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Tōhō Project and Its Connections with Classical Aspects of Folklore and Culture of Japan Tomoaki Hirai IST 194 Coordinator: James Shackelford Advisor: Joseph Sorensen I. Introduction Japanese pop-culture contains many connections to classical themes; one prominent example is Tōhō Project, a series of popular computer games. Since starting as a small privately-published game in 1996, the game became an international phenomenon among otaku. The game, using classical Japanese folklore, represents an idealized past of Japan transposed into the modern day. Tōhō Project’s setting and characters serve as a reenvisioning or remixing of classical Japanese culture. Rather than simply copying old motifs and translating them into modern works, Tōhō takes them and reframes them in an romanticized vision for otaku fantasy. Japanese otaku (people who obsess over a certain niche sub-culture) have become a hot topic within the realm of cultural studies on Japan. The copious amounts of literature published both popularly and academically in Japanese and in other languages in just the past 10 years should be proof enough. Contemporary studies, however, focus on the
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evolution of otaku as a product of men and women growing up in post-war Japan 1 or how Japanese anime (animation) and manga (comics) and other otaku-related media are forms of expression for post-modern questions on identity.2 This paper, however, will diverge from the popular analysis of otaku as a phenomenon of postmodern society, and look into the cultural connections it retains to classical Japanese literature and culture. The typical media that the otaku consume, manga and anime, is rife with motifs of classic or traditional culture. From popular works like that of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away,3 to the most obscure, classical or folkloric influences make an appearance throughout Japanese media. Because of the vast amount of media, an over arching analysis would only prove to be too generalized. The extent of historical or cultural accuracy between modern culture and source text often vary as well. Texts can only have vague relationship, such as those in Spirted Away, to very close adaptation, such as that of the Taiga dorama. The Taiga dorama, a year
Frederick Schodt introduced this concept with Tezuka Osamu's artistic intent in his 2006 book, The Astro Boy essays. Ronald Kelts further develops this idea with anime and otaku culture in general with Japanamerica (2006) 2 Susan Napier often discusses the question of identity in a post modern world with anime as a primary example. She covers the conflict of identity in the ever unstable present of post-modern Japanese societies, especially with redefined roles of females and males. Her 2005 book Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle is the most comprehensive in thought. 3 Spirited Away (2001) took place in a fantasy setting that combined both Western and Eastern aesthetics. Its main location was in a bath-house for various Shinto gods.
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long show aired by the Nippon Hōsō Kyoku (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) every Sunday, features historical fiction dramas that often follows historical events closely, such as that of the life of Hōjō Tokimune in the series of the very same name in 2001. Because of the varied extent of relationships found within modern works, this paper will only examine the works of Tōhō Project by ZUN (Junya Ota). What is Tōhō Project? The series' title translates to “Eastern Style Project”, emphasizing the Eastern cultural influences found within the game. The simplest way to describe the game is as a vertical 2-D shoot’ em up dōjin (self-published) game. The player controls a lone playable character, which flies around the screen, dodging enemy bullets, while shooting down enemies. Tōhō has obtained particular interest among Japanese otaku for its growth as a meme culture on and off the Internet. The Japanese otaku today thrive off of a culture of memes. Memes are a unit of culture that is replicated by others and spread. First coined by the evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, memes were an explanation used to describe the persistence and spread of ideas within a society.4 While Dawkins was thinking of clothing styles, religion, and
Dawkins, Richards (1989). The Selfish Gene (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 186.
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architecture,5 the growth of the Internet and its ability to share media introduced a new potential to use memes as entertainment. A very well known meme, for example, is the Rickroll. A Rickroll was a popular Internet prank performed on users in 2008. A user is led to think a link on a website leads to something exciting or rare, but actually turns out to be a music video of Rick Astley’s hit 1980s song, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The meme was popular enough to make an appearance at the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.6. While this paper will primarily focus on the actual contents of the games and its associated canon works created by ZUN, I should mention a little bit about the fan works for the series. While the Tōhō games are what serve as the core foundation for fans, the popularity of Tōhō owes much of its exposure to otaku culture through fan-made media. ZUN allowed the creation and sale of fan-works of his works since the creation of his games. His decision opened the creative floodgates for parodies and, with it, a number of memes associated with in-jokes to propel the series into popularity. While the game is the original concept of Tōhō Project, the fans of the series have taken it to incredible heights in popularity in various dōjin media. Since 2001, the number
Ibid. Pg. 352 Moore, Mathew (2008) Telegraph.co.uk “Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade: Rick Astley performs his own Rickroll” Accessed February 21, 2010 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3534073/ Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-parade-Rick-Astley-performs-his-own-Rickroll.html
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of events featuring Tōhō increased from zero to over forty in 2009; over thirty more are already planned to take place by the end of 2010.7 The number of fans has become so great that an entire convention for Tōhō has been created called the Hakurei Jinja Reitaisai. The convention is named after the Shinto Reitaisai festivals, which is generally considered the “main festival” of a shrine (the “Hakurei Jinja” being the name of the main shrine in Tōhō). The convention serves as an annual meeting of Tōhō fans to buy and sell fan-created comics, games, music, and other collectibles, as well as a stage for ZUN to release demo versions of his newest game. The attendance of the convention has expanded over the years to become a major convention that takes place in the Eastern Hall of the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, one of the largest convention venues in Japan. The attendance numbers have grown exponentially over six years. What started as a convention with 114 participating sellers in 2004, or “circles”, sported 2948 circles in 2009.8 Some analysts believe that the number of attending dōjin publishers may overtake that of Comic Market (Comiket), Japan’s largest convention for dōjin work.9 Comiket itself
Tōhō Wiki “Tōhō Chronology” http://thwiki.info/?%C5%EC%CA%FD%C7%AF%C9%BD Retrieved February 20, 2010 8 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/efemeral/20090727/1248702284 9 The August Dōjinshi Database, which collects and looks at the activity of dōjin circles at popular events in Japan has cited that the exponential growth could overtake attendance numbers for Comiket within the next 5 years.
