The International Saimoe League, also known as ISML, is a worldwide online popularity moe contest. It is one of the many spinoff contests of the Anime Saimoe Tournament held on 2channel, yet is held on its own independent site. ISML is tailored to embrace voters from as many backgrounds as possible, currently supporting five different languages; the primary language of the tournament is English.
The ISML operates nearly year-round. Whereas other moe competitions are single-elimination tournaments, the ISML operates similar to a professional sports league. The season is broken down into three phases; a Pre-season, a Regular season, and a Post-season. Characters that perform well in other tournaments or in the previous ISML Regular season may qualify directly into the qualification period. The best performers in those contests may qualify directly into the Regular season.
In the nomination period (typically early January), voters may nominate anime characters whom they find to be moe. The characters with the most nominations, as well as characters exempted from the nomination process due to their performance in the previous season or in other moe tournaments, move on to the qualification round.
The qualification period typically begins in late January or early February, and runs to the beginning of March. The nominated characters are drawn into groups, with the winner of each group qualifying for the Regular season. The remaining girls who do not qualify are drawn into new groups, with winners of those groups advancing to the Regular season as well. If there are more Regular season spots remaining, the remaining characters will be put into a 'last chance' qualifier.
The heart of the league is the Regular season, which runs from late March through early-to-mid August. Fifty characters (sixty-four in 2008 and 2009) compete in a round-robin format. The Regular season is broken down into seven periods, with the top performer in each period receiving a 'necklace.' (While a source of pride for fans of the character that wins it, a necklace has no competitive value.) At season's end, the top 16 performers advance to the postseason, with the top four automatically qualifying directly into the next year's Regular season.
The league's championship, called the Tiara, is decided in the postseason. The ISML is unique in that its champion is determined in a double-elimination format, as opposed to the single-elimination format that most other contests use. The winner of the tournament is declared the champion, while the remainder of the results is used to determine the final standings for the season.
The character must possess both humanoid appearance and anthropomorphic qualities .The character must have a name or a universal means of identification. The character must appear in a product that is published and distributed in Japanese media and is not rated 18+ or classified as pornographic. The character must either appear in the production on a regular basis or have individual significance to the series’ storyline. Eligibility for the Preliminary Period (and subsequently the Regular Season and Postseason) additionally requires the character's appearance in a full-length animation published and distributed in Japanese media (television, theatre, Internet-exclusive videos, and video discs) on a commercial scale by a registered animation studio. Competitors are classified as Candidates upon advancement to the Preliminary Period. Candidates are classified as Contestants upon advancement to the Regular Season. (Note: Since 2016, competitors are classified as Contestants upon advancement to the Main Tournament.)
Each voter is limited to one (1) vote per match per round. A voter may not vote on behalf of another person. A vote may be cast only during the specified time period for that particular match and round. Once cast, a vote may be edited by its owner only during this time period and subject to approval by the Staff. Violation of any of these procedures shall result in the voter's ballot rendered void and may also result in temporary or permanent restriction from voting or participating in future ISML-hosted events, enforced by the Staff.
In 2006, the popularity of Anime Saimoe Tournament and news of Best Moe Tournament spawned interest in English based Moe Tournament. The format of Elimination period for the Preliminary and Round-robin League Style for the Regular season was first proposed by Psieye on AnimeSuki forums. In 2007 following discussion about Super Moe Tournament results, the talk of English based Moe Tournament was reawakened and minhtam1638 started working on ISML as a reaction to this. After much discussion in the AnimeSuki Forum, the format of having Auto-qualifying entrants based on their records in Anime Saimoe Tournament and Best Moe Tournament was adopted along with free for all nomination phase to fill the number of 64 that was needed for the Tournament league play.
The main reason for the creation of ISML was spawned from the criticisms of two other tournaments, Anime Saimoe Tournament and Best Moe Tournament, for reasons that the single-elimination tournaments held in Japan and Korea were decided at random. To correct this problem, ISML uses a round-robin tournament, which ensure that all participants will face the rest exactly once. After the round-robin phase, the top 16 participants are seeded into double-elimination instead of randomly paired. Because each participant needs to be elimination twice, this process reduces random spikes in popularity that may cause a consistently strong character to fall.
Another goal for ISML is to have its polls open to voters across the world, where as Anime Saimoe Tournament attempts to block non-Japanese ISPs from voting. ISML is tailored to embrace voters from as many backgrounds as possible. From the first voting in ISML, which was the 2008 nominations, voters were encouraged to submit nomination in any language they were comfortable with. Volunteers promoted ISML in websites based in many different language. By the end of 2008 Regular Season, non-English speaking voters outnumbered English speakers. As of 2009, ISML is the largest moe tournament in the world. Its layout is user-friendly, requiring no registration and using image-assisted voting for recognition. While international voting is encouraged, ISML has a strict eligibility rule on its contestants. Only characters that are recurring or of significant importance are allowed; simply a cameo appearance does not receive consideration in ISML.
