more than enough of an edge to win.
Ibara Mayaka (Hyouka)
Kuroyukihime (Accel World)
Fate Testarossa (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha)
Things certainly have snowballed for Fate. After a disappointing prelim performance, she now has to face off against Kuroyukihime in the Saimoe opener. We might be looking at an opening round exit for the former finalist – something that has not happened to her since 2005. I do think that this will be a close battle all things considered, and definitely an interesting way to kick off Round One.
Aoki Reika (Smile Pretty Cure!)
Tsuruta Himeko (Saki: Achiga-hen)
Yusa Emi (Hataraku Maou-sama!)
This could be a beautiful, intriguing matchup, but not for Reika. Shindouji’s Himeko will try to find a way against Maou-sama’s heroine, and series mojo will be the key. Emi will have to work hard to pull off a victory, and do so in another very close match.
Eguchi Sera (Saki: Achiga-hen)
Urabe Mikoto (Nazo no Kanojo X)
Hirose Sumire (Saki: Achiga-hen)
Sumire has gotten stronger, that we can tell. Since Shiraitodai > Senriyama, there is no mystery as to the outcome of this one.