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has seen an influx of Tōhō fans, most notably during Comiket 76, which took place in August of 2009. Various notable otaku blogs around the Internet cited the increase of Tōhō and their fans attending the event.10 Dōjinshi, written as 同 人 誌 in Japanese literally translates to “a publication of same people.” In other words, dōjin works were small publications produced and read by like-minded people. In the case of otaku, like-minded fans of anime and manga initially drew, bought, and, sold original comics as otaku activities. These niche publications grew in popularity among otaku in the 1970s.11 Starting around the mid-1980s, however, participants in Comiket began working on parody works of commercial work instead of original work.12 Patrick Galbraith, a commentator and scholar on otaku culture, explains that these works become popular with the rise of harem manga and anime, such as Urusei Yatsura.13 Today, Comiket still sells dōjinshi but most of the works are parodies on more popular works rather than original
While Comiket 76 saw unprecedented numbers of fans, many event-attendees noted that Tōhō fans were prevalent, and particularly unruly. 11 Allen, Kate & Ingulsrud John E. (2009) Reading Japan Cool: Patterns of Manga Literacy and Discourse. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books. P. 46-49 12 In Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei, an anime about a despairing school teacher trapped in the Shōwa period, there is a poigniant moment describing this shift. Nozomu, the main character meets an otaku student, the two converse on dōjinshi but their understanding of the term is radically different. 13 Galbraith, Patrick W. " Moe Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 5 (2009), http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html. accessed February 4, 2010.
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works created to showcase an otaku’s artistic talents. Works like Tōhō and other original creations are no longer the main focus of dōjin culture. While Tōhō is an original piece of privately published work, the bulk of the fandom buys and sells derivative works from the games.
Fig. 1.1 The origins of dōjinshi and how it differs now according to Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei. ©2007 SHAFT
Galbraith notes that otaku culture in general is becoming more of a remix culture. 14 Whereas otaku initially created their own works to contribute to fandom, the focus of creative output shifted to refocus otaku culture on parody. Otaku culture now takes a piece
Hirai, Tomoaki (2009) The-O Network. Patrick Galbraith Interview http://t-ono.net/Anime-News/OtakuInterviews-Patrick-Galbraith.html accessed 11/24/10
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of existing media and alters or adds to it to create a new piece of work, sometimes in distinct parody, others as entirely new pieces of work. These changes are reflected in the evolution of Japan’s largest dōjin sale event, Comic Market (Comiket), which started in 1975. As a genre of popular works within otaku culture, Tōhō is no different. Various writers, comic artists, musicians, and animators have thus taken part in creating and distributing a smorgasbord of Tōhō products: game music remix CDs, comics, non-official game software, a toaster, and a pilot-length animation featuring professional voice actors from the anime industry. This has all been done without the explicit consent of the series creator. ZUN initially welcomed other artists to remix his music and sell parody comics. He welcomed the parody works as free publicity, especially when his popularity took off with a flash animation done by the dōjin group IOSYS. IOSYS's promotional animation for their musical remix CD attained a viral status as a meme that still influences Japanese otaku culture three years after its initial release, a remarkable feat since the Internet culture moves at an accelerated rate. However, the scale of fan-works have become so large that ZUN expressed concern over the fact that his creation’s fan-works seems to have taken on a life
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beyond that of his own games.15
Fig. 1.2 The biggest Tōhō meme, “Marisa Stole the Precious Thing.” This flash animation was made to promote a new album IOSYS released in 2006. There are now hundreds of copy-cat works on the Internet.
Due to the volume of fan-media associated with Tōhō, my paper hopes to focus primarily on only the works of ZUN himself, and various projects he has co-authored in the Tōhō universe. Even by just focusing on only his work, this paper would cover twelve of his main games, one add-on game, three collaborative side-games, eleven printed works,
In December of 2008, ZUN expressed his concern on his blog over his fans' works when the dōjin anime went on sale at Comiket 75. He asked his fans to only sell dōjinshi at events and stores that carry his games, stating that fans should not forget that Tōhō is originally his game.
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and ten music CDs. By considering only ZUN’s work, the material being studied will all be canon to the Tōhō universe. Fan works vary in perspectives and may sometimes exist in outright moé16 fantasy. Moé itself means “budding”, or “sprouting“, but the word among otaku has been used as “a neologism used to describe a euphoric response to fantasy characters or representations of them.”17 As Galbraith notes, “moé characters are fantasy forms animated by fluid desires, and as such cannot easily be divided into static categories… A pure character can be approached as erotic, or vice versa, and the elements are rearranged in fan productions to stimulate moé. “18 In other words, characters presented by ZUN may take on a different character to oblige the needs of otaku. The focus on Tōhō for the paper itself comes from its strong influence from classical Japan. The same as how most otaku today parodies and remix existing media, Tōhō draws its source material from classical folklore and recreates an otaku’s fantasy vision of traditional Japanese culture. The stories are set during present times in an unspecified location of Japan, but the characters and stories themselves draw heavily from
萌え Galbraith, Patrick (2009) 18 Galbraith, 2009
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classical writings, history, and folklore. The protagonist of the series is Hakurei Reimu, a miko (shrine maiden) for the Hakurei Shrine, which is the main starting point of the games. While the shrine and its miko are purported to originate from the human world, the bulk of the cast and setting surrounding the shrine originate from a fantasyland called Gensōkyō,19 which reads in English as the “Land of Illusion.” The cast of characters present in the game range from Japanese style ghosts, to oni (ogres), to kappa (water sprite demons). Even the titles of the games often sound like a Buddhist sutra title rather than a video game; the second game in the series is titled, “Tōhō Fūmaroku ~ The Story of Eastern Wonderland.” Before moving on to the analysis of Tōhō, however, it would be best to describe the games in a little bit more detail. The game sports an inordinate number of women on the cast, over 100. Only two males make a canon appearance in the series: one of which is a turtle, the other, a merchant. The game for the most part ignores males. Starting with the games released for the Windows operating systems in 2002 the loading screen says, “Girls do their best and are now preparing so please watch warmly until it is ready (sic).” The only male to appear so
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far in the series was Reimu's pet turtle, Genjii.20
Fig. 1.3 This picture depicts almost every character from the first eight games. Only two males are present.
