“We have to find the villains quickly, and cut them into mash.” – Youmu
Guarding a set of seemingly endless steps in the Netherworld is a silver-haired girl brandishing a katana. A wisp floats around her as she tests the mettle of those seeking entry or access to her master.
Youmu Konpaku is a half-phantom working in the Netherworld as a gardener for its ruler: Yuyuko Saigyouji. Phantoms in Touhou are slightly different than ghosts in the sense that phantoms are wisplike spirits created for any number of reasons. Phantoms can be born of everything ranging from dead humans to youkai to inanimate objects. Ghosts on the other hand are defined as phantoms with corporeal bodies created specifically from humans with unresolved attachments to the world of the living. This phenomenon is said to be exclusive to human beings, so there are no ghosts of deceased youkai. For the purposes of this series, the distinction between a ghost and a phantom will be mostly unimportant after this article and the terms will be used interchangeably.
“Even if you see any phantoms, don’t feed or become attached to them. Once phantoms become friendly with you, they won’t part so easily. Plus, phantoms are extremely cold, so you risk getting frostbite if you touch them. If you find any phantoms, please just ignore them or contact Hakugyokurou or a shrine maiden.” – Youmu
The issue of a half-phantom is a far more baffling one for a number of reasons. The first is the obvious issue of how exactly a phantom and human do the nasty and have babies. Historian Hieda no Akyuu suggests that half-ghosts are simply born as such without interbreeding, which raises far more questions. That said, being a half-ghost doesn’t mean having ectoplasm mixed into your DNA and switching between human and ghost forms. Instead, Youmu has two bodies: the human girl and the phantom wisp that are her collectively. While normal phantoms are small and freezing to the touch, Youmu’s ghost half is abnormally large and comparatively warm while her human half is said to be cold.
Mamizou: What might you be? Are you a youkai?
Youmu: Ummm, well, I’m kind of like a half youkai……
Mamizou: Hm, how indecisive.
Belladonna of Sadness (aka. Kanashimi no Belladonna) is an experimental anime film from the 60’s that tells the story of a woman in Medieval France who makes a deal with the devil and finds liberation through power and psychedelic imagery. Behold the anime that financially ruined Osamu Tezuka’s first production company.
“Why the hell did you stuff gunpowder in ’em?!” – Marisa
Deep within the Forest of Magic resides a puppeteer renowned for her pale skin and blonde hair much like that of the dolls she creates. Alice Margatroid, the Seven-Colored Puppeteer, is a magician of considerable intellect and power whose title supposedly comes from her grimoire that “shines wonderfully with all the seven colors of the light”.
Magicians in Touhou are defined as magic users capable of expanding their repertoire of skills through research, but they come in two varieties: youkai and human. Human magicians like Marisa Kirisame are born without innate magical ability and instead develop their powers through pure effort, contrasting with natural-born youkai magicians like Patchouli Knowledge. Somewhere in between these two extremes lies Alice, who claims to have been a human who recently ascended into a youkai through the accumulation of magical power. This is apparent in her more humanlike habits of wanting normal food and expressing the desire to sleep at night even though youkai need neither of these. Continue reading →
Once there was a man who claimed he was going to save anime. This man, Yutaka Yamamoto, made Fractale to prove his worth. The result is a show wherein a young boy and a childlike artificial intelligence get caught in the conflict between anti-technology terrorists and the government while the Fractale system that sustains the world order collapses around them. Even though it draws elements from classics like Castle in the Sky and Nadia, can Fractale possibly live up to its creator’s boasts?
“Shikigami aren’t a particular class of youkai, but more like a software that is put on them.” – Hieda no Akyuu
Moving between Gensokyo and the boundaries that surround it are Chen and Ran, the two minions of the enigmatic Yukari Yakumo. Both Chen and Ran are shikigami, which are spiritual familiars. With the Yakumo trio, however, there’s a pecking order as Ran is Yukari’s shikigami while Chen is Ran’s shikigami. This means that not only is Yukari powerful enough to ensorcell a nine-tailed fox, said fox has enough magical power to maintain its own familiar.
Chen is a nekomata, which is a type of youkai that is born when a normal cat lives long enough for its tail to split into two, granting it magical powers including a humanoid form and necromancy. While Chen only has two tails, nekomata can have upwards of seven tails. As one would expect, Chen is vulnerable to all the things cats are: catnip, water, and tube socks. Water in particular can cause her to revert to cat form and lose her connection to Ran. She relies on blinding speed to confuse her opponents as her overall power is only average among youkai. Continue reading →
Up for review this week is Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, wherein the descendants of your favorite fictional detectives engage in wacky hijinks and do literally everything except solve crimes. In a show full of horrid running gags and idiocy, will a narcissistic man with dangerously pointy nipples be memorable enough to save this anime from mediocrity?