In ISML 2008, there were no Pre-season phase, but 64 eligible characters were admitted from Anime Saimoe Tournament and Korea Best Moe Tournament. Its Regular season phase consisted of a round-robin divided into 7 periods. Each period has 9 matches, and the winner of that period would be given a necklace. After 63 round-robin matches, the top 16 moves on to eh Post-season phase, which consisted of a double-elimination tournament. The winner of the Post-season is the winner of ISML 2008, which was Fate Testarossa.
ISML 2009 introduced a Pre-season phase, which consisted of nominations and preliminaries. Its Regular season remained a 64 contestants round-robin tournament. In addition to its usual double-elimination, the Post-season introduced a relegation tournament which serves as an eligibility phase for ISML 2010.
A major change in ISML 2010 was its reduction of 64 to 50 characters in its Regular season. There are still 7 periods, but each period would only have 7 rounds with 25 matches per round. In addition, each of the 49 rounds would have an Exhibition Match, which features two characters who didn't make it to the main tournament.
ISML 2011 had some major changes such as: No more automatic entries to the Regular season but only to the Preliminary rounds. No character can win more than one necklace per tournament year. An 8th round was added to help decide the necklace winner which is the Necklace Showdown. There will be 7 contestants fighting in the necklace rounds which is composed of the top 7 performers for each period assuming none of them are current necklace holders. For the first time, Postseason will be of single-elimination (SE) rules.
ISML 2012 had the introduction of two separate divisions, the Nova and the Stella Divisions. There are 2 divisions instead of one so that there will be a division for the newcomers and the incoming contestants. The other division will support the rest of the contestants in which most are veterans.
Preseason is still the same but the ones in the same division will have their own matches and the other will do the same.
In the regular season, periods are reduced from 7 to 5 as there are only 36 contestants per division. Each period still has 7 rounds each.
Necklace rounds would then be changed to have the top 3 performers of each period in both divisions battle out for the necklace. A seventh contestant which is the best performer out of the remaining contestants will join the 6 contestants to complete the match regardless of division. A necklace holder is not allowed into the necklace match.
The top 16 from each division will advance to the Postseason. There are 2 phases of the Postseason. Phase I will be of single elimination (SE) rules without consolation matches. The winner of Phase I will get the Sapphire circlet for Nova and Diamond Circlet for Stella. Those ranked 9th to 16th in their division are eliminated from contention for the heavenly tiara. The top 8 from each division will be ranked so that the matchup will be decided for Phase II of the Postseason. Phase II will feature crossover matches from Nova and Stella depending on their rank in Phase I. The format will be of single elimination (SE) rules with consolation brackets for the losing contestants. The winner will get the tiara and the rest will be ranked according to their Phase II performance.
Almost everything in ISML 2013 stayed the same as ISML 2012. The rules of Nova and Stella has changed with only the characters who have participated in 2 or more Regular Season and characters who have participated in Regular Season 4 years ago going into Stella while all the others are Nova characters.
The Preliminary of Stella are shorted with all 36 characters being decided at Phase 1.
Almost everything in ISML 2014 stayed the same as ISML 2013. The calculation of the necklace score was changed to Schedule of Defeated Opponents (SDO) + 220 * Vote For Percentage (VF%) in the necklace match. Also the ranking system for Postseason Phase I has changed to:
1. Most no. of wins in Postseason Phase I
2. Most victories against contestants with the same no. of wins
3. Regular season ranking.
Almost everything in ISML 2015 stayed as same as ISML 2014, with the difference of adding the Male Division. The calculation changed into using voting percentage in Round + (Partial Score of All Opponents (PSAO)/ 3, and the voting percentage (VF) is 100 * (votes receives / sum of all voters in Arena), both Female Division (Nova and Stella) and Male Division.
Since 2016, ISML had some major changes, such as: No more preliminary period, so the contestants straighten up to Main Tournament. And the Postseason was renamed to Elimination Stage. Both Nova and Stella division merged into Female division. Necklace and Pendant would have 7 period, like the first ISML in 2008. For the first time, ISML would using World-Cup Style, instead of the original one, Round-Robin.
There are only two (2) characters who won as Champion in both the International Saimoe League (ISML) and in the Best Moe Tournament in the female division: Hinagiku Katsura (ISML Champion 2009; Best Moe Champion 2007), and Mio Akiyama (ISML Champion 2010; Best Moe Champion 2010). Mio Akiyama won the ISML and the Best Moe Tournament on the same year of 2010.
The closest and the most fiercely fought championship in ISML happened on 2009 between Hinagiku Katsura and Shana. In the finals, Hinagiku defeated Shana by a slim margin of just eleven (11) votes (2117-2106) to become the Champion and be crowned with the tiara in 2009. In a past confrontation between the two in the 2007 Best Moe Tournament, Hinagiku defeated Shana in the finals by a razor-thin margin of just two (2) votes (2015-2013) to become the Champion in 2007.