Introduction to Touhou 56: The Factions of Gensokyo

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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.
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The Nine Hells of Anime Episode 61: Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga is a very strange tale loosely based off Alice in Wonderland that follows a peculiar family in its trials and tribulations in a techno-magical version of Kyoto. In their musings, conflicts, and interactions with an interdimensional traveler named Koto, these siblings must come to terms with their own life desires and the transgressions of their parents. At the time of its release, Kyousougiga may have been overshadowed by Kill la Kill, but its distinct visuals made it one of the more notable anime of Fall 2013.

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Introduction to Touhou 55: Raiko

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“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.
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Introduction to Touhou 54: Shinmyoumaru

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“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.

Okami’s depiction of Issun-boshi.

Okami’s depiction of Issun-boshi.

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Introduction to Touhou 53: Sekibanki


“Look upon my head and despair!”

Though she looks like a normal woman to those around her, Sekibanki is a youkai who had snuck herself into the Human Village sometime during or prior to the chaos of Hopeless Masquerade, using her appearance to blend into local society.

Worked-up into a frenzy by the magic of Shinmyoumaru Sukuna’s mallet, a substantial number of youkai, including Sekibanki, rose up in revolt. Recent events in Gensokyo had put the Buddhist and Taoist factions at the forefront of human-youkai relations, but both parties remained silent as this crisis unfolded around them. Even Byakuren Hijiri, who presumably had the greatest inclination to maintain peace between humankind and its supernatural neighbors, failed to appear on the scene. One possible explanation for this nonintervention is that both the Buddhist and Taoist forces were exhausted from battling each other and Hata no Kokoro during Hopeless Masquerade. The other potential explanation is that the youkai residing in Myouren Temple also came under the mallet’s influence and required Byakuren’s full attention to stop.

Thus, the task fell to the usual pair of Reimu and Marisa, though the activity of rebellious youkai near the Scarlet Devil Mansion also prompted Sakuya to join in on the fight. Independently, these three heroines crushed the rebellion with their trademark brutality and Sekibanki was no exception. I’d assume she went back to living in the village once she got to taste the three course meal of pain.

“I never needed to cut off your neck at all.” – Sakuya

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The Nine Hells of Anime Episode 60: Kill la Kill

Cutie Honey meets Gurren Lagann as Studio Trigger explodes onto the television anime scene with the fan favorite Kill la Kill, which has even inspired the usual round of talk about saving anime with its combination of kickass music, charismatic eyebrows, and pink-haired meme machines. But does this high profile show live up to the hype or do its superpowered costumes come apart at the seams?


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