ISML 2010: Mio Akiyama wins the Tiara!
Historic blue and white holiday, Mikoto Misaka runner-up
By Jo-Ryan Salazar (Bongaboi)
October 2, 2010
A blue-and-white striped holiday welcomed the world on Saturday, from the campus of Sakuragaoka Girls' Senior High School and vicinity, to Tokyo, to Beijing, to London, New York, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Bangkok, Jakarta, Berlin, Madrid, Rio, Cape Town, Moscow and all points in between.
It was a victory to savor for the campus of 2,000-plus students, who were part of a crowd of 5,000 to witness from the school's athletic field the result they all had been waiting for since the tournament began in January.
Mio Akiyama, the bassist for the band Hokago Tea Time and the vice-president of the Light Music Club of Sakuragaoka Girls Senior High for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, eternally etched her name in International Saimoe League history by becoming the third winner of the ISML Tiara with her 7175-5186 thumping of Mikoto Misaka in the Championship Match.
Students, parents, neighbors and fans from across Japan flocked to the school in anticipation of the news and at the very moment the news was announced, it was literal pandemonium as they hugged, cheered and cried in joy.
"This the most wonderful feeling ever!" senior Haruko Chikada said. "We wanted Mio to win it all, and she did it!"
"Words cannot explain how I am feeling right now," senior Michiko Endo said, in tears. "We have been waiting for this very day to see one of our own become a winner in something like this!"
"I won't get any sleep tonight," senior Tae Kikuchi said.
"This is just, oh my god, hard to believe," senior Keiko Iida said. "Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming!"
"We must have put this school on the map because one of the best to come from this school is at the center of greatness," senior Fumie Kimura said.
As the blue and white striped banners were being waved from the ground and from the rooftops, banners from the buildings read messages such as "MIO, WE LOVE YOU!", "EVERYONE WILL MARRY YOU NOW!", "FEAR THE DANGEROUS QUEEN!", "MISAKA WHO?", "A DESTINY FULFILLED!" and "GOT RICE BOWL?" and the ubiquitous "MOE MOE...KYUN!". One sign even read, "HOW DO YOU LIKE HER NOW, KANA!?", an obvious reference to Akiyama's defeat last year in the first round of the 2009 2chan Anime Saimoe Tournament.
"This has to be one of the most electric atmospheres I've been to in my life," Himeko Tachibana said, wiping a tear from her eyes. "Akiyama is a Saimoe champion. I feel like all of us in our class won with her as well."
Inside the Music Room, where the members of Hokago Tea Time—Akiyama, Yui Hirasawa, Ritsu Tainaka, Azusa Nakano and Tsumugi Kotobuki—were watching the returns with Jun Suzuki, Ui Hirasawa, Nodoka Manabe and club advisor/Class 3-2 homeroom teacher Sawako Yamanaka, everybody hugged Akiyama, who was simply smiling, quietly internalizing the fact that she had defeated Misaka. Soon afterwwards, the rest of the band prepared for the victory concert in Room 3-2, which had been converted into a makeshift rehearsal room. Mio chose to give herself time to let the news sink in before she elected to approach her supporters.
It was not a happy sight at Tokiwadai Girls' Junior High School in the Tokyo suburb of Academy City. Some disgusted Misaka supporters left the campus quadrilateral dejectedly, while others were in tears and being consoled. One student was in such a distressed state that Anti-Skill was forced to take the distressed student away.
"We did all this for nothing, it seems," Maika Tsuchimikado said with a frown. "We thought that Misaka-san had a chance to force a decider on Sunday. [Akiyama] was just too much for us to handle."
"I look at it this way," Komoe Tsukuyomi said when asked of Misaka's defeat. "She earned the respect of all those she faced. We have to keep in mind that she did not have a very good performance last year. In a way, she already redeemed herself, and the outcome of this match in regards to that didn't change at all the fact that she did matter in this tournament. We are all proud of what she achieved."
Misaka, who had to console a traumatized Kuroko Shirai when she heard the news, called Akiyama via her mobile to announce that she conceded the race and congratulated her. As Akiyama continued to reflect on her historic accomplishment, it was time for the Railgun to face her constituents one final time to close the season.