Since classical times, women seem to have served as the mystical or magical core of power in Japanese society. Some scholars cite that women may have served as shamanistic rulers or mediums that communed with the gods. 21 Furthermore, women are often depicted as ghosts or demons, such as the snake woman that chases a monk in the Tales of Times Now Past in folklore. Later on, as Japanese ukiyo-e became popular, many works featuring image of supernatural women are found, such as a woman with a fox's shadow. The supernatural women persist into the modern era in the form of the magical girl. The magical girl has become a staple character in Japanese popular culture in various
玄爺 – as the name implies. He is a mysterious old turtle that has gained the ability to speak and fly. Lu, David Japan a Documentary History (2005) Pg. 11-13
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forms, such as miko, transforming bishōjo (pretty girls), and even, in a sense, robots.22 The game itself is a “danmaku”23 vertical scrolling shooter. Danmaku or curtain fire, is a genre of shooting games that feature a literal wall of bullets. English speaking fans often call Tōhō and other similar games as “bullet hells.” As mentioned previously, the player plays the game by navigating a playable character on a playing field while shooting at enemies. Minor aspects of the game play differ throughout the various games in the series, but the core of the game stays the same in most games. The controls for the game are simple: arrow keys or a joystick to control the sprite character on the screen, one button to shoot, and a second button to release a bomb attack. The game, however as the term “bullet hell” implies, is quite challenging. The game features enemy attacks that create a hail enemy bullets that give only millimeters of leeway between life and death. The enemy bullets, while often difficult to navigate through, are very elaborate and sometimes serve as part of an enemy's characteristics. The bullet patterns boss characters unleash can be as much a physical manifestation of character. A mischievous ice fairy
While miko hold the easiest spiritual connection to Japan's classical times, magic has persisted as character trait for girls. For transformation, Sailor Moon is a popular example of a magical girl. For robots, the concept of superhuman or supernatural feats accomplished by girls are justified in fantasy science, such as All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. 23 弾幕
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might attack with a barrage of mini icicles going in random directions, while a umbrella ghost may instead fire shots that travel in a circular pattern, or fall towards the bottom of the screen like rain.
Fig. 1.4 Most of what is on this screen is lethal to the touch.
The game's creator, ZUN, initially started making the games as a way to showcase his musical compositions, as well as creating a game that satisfied his own tastes. Since the
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game is made as ZUN's pet project, the game is a one-man show. Programming, art, and music are all created by ZUN. Only a few other people work with him on the creation of most of his games and, usually at most, only as play testers. Ultimately, this paper will argue that Japanese classical culture has been remixed with popular culture to find new perspectives on the old. The idea of adaptation is not new, however, as Rashōmon and In a Grove by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke shows.24 Through ZUN's adaptation and remixing of Japanese folklore and history, otaku have further remixed it into a new form of entertainment they find ideal. By examining ZUN's Tōhō works, the first step in the adaptation and remixing process of Japan’s past comes to light.
II. Folklore parallels Tōhō Project features a countless number of folktale elements within its world. The influences range from monsters and demons that make an appearance, to entire plots of games. The games feature a certain fantastic element. These conventions – where the spirits of the dead take possession of flowers and bloom,25 or when a celestial force causes
“Rashōmon” and “In a Grove” were adapted from two stories found in Tales of Times Now Past. Akutagawa's story was further developed by Kurosawa Akira in a film titled Rashōmon. 25 ZUN (2005) Tōhō Kaeizuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View
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earthquakes that devastate the land26 – seem right out of a fairy-tale. In fact, the entire basis of some Tōhō games are embedded in Japanese folklore. The basic story of Tōhō follows a simple concept. A shrine priestess restores a supernatural irregularity to keep the human world from being invaded by otherworldly entities. The motif of a monk or priest defeating evil spirits is often present in many fairytales found throughout Japanese culture. Perhaps this is because many of the earliest stories found in Japanese literature are Buddhist parables and Shinto creation myths. The magical quality of women in Japanese history originates from its earliest days. As early as the third century, the Japanese placed importance on female spiritual mediums. A record left behind by the Wei Dynasty known as the History of Wei shows details about the people of Wa. The account shows that the early Japanese had a single ruler known as Himiko. Lu suggests that the fact the people of Japan relied on a female ruler suggests a widespread belief in shamanism. That belief is reinforced by the implements of divinations that were excavated.27 The emphasis on female shamanism disappears over time, but their presence is still strong in the form of miko that staff the Shinto shrines today.
