An Idiot’s Guide to Touhou – 01

The good, the bad, and the badass.

Touhou is one of those things that I stumbled upon about 3 years ago and got hooked on even though I never played any of the games. …And then I played the games and suffered from having my eyes bleed, but it was a good experience nonetheless. I still can’t play for long periods of time without making my eyes bleed (I admit to never actually finishing a game), but I figured I would let you all in on the franchise by explaining the basics and going into a bit of the characters.

Just like how you can’t be on Nico Nico for more than 5 minutes before running into SOMETHING Vocaloid related, you’ve more than likely run into something Touhou related in your Internet browsing before. The fan base THAT ridiculously large and dedicated. You’ve seen “Bad Apple!!”, right? … If you haven’t, then I refuse to continue this one sided conversation until you do. WATCH THE VIDEO.

(and then for good measure, listen to this)

Now do you understand the frighteningly dedicated these fans are? The fan base has even created Manzai (stand up comedy) routines for the characters (they’re actually hilarious), countless song remixes, animations, figurines, spin off games and about a million and one pictures on Pixiv. If it exists, there is a Touhou crossover with it. This is pretty impressive. Why? Because 90% of the characters that people adore have maybe 4 lines of dialogue in the game they appear in, a short character summary and then if they’re lucky, a 10 minute battle where you can’t even see the character sprite half the time due to all of the other crap covering the screen. Are you interested yet? Well too bad, because I’m going to start explaining things now.

What is Touhou?

Touhou is a series of shooter games made by one guy named ZUN (I’ll get to him later). What is a shooter game? …. It would probably be easier if I just showed you.

Still Confused? Well, basically you’re a little white dot (called a hitbox) on a character sprite (…you can patch the game so the hitbox is visible) and you have to avoid everything that comes flying at you. Also, while you avoid everything, you shoot back at your opponent. Yes, there’s more to it then that, but that’s the gist of it. Here are a few terms that confused the crap out of me when I first started:

Touhou Project– Literally ‘Eastern Project’. Okay, this one wasn’t that confusing of a term, but still good to know.

Danmaku– A barrage of bullets. Or as some people call it, ‘bullet hell’. Touhou is known as a danmaku game. If you bothered watching the video I linked, then you probably understand how fitting this term is.

Spell Card– A name for the unique complicated bullet patterns that the enemy throws at you that the game expects you to dodge. capturing a spell card (which increases your score) involves not dying while the card is activated.

Passive/Pacifist Run– Believe it or not, flying around shooting things isn’t the only way to defeat an opponent. Spell cards have time limits so a passive run involves dodging everything without shooting back. Really all shooting back does is make it easier since you have to dodge for less time. Some people call this stupid, some call it admirable. I call it a headache waiting to happen.

Graze Points – Points you get for danmaku making contact with the character sprite, but not hitting the hitbox and killing you.

Bomb– You get a limited amount of these for each level. It basically wipes out everything on the screen for a second or so, making it significantly easier to maneuver around things.

Where do the games take place?

The Touhou stories happen mainly inside some place called Gensokyo (translates to Land of Illusion). Where shrine maidens fly, youkai exist and everyone either carries a ridiculous amount of projectiles on them, or can summon ridiculous amounts of projectiles. It is cut off from the outside world and kind of resembles ancient Japan.


The first Touhou game came out in 1996. As for when the games take place, hell if I know.


Everything in the Touhou franchise was created by one Japanese man who goes by ZUN. That’s right, characters, art, music, scripting, bullet patterns and game programming is allllllllll him. Insanely talented or just plain insane, I’ll let you make the call.


Because he can. That’s why.


Finally, the bulk of the Touhou franchise. Now if you expect me to fit all of the Touhou characters into one post, then you’re insane. There are close to 100, if not more of them (I don’t feel like counting) and each have their own titles, theme songs and countless other pieces of information that a character who appears for 5 minutes and says 10 words probably doesn’t deserve (but ZUN gave them anyways, which is probably why they’re so popular). Since splitting up the characters by game seems like the simplest thing to do, I’ll go with that. So first up are the characters of the 6th game: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil (aka EoSD if you’re lazy and don’t feel like typing the whole title out). I’ll get to the pre-2000 pre-Windows stuff eventually, but I thought I would start off with one of the better known games. …Plus I’ve actually half-played this one. However, before we go into any of that, I should probably introduce the heroines of Touhou…

Hakurei Reimu (博麗 霊夢)

Other titles: Heroine, Shrine Maiden who Protects Dream and Tradition, Shrine Maiden, Eternal Shrine Maiden, Wonderful Shrine Maiden of Paradise, Shrine Maiden of Paradise, Sunny Shrine Maiden, Flying Mysterious Shrine Maiden, Freewheeling Human, Shrine Maiden of the Five Desire

