Introduction to Touhou 60: The Prismriver Sisters

Prismriver Sisters

“What comes out of a trumpet isn’t a laser but a happy sound.” – Merlin

Lyrica, Lunasa, and Merlin Prismriver are a trio of ghostly musicians and together they’re known as the Prismriver Sisters. Despite being dressed like they could come out of a cuckoo clock, they’re quite popular and renowned for their magnificent performances. As for me, I know them for this:

Their backstage activities aside, the Prismrivers are probably the most well-known musicians in Gensokyo and they’re constantly on tour, playing at various locales including Hakugyokurou during Perfect Cherry Blossom and the Garden of the Sun during Phantasmagoria of Flower View. In the former case, they’re frequently hired by Yuyuko Saigyouji to be entertainment at her ghostly banquets while in the latter case, they seem to have enough goodwill to make tremendous noise on Yuuka’s turf and get away with it. Apparently, they have agents that manage their venues and ticket sales, though it’s not terribly clear where this money goes since their mansion is in a perpetual state of disrepair.

Curiously, the Prismrivers don’t actually play their instruments, at least not in the usual sense. Instead of producing sound via direct interaction with these instruments, the sisters use them as conduits to channel magical phantom notes. This gives their music an unusual quality that gives them a degree of control over human emotions.

Lunasa is the blonde violinist and the eldest of the Prismrivers. Her PoFV script suggests that she’s a dispensary of generic big sister advice and level-headedness, but Akyuu describes her as reticent and glum. Her music produces a calming effect that, if regular humans are exposed to for extended periods of time, will induce depression and a sense of energylessness.

“A song that drives one to suicide is a wonderful poison.” – Medicine Melancholy

Merlin is the blue-haired, cheery, and airheaded trumpeter and is the middle sister. Her name makes her the odd one out, sort of like Clyde of the Pac Man ghosts. She’s the most popular of the sisters and her music uplifts people but in excess induces mania and makes people dance uncontrollably and lose the ability to speak coherently.

Unlike her sisters, Merlin is known to also perform solo, though these concerts tend to be chaotic since her power is unrestrained without the others to counterbalance it. Curiously, according to an interview with Aya, Merlin isn’t limited to the trumpet and is skilled with a multitude of brass instruments.

“There’s no way sounds that don’t have any effect on the spirit are worthwhile! If they don’t stir the heart, I couldn’t care less. My sounds are emotional sounds, and the spinning of my trumpet is like an amplifier for those emotions.” – Merlin

Lyrica is the keyboardist and the youngest Prismriver sister. In almost every regard, she’s an anomaly among the Prismrivers. She is the most humanlike of the phantom siblings and while more approachable, she also has a mischievous side to her. Unlike Lunasa and Merlin, her music isn’t capable of manipulating human emotions (at least not any more than regular music).

Of course, being more coherent than her sisters isn’t necessarily saying much:

“That’s right. I’ve seen a doll that makes sound. But it was a chimpanzee.”

This almost mundane quality hints at a connection to the fourth Prismriver sister: Layla. We’ll return to Layla in a moment, but suffice it to say that she’s the one who created these phantoms. Perhaps Lyrica, the supposed baby sister, was actually the closest to Layla in both age and association. While Layla grew up with much vaguer and idealized concepts of her eldest and middle sisters, the number of memories she had of Lyrica would have lent itself to a far more accurate and thus humanlike phantom. This trait is what makes Lyrica the one most likely to deviate from the basic set of interests and routines Layla conceived of.

For instance, Lyrica is the only sister to directly participate in Phantasmagoria of Flower View due to her interest in researching the phenomenon to influence her music. Lunasa and Merlin simply followed suit. Another piece of evidence that Lyrica isn’t like her siblings is that Reisen, who comments about peoples’ wavelengths during PoFV, can’t actually reach a coherent conclusion about Lyrica whereas Lunasa and Merlin have far more consistent patterns.

“Her technique is excellent, but it just doesn’t resound in my heart. She performs flawlessly, but something is missing…” – Marisa Kirisame

The Prismriver Ensemble aren’t the ghosts of dead humans, but rather anomalies created by Layla Prismriver’s memories of her sisters. The four sisters were the daughters of an influential count, but following his unexpected death, the human versions of Lyrica, Lunasa, and Merlin each left their mansion to pursue different paths in life. Layla, however, was obsessed with the memories her family had at the mansion and used a powerful sorcery to conjure facsimiles of her sisters. Rather than being the dead spirits of her actual sisters, Layla’s creations come from her memories and perceptions of her siblings. The mansion soon disappeared into Gensokyo where Layla eventually passed away, leaving the three phantom sisters to continue their routines just as she envisioned them.

One common portrayal of Layla is with long, green hair. However, it’s important to note that Layla has no official images or design and any such portrayals are purely fan-made.

This particular fan video is one interpretation of Layla’s Story:

The Prismrivers are neighbors of Remilia Scarlet and live down the road near the Misty Lake in a run-down western-style mansion, the same one Layla brought over from the Outside World. Though they technically reside there, it’s actually quite difficult to get a hold of the ghostly musicians there and visitors can usually just hear the sounds of their practice. Perhaps these sounds aren’t the phantoms themselves, but rather the remnants of Layla’s memories, indelibly bound to the mansion.

You’re loud enough just by being here, and now you’re saying you’ll perform?! – Cirno

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