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Touhou Project (Japanese: 東方Project Tōhō Purojekuto) is a series of PC-9801 and Windows scrolling manic shooter games created by Team Shanghai Alice’s sole member, ZUN. Ever since its first Windows game release, Touhou Project: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, this doujin (Japanese for the indie genre) game series has created a Japanese sub-culture with its excessively large fanbase.
The first five Touhou games were developed for the Japanese PC-9801 platform by a group called Amusement Makers. The first game, Highly Responsive to Prayers (東方靈異伝, Tōhō Rei’iden), was released in 1996. However during that time the PC-9801 was already being phased out due to the more popular PC platform, so these Touhou games were not well known. The last Touhou game released for the PC-9801 was Mystic Square (東方怪綺談, Tōhō Kaikidan) released December 1998 at the Japanese comic convention Comiket 55.
After four years of inactivity, lead Touhou creator ZUN left Amusement Makers and created his own group: Team Shanghai Alice, whose members consisted of only him. ZUN started developing Touhou games for Windows by himself; all of the graphics, programming, music, and artwork was all done by him. The first Touhou game for Windows and sixth in the series, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil (東方紅魔郷, Tōhō Kōmakyō), was released on August 2002 at Comiket 62. The Windows versions exceeded its PC-98 predecessors graphically and musically, and had a storyline as well. The game series has since became greatly popular.
There are 21 official games in the series. The first five were released for the PC-9801 and the rest for the Windows PC platform:
- Highly Responsive to Prayers (東方靈異伝 Tōhō Rei’iden, 1996)
- The Story of Eastern Wonderland (東方封魔録 Tōhō Fūmaroku, 1997)
- Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream (東方夢時空 Tōhō Yumejikū, 1997)
- Lotus Land Story (東方幻想郷 Tōhō Gensokyo, 1998)
- Mystic Square (東方怪綺談 Tōhō Kaikidan, 1998)
- The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil (東方紅魔郷 Tōhō Kōmakyō , 2002)
- Perfect Cherry Blossom (東方妖々夢 Tōhō Yōyōmu, 2003)
- Immaterial and Missing Power (東方萃夢想 Tōhō Suimusō, 2004), fighting game joint project with Twilight Frontier.
- Imperishable Night (東方永夜抄 Tōhō Eiyashō, 2004)
- Phantasmagoria of Flower View (東方花映塚 Tōhō Kaeizuka, 2005)
- Shoot the Bullet (東方文花帖 Tōhō Bunkachō, 2005)
- Mountain of Faith (東方風神録 Tōhō Fūjinroku, 2007)
- Scarlet Weather Rhapsody (東方緋想天 Tōhō Hisōten, 2008), second joint project with Twilight Frontier.
- Subterranean Animism (東方地霊殿 Tōhō Chireiden, 2008)
- Undefined Fantastic Object (東方星蓮船 Tōhō Seirensen, 2009)
- Touhou Hisoutensoku (東方非想天則 ～ 超弩級ギニョルの謎を追え Tōhō Hisōtensoku ~ Chōdokyū Ginyoru no Nazo wo Oe, 2009), third joint project with Twilight Frontier.
- Double Spoiler (ダブルスポイラー ～ 東方文花帖 Daburu Supoirā ~ Tōhō Bunkachō, 2010)
- Fairy Wars (妖精大戦争 ～ 東方三月精 Yousei Daisensō ~ Tōhō Sangetsusei, 2010)
- Ten Desires (東方神霊廟 Tōhō Shinreibyō, 2011)
- Hopeless Masquerade (東方心綺楼 Tōhō Shinkirō, 2013) fourth joint project with Twilight Frontier.
- Double Dealing Character (東方輝針城 Tōhō Kishinjō, 2013)
- Impossible Spell Card (弾幕アマノジャク _ Danmaku Amanojaku, 2014)
Reimu Hakurei, a Japanese shrine maiden, is the protagonist in all PC-9801 games. She and and Marisa Kirisame, a western-style oriental magician, are the only two characters that appear in all the main Windows games in the series.
