“I’ll trust you this time, based on what your strength and this sake tell me.”
Yuugi Hoshiguma is an Oni residing in the Gensokyo’s subterranean cave system. Specifically, she occupies the city within a region known as Former Hell, which previously housed all those subject to eternal damnation before the Ministry of the Afterlife found it inadequate for some unexplained reason and relocated elsewhere. The official byline is that they were trying to reduce costs, but how exactly one reduces the cost of delivering excruciating suffering to the damned by moving from one hole in the ground to another is something of a mystery.
Parallel to this process, the Oni abandoned the surface world, either due to boredom or on account of humans developing increasingly efficient ways of killing them, depending on who you ask. The specific reasons for the Oni exodus have already been discussed in talking about Suika, so I’ll spare you the repetition. The Ministry and its judges were either unable or unwilling to transport certain evil spirits to the new Hell, creating a need to station a force to contain these remnants. In exchange for uncontested control of Former Hell, the Oni agreed to police the evil spirits and they became its primary residents. Though the surface world’s youkai, presumably led by Yukari, had reservations about allowing the Oni to consolidate power, they agreed to noninterference under the condition that the underground youkai sever contact with the world above. It’s this agreement that later forces Yukari to use Reimu as a proxy in Subterranean Animism. Though a human’s presence in the underground realm would be highly irregular, it wouldn’t be in direct violation of this crucial treaty.
When Hell was relocated, some Oni went with the Ministry, becoming either lower-level tormentors of the damned or commanders known as the Kishin. Looking back at the Komachi article, we’ll recall that these Kishin were also responsible for assassinating Celestials, Hermits, and other immortals who attempted to circumvent the cycle of rebirth. Other Oni, like Yuugi, decided to remain in Former Hell, no doubt for its scenic views. Speaking of which, this cave system has weather. At one point, it snows in the ancient city and Yuugi’s only explanation is, “It’s winter. Why wouldn’t it be snowing?”
“While oni have a strong sense of camaraderie, they have an even stronger sense of independence so it seems she doesn’t know where the others live.” – Hieda no Akyuu
Personality-wise, Yuugi ‘s behavior is typical for an Oni, loving the honest and straightforward while disdaining the duplicitous. She’s always itching for excitement and anyone who catches her interest is going to do one of two things whether they like it or not:
- Go out for drinks and end up blacked-out on the sidewalk.
- Fight her and end up blacked-out on the sidewalk. Or decapitated.
Yuugi’s specific ability is to “wield unexplainable phenomena”, a very confusing descriptor which by its very nature is unexplainable. Supposedly, the reading of the Kanji in Yuugi’s name suggests that this unexplainability relates in some way to Mencius’ discussion of subject matter completely omitted by Confucius in his philosophy. However, the details of this connection are beyond the scope of this series and wouldn’t even be particularly useful in understanding Yuugi’s power.
“But it’s marvelous how she places her danmaku as if she wants me to enjoy this. She shows that even in a feat of strength, she can find leisure to play.” – Marisa Kirisame
Really, what Yuugi’s best known for is her tremendous strength, which is extraordinary even by the earth-rending standards of the Oni. Rather than introducing herself as the unexplainable, she calls herself The Strong. Below are a few choice quotes regarding Yuugi’s combat prowess:
“Although this is just a rumor, it is said that her superhuman strength is of the level where her footsteps alone are enough to make nearby buildings collapse.” – Hieda no Akyuu
“Look at her, while she was fighting us and drinking, she didn’t spill a drop of her sake.” – Patchouli Knowledge
“She’s weaker than me in magical powers, but might be stronger than me physically.” – Suika Ibuki
Yuugi’s most useful and perpetually underappreciated power stems from her possession of an Oni artifact called the Hoshiguma Dish. This is the dish improves the quality of any sake that’s poured into it, a most powerful tool for the eternally inebriated Oni. Combined with Suika’s limitless gourd, the two could trivially induce Gensokyo into an alcohol-induced coma. Perhaps an incident for another day.
“She truly is a walking catastrophe.” – Aya Shameimaru
You may have noticed that contrary to the frills of most other Touhou characters, Yuugi’s outfit looks distressingly plain and, aside from her party hat-esque horn, almost like a gym uniform. Certain artists took notice and started dressing her in actual PE clothes. Others follow Alphes, who does the character redesigns for the Touhou fighting games, in putting Yuugi in a rather loose-fitting kimono.
Within fandom, Yuugi is most often associated with Suika with whom she gets along like an old drinking buddy. Furthermore, she occasionally encounters her former subordinates from Youkai Mountain. The common trend among those relationships is that most of these people are put-off by Yuugi’s bluntness and raucousness and do everything in their power to avoid her, which is quite tragic considering how, at least in canon; she seems to genuinely care about the well-being of Youkai Mountain’s denizens.
“Please, tell her to just stay there and not come back above ground.” – Nitori Kawashiro
Next time, we’ll move deeper into Former Hell and meet the mind-reader Satori.