ZUN (2008) Tōhō Hisōten ~ Scarlet Weather Rhapsody Lu (2005) Pg. 11-13
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While women are rare as magical saviors, they do still make an appearance in a number of folktales. In “The Laughter of Oni”, the nun makes a short appearance as the deus ex machina of the story.28 The nun, however, does not play as large a role as monks or priests in other stories. In another story, “How a monk of the Dōjōji in the province of Kii copied the Lotus Sutra and brought salvation to serpents”, 29 the old monk plays a central role in exorcising the vengeful serpent by using the Lotus Sutra. The nun in “The Laughter of Oni” only gives advice to the mother and daughter in contrast, but she is still a supernatural being. Not only is the mysterious nun a holy person, but the way in which she appears is supernatural. The troubled mother finds the temple with the nun, but she disappears in the morning along with the temple after the mother falls asleep.30 In Tōhō, the nature of magical women persists in the form of yōkai31 as well as with humans who possess magical powers such as Reimu. Tōhō features a large cast of monsters and demons, many of them based on Japanese yōkai. ZUN incorporated many supernatural characters, ranging from minor yōkai such as kasaobake to major ones like
Kawai, Hayao (1996) The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan. Pg. 200-202 Ury, Marian. (1993) Tales of Times Now Past Sixty-Two Stories from a Medieval Japanese Collection Pg. 93- 96 30 Kawai Pg. 200 31 妖怪
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karasu tengu. Yōkai, or Japanese demons and monsters, have been a facet in Japanese culture since its medieval ages. They were considered to be serious study up until modern times. In the Edo period the vibrant publishing industry started its efforts to record and keep track of yōkai in Japan through printed matter, but their belief in them were real enough that they were included along with other real animals in encyclopedias.32 The “science” of studying yōkai, however, tapered off. The yōkai of the past were no longer considered real and were unable to coexist with modern science. Comic artist and yōkai researcher Mizuki Shigeru shows this by fashioning his encyclopedic compendiums of yōkai as a past history that ends with the Meiji era.33 While the interest in yōkai persists into the modern era, their focus has shifted from study to nostalgia and romanticism. For otaku, yōkai can then become a target to fetishize. As the modern Japanese otaku recreates history and Japan in an idyllic mode, yōkai are then recreated as harmless beings that contain aspects of moé. Gensōkyō is then recreated as a romanticized vision of Japan.
Ibid Pg. 42-44 Ibid Pg. 182
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Azuma Hiroki, a Japanese philosopher, would describe the world of Gensōkyō as an “Edo Merchant Culture ideal.”34 Azuma describes the Edo period motif used in the setting for the anime, Saber Marionette J as “a form of fiction constructed in an effort to escape the impact of Americanization.”35 Otaku, according to Azuma, romanticize the Edo period as a time before the effects of industrialization changed the identity of Japan for the worse. In Saber Marionette J, the setting of the anime is an idealized world of cloned men living in a space colony with its insides modeled after Edo period aesthetics. The nostalgic embodiement of what is “Japan” is overlayed with future technology and ideals. The “marionettes” are a fleet of humanoid robot women created as companions to the men (a spaceship malfunction left only six men and no women to repopulate 300 years earlier). These marionnetes dress in costumes that are reminiscient of traditional Japanese garb, but are also sexually alluring and not quite traditional. The work captures everything conveneint about Edo culture with all the comforts of modern society. In Tōhō’s case, the yōkai that also originated from this era are also the target of this romanticized vision. Combined with Japanese otaku’s emphasis on moé, Tōhō takes this idealized vision
Azuma, Hiroki (2009), Otaku A Database Animal Pg. 22-23 Ibid Pg. 22
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of its past to create its cast and story lines. This is why the overabundance of female characters comes as no big surprise for its fans. In Tōhō, even the most feared of deities and demons become cute. Their destructive power is undisputed, but their fearsome depiction is replaced by an aura of moé. For example in Seirensen, the extra stage boss Hōjō Nue is
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Fig. 2.1 Reimu faces off against a kasaobake, or an umbrella demon. The demon is hardly scary; instead she is rather cute and playful.
based on the fearsome nue, a bringer of misfortune and illness.36 While a Nue is customarily a monster composed of the head of a monkey, legs of a tiger, the body of a raccoon dog, and snake as a tale, most of this has been changed for the purpose of moé. While she claims herself to be a nue, she does not look so fearsome (though her attacks show she is quite dangerous). Just the same for other characters, may the yōkai be a fairy or
Yoda H. & Alt M. (2008) Yōkai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide pg. 42
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the judge of the dead, all the characters in Tōhō all exude a sense of Moé in some way to reduce their otherwise fearsome nature, usually through their dialogue and character designs. No matter how fearsome the lord of the demon world may be, she seems much less threatening with smiling light-blue eyes and long-white hair done up in a cute ponytail. Moreover, even the gods featured within Tōhō could be considered yōkai as well. In Seirensen, Reimu believes Hijiri Byakuren to be a reawakened yōkai. Byakuren, a former Buddhist nun37 says to Reimu: “I have come to the conclusion that gods and Buddhas are nothing more than yōkai. Whether they are exorcised as yōkai or deified as gods, that is left up for humans to decide.”38 This statement is familiar within the study of Japanese folklore. Foster cites that many yōkai gained cult following and raised up to a state of god-hood in the Edo period.39 The lack of distinction from gods and yōkai is “fuzzy one at best”, and Foster explains that a revered god in one place may be feared as a yōkai in another place, all depending on their actions and whether they are worshipped or not.40 Ironically, for all the magical and supernatural friends Reimu has, her primary
Byakuren is said to be the elder sister of Myōren, a monk whose travels are recorded in Shigisan Engi. She feared death and extended her life through the help of yōkai. 38 ZUN (2009) Tōho Seirensen – Stage 6 39 Foster, Michael Dylan (2009) Pandemonium and Parade Pg. 14 40 Ibid Pg. 15
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directive as a shrine priestess is to vanquish yōkai. In many of the games her first instinct with many of the characters she meets is to defeat them. She sees any power that stands against her as a yōkai threat. Thus, before Byakyren lectures Reimu on the difference between yōkai and gods, Reimu already fought against gods and other celestial beings as enemies. What's more, the games often time end with Reimu befriending many of the former enemies she meets during the game. While Byakuren spelled out the concept clearly, what she says is nothing new to the Tōhō world. As for religious influence, Buddhism and Shintoism is strongly ingrained in Japanese culture. These religions continue to subconsciously persist as a large influence on Japanese modern culture today. In particular, Buddhist and Shinto practices are often found as stock settings or concepts in many manga and anime, even in the most non-religious of situations.41 In Tōhō, the subtext is more than subtle. Shikieiki Yamaxanadu is considered a character based on King Yama, the judge of the dead. Her origin comes from the Ōjō Yōshu, completed in 985 by the scholarly monk
Countless Japanese manga and anime feature religious characters as protagonists. There are many instances where miko play as the protagonist of story lines. A noteworthy example is the Hiiragi sisters from Lucky Star. While the comic itself has no real religious subtext, the sisters are supposedly the daughters of the Washinomiya shrine in Saitama. They work part time as miko for festivals, which led to an influx of otaku pilgrimages to the real shrine.