"Today, I came up short in my bid to be the winner of the 2010 International Saimoe League Tiara," Misaka said in a speech to a crowd of 1,000 at the Tokiwadai quad, "but I will leave this tournament knowing that I accomplished the ultimate objective from a tournament like this: I earned the respect and love from you, the voters.
"Throughout these nine months, I have been on one of the greatest adventures in my life. I took on the best opponents whose challenges that they possessed encouraged me to bring out the best in myself. I did not leave this tournament empty-handed. I finish the ISML as your Ruby Necklace winner, second place in the tournament and first in your hearts.
"I will not have a single regret from what might have been. This isn't the easiest tournament in the world, and I wasn't the likeliest candidate to progress this far. I am confident that in spite of the defeat, I have succeeded in silencing those who may have felt that I didn't have a chance to do as well as I have done this year. If I were to have any regrets about the International Saimoe League, I might as well not have been participating at all, and you would be a fool to think that I would have that type of negative mindset.
"I believe that this tournament has given me a positive outlook for where I want to be many years down the road. Someday, people at this school or in Academy City or elsewhere will look back at this match and ask, 'Who was that girl in the shorts under the skirt?' And they will look at that person and say, 'One of the best women in the world that never quit, never gave up and went down fighting to the end and is living to tell about it.' This tournament is one of the pinnacles of my young life, and I have a lot of people to thank."
"First, I want to thank my classmate Kuroko Shirai. We've been through a lot of difficulty together with our friendship, but her undying belief in who I am as a person fueled me to be the best I could become. I will never forget the countless hours she spent asked people, 'Vote for Onee-sama!' to perfect strangers and imperfect friends and acquaintances alike.
"Toma Kamijo, you have been an integral part of my life. I love you, and when the time comes, I hope we can be together and maybe start a family one day. I know it's unlike me to say something like this, but you know that I am a person of my word when I say that I am really in love with you. I am glad you feel the same way. You bring out the best in me, and I cannot say how much I am indebted to your gratitude and trust."
"To Ruiko Saten, a fellow ISML competitor and a great friend, I hope that your experience competing in a tournament like this will be a feather you will put in your cap. Remember this for the rest of your life. I hope I made you proud. To Kazari Uiharu, your faith and belief is immeasurable. Thank you for all that you've done.
"To Index, I wish I could have won this for you. I'm sorry that I fell short in my bid. I hope that you are still proud of what I have done this year. Keep your head up.
"I also want to thank many others for their support: Mitsuko Kongou, Mii Konori, Miho Jukufu, Maaya Awatsuki, Erii Haruue, Hyoka Kazakiri, Kinoho Wannai, Aisa Himegami, Kaori Kanzaki and Accelerator. You are the best in what you do, and I don't want you to change what you do best one bit.
"Finally, I want to thank you, the voters, for your support to my cause this year. We gave it our best shot together, and although we failed at the last hurdle, our successes will continue to outweigh our failures because of how far we came. As I said, the ISML is not an easy tournament to win. There are 49 other opponents who wanted this Tiara as much as I did, and I will let you know that no honor means more to me than being a part of the International Saimoe League. Thank you everyone! I love you all!"
Misaka closed her speech to a standing ovation, surrounded by all her friends on the stage.
Knowing that Misaka wrapped up her speech and that the Tiara was being transported live from Hakuoh Academy to Sakuragaoka, where 2009 ISML Champion Hinagiku Katsura would coronate her after her victory speech and concert, Akiyama went to her friends in Room 3-2 and said, "It's showtime."
Instead of going straight to the speech, Hokago Tea Time elected to begin the rally with a concert featuring a full lineup of songs: "Gohan ha Okazu," "U&I," "Tenshi ni Fureta Yo," "Cagayake Girls," "Gitah ni Kubittake," "Happy Sorry", "Sunday Siesta", "Curry Over Rice," "My Love Is A Stapler", "Girly Storm Shissou Stick," "Mokujise Happy 100%", "Dear mY Keys," "Humming Bird," "Jajauma Way To Go," "Genius", "Our Magic", "Go Go Maniac" "Watashi wa Watashi no Michi wo Iku," "Utauyo Miracle," and "Kira Kira Days", followed by the speech, and then the rest of the lineup: "Heart Goes Boom," "Don't Say Lazy," "Girls In Wonderland," "Hello Little Girl," "Let's Go!," "Listen!!," "No Thank You!," a rock rendition of the school's alma mater, "Tenshi Ni Fureta Yo" and the song that made Hokago Tea Time famous, "Fuwa Fuwa Time."