There are dozens of unofficial games that parody iconic games such as Mario, Mega Man, and even Pokemon. Here are some of the more popular ones:
MegaMari ～ Mega Man clone that has 8 bosses based on the titular characters
Touhoumon ～ Pokemon clone where you catch, train, and battle with Touhou characters
Super Marisa ～ Mario clone that has you go to 8 fortresses to fight classic Mario bosses, with a Touhou twist
Labyrinth of Touhou ～ Massive RPG.
Touhou Mother ～ Earthbound/Mother clone in which you find a meteorite.
Touhou Soccer/Moushuuden ～ Captain Tsubasa clone that has some nice visual specials.
Touhou Pocket Wars EVO ~ A gacha collector with Touhou girls.
Touhouvania ～ Castlevania clone in which you play as Reimu to defeat the lead vampire, Remilia.
The following video shows the gameplay in Touhou Imperishable Night on Lunatic mode (highest difficulty):
Touhou is a scrolling danmaku (Japanese: 弾幕, lit. “barrage” or “bullet curtain”) game, a genre of scrolling shooters where the screen is mostly filled with enemy bullets (also known as maniac shooters or “bullet hell”). This aptly describes how Touhou enemies shoot infinite amounts of colorful bullets at one time. Due to this, Touhou games are frequently considered rather difficult, even on Easy Mode.
How Touhou became so popular is unknown, but many believe it is due to the uniquely popular music and the notably large amount of characters for one game series. With the gaining popularity of Touhou, fans created large amounts of fan art, videos, doujinshi, and, of course, memes.
The fanbase also altered and inserted personality traits to certain characters. One example is Alice Margatroid, who officially is perceived as cold-hearted and not caring for others. However fandom depicts her as fragile and lovesick, seeking affection from Marisa Kirisame. She is also shown having an obsession for dolls. Alice is frequently role-played in 4chan as a shy girl willing to listen to posters.
Touhou Anime Projects
The doujin circle Maikaze produced the first unofficial doujin Touhou anime episode of near-professional quality and is the first doujin project to have professional seiyuu (voice actors) onboard. The DVD with a limited edition pack was sold at Comiket 75. The episode can be viewed online.
In Comiket 80, the doujin group Manpuku Jinja released a Touhou animated short named Memories of Phantasm (幻想万華鏡 Gensō Mangekyō), which was also available in DVD format at the Comiket event.
Touhou characters were featured in the anime short Tenchou x Touhou Project (アニメ店長 x 東方Project), produced by ufotable and ZUN.
Manpuku Jinja released another animated short, Fantasy Kaleidoscope Memories of Phantasm 2, in Comiket 81, on December 30th, 2011:
The music in Touhou is immensely popular has been rearranged and remixed numerous amount of times and included in music videos. Many arrangement CDs can be found for sale at Comiket. There are even music circles (groups) dedicated to remixing Touhou music. Some circles include IOSYS, Innocent Key, Alstroemeria Records, among numerous others.
Left: IOSYS – Marisa Stole the Precious Thing | Right: Alstroemeria Records – Bad Apple!!
Left: IOSYS – Cirno’s Perfect Math Class | Right: IOSYS – Overdrive
Even remixed songs are commonly being remixed:
Left: Marisa Stole the Precious Thing Pokémon Remix | Right: Overdrive Kirby Remix
Some original songs have created memes on their own. UN Owen was Her? is one of them, in which someone decided to combine Ronald McDonald and U. N. Owen was Her? (shown below, left). This video is often referred to as “McDonald Insanity”, “McRoll’d”, or Ran Ran Ru. Inevitably, this video was also remixed to include Flandre Scarlet (shown below, right).
