Earlier this year, I posted a series of posts relating International Saimoe to March Madness, a national college basketball tournament. I replaced teams in the bracket with moe characters and predicted the outcome of the tournament by comparing the relative level of moe of each girl representing the teams in the tournament. It was pretty well-received by the intersecting sports/anime fandom, to the point where I wanted to revisit this style of character analysis.
Alas, Japan’s own Saimoe is in the midst of its own March Madness-style single elimination tournament of moe characters, and has wrapped up its first round of eliminations. A whopping 97 characters still remain in the tournament and there’s still plenty of time to make predictions as to which character will win their group and make it to the quarterfinals. There are so many girls in this competition that picking a winner out of the entire field is pretty difficult, probably moreso than picking a basketball team from a field of only 64.
That said, for those who want to have a little friendly competition with their otaku buddies need not simply compare picks in each group, but rather participate in a more complex competition. In the style of fantasy sports leagues, why not have a fantasy Saimoe league?
Fantasy Sports is a type of game where participants create teams of players in a particular sport and compete against other teams on the basis of statistical performance. In the case of sports like Football, participants assemble their teams in a draft style, taking turns picking the best players in different positions, and forming a team after every position is filled. Because each participant takes a turn picking, the availability of the best players is reasonably spread out, and in larger competitions, once the crop of high-calibre players have been picked up, the real skill comes in finding wheat from the remaining chaff.
In the case of Saimoe, voting groups act like different positions, and statistical performance is measurable based on the votes tallied over the rounds. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at how the rules would work.
1. Each team consists of 8 characters chosen from Saimoe 2012 characters (in this case, the remaining characters who made it to round 2). Each team must have 1 character from each group (A-H).
2. When picking teams, participants are randomly assigned an order in which characters are picked. When the last person picks a character for his or her team, the order is reversed, and picking resumes. This continues until all players select 8 characters for his or her team. Once a character is picked by a participant, she cannot be picked by any other participant!
3. At the end of each round, Points are tallied based on the total number of votes received by all of the characters on that participant’s team during that round.
4. At the end of Saimoe 2012, the person with the highest vote total wins!
Strategies for Fantasy Saimoe League Drafting
Saimoe is serious fucking business. You have to pick your team based on who you think is going to make it furthest into the tournament. If a girl gets eliminated early, that spells disaster for your team, as she will no longer be able to accumulate points. An overall strategy to picking the right team is to determine ahead of time which characters from which groups will advance the furthest, and who are most likely to win their group. Super competitive groups such as group E, which saw the highest vote totals in the entire tournament, are very wide open, and are quite difficult to predict in terms of voting outcome, whereas weaker groups like group B are easier to pick, making girls like Toki Onjouji from Saki more likely to get picked up early.
Another strategy to consider is taking into account which girls are popular, series-wise. If you’re an avid follower of Saimoe, then it’s no secret that Saki is a dominant fandom this year, with a whopping 15 entrants remaining in round 2. Knowing the popularity of the Saki franchise, it’s a safe bet picking up girls from this series early and often. The only downside to this strategy is possibility of vote split and girls possibly eliminating each other throughout the tournament.
On the flip-side, series that only have one super-popular entrant are a good pick as well, because they have an entire fandom to rally around one character, bolstering her chances for success. The only downside of this strategy is the possibility of early elimination in the form of anti-voting and sniping from rival fandom factions. A notable example in this case is Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate, who received a hefty 439 votes in the first round, twice the number of a large number of other girls. She’s bound to get a lot of votes, but runs the risk of early elimination due to sniping from the Saki faction.
Fantasy Saimoe League, a Mock Draft
A mock draft is essentially a practice run for an actual fantasy draft. By going through the motions of picking players for a team, a participant can speculate when certain players get picked and strategize accordingly. In sports journalism, writers create fantasy mock drafts for the purpose of sharing their expertise as a resource for prospective fantasy league participants.
Just for fun, I’ve compiled a mock draft between 8 players, who, for the sake of easier identification (and the simple fun of creative writing), I’ve assigned as idolmaster characters. I picked the eight idolmaster girls who made it through to the second round in Saimoe 2012, and randomly assigned a pick order to all of them. Picking first is Chihaya Kisaragi, and picking last is Miki Hoshii. Let’s take a look at what the picks in the first 4 rounds might look like.
