Most of you (or maybe the few of you) who read this site might be wondering why we, the fine connoisseurs of Japanese animation that we are, would choose to write not just one, but two articles on a game, something that’s only somewhat related to anime. Yes, for those of you who don’t know it, Touhou is a game. It’s not an anime or a manga, despite the plentiful evidence to the contrary. I wanted to write an article on Touhou because I really couldn’t think of much else to write about… wait, who am I kidding? I chose to write this because September 9 is Cirno Day, and what reason would I have to not write an article on it? This article is aimed more at those who still don’t know what the series is about. For the rest of you, you can go back to your Sakuya/Meiling slashfic.
The first time I saw anything related to Touhou I had no idea what it was. I cannot remember how I came upon it, but I found the “McRoll” to be funny and scary at the same time. And not too long after that, my friend showed me how Marisa Stole the Precious Thing. Heck, I even saw the Flash animation Overdrive and all I could think was “Bunny girls again. Is that all, Japan?” Not once did it ever cross my mind that maybe I should figure out what all of this was; a quick Google search is all it would have taken. It was not until I found the site Danbooru that I finally decided to figure out what all the fuss was about. And then it happened: while studying Touhou, I became… a fan.
No, Touhou is not an anime. I was somewhat surprised, mostly because of all the stuff I had seen that made it appear otherwise. In reality, Touhou is a series of (mostly) vertical scrolling shoot-‘em-up games, like those ones you tried to play at the arcade but quit because they were designed to eat quarters. They are all made by one man who goes by the name of ZUN. They are infamous for their difficulty, even on EASY MODO. (I’m sorry, that was an in-joke. I’ll try to avoid it in the future.) Many have wondered if they are free, and no they are not. You can find them easily, so I’m not going to help you with that.
Maybe, despite the difficulty, you’re interested in trying one of these games. “What are these games about?” you are most certainly asking. Sit on my knee and I’ll tell you a story. A long time ago, a land called Gensokyo was created as a place for demons (youkai for those who would prefer that term) to hang out because humans were mean to them. There are humans there too, but they generally keep to themselves, unless they happen to be the game’s two main protagonists: Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame. Reimu is a shrine maiden, and Marisa is a magician and thief. Generally, something “mysterious” happens in Gensokyo (red mist, fake moon, evil spirits, etc.) and Reimu and Marisa have to go out to express their friendship for all the denizens of the land by showering them in a colourful collage of bullets. Oh, and nearly all of the characters are female and wear frilly clothing and funny hats.
“Sounds cool Punch, but I am so bad at games like that. What would I get out of something like that?” The fact is there are lots of people who are fans of Touhou who have not once even touched the official games, with the possible exception of the fighting games. This works because ZUN does not have much character development in his games. As a result, fans have taken it upon themselves to create personas for the cast of the game. A select few will try to develop the characters based on what little character the people of Gensokyo have; these are the best kinds of fan fiction. The rest have taken the little characterization of Touhou, heavily exaggerated it, and then run amok from there. A few of these can be rather funny, but many just get old fast. To each his own, I suppose. In addition to the games, ZUN has also written some official works for the series in order to better explain things in Gensokyo or to get perspectives from some of its other residents. They have a pretty good explanation of the things that happen in the world. Again, this stuff isn’t “free,” so I’ll leave it to you and the Internet.
There is one truly good thing that has come from the Touhou games, and that is the music. ZUN is actually a competent composer, and has made many catchy tunes for his games, something that sets the Touhou series apart from many other shooters. There is music for each stage and each stage boss, and it’s all quite good. Thus, these songs get remixed and rearranged thousands of times every year, creating a mindboggling amount of material to sift through. If you have the patience, you will find very good remixes. I warn you though: You’ll basically be looking for treasure in a junk pile.
Yep, that’s most of what the fandom consists of: games, music, art and fiction. It’s not terribly different from any fandom, really. There are, however, many crossovers with Touhou and other things, be it digital pop artists and Western movies to video games. Of course, if you’re not a fan of Touhou you won’t understand just why the fandom does the things it does. (A prime example of that would be the modification Touhou Fortress 2.) Touhou is becoming more prevalent by the day, yet somehow manages to remain as a more “shadowy” portion of the fandom. Maybe that’s just because of the part of the country I live in. Or maybe it’s just that Touhou fans generally keep their fandom to themselves. Well, some do anyway.
With that, I have barely yet caressed the surface of Touhou. There’s so much to the series and its fandom that I couldn’t possibly write about it all. If you’re new to the scene (like I was late last year) and have no idea what’s going on, I suggest you give the Touhou Wiki a visit. (Not the Wikia, the Wiki. It’s more professionally done.) Check a couple of the games, find the good fan fiction, enjoy the fan art. In short: take it easy!
FUCK YEAH look it up:
Touhou video game series
Created and produced by ZUN
Published by Team Shanghai Alice