A Look at ZUN



ZUN (artist’s impression)

by Bob Johnson

Our drunken lord

I’ve said to my friends that Danbooru is composed of 60% Touhou ships and 40% Madoka erotica, but to be entirely fair, only about a quarter of the website is actually labelled as Rule 34-compliant.   As it happens, Touhou Project is indeed the single most popular thing on Danbooru, and uncannily, it also composes about a quarter of the site content.

Rumour has it that the famed Tokyo Comiket is also composed of about 60% Touhou doujin, a truly staggering claim for an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.  So who is it that’s responsible for this gigantic moé cash cow?  None other than ZUN.

ZUN is many things:  Artist, Composer, Alcohol Connoisseur.  But foremost, he’s a programmer, and a fairly decent one at that.  He manages to put all his skills to work in the Touhou Project games.

In his mortal years, he was known as Junya Ota, a relatively normal dude from Nagano who decided to go to Tokyo Denki University.  He joined up with a group called Amusement Design, and forged the first Touhou games in obscurity on the dying PC-98 platform.   After school, he worked for Taito on a few games, the last and best regarded being a platformer called Exit.

By 2005, Touhou was already big enough for him to skip out on his job, and more importantly, drink free beer at all the conventions he was being invited to.  ZUN became the full-time Kannushi to the Touhou community, releasing about one or two new games a year, even finding time to work on an official manga. Hoardes of otaku regularly read his blog and glom off his twitter feed like hungry remorae.

On any given day, it’s a good bet ZUN is synthesizing music in his FM lab or debugging low-level code in his endless quest for gaming perfection, but the doujin — holy cow the doujin, is something ZUN spends more than a little time thinking about these days. He politely allows fans to make and sell their own works, but occasionally reminds people of the handful of guidelines he has passed down – simple requests such as “ask first” and “please don’t sell your yuri erodoujin.”   If you wanted to press your luck, you could ask him in person at his mysterious mansion located somewhere near the end of Yukkuri Street East, but lately he’s not home anymore, probably because he’d get mobbed by the idolizing masses.

So the next time you pop the top off an ice cold brewski, raise it up and think of ZUN.  He’s a toast-worthy man who’s probably quite toasted right now!