Perfect Cherry Blossom is the game in which ZUN seems to settle on a general musical feel that persists throughout the remaining game. While Embodiment of Scarlet Devil had strong singular character themes, the music of Perfect Cherry Blossom works more closely as a whole with more consistent elements shared between tracks, though there are of course anomalies.
Title Theme: Mystic Dream ~ Snow or Cherry Petal
Unlike the version of the opening theme from EoSD this is far less dramatic. Instead, its softer piano tones are indicative of the long winter the game is set in and kick off the seasonal and otherworldly theme of the music as a whole. Continue reading →
“She always wears ostentatious clothing and an unsettling smile, intimidating all who come in contact with her.” – Aya Shameimaru
Residing in the boundaries between worlds is a powerful youkai whose machinations not only drive the politics of Gensokyo, but also allow its very existence.
Yukari Yakumo has the appearance of a human, but she is actually one of the three most powerful youkai and the single most critical figure to understand in Touhou. Yukari is an enigma that prefers to control matters from the shadows via her servant Ran, but she has appeared publically in times of crisis or to maintain her reputation among the youkai as someone to fear.
To give an idea as to the importance of this youkai, Yukari has been involved in the politics of
Gensokyo from over a millennium ago and has served in a leadership role in the majority of these affairs. Examples of her involvement include leading Gensokyo’s youkai in a disastrous invasion of the Moon to curb their appetite for conquest, assisting in the creation of the Great Hakurei Barrier isolating Gensokyo, brokering a deal to allow outcast youkai to live underground, later inciting an invasion of the underground to deal with a hell raven intent on eradicating life on the surface, and ending full scale wars in favor of danmaku and spell card duels.
Yukari’s power is to manipulate boundaries, which is absolutely terrifying when you consider that the conceptual differences between objects can be thought of as boundaries. Most commonly, she manipulates boundaries of space through her network of gaps which appear as portals into a black void filled with eyes. The portals themselves are neatly tied at the ends with ribbons. The manipulation of boundaries could presumably enhance her defensive abilities as well, as individuals like Meiling have commented on an irregular resistance to her punches.
“Shooting, cutting, stabbing, hitting, killing… It’s all useless against me.” – Yukari
Ahh, it feels horrible to lose to someone with no real aim. – Sakuya
Presiding over the land of the dead is a woman with hair much like the cherry blossoms that cover the realm in spring. Her eyes fall upon the one tree that fails to bloom every year and a plan begins to form.
Yuyuko Saigyouji is the administrator who oversees the Netherworld from her shrine Hakugyokurou and essentially ensures that the dead stay in the realm of the dead.
Yuyuko likes to play the fool and often speaks apparent nonsense, but these ditzy remarks are often very obtuse or cryptic hints. These moments indicate a much sharper intellect than her behavior would otherwise suggest, with Yuyuko often being the first one to figure out the party responsible for a given incident.
Youmu: What do you think of these divine spirits, Lady Yuyuko?
Yuyuko: I doubt that some troublesome individual is about to make a return, or that there’s any secrets or anything in, say, the cemetery behind the temple…
Youmu: Hm? A-anyway, I’ll be off.
Yuyuko: Bring me back a souvenir!
Yuyuko’s history is deeply intertwined with that of the Saigyou Ayakashi, the one tree in the Netherworld that never blooms. This tree is a youkai whose origins can be traced back to the poet Saigyou, who chose the tree to lay under during his final moments. Over time, others who heard of his tale came to admire the tree’s beauty and even die as he did underneath its leaves. As this continued, the tree began to develop and became a youkai with the power to tempt mortals into resting underneath it before stripping them of their souls. To nullify its terrifying power, the tree was eventually suppressed using the corpse of Yuyuko as a seal to ensure it would never bloom again. Continue reading →
“We have to find the villains quickly, and cut them into mash.” – Youmu
Guarding a set of seemingly endless steps in the Netherworld is a silver-haired girl brandishing a katana. A wisp floats around her as she tests the mettle of those seeking entry or access to her master.
Youmu Konpaku is a half-phantom working in the Netherworld as a gardener for its ruler: Yuyuko Saigyouji. Phantoms in Touhou are slightly different than ghosts in the sense that phantoms are wisplike spirits created for any number of reasons. Phantoms can be born of everything ranging from dead humans to youkai to inanimate objects. Ghosts on the other hand are defined as phantoms with corporeal bodies created specifically from humans with unresolved attachments to the world of the living. This phenomenon is said to be exclusive to human beings, so there are no ghosts of deceased youkai. For the purposes of this series, the distinction between a ghost and a phantom will be mostly unimportant after this article and the terms will be used interchangeably.
“Even if you see any phantoms, don’t feed or become attached to them. Once phantoms become friendly with you, they won’t part so easily. Plus, phantoms are extremely cold, so you risk getting frostbite if you touch them. If you find any phantoms, please just ignore them or contact Hakugyokurou or a shrine maiden.” – Youmu
The issue of a half-phantom is a far more baffling one for a number of reasons. The first is the obvious issue of how exactly a phantom and human do the nasty and have babies. Historian Hieda no Akyuu suggests that half-ghosts are simply born as such without interbreeding, which raises far more questions. That said, being a half-ghost doesn’t mean having ectoplasm mixed into your DNA and switching between human and ghost forms. Instead, Youmu has two bodies: the human girl and the phantom wisp that are her collectively. While normal phantoms are small and freezing to the touch, Youmu’s ghost half is abnormally large and comparatively warm while her human half is said to be cold.
Mamizou: What might you be? Are you a youkai?
Youmu: Ummm, well, I’m kind of like a half youkai……
Mamizou: Hm, how indecisive.
“Why the hell did you stuff gunpowder in ’em?!” – Marisa
Deep within the Forest of Magic resides a puppeteer renowned for her pale skin and blonde hair much like that of the dolls she creates. Alice Margatroid, the Seven-Colored Puppeteer, is a magician of considerable intellect and power whose title supposedly comes from her grimoire that “shines wonderfully with all the seven colors of the light”.
Magicians in Touhou are defined as magic users capable of expanding their repertoire of skills through research, but they come in two varieties: youkai and human. Human magicians like Marisa Kirisame are born without innate magical ability and instead develop their powers through pure effort, contrasting with natural-born youkai magicians like Patchouli Knowledge. Somewhere in between these two extremes lies Alice, who claims to have been a human who recently ascended into a youkai through the accumulation of magical power. This is apparent in her more humanlike habits of wanting normal food and expressing the desire to sleep at night even though youkai need neither of these. Continue reading →
“Shikigami aren’t a particular class of youkai, but more like a software that is put on them.” – Hieda no Akyuu
Moving between Gensokyo and the boundaries that surround it are Chen and Ran, the two minions of the enigmatic Yukari Yakumo. Both Chen and Ran are shikigami, which are spiritual familiars. With the Yakumo trio, however, there’s a pecking order as Ran is Yukari’s shikigami while Chen is Ran’s shikigami. This means that not only is Yukari powerful enough to ensorcell a nine-tailed fox, said fox has enough magical power to maintain its own familiar.
Chen is a nekomata, which is a type of youkai that is born when a normal cat lives long enough for its tail to split into two, granting it magical powers including a humanoid form and necromancy. While Chen only has two tails, nekomata can have upwards of seven tails. As one would expect, Chen is vulnerable to all the things cats are: catnip, water, and tube socks. Water in particular can cause her to revert to cat form and lose her connection to Ran. She relies on blinding speed to confuse her opponents as her overall power is only average among youkai. Continue reading →