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Genshin.42 This was the starting point for Jōdō Buddhism to Japan; this document was the first to introduce a concept of “Hell” to Japanese Buddhist culture. Presiding where each soul will go after their death is King Yama, the lord of the underworld and judge of souls. Shikieiki’s given title43 is “Yamaxanadu.” While it is written in katakana the name translates to “The Yama of Paradise.”44 The Yama’s job, while lampooned as bureaucratic in nature by ZUN, is similar to the original rendition of judgment shown in the Ōjō Yōshu. Depending on the actions of the souls, the soul may go to a higher realm or to hell depending on the judgment of the Yama.45 Shikieiki herself extols Buddhist wisdom throughout the game. As the final boss of the game, she lectures the denizens of Gensōkyō over their salvation and on the irregularity of the flowers. She cites that the occurrence is natural, and that it is an event that happens every sixty years. For Buddhist law, sixty years is exactly one cycle. ZUN used 1945 as the starting point for the last reset of the cycle (the end of World War II). Furthermore, the “Hell” described in Ōjō Yōshu is then confirmed as a world that exists within the world setting for Tōhō. The spirits that invade Gensōkyō and the setting of
Lu Pg. 121-124 ZUN (2006) The Perfect Memento in Strict Sense Pg. 108 44 Ibid. Pg. 109 45 Ibid. Pg. 109
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Jireiden in Tōhō Jireiden all take place in the underworld where the Yama send their dead. Their description is further solidified throughout The Perfect Memento, which gives a further explanation on the world setting from the perspective of Hieda no Akyū.46 The book, written by ZUN, describes the political structure of the Yama and also gives a detailed account of the various locales, including places such as the Sanzu River,47 which is located on the outskirts of Gensōkyō. Akyū herself is a nod to the earliest forms of Japanese literature. She signs off at the end of her introduction to her book, “The Ninth Are Maiden, Hieda no Akyū.”48 Her signature solidifies her connection with Hieda no Are, the complier of the Kojiki. Her records, while not as poetic as the Kojiki, she is considered to be the official historian for the history of Gensōkyō “to ensure the human’s ability to live in safety.”49 From the seventh game on, ZUN increasingly concentrated on using folklore and literary elements within his games. While the first half of the series featured stereotypically Asian characters such as other miko, the overwhelming number of characters that appear in the PC98 era seem more Western. Kōmakyō, as the first Windows-era game retains many of
稗田 阿求 三途の河 – The “River Styx” in Japanese mythology. Ibid Pg. 142 48 Ibid. Pg. 5 49 Ibid. Pg. 4
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these elements. The Asian influence becomes prevalent starting the next game in Yōyōmu and its emphasis on cherry blossoms as a sign for Spring. Reimu and the other heroines reach the netherworld to take back Spring by following a literal stream of cherry blossoms that to them was not a literary sign of spring, but a literal one. The influence from traditional culture, however, is tinged with the romanticized view otaku hold on Japanese folklore and tradition; in the eighth game, the mix of aesthetics can be made out clearly. Eiyashō contains a large amount of folk-culture imbedded within the framework of the game. ZUN notes in Eiyashō’s music commentary that the game particularly emphasized the past in this installment. While the game itself was paying a great deal of homage to its preceding incarnations,50 the game also pays a great deal of homage to one of the oldest folk story known in Japan: The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.51 The game features a number of plot points that play heavily from the folktale. The final boss of the game is Houraisan Kaguya, the very same Kaguya from the folktale. The
Eiyashō featured a number of musical pieces and situations that were reminiscent of ZUN’s older works from the PC98 games. The fourth stage had players face off against Marisa or Reimu (depending who the player was playing as), their theme music was modeled after their original themes from the second and fourth games respectively. The situation was also reminiscent of Reimu and Marisa’s encounter with each other in the fourth game before encountering the final boss. 51 McCullough Helen C. (1999) Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology. Pg. 27-28
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story was changed to fit better with Tōhō’s story, but the basics remain the same. In ZUN’s version of the story, Kaguya was initially exiled to the Earth from the moon after asking Yagokoro Eirin to create a forbidden drug that grants immortality. She was later forgiven for her crimes and asked to return to the moon after causing havoc on Earth. One of the emissaries from the moon that came to reclaim her was Eirin. She and Eirin murdered the other emissaries and chose to hide themselves on Earth rather than return. Kaguya leaves the bamboo cutter the elixir of immortality as a bribe, but it is then stolen by Fujiwara No Mokō. Mokō took the elixir of immortality out of her embittered feelings over her father’s misfortune.52 She then wandered the world until settling down in the bamboo forest in Gensōkyō which was ironically also where Kaguya and Eirin had gone to hide. The two women had both consumed the elixir of immortality and have since bowed to constantly kill each other every day.53 ZUN’s retelling of the folktale could be considered a remix of the original. The basic story is kept, but it is changed and parodied for a desired world setting. ZUN’s Bamboo Cutter cast is an idyllic collection of characters made for the otaku audience.
Kaguya assigned several impossible tasks to her suitors in order to avoid getting married to them. In some renditions of the story some of the suitors die or lose all of their fortune by pursuing these tasks. 53 This is a synthesis of the character introductions of Eirin, Kaguya, and Mokō.