"How's everybody doing tonight?" Akiyama said over the speakers to the roar of the crowd, some taking shots of her panties, which were, of course, blue and white stripes. Noticing that, she swallowed her pride, bent over and winked. "I'll let you guys take a look." The flashbulbs were going out, and the sounds of the cameras snapping her knickers rang in the air.
After the cameras went quiet, their satiation for softcore sin satisfied, Akiyama continued with her speech. "I want to first thank Mikoto Misaka for a wonderful Championship Match, and I wish her all the best in the coming years ahead. When I first competed in a Saimoe tournament, I lost in the first round, and I didn't know if I was ever going to be given a chance again to compete in another tournament, let alone win it all.
"Tonight, I stand here before you, my fellow students, friends and fans here at this blessed campus located in one of the greatest cities of the world. I stand here not just as a high school senior, or a musician, or a singer, or a scholar with aspirations of doing well in college and in life...but as your International Saimoe League Champion." A loud cheer came from the crowd.
"Everyone, these are nine months of my life that I wish I could relive a thousand times, maybe more. In spite of my setbacks against Taiga Aisaka and Hinagiku Katsura, I showed to you, the voters, that I do have a case to compete for an achievement as prestigious as the Tiara. This is a dream come true for me, and I must still be sleeping as I tell you this right now.
"As your ISML Tiara holder, I hope to provide a shining example to many women around the world that you don't have to be perfect to be the best, but to try hard, to fight hard, and to live every day like it's your last. I plan to be a role model to many young girls out there who will ask their parents, 'Mom, Dad, is there someone who I can learn from besides you on how to be the best in what I want to be?' I want to be a motivator, a beacon of hope for those who feel down, for those who feel alone and need a shoulder to cry on. I want to be the spring in a young child's step, the light at the end of a homeless man's tunnel, the reason behind anyone's motivation and vigor. If it makes them happy, if it makes them want to live life to the fullest, without any regrets or worries, then I assure you that I have done my job as your bearer of the International Saimoe League Tiara. This is my wish, and this is my vow.
"I want to first thank the members of my band, Hokago Tea Time. We are an unbreakable bond of five young women, united and strengthened by a friendship that will endure onwards to our dying day. First, to Ritsu Tainaka, my best friend since grade school and the drummer of group, as well as club president. I was never the likeliest of candidates to be a part of reviving the light music club, nor was I the likeliest to compete in the ISML and win it all. But I learned to accept my role playing this instrument of mine, my bass guitar Elizabeth. She is my sword and my shield, and I protect her with my life. Ritsu, I will follow wherever you may go and I hope you will follow wherever I may go. Your belief in who I am, and your love and friendship, are the reasons why I stand here today.
"To Yui Hirasawa, who ended her ISML run this year in 9th place. In this club, everyone learns from each other. Everyone brings out the best in each other. You brought out the best in me and motivated me to be strong through the good times and the bad and to stay humble during the journey. I never thought that these would be prophetic words. I am glad that you chose to be a part of our club during these past three years. You are, in many ways, the glue that holds us together, and you did every one of us proud, including myself. Thank you, Yui.
"I want to now thank Tsumugi Kotobuki, our keyboardist/pianist of our club. She is the financial backbone of this organization and this band. She bankrolled our retreats, provided us with refreshments for all of our meetings, and put a smile on all our of faces in her own special way. You can't teach that type of hospitality or heart. It comes from within. Mugi, I thank you for doing your part in making my cause, Yui's cause, and Azusa's cause possible.