China (or Chūgoku, which is China in Japanese) is Hong Meiling’s nickname. This started in 2channel debate about how to read Meiling’s name. Her name (紅 美鈴) in Chinese is read as “Hong Meiling”, while in Japanese kanji is read as “Kurenai Misuzu”. The debate sort of ended when a user said “Why don’t we just call her ‘China’, as her clothing seems to identify her the most.” This was further enforced when her China-like clothing and theme, “Chinese Tea” was pointed out. Since then, even after ZUN officially said “Hong Meiling” is the correct pronunciation, people still called her China.
She is also referred as the “lazy guardian” of the Scarlet Devil Mansion in fan works, because Japanese made the connection between products manufactured in China are bad quality, and Hong Meiling is “China”. The result is Meiling is usually depicted sleeping at the front gate while intruders such as Marisa Kirisame enter the mansion.
⑨ / Nine-ball
Nine-ball, Maru-Kyu, or ⑨ is Cirno’s nickname. Cirno has been considered stupid, and sometimes called “baka” (バカ, idiot, moron, fool) instead of her name. On the Phantasmagoria of Flower View manual, Cirno is labeled “9. Moron” in the explanation of the game layout. Hence, ⑨, or simply the number 9, has been associated with “baka” and Cirno.
Main entry: Sakuya’s breast padding
Sakuya Izayoi, the head maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, is frequently the target of a recurring fan-originated joke where she is portrayed as using pad breasts to enlarge the appearance of her chest, despite her roundly denying using them. As a result, Sakuya is often nicknamed Pad-chou (長 chō, meaning boss), igniting her rage and “knifing” anyone who references the pad jokes. The origin of this joke began with the release of Immaterial and Missing Power, where her character profile is depicted as having a noticeably larger chest than in her original designs by ZUN.
Help me, ERINNNNNN!!
Song referring to Eirin Yagokoro, Gensokyo’s pharmacist. Kaguya Houraisan is generally seen as weaker of the two in the final boss stage, so this was taken further by having her completely reliant on Eirin to do anything. The song started the whole Japanese copypasta of raising and lowering one arm while shouting “Ei-rin!” in rhythm (pronounced as Eh-rin, explaining why the “i” is often omitted in the title of the song):
_ , , _ ∩
( ﾟ∀ﾟ)彡 えーりん！えーりん！
Pettan, pettan, tsuru-pettan (Flat, flat, flat-chested)
This is a song featuring Suika Ibuki, who is most known for having no chest and fondness for alcohol. Encyclopedia Dramatica claims this is a forced meme.
Main entry: Yukkuri Shiteitte ne!
Yukkuri Shiteitte ne! (commonly translated as “Take it easy!”) started after a 2channel Anon tried to replicate Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame with Shift_JIS art, but epic failed. Another 2channel user thought this was hilarious and responded with a drawn picture (shown above). Afterwards the joke about disfigured big heads took off as a meme.
The fanbase managed to implement Yukkuri into the Gensokyo setting, with a detailed Yukkuri behavior, anatomical structure and ecosystem, although those are subject to popular opinion. Additionally, Touhou characters are sometimes depicted in fanart holding Yukkuri as pets. One artist even describes how to take care of one.
In doujinshi (independent artist and fan circles), Reimu and Marisa-type Yukkuris are most commonly depicted, although others have drawn other Touhou characters, and even non-Touhou characters as Yukkuri. Alice-types Yukkuri, are most commonly depicted as serial rapists.
Because of how Reimu Hakurei dresses, someone probably pointed out how her detached sleeves exposes her bare armpits. Somehow this caused a big joke about a fetish for her exposed armpits.
Rinnosuke Morichika is the only confirmed humanoid male character in the Touhou universe. Being completely surrounded by girls, he is often fan- depicted as a pervert running around in a fundoshi (immodest traditional Japanese loincloth) and harassing the girls, often getting painful retribution in return.
Alternatively, Rinnosuke has another form called in the western fanbase MANnosuke, where Rinnosuke is depicted as extremely muscular and masculine.