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While there is no doubt that Kaguya and the others are dangerous (the vow to kill each other constantly is rather intimidating, no matter how pointless the affair may be), they exhibit a sense of attractive moé. Eirin is depicted as an affective doctor that decides to help the people and yōkai of Gensōkyō54 and Mokō, being a former human, acts more as a reticent guide to the bamboo forest for humans.55 Eirin’s motherly nature and Mokō’s shy but good heart serves as an attractive draw to otaku. Kaguya is depicted as the reclusive mistress of the house, but fans jokingly call her a hikikomori or NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training).56 The main story behind Eiyashō starts off from when Eirin steals the moon in order to block another group of emissaries from coming down to Earth to collect their pet, a moon rabbit named Reisen Udongein Inaba. Eirin and Kaguya could easily kill the emissaries, but they chose to take a less lethal approach by sealing the Earth from the moon by not allowing it to become fully full. By doing this, the denizens of the moon could not travel down to the Earth to reclaim Reisen, and Kaguya would not have to shed any blood
ZUN (2006) Perfect Memento Pg. 128 Ibid. Pg. 134 56 Hikikomori are modern day social recluses in Japan, they are given a negative connotation and considered a social problem in Japan along with NEETs.
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to protect her pet rabbit from capture57. The story behind Eiyashō pays homage to the original story of a moon emissary coming to reclaim one of its own kind. The stories behind both Reisen and Kaguya are essentially a retelling of the old tale with a twist. In the end Reisen and Kaguya remain on the earth to enjoy their peaceful life away from the moon. The outcome poses no change to the world setting of Gensōkyō and preserves them as a permanent fixture in Gensōkyō. Folklore and classic culture influences the setting and characters within Tōhō. Their connections to religious and superstitious beliefs, such as yōkai, are not exact copies of their original forms. ZUN creates Gensōkyō as a land that romanticizes the past and is populated by idyllic characters that embody moé while retaining some vestige of their original forms. In the next section, I will discuss how these characters play into the overarching “story line” within Tōhō.
III. The Apparent Lack of a Grand Narrative. The main Tōhō Project series spans over twelve installments, but each one is selfcontained and does not require any specialized knowledge from previous games to play.
Synthesis of Kaguya, Eirin, Reisen
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While the series does allude to earlier games and the playable characters within the game are often taken from earlier installments, the bulk of the story and dialogue takes place entirely by itself regardless of earlier events. The culmination of all the parts of these stories fail to create any kind of ongoing story, but instead sells its audience fragments of concepts that players would enjoy. The stories contained within Tōhō follow Azuma's concept of the loss of the “grand narrative.” Azuma writes that Japanese culture no longer cares for the grand narrative, or an overarching story in their media consumption.58 While previous conventions of literature dictated that smaller parts of a story culminated into a larger whole with greater meaning, Azuma illustrates that the post-modern society of Japan consume bits and pieces of ideas and collects them as a database of similar media.59 In other words, Otaku today consume pieces of a narrative, but now do so without a Grand Narrative in mind; instead, the culmination of narratives become a sort of database where entertainment is derived through comparison of similar models. One of the most apparent examples of this database-style consumption is through
Azuma (2009), Pg.26-29 Ibid. Pg. 30-33
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moé. Moé, or stimulation from moé-elements, rely on the loss of the grand narrative. With no grand narrative to attract readers to texts, otaku substitute moé characteristics or character archetypes to derive pleasure.60 Everything from character types to physical attributes become the elements of moé. Cat-ears, shyness, glasses, and even homicidal tendencies become a fixture for otaku to draw a sense of euphoria. As one of the biggest examples of this trend, the popular anime series The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi can offer an easy introduction to this concept. The two season anime series features no plot development and no character growth. The actual story was so inconsequential to the show, that the first season was initially run out of order with the “first episode” introducing the show in medias res. After the anime ended, very little had changed within the characters. Fans of the series however bought into the characters and their associated merchandise. The various moé-elements such as a character partaking in cosplay or having a character with an aloof and all-knowing nature, drove fans to buy, not just the anime series, but figurines, games, comics, novels, fan-guides, and a mountain of dōjinshi. The greatest testament to this phenomenon, and perhaps a tongue-in-cheek move done by the series' producers, was airing eight nearly identical episodes with only
Azuma (2009) Pg. 39-52
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small changes made to character costume designs or dialogue; while fans complained, they still bought the DVDs.61 Otaku of today no longer watch or read a story for its narrative. They instead derive a sense of pure affective love from characters and their actions. The context of a character becomes moot as fans derive entertainment and pleasure from key moé features where they would traditionally derive from a narrative.62 While it is impossible to say that a narrative is entirely discarded from any story, otaku consume the media for “moé elements”, and not the story. Tōhō is no different, the series contains many aspects that are typical in moé culture. Aside from the sheer volume of dōjinshi, the characters contained within the series present a typical moé set. Maids, miko, and the youthful female form in general are often found in manga and anime today, and could be counted as staple characters for fans. There are two characters with nekomimi (cat ears), 10 with wings, two miko, three witches, and so on, so forth. Even further, fans obsess over some of the most trivial aspects of characters,
http://mainichi.jp/enta/mantan/news/20091211mog00m200006000c.html - According to sources, DVD sales for this series have consistently been at the top of sales charts. 62 Azuma (2009) Pg. 39
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such as Reimu's armpits.63 In Reimu’s case, the allure of her armpits could be in relation to the concept of zettai-ryouiki, a form of eroticism and allure from showing only a small amount of bare flesh on a character, usually with the exposure of the thighs between a short skirt and high stockings. Japanese otaku have claimed that the smaller amount of flesh, the more enticing.64 These physical characteristics combine with quirks within the characters such as strange catch phrases, clumsiness, or sheer stupidity to create various characters fans develop affection for. They are celebrated not for their part in a story, but their existence as a character. The characters never grow, neither physically nor mentally. While character designs are revised periodically throughout the various iterations of the game, the characters do not physically age or develop save for a very few instances. Most of the characters are non-human creatures that are hundreds of years old and are either immortal or near immortal. Those that are human seldom change, and while time passes, no specific age is ever mentioned for human characters.65 The characters are thus locked in their roles.