"And this leads me to Azusa Nakano, the youngest member of our club, and perhaps the future leader of the organization, should it go on. You fought very well as a fellow ISML opponent and competitor. Fourth place in a tournament like this is not something that comes by chance. You worked for this, just as I much as I worked hard to win the Tiara. You brought stability and are always eager to learn from me, Ritsu, Mugi and especially Yui on how to play our brand of music. I hope that the time that the four of us spent with you will be something that you can use when you graduate from Sakuragaoka. I am proud of you, Azusa.
"To Nodoka Manabe, our outgoing student council president, we as members of the light music club cannot express how indebted we are to your patronage and support of our operations, and your belief in me, To Ui Hirasawa and Jun Suzuki, thank you as well for supporting the three of us during this tournament.
"To our advisor Sawako Yamanaka, who is also our home room teacher, thank you for being a person I can look up to, in spite of your unorthodox approach. I wouldn't anyone else to be our club advisor or homeroom teacher. You've meant a lot.
"I now want to rattle off the names of the many students in our classes and elsewhere. This is a select team of individuals that got the word across to thousands and thousands of voters to support me, Yui and Azusa this year. I want to thank Haruko Chikada, Michiko Endo, Keiko Iiida, Tae Kikuchi, Fumie Kimura, Shizuka Kinoshita, Tsukasa Koiso, Kimiko Makigami, Mifuyu Matsumoto, Kazuko Mihara, Akiyo Miyamoto, Nobuyo Nakajima, Toshimi Nakanishi, Chika Nojima, Haruna Okada, Ushio Oota, Mika Saeki, Eiko Sakuma, Natsuka Sakurai, Keiko Sano, Youko Sasaki, Akane Satou, Toshimi Shibaya, Chizuru Shima, Kyoko Shimizu, Megumi Sokabe, Yoshimi Sunahara, Himeko Tachibana, Fuuko Takahashi, Eri Taki, Ai Tsuchiya, Maki Wajima, Ichigo Wakaouji and Masumi Yada. To each and every one of you: this is YOUR VICTORY. All of your hard work and sacrifice paid off. Remember this day for the rest of your lives, and know that you were part of something special.
"Finally, to all of you in the crowd on this Saturday night, this is your victory as well." Another roar. "It is your support and your vote and your decision that made me your champion. When I went through the incident that happened in my freshman year, I thought that no one would marry me now because they all saw what I showed you. Tonight, I'm going to have a difficult time finding the right person to be with, because I know you all want to marry me now!
"When I look back at this International Saimoe League, I will remember a lot of things. But I will always remember that you, the voters, are the ones who put me over the top. This is not a tournament about who is best in Japan or Korea or Thailand or China or anywhere else, but who is best in the world. And to have that honor of being the world's best, well...it's better than anything else I could ever dream of. Anything. And that, everyone, is the bottom line.
"Thank you, God bless you all, and may God bless the International Saimoe League!" Mio cried, shedding tears of happiness as her adoring fans waved their flags and cheered to a thunderous standing ovation.
As the band finished their final number, Akiyama watched bouquets of roses and swaths of cherry petals thrown on stage with the other members watching. The tears of joy continued to come as Hinagiku Katsura coronated her with the ISML Tiara.
Simply put, it was an emotional and proper ending to another wonderful International Saimoe League season.
Japan was deadlocked at 50-50 in the Championship Match. Misaka's strongest region was Africa, with 71.4% of the vote. She also won Eastern Europe with 51.5% of the vote, Russia with 56.4% of the vote, South Korea with 57.6% of the vote and Indonesia with 58.2% of the vote.
Akiyama took every other region with close victories in Western Europe (50.3%), Oceania (51.5%), the United States of America (52.9%), Canada (55.8%), China (54.8%) and Hong Kong (55%). Her most decisive victory came in the Philippines, where she won with 74.6% of the vote. Akiyama cruised to solid victories in Latin America (61.7%), West Asia (60.1%), Taiwan (69%) and Thailand (71.6%).
Nine other special exhibitions capped off action in this year's edition of the 2010 International Saimoe League.
In a renewal of the rivalry between Shinku and Suigintou, the Mercury Lamp trumped the Pure Ruby in an entertaining 5792-5695 victory. Shinku's strongest victory was in Africa with 71.4% of the vote and also won victory in the USA, China, Taiwan and Indonesia. Otherwise, Suigintou won the other regions, with her strongest performance in Oceania with 61% of the vote.
