“Am I myself a butterfly of night, human of daytime?”
In a not too distant Japan, there is one who dreams of worlds unseen by human eyes. Tired of the stale, creatively sterile world of modernity, she dreams of exotic locales filled with unusual creatures and, surely enough, they become reality. This dreamer is Maribel Hearn.
Maribel is a very curious character as she has never been in an official Touhou game. Instead, she’s the protagonist of a series of music CDs and their attached stories. Along with her friend Renko Usami, Maribel forms the Sealing Club, which is ostensibly a club for spiritual mediums (or in some translations, necromancers), but rather than doing activities associated with either of those terms, they really just go on adventures while investigating supernatural phenomena or otherwise philosophizing.
Maribel possesses the ability to see and interact with the boundaries that separate Modern Japan from realms like the Netherworld, Gensokyo, and the Lunar Capital. This power plays a key role in the events of the Sealing Club stories, beginning with glimpses or fleeting visits to other worlds during her dreams, but developing into something far more potent. Continue reading →
In Touhou’s past, Reimu clashed regularly with a vengeful spirit wielding powerful sorcery and an intimate knowledge of the Hakurei Shrine’s secrets. This spirit was Mima and in the transition between the PC-98 and Windows canons, she vanished without a trace.
In Highly Responsive to Prayers, the first Touhou game, Reimu initially encounters Mima as she breaks free from a smaller shrine connected to the Hakurei Shrine. Though they don’t exchange any words at this stage, Mima’s appearance may provide some insight, specifically the bloody knife she holds.
This knife isn’t visible in her future portrayals and it’s never discussed in any canonical materials, but it may hint at her reasons for turning into a vengeful spirit. Perhaps she was murdered and unable to find peace or, given how she possesses the knife, maybe she’s the spirit of a murderer. Continue reading →
WARNING: This article contains partial spoilers for Impossible Spell Card. Reader beware.
“No matter who’s after my life, I have no reason to return this wonderful power!”
Seija Kijin is the contrarian mastermind behind the incident in Double Dealing Character and as of the newest game, Impossible Spell Card, a wanted criminal.
No one likes Seija. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s completely intentional and Seija wouldn’t have it any other way. She is an Amanojaku, a particularly sinister type of youkai that drives people to commit wicked deeds by drawing out their darkest desires. Some Amanojaku, Seija included, revel in being hated and loving what others despise. Essentially, they’re supernatural hipsters.
While she has horns and is described as having a vaguely Oni-esque appearance, Seija is not an Oni and her deceitful nature would likely make the comparison quite insulting to Oni like Suika and Yuugi. Indeed, she made her entrance into Touhou by deceiving Shinmyoumaru into declaring war against the youkai of Gensokyo, simply to get her to use the Miracle Mallet to cause chaos. Continue reading →
Perfect Cherry Blossom and Imperishable Night established the world of Gensokyo as one where youkai reigned supreme and humankind eked out a bare subsistence, acting as cattle of sorts. However, the more recent games introduced rival factions and visionaries with plans to reshape the world. Though Hopeless Masquerade left most of these factions in an uneasy stalemate, the pieces are in place to shake the very foundations of Gensokyo. The question is when.
Here is a snapshot of Touhou’s power politics now that the dust has settled. Continue reading →
“You are a drum, yes? How could you not want to be hit?” – Sakuya
When Shinmyoumaru used the Miracle Mallet to grow herself to human size, the Mallet leaked a massive quantity of magic into Gensokyo. This magic came into contact with mundane objects and several became sentient tsukumogami. Among these is Raiko Horikawa.
Originally a taiko drum used in performances, Raiko grew to enjoy her new freedom, but quickly realized that she would return to her original state once the Miracle Mallet’s power left her. Taking action, she found a source of magic in the outside world and transmuted her being into a new set of drums.
Her profile mentions that these drums came with their own drummer, though no information is given as to who this is. This is quite an abnormal state of affairs for a tsukumogami, which normally come to being when objects reach the hundredth anniversary of their construction, becoming (relatively) vengeful and obsessive like Kogasa if they are abandoned or abused during this time, or friendly otherwise. For a tsukumogami to become a separate (even if related) object is unheard of. Whether the magic Raiko refers to is inherent in the drums or provided by the unknown drummer is also a matter of debate, but the end result is that Raiko is far less restricted than other tsukumogami, who are behaviorally static. It’s worrisome exactly where in the modern, outside world such a source of magic would still exist, and I have little doubt this will come into play in later games. Continue reading →
“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.