Character Songs:

Mystic Oriental Love Consultation (東方妖恋談)

Mystic Oriental Love Consultation (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

Maiden’s Capriccio (少女綺想曲 ~ Capriccio)

Maiden’s Capriccio (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

Maiden’s Capriccio ~ Dream Battle (少女綺想曲 ~ Dream Battle)

Spring Lane ~ Colorful Path ( 春色小径 ~ Colorful Path)

ZUN’s description of her character: So if you couldn’t guess from her plethora of titles, Reimu is a human shrine maiden. She lives by herself at the Hakurei shrine and keeps the Hakurei Barrier (the thing isolating Gensokyo from the rest of the world) in place. She’s also the one who beats the crap out ofpunishes any youkai who make trouble… which is pretty much all of them. ZUN originally described her as an easygoing, optimistic and dutiful girl, but now he seems to describe her as someone who drinks tea, watches clouds and beats up youkai with the least amount of effort possible. Despite being human and not doing her training, Reimu is insanely talented and can get by with that. She’s also described as simple minded and she has a Nanoha-like tendency to make friends with anyone she defeats in battle. …It’s also canon that she’s never lost a fight. Oh and she can fly. Somehow.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Thanks the her obsession with treasure in one of the more recent games, Reimu has become rather money obsessed in recent fan culture. That, and she’s generally depicted as lazy. …And of course, there’s always that armpit meme (since she wears detached sleeves) and “Yukkuri shiteitte ne“.


Games involved in: Uh, all of them. She’s the main character. (Though not always playable (and sometimes as a secret character))


Kirisame Marisa (霧雨 魔理沙)

Other titles: A Being made of Magic and Red Dream, A Magician, The Strange Magician, Ordinary Magician, An Ordinary Black Magician, Magician of Misty Rain, Boldly Timid Human, The Magician Passing By, Greedy Magician

Character Songs:

Love-Colored Magic (恋色マジック)

Love-Colored Magic (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

Dimensional Dream (Dim. Dream)

Selene’s Light (Selene’s Light)

Vessel of Stars ~ Casket of Star (星の器 ~ Casket of Star)

The Witches’ Ball (魔女達の舞踏会)

Love-Colored Master Spark (恋色マスタースパーク )

Oriental Dark Flight (オリエンタルダークフライト)

Magus Night (メイガスナイト)

The Witches’ Ball ~ Magus (魔女達の舞踏会 ~ Magus)

ZUN’s description of her character: 5 guesses as to what Marisa is based on her titles (oh and she’s human). Unlike her close friend Reimu, Marisa has average talent and her ability is 100% hard work and effort. She’s described as having a disagreeable, straightforward attitude and she likes to isolate herself from most humans to do her magic research. …ZUN also likes to decribe her as having a ‘collecting obsession’, which is a nice way of saying that she’s a kleptomaniac (though she collects things that nobody owns as well).

Fanbase’s take on her character: As expected, the fanbase reallylikes to depict Marisa as a huge kleptomaniac. Oh that, and she generally has a harem consisting of Alice and Patchouli. Fans also like to have her add ‘ze’ at the end of her sentences for whatever reason. Fun Fact: Jessica from Umineko no naku koro ni cosplays as her in episode 6.

ames involved in: Again, all of them. She’s the OTHER main character. (Though again, not always playable)


…And there you have it. As the games go on, there are more characters you can play as, but these two have been there since the beginning. So on to the Scarlet Mansion characters. So the story behind this game is that a mysterious red mist blocks out the sun in Gensokyo and so Reimu and Marisa go and investigate. I should also mention here that Touhou is 99.9999999999% made of female characters, so if you’re looking for bishies, look elsewhere.

Rumia (ルーミア)

Other titles: Youkai of the Dusk, Youkai Hiding in the Darkness, Youkai of Twilight

Character Songs:

Apparitions Stalk the Night (妖魔夜行)

Soul as Red as a Ground Cherry (ほおずきみたいに紅い魂)

ZUN’s description of her character: A youkai who is always surrounded by darkness because that’s her power. She just attacks the protagonists for no real reason, but according to ZUN, she’s simple minded. Also according to ZUN, her hair tie is actually an amulet and she can’t take it off. Not that this information is plot relevant. Also, she looks innocent, but she eats humans.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Fans gave her the catchphrase “Is that so?” since she says the line once in one of the side games. Also, fans speculate that her ribbon is actually a seal and that she’s actually really powerful. …Though she’s normally grouped as an idiot with Cirno.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Shoot the Bullet


Daiyousei (大妖精)

Other titles: None

Character Songs:

