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Japanese Girls, Lasers, and People Who Love Both

7. October 2010

It’s been a little over a week since Anime Weekend Atlanta 16 ended, and I’m just now coming down off the con high. I haven’t experienced a feeling like that in the five years that I’ve been going, and I think a big part of it was heading the Touhou Project panel. Unfortunately, the time slot I attained wasn’t long enough to go over everything I wanted, the biggest thing being the fandom and how it contributes to the world of Touhou. I’ve been asked to write a piece on it here, so I’ll do just that!

The rise of Touhou’s popularity has both taken me by complete surprise and not really surprised me at all. The series is quite obscure as a Japanese independent shoot-em-up series, and really, as far as “bullet hell” games go, the games are among the easiest of the bunch and don’t really stack up to games like Mushihime-sama in terms of ridiculousness. The games themselves, as a result, aren’t really all that spectacular. What really sets it apart are the characters and the music. ZUN, the creator of the series, is a musician at heart, and his vast number of compositions, hit or miss as they may be, are a marvel to be sure. Every stage and every boss character has a unique theme, and with 6+ stages per game in over 12 games, ZUN’s musical portfolio is pretty substantial (and I won’t even go into his original works outside of the games). I think the characters really deserve their own paragraph.

There are a ton of characters in the Touhou series, but the secret to why some people flock to the series is an obvious one: there are over 100 characters, and of them, there are only three documented males. If you’ve ever wondered why a series like Queen’s Blade gets a following as big as it does, I can promise you that it’s not for the engaging dialogue. No, it’s because the series is full of girls that people find visually appealing. Touhou is no exception. The series covers a number of anime archetypes: maids, catgirls, all-powerful magicians, princesses, Sunny Delight crows, the usual. What’s more is that ZUN seems to love elaborate outfits, so you’re going to get a flurry of colors and some really silly hats. It’s definitely enough to catch your eye, and as a result, Touhou doujinshi and cosplay are becoming more and more common.

On to the fandom! The world of Touhou doujinshi really hit total exposure with Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, a remix of one of the boss themes from the seventh Touhou game, Perfect Cherry Blossom. In the game that follows, Imperishable Night, one of the characters, Alice Margatroid, is loosely, and I mean LOOSELY, interpreted as being in love with her friend Marisa Kirisame. This comes from one sentence that appears in one ending. As a result, people often pair the two characters together; Marisa Stole the Precious Thing reflects this in its lyrics, and when combined with a cute flash video and a catchy tune, you’re well on your way to love-colored stardom. Fast forward to years later, and the doujin world is flooded with remix albums from talented electronic artists and comics of varying natures, from the comic to the highly erotic. One of the most popular (and morerecent) doujin works is a video to a song called “Bad Apple!!”, a remix by Masayoshi Minoshima, sung by the seiyuu nomico, of a song of the same name featured in the games. The video features the characters as black and white silhouettes, dancing to the rhythm of the song, and it has received millions of views on both YouTube and the Japanese video site NicoNicoDouga. It’s a very visually impressive video, no doubt the result of a lot of time and effort, and it is but one example of what the fandom is capable of. Other feats include Touhou Time Crisis, a Time Crisis parody made with MikuMikuDance, a program designed to choreograph dance moves for the Vocaloid Miku Hatsune.

Of course, with elaborate outfits comes people who want to dress in those elaborate outfits. As with any fandom, there are cosplayers, and some of the outfits in this series are by no means simple. Touhou has to have one of the most dedicated fandoms I’ve come across, because the clothing alone is so outlandish and colorful at times that a real-life creation of it is no easy task. What’s more is that there are so many characters to choose from, it’s easy to find a character that works best for you, but many in the fandom want to dress up as a majority of them instead. This isn’t cheap or simple, but we love Touhou. I’ve included a handful of cosplays from the series in my AWA 2010 Pictures album, which has pictures from the Touhou photoshoot held on that Sunday. It’s but a small sampling of what can be found within the world of Touhou cosplay.

This is only scratched the surface of what Touhou has to offer. Perhaps I can return once again for another installment of this piece. There’s so much to say and so little time to say it all. I guess if you have any questions about the world of Touhou or its fandom, ask away! I’ve got plenty I can write about, after all. Thanks for reading!

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