There comes a point at which you may get tired of just watching random Touhou videos on Youtube and want to delve deeper and figure out where all the strange things in those videos come from. Because fanon draws from canon but simultaneously overshadows it, it can be quite difficult to figure out where to start. Touhou is best understood through its characters, but the sheer volume of them can be overwhelming. As such, this introductory series will periodically cover the most critical personalities, starting with the most pivotal and one of the most popular ones: Reimu.
Reimu Hakurei is the shrine maiden (aka. miko or Shinto priestess) of the Hakurei Shrine and is primarily responsible for maintaining order in the feudal Japan-esque world of Gensokyo. She’s quite indolent in most other respects and spends more time lazing about than performing her religious duties, not even knowing the name of her shrine’s deity. Even the term “maintaining order” can be misleading as Reimu likes to play bad cop and indiscriminately unleashes violence on everyone (human or demon, guilty or innocent) until an incident is resolved. There’s one hilarious display of aggression when she ambushes an unsuspecting demon for the heinous crime of reading, steals her books, and pawns them off for some quick cash. Hell, sometimes she doesn’t even stop with restoring order, as shown when she picks a fight with a Buddhist nun after she explains her reasons for creating a disturbance and her goal of peaceful relations between humankind and youkai (demons or spirits).
Even more curious is the fact that she befriends most of the people she brutalizes, to the point where quite a few demons reside within and around her shrine. Apparently, they find the fact that she beats the crap out of everyone regardless of status to be an attractive quality. Her brutal honesty might be a factor too.
Reimu serves two roles aside from peacekeeping, but we won’t cover either of them at present as one relates primarily to game mechanics and the other won’t make much sense until we introduce another character down the line: Yukari Yakumo.
Appearance-wise, Reimu is almost always clad in a red and white outfit with exposed armpits. Whether this is a particular fetish of ZUN’s, I can’t say.
Fan depictions of Reimu vary wildly, but a few common ones stand out. One of these portrays her as severely impoverished and desperate for food. Two examples come to mind. The first of these has Reimu reduced to eating dirt (vigorously, I might add) and uttering the phrase “You’re making the dirt inedible!” The second is about tongue twisters, but ends with a very quotable and very true line:
Another popular portrayal depicts her as the straight man in comedic situations or the only sane person in a world full of lunatics, idiots, and generally uncouth people.
The last depiction we’ll cover is the money-obsessed Reimu. On one hand of the spectrum, we have Scrooge McReimu, the ruthless and mercenary Reimu who will betray or kill anyone for the right price.
The other end of the spectrum connects to the poor and hungry Reimu and shows her in a losing battle against an empty donation box (her only source of income). Indeed, the donation box is an object you’ll often see with this shrine maiden.
Come back next week when we discuss the fanmade Touhou anime.