Lunate Elf (ルーネイトエルフ)

ZUN’s description of her character: This is where Touhou gets ridiculous with it’s characters and popularity. All ZUN has to say about Daiyousei is that she’s more powerful than a normal fairy, but weaker than a human. Also like other fairies, she’s cheerful, mischievous and simple minded. No really, that’s it.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Well seeing how there’s nothing really to work with, people mostly just make her friends with Cirno.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Fairy Wars


Cirno (チルノ)

Other titles: Ice Fairy of the Lake, Youkai of the Ice, Small Ice Fairy, Unnatural Chill, Ice Fairy, Fairy of Ice, The Strongest

Character Songs:

Beloved Tomboyish Girl (おてんば恋娘)

Adventure of the Lovestruck Tomboy (おてんば恋娘の冒険)

ZUN’s description of her character: Cirno is a fairlt strong fairy who has control over ice. ZUN describes her as mischievous, playful, childish and pretty instinctive since she first attacks the heroines just because they were there. …ZUN also likes to mention how she’s a complete moron (but this doesn’t hurt her popularity whatsoever). …She also has this slightly sadistic hobby of freezing frogs and occasionally killing them by accident, but this is more of her idiocy rather than ill intent.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Due to a screenshot in a Touhou guide labeling Cirno as “9” and “Moron”, she has forever gained ⑨ as her symbol (also, ⑨ became the symbol for idiots in general). Hell, September 9, 2009 (9/9/09) was named her day in the fanbase. “I’m the strongest” (Or in most cases, “Aye’m the strongest” since she doesn’t say the Japanese properly) is her catch phrase since she says it in Phantasmagoria. …She’s insanely popular as a character.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Perfect Cherry Blossom, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Shoot the Bullet, Touhou Hisoutensoku, Fairy Wars


Hong Meiling (紅 美鈴)

Other titles: Chinese Girl, Colorful Rainbow Gatekeeper

Character Songs:

Shanghai Teahouse ~ Chinese Tea (上海紅茶館 ~ Chinese Tea)

Shanghai Alice of Meiji 17 (明治十七年の上海少女)

ZUN’s description of her character: The gatekeeper to the Scarlet Mansion (not that she manages to keep the heroines out) and also a youkai, but ZUN has never specified what type. She has mastered martial arts and that’s all that ZUN cares to inform us about her character.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Okay, before I go into any detail, I’ll mention that some fans like to call her “China” since A.) the clothes and B.) the fact that there was some confusion with how her name was read, so they just decided to call her China. Well since she couldn’t defend the gate like she was supposed to, people like to joke that Meiling is sleeping on the job (plus there’s some obscure tie in with the fact that China’s goods aren’t always top quality).

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Immaterial and Missing Power, Touhou Hisoutensoku


Koakuma (小悪魔)

Other titles: None

Character Songs:

Viole, the Secret Library (ヴワル魔法図書館)

ZUN’s description of her character: Koakuma is a midboss with absolutely no dialogue, so really nothing is known about her. ZUN didn’t even make a proper profile of her, though he does say that Koakuma is actually the name of the type of youkai she is and that they’re a superior race, bu still weaker than magicians or vampires. He also says that the race is kind of like fairies being disobedient and rash.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Well since she appears before Patchouli, people assume that she’s her assistant or something. They also tend to give her a calm, obediant and helpful personality as opposed to the one ZUN gave her since that was the canon before he talked about her.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil


Patchouli Knowledge (パチュリー・ノーレッジ)

Other titles: The Girl of Knowledge and Shadow, The Unmoving Great Library, Enigmatic Source of Magic, Witch of the Spring Haze, Unmoving Great Library

Character Songs:

Locked Girl ~ The Girl’s Secret Room (ラクトガール 〜 少女密室)

Locked Girl ~ The Girl’s Secret Room (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

Viole, the Secret Library (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

ZUN’s description of her character: As ZUN describes her, Patchouli is an extremely powerful magician with an asthma problem. …She’s also technically a NEET since she’s spent about a hundred years in her library since she doesn’t like to go outside. Being a witch by birth, she can control 6 elements (fire, wind, water, earth, sun and moon) with ease, but often can’t recite spells properly due to her asthma. She’s also pretty smart and loves books.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Since the elements of her spells coincide with the elements in a week on the Japanese calender, Patchouli is sometimes known as the Magician of the Week or the One-Week Magician. Fans also consider her a hardcore hikkikomori since she doesn’t leave the library. They have also given her the catchphrase ‘mukyuu’ since she said it once in some game. …She’s also usually a part of Marisa’s harem.

ames involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Perfect Cherry Blossom. Immaterial and Missing Power, Imperishable Night, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, Subterranean Animism,  Touhou Hisoutensoku