Reimu's costumes since the sixth game has featured detached sleeves that expose a section of her upper arm and arm pits. The resulting fan following for her armpits were so great one of her theme songs was entitled "わき巫女れいむ” or “Arm Pit Shrine Maiden Reimu.” 64 Galbraith, Patrick (2009) The Otaku Encyclopedia P. 241 絶対領域 65 Reimu and Marisa are human girl who look to be in their late-teens. While their clothing has changed throughout the years, they seem to have not aged at all for the past decade.
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For example, Cirno, the ice fairy, is typecast as a weak idiot. In her first appearance as the boss character for the second level of the sixth game (Koumakyō),66 she claims she is “a formidable enemy” to Reimu, but she is slighted: Cirno: Hey, will you act a little surprised? You got a big formidable foe in front of you. Reimu: A target? Well I’ll be.67 She reappears as a sub-boss for the first level in the game after that (Yōyōmu) with no dialogue. She then reappears as a playable character in the ninth game (Kaeizuka) and also plays the opponent role in the first or second levels. Despite being a fairly strong for a fairy, Cirno's only motive in the ninth game is causing mischief: while a sudden full blooming of all flowers (regardless of what season they should be blooming in) causes Gensōkyō to fall into chaos, Cirno joins the other fairies in a frenzy. Her story mostly concentrates on finding interesting flowers to freeze with her ice powers. Reimu goes as far as greeting her by saying, “(o)h, it's the idiot.” While the true intelligence of Cirno is debated,68 she never grows beyond her
東方紅魔卿 – Embodiment of Scarlet Devil (2002) The game was released after a four year hiatus after Kaikidan. 67 The term for “formidable foe” in Japanese (強敵 - Kyōteki) sounds a lot like “a target” (標的 - hyōteki) 68 In Kaeizuka, Cirno reveals that she is aware of what is actually going on with the flowers, but is merely enjoying the moment rather than working to resolve the supernatural event. The fact that she is a playable character itself establishes her as a stronger than average fairy. While the in-joke regarding her is dismissing her as an idiot, some fans claim that she is only playing the role of fool.
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element within the games. She remained as a first or second level boss that is defeated with minimal difficulty, even in the game's harder difficulty settings. She remained mischievous and “stupid” to the end. In the final stage of her story, Cirno is lectured by Shikieiki Yamaxanadu,69 one of the judges in the underworld, at an endless graveyard. Cirno is told she has over-stepped her boundaries in power and must realize her place in life. Shikieiki explains that Cirno must learn her place in order to be sure of her salvation when it comes time for her ultimate judgment. Cirno reflected on the meaning behind death; after her final battle, she sits next to a lake full of lotus flowers to try and grasp death and what will become of her when she dies. She ultimately concluded that life is too short to worry and goes on to enjoy the blooming flowers while she still can. The ending in the third-person notes: “If flowers bloom as they please, so should fairies live as they please. She ultimately could not quite understand what natural death was.” Further along, the ending notes that Cirno stopped contemplating death when she fathomed the scary idea of going to hell upon her death.
四季映姫・ヤマザナドゥ – She is also known as the “Supreme Judge of Paradise.” As the ultimate authority on judging the fate of the dead in Genōkyō, she descends from the other world to check on her subordinates work, only to find the region in chaos.
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Later, when Shikieiki visits Cirno70 to see if she has learned her lesson, Cirno responds, “(n)ope, I didn't understand at all.” She returns to becoming the first or second level boss, and is once again the “idiot” she was initially labeled. The only case in which a character drastically changes in shape and form is Reimu's ability to fly. During the first game (Reiíden),71 her powers are so weak that her own attacks could accidently kill her. The second game (Fūmaroku) allows her flight, but only through the help of Genjii, her turtle familiar. Reimu only gains the ability for unaided flight in the sixth game. Since then, Reimu has not developed in power. What she lacks in growth, she makes up for in gifted ability; the story line in Tōhō compensates the lack of growth in characters with the mass of power and ability the characters possess from the start. Reimu's lazy character is made apparent with her attitude towards training. In the prologue to Fūmaroku, Reimu is said to be training in the mountains to raise her spiritual powers. She decides to stop training when she suddenly gets the urge to sleep in a
Kaeizuka allows the final boss Shikieiki to become a playable character for the story mode once all other characters are beat in story mode. She had previously lectured the cast on life and death in their respective story archs and proceeds to check into the cast to examine if they had learned their lesson. 71 東方靈異伝 – The Highly Responsive to Prayers (1996) The game plays more like Arkanoid than a shooting game. Reimu must use her sacred baton and prayer slips to guide a yin-yang ball to hit enemies instead of attacking directly. Reimu cannot touch the yin-yang ball directly, lest she be crushed to death by it.
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comfortable bed. She returns to the shrine to find it infested with various demons. Her only complaint at that point is that she “can’t get any restful sleep.” She chooses to vanquish the demons with the power she recently acquired through training. The prologue continues by explaining Reimu’s “training in the mountains” were nothing more than an opportunity for her to hunt for autumn foods that grow in the mountains.72 Because of her unwillingness to train, the character remains unchanged. In fact, Reimu only acts out of pressing circumstances. To illustrate, the chart below describes why Reimu decides to act in each of the twelve games’ prologues.
Tōhō Reiíden Tōhō Fūmaroku Tōhō Yumejikū Tōhō Gensōkyō Tōhō Kaikidan Tōhō Koumakyō Tōhō Yōyōmu Tōhō Eiyashō Tōhō Kaeizuka Tōhō Fūjinroku Reimu sets out for revenge on the evil forces that destroyed her shrine. Reimu sets out to defeat the demons that have invaded her shrine, keeping her from restful sleep. Reimu joins a contest to compete in a contest where her wishes will come true. Reimu sets out to defeat the demons that have invaded her shrine Reimu sets out for the demon realm to investigate a steady stream of monsters that have been appearing in Gensōkyō. Reimu sets out to find the source of a deep red mist that blocked out the sun before it reaches human civilization. Reimu sets out to find Spring, which has yet to come, despite it being May. Reimu is roped into retrieving the stolen full moon by Yakumo Yukari.73 Reimu sets out to find out the cause of a sudden full blooming of flowers, regardless of season. Reimu sets out to defend her shrine from closure (due to a lack of patronage) by another god on top of the mountain.
