(Above taken from Moetron.com)
Saimoe 2009 has finally begun, and here is my overall analysis of the first round (no predictions though, those come by block as they come up).
The very first thing you should notice is that this year, there are four girls in the first round instead of three (and the first matchup in A1-1, who traditionally has a extra character, has moved up to five and B1-1 now goes up to five as well). This is a significant change, as the added number as upped the total from 289 combatants to 387 combatants. A total of 98 extra girls have suddenly been added to the fray, ready to wreck havoc to all who try to predict winners. And I could understand why the number has been increased - this year's SaiMoe is one of the most deepest fields in SaiMoe history. There are a number of characters within the top-40 who can win this thing. And this year, in the second thing to be noticed, is a interesting year in that there is no series like Rozen Maiden or Magical Lyrical Girl Nanoha who have a full stable of girls who repeatedly make top-64 every year. The only two series who are even close to the status of Rozen Maiden and Nanoha are Hayate no Gotoku and Higarashi - but characters from both of those series do not consistently make it past round two every year. This volatility makes for predicting that much harder to tell who will advance and who will be defeated in shame. I always knew the "Post-Nanoha" SaiMoe time was going to come, but I never thought it'd be this year.
That said, there has been some interesting developments during the preliminary process. One of those is the popularity of the mahjong fanservice show "Saki", which has seen many of it's characters take first place or place top three in most of the preliminary rounds. How much strength the Saki girls have in this year's SaiMoe is a complete unknown - and easily this year's dark horse series. Another thing of note is the love for Mikoto Misaka of "To Aru Majitsu no Index" - and her clones. Not only is Misaka herself in there, but two of her more prominent clones and even the whole "clone army" have made it in - and they're all in different brackets. This year's Saimoe most obviously is concentrated on new series to have come out over the past year - from early favorite Haruka Nogizaka to mid-favorite Taiga Aisaka (MT AGP09 Champion) to late-favorites Mio Akiyama and Yui Hirasawa.
Well, here are some of the first round matchups and girls to look out for:
Match A2-1 - Maya Kihara (Toradora!) vs Tamaki Kousaka (To Heart 2) vs Minato Minase (Akane iro ni Somaru Saka) vs Fatina (Tower of Druaga) - A very crazy and interesting first day matchup between four equally moe characters. I have predicted a Minato win here, but any four of these girls can win and move on to the next round. This is easily the example of just how crazy this year's SaiMoe will be.
Utau Hoshina (Shugo Chara!) - I predicted last year that she is going to be the eventual replacement character for the fabled Fate Tessarossa from Nanoha, considering both are blonde haired girls voiced by top seiyuu Nana Mizuki. This year, with no Nanoha characters in sight, will Utau truly be the replacement or will she falter like she did in being forced to matchup with one of the Minami-ke sisters. Her advancement this year is paramount to Shugo Chara fans, especially since Amu in the D group has a huge early test in the first round (see below).
Match B1-4 - Yuno (Hidamari Sketch) vs Tsugumi Aoba (Kannagi) - a matchup of top-40 girls in the first round. The other two girls (Mawari and Setsuna) will easily be overshadowed in a battle between one of the newest perennial all-stars in Yuno versus one of the early season favorites in Tsugumi. Let me tell you - this will make for good popcorn and fireworks.
Match B2-2 - Kana Minami (Minami-ke) vs Mio Akiyama (K-On!) vs Hiro (Hidamari Sketch) - Another matchup of top-50 characters to go at it in this first round. Mio is easily the favorite in this fatal four way, but there is no telling how the vote splits will come out with one of the Minami-ke sisters who constantly make round 2 is in there, as well as one of the four main Hidamari girls in Hiro. It's a huge early test for Mio fans everywhere - and I feel sorry for poor Maria from ZSZS - she doesn't to be deserved to be sacrificed like this.
Match C1-2 - Sae (Hidamari Sketch) vs Louise De La Valliere (Zero no Tsukaima) - two perennial girls going at it, though one has been stagnant for awhile while the other has seen her popularity drop with the rise of Taiga Aisaka. Should see Sae win, but a Louise win would not be surprising.
Match C1-4 - Mion Sonozaki (Higurashi) vs Yukine Miyazawa (CLANNAD ~After Story~) - A interesting matchup to watch out for, Mion should be the odds favorite coming in but Yuikine is coming off a great CLANNAD series with one of the more memorable storylines in that series.