Izayoi Sakuya (十六夜 咲夜)

Other titles: Maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Perfect and Elegant Servant, Perfect and Elegant Maid, Dangerous Illusionist, Maid of the Evening Storm, Scarlet Devil Mansion Maid

Character Songs:

Lunar clock ~ Luna Dial (月時計 ~ルナ・ダイアル)

Lunar Clock ~ Luna Dial (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

The Maid and the Pocket Watch of Blood(メイドと血の懐中時計)

The Maid and the Pocket Watch of Blood (Immaterial and Missing Power remix)

Flowering Night (フラワリングナイト)

ZUN’s description of her character: The head maid of the Scarlet Mansion and also the only human working there. However, Sakuya is extremely loyal to her mistress. She also somehow has the ability to stop time which helps not only with her knife proficiency, but also helps with her maid duties. If she runs out of knives in battle, she can stop time in pick them up. …Though why she doesn’t just stab her opponent is beyond me. She’s pretty mysterious and Sakuya isn’t even her real name, but a name given to her by Remilia. There have even been hints that she’s not actually human, but nothing has been confirmed.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Well due to one of her images having much larger breasts than her other ones, fans now speculate that Sakuya pads her bra. …Yeah. They’ve also made her pretty sensitive about the subject, so mention it and end up with a knife in your forehead.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Perfect Cherry Blossom, Immaterial and Missing Power, Imperishable Night, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Shoot the Bullet, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, Touhou Hisoutensoku


Remilia Scarlet (レミリア・スカーレット)

Other titles: Eternally Young Scarlet Moon, The Eternally Red New Moon, The Scarlet Devil, World of Crimson, Vampire of the Heavy Fog, Eternally Young Red Moon

Character Songs:

Septette for the Dead Princess (亡き王女の為のセプテット)

Septette for the Dead Princess (Immaterial and Missing Power Remix)

ZUN’s description of her character: The (approximately) 500 year old loli/mistress of the Scarlet Manson. Remilia is a charismatic and reputable individual despite her appearance and she’s also a vampire. Now vampires aren’t native to Gensokyo, so who knows how she got there, but most people like to avoid her since she’s a bit bratty and extremely powerful. She’s also the one who started the whole red mist thing this game since she doesn’t like the sun. ZUN also says that she’s a light eater, so humans don’t normally die from her. …Apparently she can manipulate fate too, but who knows how that even works. Remilia is the final boss of the game.

Fanbase’s take on her character: Not much to say here other than the fact that fans call her Ojou-sama for obvious reasons. Also, there’s speculation that she’s actually from Europe since her name and appearance. Charisma Break is a term that originated when Remilia became embarrassed since it breaks her charismatic appearance.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Perfect Cherry Blossom, Immaterial and Missing Power, Imperishable Night, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Shoot the Bullet, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, Mountain of Faith, Touhou Hisoutensoku


Flandre Scarlet (フランドール・スカーレット)

Other titles: Sister of the Devil, Diabolic Wave

Character Songs:

U.N Owen Was Her? (U.N.オーエンは彼女なのか?)

ZUN’s description of her character: Remilia’s much more destructive and insane little sister. So much so that she’s been confined to the basement and isn’t allowed to leave the mansion. Also a vampire and about 495 years old. Flan is the secret boss of the game and is probably more powerful than her sister.

Fanbase’s take on her character: …I think I read somewhere once that ZUN said that her wings were homemade, but I’m not 100% sure, so I’ll just put it in here. Her character song is extremely popular and was even used in a McDonald’s commercial in Japan (…though that might be why it’s popular now). It’s also a homage to Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” novel. Flan is usually depicted as bipolar to go along with her destructive tendencies.

Games involved in: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, Shoot the Bullet


There you have it. Obviously this isn’t anywhere close to being all of the characters, but those will come up in later posts. Hopefully this was enlightening (or at least distracted you from boredom for a short period of time). What are your thoughts on Touhou? Favourite characters? Favourite, er, spellcards? …Song remixes? Anyways, the next one will be about Perfect Cherry Blossom.


University student and the one at Metanorn who's known for wearing glasses. Likes blood, insanity and plot twists, but also plays otome games and adores cute romance anime. It balances out... somehow.
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62 Responses to “An Idiot’s Guide to Touhou – 01”

  1. Kyokai says:

    Very informative post. I was pretty sure you’ll be unable to cover the whole damn fandom in one post. It’s too huge for words!

  2. […] mean, go read Hatoful boyfriend; I had a stitch in my stomach, just reading it. Not to mention, the Touhou initiation. This Otome Gamer dropped with an awesome application one day and I just couldn’t say no. Kara […]

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