“Now, won’t you join me and turn the world upside-down?”
Shinmyoumaru Sukuna is the princess of the Inchlings (kobito), a race of tiny people roughly an inch in height. She resides in the Shining Needle Castle, which floats near the base of Youkai Mountain, and plots against Gensokyo’s established order with her advisor, Seija Kijin.
Shinmyoumaru is the descendant of a mythological figure called Issun-boshi. Issun was only one inch tall and went on an adventure to make a place for himself in human society. With a soup bowl for a boat and a needle for a sword he struck out on his own and he was hired as a playmate for a certain princess. This princess was attacked by an Oni who swallowed Issun whole, but in gruesome retribution, Issun proceeded to stab it from within using his needle until it was forced to regurgitate him and flee. This Oni left behind its treasure, the Miracle Mallet. Through this artifact’s wish-granting powers, he grew to human size and married the princess. From this point onward, Touhou diverges from the myth. Fearing the potentially ruinous side-effects of Oni magic, he resolved to minimize his reliance on the mallet. While he lived the rest of his life without incident, this resolve didn’t persist in his descendants, one of whom wished for a magnificent castle from which he could rule the land.
This wish expended the mallet’s power and this fortress, called the Shining Needle Castle, plunged into the realm of the Oni (probably referring to Gensokyo) from which the Inchlings could not escape. Realizing that the Miracle Mallet would take in equal measure to the wishes it granted, the Inchlings attempted to seal the artifact to prevent its future misuse.
Several generations later, Shinmyoumaru was born and knowledge of the mallet had been all but lost. A youkai, Seija Kijin, saw an opportunity to further her own ends and began whispering lies into Shinmyoumaru’s ear. Concocting a story about the wrongs that the youkai of Gensokyo committed against the Inchlings, Seija also revealed the existence of the Miracle Mallet while omitting its equivalent cost trait. Now worked up into a vengeful fury, Shinmyoumaru took the mallet and plotted to overturn the social order.
“Someone like you, who was born into power, wouldn’t know the joy of finally obtaining it.”
Shinmyoumaru’s first act upon making landfall was to grow herself to the size of a human child, but unbeknownst to her, the mallet leaked a substantial quantity of magic into Gensokyo that turned common tools into youkai and drove existing youkai like Sekibanki into a frenzy. Between the uncharacteristic aggression of existing youkai and the irregular behavior of their own weapons, Reimu, Marisa, and Sakuya caught wind of the plot and converged on the castle to put an end to the matter.
After Double Dealing Character, Shinmyoumaru is stuck living in a box at the Hakurei Shrine until the mallet regains enough of its power to return her to human size. Reimu also seems to be in the habit of placing her in strange containers, including carrying her in a bug box on the way back home after initially defeating her. Marisa raises an eyebrow at this treatment, but Shinmyoumaru is glad she doesn’t have to fight off mosquitos the size of her face.
Shinmyoumaru’s appearance draws heavily from the myth of Issun-boshi and she wears a bowl on her head and wields a glimmering needle as a sword. If you take these things away, though, she looks suspiciously like Hieda no Akyuu.
Personality-wise, Shinmyoumaru has the mind of a ten year-old child and is thus quite vulnerable to suggestion. Judging by her speeches to the heroines, the terms she uses and the general tone of her proclamations imply that she’s essentially parroting what Seija told her over the years. Whether such a small child has any actual understanding of her own antiestablishment stance and revolutionary rhetoric is a matter of debate.
“It’s the treasure that imparts the power of dreams to speechless tools!”
According to official sources, the mallet only works for inchlings, which is a bit strange considering how Oni made it to begin with, but because Shinmyoumaru has yet to meet Suika or Yuugi, we won’t know for some time whether they have any sway over its magical properties. The tsukumogami it created by inundating tools with magical energy were initially dependent on the mallet for power, but fully developed ones like Raiko and the Tsukumo sisters found alternate sources of power before they reverted to mere objects. As for the heroines’ tools, they returned to normal, which is fine with Reimu and Marisa since their weapons became difficult to control. Sakuya didn’t seem to mind that her knife would move on its own, though. Perhaps she found the idea of said knife murdering people on its own to be amusing. It’s implied that Shinmyoumaru recognized the creation of tsukumogami and if left alone, she would have created hordes of them to overthrow the stronger, but numerically smaller youkai.
In direct combat, Sukuna relies on the mallet to disorient her enemies by repeatedly shuffling relative sizes. In one spell card, she makes her danmaku grow to a ludicrous size while another turns her foe into a giant, making it very difficult for them to evade projectiles. In-game, this second bit manifests as a bloated hitbox.
While references to popular series are generally the domain of the fans, there is an Attack on Titan reference built into Double Dealing Character. One of Shinmyoumaru’s spell cards is called Attack on Dwarf and forces the player to navigate several circular walls of danmaku by breaching their gates. Given their relative sizes, this puts characters like Reimu in the position of a nigh-unstoppable, murderous Kyojin. Sounds about right.
As far as the fandom goes, it’s standard practice to put Shinmyoumaru in relation to small animals and household objects, with the point being to see her ride a puppy as a steed or struggling to write a letter with a pen that’s longer than her. The artist Shinapuu in particular has an impressive selection of cutesy Shinmyoumaru images. Jeno, on the other hand, has ominously placed her in close proximity to a blender.
When she’s not at risk of being obliterated by appliances, Shinmyoumaru is generally paired together with Seija and the two run the usual gamut of relationships with some choice picks including older/younger sister, tsundere, and of course anarchist comrades.
Next time, we’ll wrap up Double Dealing Character with a look at the smooth tsukumogami drummer named Raiko Horikawa.