It may be quite too early to perhaps talk about Saimoe 2009, but the cutoff date for this year's eligibility is coming right up (June 30th) so why not talk about early favorites right now?
For those of you who simply don't know what Saimoe is, I suggest you stop reading this blog post and type in Saimoe into your Wikipedia search field and read up on it.
And for those who need a reminder (and because I didn't really give the results on my blog before) - last year's winner and current defending champion is Kagami Hiiragi of Lucky Star, who defeated her twin sister Tsukasa for the title. And pretty much it's a given that this year will not see a repeat champion. No champion since the start of Saimoe has ever gone on to repeat. As a matter of fact, only one girl (Nanoha Takamachi, 2005 Champion) has ever even gotten back to the top 8 after reaching the top 8 in any of the previous years. While that isn't a concern with the Bamboo Blade girls gone (cutting the top 8 by 2), I highly doubt we'll see three Clannad girls in the top 8 again, though they'll probably make a good run. With the major lack of new material, I wouldn't expect the Hiiragi sisters to do as well this year as well. That really leaves Hinagiku as the only one who has a outside shot of making it back into the top 8 - but like with all things in this tournament, it depends on who you face as you get to the top.
Of course, there are the seasoned veterans of Saimoe in much the same vein that we expect the same veterans to do well in Sasuke. Saimoe's "Makoto Nagano" is very much the aforementioned Nanoha Takamachi. With a return to loli-form, we'll see how well she does along with fellow friend/rival Fate Tessarossa, who also does well every year. Shana of Shakugan no Shana will also be back, along with fellow Kugimiya holy trinity members Louise of Zero no Tsukaima and Nagi Sennzen of Hayate no Gotoku. Also making their returns is the cast of Haruhi Suzumiya - and while Haruhi herself backdoored her way in via cameo in Lucky Star, this year is finally the year we see new episodes of Haruhi and I wouldn't expect this time around for Haruhi to get bounced in the first round. I expect as more of the new episodes come out, the bigger the boosts will be for Haruhi and her brigade. The Hidamari Sketch girls will be back as well - they had very strong showings last year despite being kept out of the top 8. To finally add on to the veteran list - I couldn't forget to mention Amu Hinamori. Amu had a great showing last year, and I expect her to build on that, depending on who she ends up facing in her particular brackets. Japan loves it's classical mahou shoujo heroines, as evidenced by the first Saimoe champion, Sakura Kinomoto. I would expect at least another good showing.
Now, every year there is the new blood that makes big waves. Bamboo Blade last year made a major impact, and many characters have won Saimoe before only to not even be around the next year when their eligibility is up. This year's list is quite impressive, perhaps even more so then last years. One of the casts to look out for is the Haruka Nogizaka cast - while I don't think all of them will advance very far, I would at least suspect Haruka herself to get pretty far. The Chaos Head cast should also be interesting to note. Two series stand out among the newcomers this year however, and should provide some really great runs this year. The first is the cast of Toradora - headlined by the Rie Kugimiya-voiced Taiga Aisaka (who just so happened to win this year's MegaTokyo AGP.) The main three girls - Taiga, Minori, and Ami should get very far this year, if not one or two of them reaching top 8. Especially Taiga, since generally new Kugimiya-tsundere characters reach the top 8 or higher in their first year of eligibility. The other cast to look out for is the K-On! cast, which just recently ended. Headlined by Yui Hirasawa and Mio Akiyama, I would expect much of this cast to do fairly well as the new KyoAni IP to come out. There are some hidden dark horses in this series as well with Ui and Azusa.
There is a lot of new names to pop up this year, and with a field of over 200 girls, we'll see how well some of these girls do this year. If I had to make a early prediction on who would win, I would probably go with Taiga Aisaka in a narrow victory.
Well, enough chatter of Saimoe tonight. There will be more talk when the Saimoe brackets come out.