“Too bad the underground got opened up. It’s been one disgusting youkai after another.” – Reimu
Youkai are often born from human misunderstanding and superstition. Especially in the centuries before the Scientific Revolution, superstitious explanations dominated popular thought and as these explanations became accepted, the fears they embodied came to life. The fear of the unknown was one such concept and it gave birth to a creature whose shape changed with every pair of eyes that witnessed it.
“Humans and youkai can live together as equals in the light of the Buddha.”
Yukari founded modern Gensokyo as a preserve for the youkai. In exchange for comparative safety, the humans within the Hakurei Border act as resources for their supernatural overlords and whether through their fear or their devotion, they give the youkai and divine spirits sustenance. Gensokyo’s social order is thus premised on domination over humankind. Those who defy this order do so by beating the youkai at their own game. Keine and Reimu both defend humans, the former by literally becoming a beast and the latter by taking on such youkai-like brutality and strength that humans fear her just as much as the youkai she fights. There is one, however, who doesn’t see strength and subjugation as the only ways of life. This woman is the Buddhist nun Byakuren Hijiri.
Back in Anime Elimination 3, Fino hyped up Outbreak Company, the story of a nerd who is sent to a fantasy world to teach its inhabitants about anime as a form of cultural exchange. Did it ultimately live up to Fino’s expectations as a metaphor about the 2000’s anime boom or did it crash and burn? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between and Moon steps in to give some much-needed guidance.
One of the Gensokyo’s many features is the omnipresence of spirits. These spirits exist in virtually every aspect of this world, including the very tools its very residents use. One such tool was a defective umbrella that, after being discarded, morphed into a youkai. Angered and embittered by its abandonment, it swore to take its revenge upon humankind by filling their nights with fear. With its purpose now set, it gave itself a name: Kogasa Tatara.
The reality of the situation is, as per Touhou standards, a bit more benign than the term revenge would suggest. In practice, Kogasa carries out her ambushes with all the stealth and menace of a mother playing peekaboo with her child. She’s treated more like an annoyance than an actual threat and much of this has to do with the transition from the more violent Gensokyo of old to the current, post-isolation version. Back in the old days, humans had very real reasons to fear their youkai neighbors. Even a low-level, childlike youkai such as Rumia could trivially overpower, dismember, and devour the average human. Thus, Kogasa’s outlandish appearance wouldn’t have mattered since any and all supernatural creatures could be lethal. With the threat of arbitrary murder mostly gone, the umbrella youkai is only about as scary as a clown jumping out of your closet. Actually, that sounds pants-destroyingly terrifying, so perhaps a clown wasn’t the best comparison.
“In this day and age you can fly a little helicopter inside someone’s room. These days, nobody would be surprised by something like a flying umbrella.” – Sanae