Introduction to Touhou 29: Suika

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“She gets bigger, usually when she’s drunk at parties. Except she’s always drunk.” – Marisa Kirisame

Once feared as the most powerful race of supernatural beings, the Oni of Gensokyo had long since been broken through human trickery. They now dwell underground in a self-imposed exile along with the deadly youkai that have likewise failed to find acceptance elsewhere. There is, however one exception, an Oni who returned above ground of her own volition . . .

Suika Ibuki is this Oni, who was first introduced in the game Immaterial and Missing Power. Though IaMP was released after Imperishable Night, it is called Touhou 7.5 on account of the fact that it chronologically takes place between Perfect Cherry Blossom and Imperishable Night. The first fighting game spin-off in Touhou, IaMP was not strictly a creation of ZUN and the change in art style along with the use of remixed tracks from previous games reflect this difference. However, it’s worth noting that Suika was still originally designed by ZUN, as evidenced by this concept art:

Oni in Japanese folklore are best compared to ogres or western demons. Oni have long horns and unmatched physical strength. The Oni of Gensokyo additionally have magical abilities capable of tearing the heavens asunder, which Suika literally does at one point to create the illusion of destroying the moon. Within Touhou, the former Oni stronghold was Youkai Mountain and they ruled over lesser youkai races like the Tengu and Kappa. Suika was known as one of the four most powerful Oni, the Devas of the Mountain. One of our three frequently quoted sources, Aya Shameimaru, is a Tengu with great reverence for the Oni, or at least she pays lip service to them.

The Oni of Gensokyo are known for their unpredictable temper, ranging from jolly festiveness to vicious rage. However, they follow the values of fairness, honesty, and loyalty. They never lie. Those who deal with them directly and honestly are held in great esteem and, consequently, targets for abduction.

The Oni of the past would challenge the favored human in a method of the human’s choosing. If the Oni won, they would spirit the human in question away, never to be heard from again. Those familiar with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni may know that series’ particular term onikakushi, which means “spirited away by the Oni”. Humankind, however, used their wits to win these contests through deception, often ending in the death of the Oni. Though the Oni were all but vanquished in ancient times, the method of reliably killing them has been lost to the ages, meaning the few remaining members of this race pose an extreme threat should they ever become hostile. Suika herself claims she can singlehandedly destroy a whole mountain.

Suika carries two objects of interest, a gourd and chains. The gourd is bottomless and provides Suika with a limitless supply of intensely powerful sake. The chains have geometric shapes on the ends. According to ZUN, “She may not look very oni-like, but for me, chains are the mark of an oni. The circle is for nothingness, which signifies diffusion; the triangle is for harmony, or collection. The square is for permanence, and stands for the self.”

“I’ve been drinking non-stop for CENTURIES. The last time I was sober is ancient history.”

Suika’s power is defined as the manipulation of density, though in her own words, “I’m just good at splitin’ and gatherin’ things.” The actual limitations of this skill are quite vague, but she can supposedly use it to congregate humans and youkai for festivals. That said, it has far more concrete uses.

Suika’s most well-known application of this ability is Missing Purple Power, usually abridged to Missing Power. This skill turns her into a giant, which has recently elicited no shortage of Attack on Titan jokes.

“This sort of thing isn’t really danmaku. I can’t use this as a reference at all. She really is just a monster.” – Marisa Kirisame

She can also turn her body into mist, which she takes advantage of to secretly attend Gensokyo’s many parties prior to her discovery.

“The mist itself was the criminal.” – Reimu Hakurei

Earlier, I said that the Oni value honesty, straightforwardness, and bravery, and no individual embodies these values more than Reimu. Mind you, I’d describe the violent shrine maiden as simple and direct only as a product of laziness, but she nevertheless impresses Suika enough for the two to hold a close relationship. On the other hand, I can only assume that she would despise someone like Marisa for her fast-talking, duplicity, and sneakiness.

Oddly enough, she’s good friends with the manipulative Yukari Yakumo and the two knew each other even before the Oni left the surface world. Though she complains about the youkai overlord’s scheming, these reservations haven’t prevented her from helping Yukari out by rebuilding the Hakurei Shrine at one point and assisting Reimu at Yukari’s request during the events of Subterranean Animism. Her knowledge of the underground and its residents would prove very useful to the shrine maiden.

Patchouli, for some unexplained reason, dislikes the Oni intensely and has been the primary individual acting against them on the surface, going so far as to organize Oni-repelling festivals in the Scarlet Devil Mansion. However, these shenanigans only serve to irritate Remilia as vampires are just as vulnerable to the Oni-repelling soybeans as they are.

Suika has another curious rivalry with Yuyuko as the two immediately insult each other upon meeting in Immaterial and Missing Power, with Yuyuko treating Suika like a child and Suika calling the ghost useless and scatterbrained. Perhaps the reason for the hostility is related to Suika’s ability to gather, which inadvertently attracted phantoms from Yuyuko’s domain to the many parties she was inducing. On the flip side, Suika started the festival incident in the first place because Yuyuko’s scheme in Perfect Cherry Blossom cut the spring in Gensokyo short and prevented the usual festivals from being held.

When the various characters meet her in Immaterial and Missing Power, Suika uses the information she gathered while in mist form and her own perception to offer scathing critiques of each of her challengers. She tells Youmu that her understanding of Youki’s sword techniques is slipshod, calls Alice a coward for avoiding the powerful characters in her investigation, and even tells Patchouli to run back to her library and cower.

Within fandom, Suika is often distilled down to her stature and drunkenness. Starting with the latter, Suika is typically shown to be in a constant drunken haze, which isn’t that disparate from canon by itself, but the symptoms of inebriation are different. In the games, Suika is quite agile and perceptive despite her heavy drinking while fanon makes her far more bumbling and disoriented like a salaryman after work. Unfortunately, I’m a bit remiss to recall full stories about Suika, though she’s a common background character in doujinshi like the infamous Honk Honk strip.

Regarding her diminutive form, Suika is widely regarded as the least well-endowed character in the entirety of Touhou, and if you consider that includes characters like Cirno and at least one man, this is saying something. The best example of this perception is the Tsurupettan video by Silver Forest:

Next week, we’ll return to the main games with Phantasmagoria of Flower View and the infamous flower youkai herself, Yuuka Kazami.