Match C2-5 - Chika (Hidamari Sketch) vs Kotomi Ichinose (CLANNAD ~After Story~) - Another interesting match to watch out for, with the odds favorite going to Kotomi. However, Chika can't easily be dismissed with two factors going in for her - the fact that she was not in the tournament last year and the fact she is voiced by top seiyuu (and Tsundere queen) Rie Kugimiya. Whoever wins will earn a date versus Tsumugi Kotobuki of K-On! in the next round.
Match D1-4 - Alicia Melchiott (Valkyria Chronicles) vs Akiha Shishidou (Sora Kake Girl) - A match between two main girls in two very interesting series. Neither girl is a clear cut favorite as well, and we could see Yakumo (School Rumble) and Rin (Kodomo no Jikan) either take votes or even win in this matchup. Should a least be a good mid-august matchup to look at.
Match D1-6 - Amu Hinamori (Shugo Chara!) vs Ui Hirasawa (K-On!) - Out of all the matchups in the first round, this easily should be the most anticipated matchup of the round. The other two girls are quite forgetable, making this matchup practically a one on one matchup between the spiritual successor in a long line of Mahou Schoolgirl heroines by the likes of Sakura Kinamoto and Nanoha Takamachi facing against one of the best younger-sister (and very moe) characters in a long time in Ui Hirasawa - who will also have KyoAni voters pulling for her. Both can easily pull 500+ votes, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see over a thousand, if not two thousand for this single matchup. This should be one of the best first round matchups in quite a long time.
Match E1-5 - Yui Hirasawa (K-On!) vs Yaya Yuiki (Shugo Chara) - This match will only be interesting if Amu Hinamori would lose in her match to Ui Hirasawa. The reason for that is this match is the earliest chance for revenge votes on a Amu loss. I would still believe whether Amu wins or loses that Yui would be the expected favorite, but this matchup can be interesting with a Amu loss.
Match E1-6 - Rika Furude (Higurashi) vs Ryou Fujibayashi (CLANNAD ~After Story~) - Another battle of top-50 characters, with the 2007 SaiMoe champion in Rika going against one of the main CLANNAD girls in Ryou. Both are technically on the downturn, but this should still provide a excellent match.
Match F1-4 - Mikuru Asahina (Melancholy of Haruhi-chan) vs Kagami Hiiragi (Lucky Star) - A very interesting matchup between two KyoAni stars. It can't help Mikuru right now while the Endless Eight arc of Haruhi Suzumiya is going on, but it should well over and done by the time this matchup rolls around - which will make it tough for Defending Champion Kagami to handle. And whoever gets out of this matchup as the victor has a date with two of the three main Toradora girls in Taiga Aisaka and Ami Kawashima. And getting by that you still have to face Maria of Hayate no Gotoku next round, and then either Nagisa (Clannad), Mion (Higurashi), Mizore (Rosario + Vampire), or Asuza (K-On!) in the round after that. By the way, need I remind everyone that there has NEVER been a successful title defense in the history of SaiMoe. Looks like a tough climb for the Defending Champion.
Match G1-3 - Satoko Houjou (Higurashi) vs Yuki Nagato (Melancholy of Haruhi-chan) - A interesting matchup between "Godslayer" Yuki Nagato who placed top 8 back in 2006 by beating her fellow cast-mate and leader Haruhi Suzumiya (and will have to beat her again to get into the top 16) versus a perennial favorite in Satoko Houjou. A interesting sidenote to look out for is Nanami Nishijou of Chaos;Head, who might end up stealing votes from either one.
Saki Miyanaga (Saki) - The main girl and title character of "Saki", with the surprising popularity of this series, it'll be interesting how many votes she gets this round and whether she'll have the firepower to be a top 16 candidate as she'll have to face Nagi (Hayate no Gotoku) or Rena (Higurashi) - two top tier perennial favorites in round three if she gets that far.
Match H1-4 - Sheryl Nome (Macross Frontier) vs Nagi Sennzen (Hayate no Gotoku) - Nagi easily is the favorite in this matchup and should win in a landslide, but this matchup is really the only interesting matchup in the block as there shouldn't be too many surprises or high powered battles in the last block. The next round should prove to be much more interesting.
Well, that's the rundown of first round of SaiMoe this year. A lot of things to look out for over the next month as SaiMoe cuts the fat from 385 girls to 96 girls. I'm not going to get around to writing up individual matchup reports (instead I will do that at the MegaTokyo AMC forums if I have the time) but hopefully next round I'll get around to doing that. Before I forget!