Right off the bat, Chihaya picked Kurisu from Steins;Gate, who had one of the largest voter turnouts in the first round at 439. As the sole character remaining from Steins;Gate, she’s a great pick, but runs a huge risk of getting sniped by Saki fans. Makoto’s pick of Toki Onjouji at 2 is probably the safest pick of the draft; Toki is one of the most popular characters from Achiga-hen, and is also one of the strongest entrants in a noticeably weak Group B; she will surely go far.
Notable non-Saki picks is Eru Chitanda in Group F by Hibiki at 4 and Akari Akaza at 10 by Haruka. Akarin in particular is a remarkably popular character from the recently completed Yuru Yuri season 2. Recency bias will definitely help garner fan support, and Akari’s natural lack of presence may potentially come into play in voting as well, making her a definite sleeper pick to last a long time in the tournament.
Take note of Miki’s position at 8. Due to the rules of “snake drafting,” Miki picks last in the first round, but gets to pick first in the second, allowing her to make two consecutive picks. Taking that position into account, Miki figures that the optimal way to draft at that position is to take the two best Saki characters available, Nodoka and Kuro. Nodoka has past success at Saimoe with a top 8 finish in a previous year, while Kuro is one of the main characters in Achiga-hen. Two great picks with lots of fan support, Miki has put herself in a position to be carried reasonably far on the average strength of two characters, compared to Chihaya’s strategy of putting all her eggs in one basket with Kurisu and getting a less popular Astarotte.
From round 3 and onwards, the availability of low-risk picks are easily gone, and it comes down to taking risks or following specific drafting strategies. With her 3rd round pick, Ritsuko goes on a limb and daringly selects Cure Peace from Smile PreCure, with the intention of picking the other PreCure in later rounds (she ends up with Reika in the second-last round). PreCure isn’t necessarily the strongest franchise, but anything can happen in fantasy sports. Yayoi with the third pick can pay off dividends if she wins her group, which is quite possible given the lack of Saki presence in group C.
For the sake of completion, let’s take a look at the girls’ completed fantasy saimoe league teams.
The downside to having the #1 pick is that you have to pick last. Chihaya made great value with another Saki pick at 64.
Makoto had solid picks all around with Toki being the best pick of the draft. Also took a calculated risk with Snow Black, who is afflicted with the Saimoe equivalent of the Madden Curse. Will that pick pan out?
Iori picked the girl with the most round 1 Saimoe votes with Yuu Matsumi at #3. Voting results are a reasonable way to project how many votes they may possibly have in future rounds, so this is a statistically safe pick. Look at all that K-ON, though!
Hibiki went the non-Saki route. While the other idols fought over Saki characters, Hibiki had fine pickings with other strong competitors in Eru, Nagi, and Yuno. Ako somehow fell into her lap at #20, which was a steal that shouldn’t be passed up.
Yayoi noticed a lot of “older” moe characters being undervalued, and picked up Taiga, Saber, and Aria rather late. Taiga has previous Saimoe success, which has a chance of being replicated this year.
Ritsuko, as I mentioned earlier, took a chance on Smile PreCure. Only time will tell if her gambit pays off.
A very bold sleeper pick with Akari in the second round combined with the titular Saki makes for perhaps the strongest fantasy team from top-to-bottom with Haruka. For every popular Saki character, there’s a main character in another series.
Because she picked a solid 1-2 Saki punch of Nodoka and Kuro, Miki is free to pick elsewhere for strong entrants, like Kobato and Poplar. A mix of Idolmaster picks late and Haganai in the mid rounds resulted in a pretty safe draft for the last-pick Miki.
Going forward, I think that covering Saimoe in the context of an existing Fantasy Saimoe League is an interesting way of covering the event. I’m trying to organize a real-life draft with a bunch of other anibloggers and twitterers, so I certainly hope that I can add even more excitement to this year’s competition. Life’s always better when bragging rights are involved. Start your own Fantasy Saimoe League with your otaku friends! A cheat sheet for 2012 can be found here.
Moe. Serious fucking business, indeed.