Fumino Serizawa and Nozomi Kiriya of Mayoi Neko Overrun are two potential ISML challengers that fans may see next year. Serizawa, a tsundere in the traditionalist sense, scored a 6110-5462 statement win over Kiriya. South Korea was Serizawa's strongest region, voting 64.2% in favor of her, and she also scored close victories in Western Europe (50.1%), Thailand (50.4%), the Philippines (52%), West Asia (51.6%), China (51.6%) and the USA (52.3%). Kiriya's strongest region was in Russia, with 57.3% of the vote.
The contest between Erica Hartmann and Mato Kuroi from Black Rock Shooter was not even close, as Kuroi crushed Hartmann 7838-4245. The only region that voted for Hartmann was Japan, with 61.8% of the vote. Africa voted 100% in favor of Kuroi, who destroyed Hartmann in every other area except for Russian and Taiwan, where she scored close victories.
A Pokemon battle between rivals saw Hikari edge Kasumi 5567-5308. Africa was divided 50-50 in this contest. Hikari's strongest region and key region to victory was Indonesia, with 62.5% of the vote, while Kasumi's strongest region was South Korea with 63.2% of the vote.
Sanae Furukawa, the mother of ISML contestant Nagisa Furukawa, crushed Chigusa Sakai, the mother of Yuji Sakai to the tune of 7661-4449. Furukawa won every region, and South Korea led the way with 74.8% of the vote.
Saimoe bookend Yuno rolled to a 6863-4726 trouncing of Alicia Florence. Yuno won every region with the exception of Russia (54.5% in favor of Florence), Eastern Europe (56.2% in favor of Florence), South Korea (57.7% in favor of Florence) and Africa (60% in favor on Florence). Yuno's strongest victory came in China, with 63.3% of the vote.
One of the characters from CLANNAD that hasn't had much exposure in the Saimoe circuit is Yukine Miyazawa. She made sure that she still mattered in the hearts of the voters by defeating Anri Sonohara 8460-3790. Sonohara was only able to win two regions: Indonesia with 50.5% of the vote and Russia with 52.9% of the vote. Miyazawa's strongest performance was in Hong KOng with 74.5% of the vote.
Yukari Hirai, whose former existence was taken over by ISML 2010 3rd place finisher Shana, crushed Alicia Testarossa 6845-5121. Testarossa was only able to take Russia, winning 50.3% of the vote. Hirai's strongest performance came in Taiwan with 61.8% of the vote.
Finally, the old school gave way to the new school as Arcueid Brunestud scored a 8375-3039 landslide victory over Usagi Tsukino. Brunestud, made especially famous for a super-deformed version of herself replete with animal ears, swept every region, with Africa leading the way with 85.7% of the vote.
With the 2010 International Saimoe League officially in the books, the 2011 International Saimoe League looms around the corner. Stay tuned to the Bedlam on Baltic Avenue and Bongaboi on deviantART for news on the 2011 edition of the world's premier anime character tournament. And as always, join the ongoing debate and share your thoughts on the 2010 tournament on InternationalSaimoe.com!
2010 INTERNATIONAL SAIMOE LEAGUE
TOP 16 Final Order Of Finish
1. Mio Akiyama (C) (AQ)
2. Mikoto Misaka (RUB)
3. Shana (SAP) (EME) (DIA)
4. Azusa Nakano
5. Hinagiku Katsura
6. Taiga Aisaka (TOP)
7. Yuki Nagato (AM)
8. Haruhi Suzumiya
9. Yui Hirasawa
10. Nagi Sanzen'in
11. Tomoyo Sakagami
13. Kyou Fujibayashi
14. Kagami Hiiragi
15. Hitagi Senjougahara
16. Nadeko Sengoku
(C) ISML Champion
(AQ) ISML Aquamarine necklace winner
(TOP) ISML Topaz necklace winner
(AM) ISML Amethyst necklace winner
(SAP) ISML Sapphire necklace winner
(EME) ISML Emerald necklace winner
(RUB) ISML Ruby necklace winner
(DIA) ISML Diamond necklace winner