Reimu may have been there from the very beginning, but she has an equally ubiquitous friend: Marisa Kirisame. An ordinary witch by her own description, Marisa is only mundane if you consider shooting giant laser beams normal.
Marisa is a rather fascinating figure in Touhou canon. Despite being clad in a black and white, but otherwise stereotypical witch’s outfit, there’s more to her than meets the eye. Her role is that of a scholar and spends much of her time in the pursuit of power. In the very beginning, she studied under Reimu’s greatest enemy and honed her skills as her rival. She isn’t above thievery in her studies and has stolen (“borrowed”) books, relics, and even others’ abilities. She’s something of a genius and can even remember the number of times she’s eaten bread off the top of her head.
Personality-wise, the nosy, boyish, persistent, and self-centered Marisa often annoys her peers (even beyond stealing their shit). She’s portrayed as extremely hard-working and, consequently, more than a little jealous of the lazy but naturally talented Reimu. She also possesses questionable sanity as she’s a pack rat whose house is filled to the brim with (likely stolen) magical artifacts including a sentient ICBM (it’s a long story and a continuity clusterfuck, so don’t think too much about it). More troublingly, she stares directly at the true full moon which drives people insane (another long story) but doesn’t even bat an eye, suggesting she was already crazy.
Something went horribly wrong in Marisa’s transition from canon to fanon. Gone are the questions of sanity and jealousy, replaced by one thing: sex. Indeed, Marisa is probably the most sexually charged character in the fandom and has quite the harem including a large chunk of the female cast and/or the only man with a face in the entirety of Touhou.
I for one blame Marisa Stole the Precious Thing for popularizing the concept of Marisa as a heartbreaker, which has virtually no basis in canon.
Another popular fanon idea is that she draws her powers from magic mushrooms, with obvious implications. Her thievery also gets taken up a notch and escalates into full-blown kleptomania and even takes on a violent aspect, making her more of a comical highwayman than a ruthless scholar.
In the most elegant words I can muster, the typical fanon Marisa is a playa’ who fucks whatever she wants, steals whatever she wants, and lasers anything that gets in her way. This simple perception of her isn’t much of an obstacle though, as she consistently ranks near the top of Touhou popularity polls, and this popularity spills over into other media. This includes a laser-shooting and spell-stealing Demacian by the name of Lux in League of Legends and a scene in the Umineko no Naku Koro ni visual novel when Jessica dresses up as Marisa and sings Tsurupettan, which itself is a Touhou-related song with references to Higurashi.
I must confess that I’m not especially fond of Marisa’s fan depictions as she embodies the worst vices of fanon, namely stripping away complexity in favor of one-note personalities and defining characters primarily by their romantic interests. If fanon’s great strength is fleshing out weak characters (like Daiyousei), it’s greatest weakness is dumbing things down and Marisa suffers tremendously in the transition.
Come back next time when we look at the world of Gensokyo.