Other male characters include Reimu Hakurei’s turtle, Genji, and Ichirin Kumoi’s cloud/Nyuudou, Unzan.
I GOT CAVED BY EX-KEINE!
Keine Kamishirasawa is the Stage 3 boss in the Touhou game Imperishable Night, but she also makes an appearance in the Extra Stage in her Hakutaku form due to the full moon. After losing to EX-Keine, a 2ch user posted that he was “burrowed by EX-Keine” Because the Japanese translation of burrowed can also mean anal-raped, the post was edited in accordance with 2ch guidelines and it read “I GOT CAVED BY EX-KEINE!” Because of this, Keine has often been associated with the activity of attacking other characters’ posteriors with her horns.
It’s a Moriya Shrine conspiracy.
A common explanation for anything inconsistent or unexplained in Touhou. The inhabitants of the Moriya Shrine have been busier than any other group of characters in the series, and have been directly the cause of the events of Mountain of Faith, Subterranean Animism, Hisoutensokou, and indirectly responsible for Undefined Fantastic Object, Ten Desires, and Double Dealing Character.
Mima will appear in the next game
A phrase frequently uttered by fans on a constant basis, particularly before the release of a new game. Mima was a significant character in the PC-98 era, appearing in 4 out of 5 games, but has completely disappeared since.
You’re a good girl, Sanae.
A phrase from the Happy Flame Time doujin “Cold Wind but Warm Winter” in which Sanae is drunk and demands that Kanako pat her head and call her a good girl. Now used for almost any situation, whether Sanae is being good or bad, often in the form of a spin-off.
Cirno’s Perfect Math Class Synchronized Dance
Main entry: Cirno’s Perfect Math Class
Sometime in winter 2008-2009, Japanese users created a dance to the full version of Cirno’s Perfect Math Class. Original video is unknown, but the earliest posted on Youtube includes six people dancing in sync in the snow:
With the dance becoming popular, more videos appeared, with the number of participants increasing. Some videos show 300 or more people dancing in sync at one location.
Comic Market (Comiket)
The popularity of Touhou can be measured by the number of circles selling Touhou-only doujin content. As of Comiket 80, there is a genre-section exclusively dedicated to Touhou Project. This is the number of Touhou circles that participated in Comiket from 2003 to 2008:
|Comiket, Date||Touhou Circles|
This is the data in a chart with extrapolation estimate .
A hall in Comiket can only hold 1,500 circles, so a Touhou takeover of Comiket could be on the rise. Fortunately all of Comiket holds a good 35,000 circles. Since 2008, the number of people attending every Comiket has been more than 500,000.
The Hakurei Shrine Reitaisai (博麗神社例大祭, Hakurei Jinja Reitaisai, Hakurei Shrine’s Regular Grand Festival) is a Touhou-only doujin convention, the largest single genre doujin convention. The convention first started in 2004 as a way for ZUN to publicly distribute trial versions of upcoming Touhou games. Initially, 144 circles participated in 2004. However the Reitaisai convention rapidly grew to 1,086 participating circles in 2008 and the convention had move to the Tokyo Big Sight – the same convention center Comiket is held.
2chan, also known as the Futaba Channel, the predecessor of 4chan, has its own section dedicated exclusively to Touhou fandom.
Sometime ago some Touhou invaded 4chan’s /a/ section. The hijacking was announced with a "MS Paint art of Marisa and the words “Touhou Hijack LOL”. This was caused by some Anon who wrote Perl scripts to spam a large amount of Touhou fan art. Later it spilled over onto /v/, /m/, and /b/. The hijack was used as a scapegoat to create the /jp/ section.
Keywords: “touhou” (blue), “yukkuri” (red), “iosys” (yellow)
Guinness World Records
On 01 Oct 2010, Guinness World Records recognized the Touhou Project as the “most prolific fan made shooter series”