ZUN (1997) Fūmaroku story introduction text 八雲 紫 – A powerful demon that serves as the final extra-stage boss in Yōyōmu. She becomes a friend of Reimu and the other heroines from the game after her defeat.
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Tōhō Jireiden Tōhō Seirensen
Reimu sets out to defeat the evil spirits that came forth from a geyser that suddenly shot up. Scenario A: Reimu chases after what looks like a treasure ship in the sky. Scenario B: Reimu chases after a ship that is probably flown by monsters.
Most of the time, Reimu sets out to defeat evil, but only because the situation comes to her. While she aims to restore the natural balance of the world in most games, she does so out of resignation. For example in Eiyashō, while setting out to find those responsible for stealing the full moon is a noble cause, she does so because the demon she had defeated during the previous game wanted to enlist her help.74 As described above, Reimu often sets out because her shrine is invaded (in four games). 75 While she does go out to settle disturbances, she seldom preemptively attacks. The disturbances Reimu sets out to fix are often already in progress and affecting the denizens of Genōkyō.76 While the somewhat shallow characterizations of characters provide little in terms of developing an over-arching “grand narrative” within the fictional world of Gensōkyō, the lack of a building story makes the creation of subsequent games easier and character recycling possible. Since there is no growth in the characters or the overall world (except for the addition of new characters), old and new characters can easily be reintroduced into
Prologue to Eiyashō. The first, second, fourth, and tenth games 76 The third and twelfth games are the only games where Gensōkyō is not in any perceived danger.
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the context of the new games as either allies or enemies. For some characters, due to their flexibility and lack of development, enemies in previous games could be the heroines in the next. The greatest example, but not the only one, is Reimu's rival and friend, Marisa.77 Marisa was introduced in the second game of the series as a lackey to Mima.78 She reappears as a playable character from the third game79 and returns once again throughout the rest of the series. Other characters, such as Mima appeared in almost every game80 for the PC98 generation81 as either an enemy and/or as a playable character (though she disappears from the sixth game on). For Windows, Kaeizuka has the largest selection of reused characters compared to other games; out of the sixteen playable characters, twelve of them are characters from previous games. While there are some changes in characters and sometimes genuinely surprising ones, such as when Yukari chooses to ally herself with Reimu, the world of Gensōkyō remains in a state of equilibrium. Instead of plot development, the niche characteristics of
霧雨・魔理沙 – Her given name strangely sounds Western and is a witch. She can be seen as the direct opposite of Reimu. She has consistently been an alternate playable character since the third game of the series. 78 魅魔 – Her name roughly translated to “charming demon” or “charming (evil) spirit.” She is in fact, a ghost that Reimu meets in the first game and becomes a constant nuisance to her in the following 4 games. 79 東方夢時空 – The Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream (1997) 80 Mima did not make an appearance in the fourth game. 81 The first five games in Tōhō Project were made for the PC98 operating system. After a four-year hiatus, ZUN released the sixth game for the Windows operating systems. Since then, the game has been released for the Windows operating system.
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the characters become the driving force behind Tōhō and its profitable base of fan works. The use of moé to recycle the image and the characters remaining in stasis are a likely reason why Tōhō Project is so popular today. The lack of growth or progression in plot, however, could be seen as something nothing new in terms of story telling in Japan.
IV. Plot Structure in Relation to Classical Folktales Curiously enough, the lack of a story, as described in the previous section is not unique to modern Japanese media. As a nation that was strongly affected by Buddhism since the seventh century, the concept of nothingness is a major theme within the Japanese psyche. Rajyashree Pandey believes that the Japanese’s ability to embody the postmodern is taken from the very roots of its Buddhist culture, not from the traditional belief that post modernism is bred through “a symptom of late-capitalism.”82 Pandey explains that “Japan’s deconstructive tradition” which is a product of Zen Buddhism was in place before the West had such a concept.83 Thus, the lack of a progression in the Grand Narrative, is not so much a characteristic of post-modern Japanese society, but could be described as a characteristic
MacWilliams, Mark, W. Japanese Visual Culture “Medieval Genealogies of Manga and Anime Horror” (2008) Pg. 219 83 Ibid. Pg. 219
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of Japanese society persisting since earlier times. Kawai Hayao described this emphasis on “nothingness” through the telling of “The Bush Warbler's House.” Kawai illustrated the progression of a story with a parabolic curve pointed downwards.84 In this curve, the story featured a protagonist entering a non-daily space by encountering a supernatural event or character, and then eventually returned back to the daily space where nothing had happened.
Fig. 4.1 Kawai’s format used in Tōhō’s story structure
In “The Bush Warbler's House”, a woodcutter entered the non-daily space by encountering a mansion he had never seen before in the forest. He met a beautiful maiden
Kawai, (1982) Pg. 20-22
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at the mansion that asked him to house sit, but before leaving she made him promise that he would not peek into the next room over. The man eventually lost his resolve and peeked into the next room, unwittingly killing the maiden's daughters. When the beautiful maiden returned home, she was stricken with grief; she revealed her true form to him, a bush warbler, and flew away to leave the woodcutter in the middle of a clearing with no mansion in sight. The tale ends with the woodcutter returning to the daily space, safely, without any punishment for his actions. Japanese tales often feature this motif, and is specific to Japan.85 In the end nothing has happened. The protagonist gained no riches (the potential wife flies away), and he is left wondering if the mansion was even real or not. Kawai later reiterates this point by nothing that “(n)othing happens. (Peace or safety is buji in Japanese, which means literally 'no-thing.') We are forced to realize the strong function of nothingness in Japanese consciousness.”86 Tōhō Project's stories follow a similar pattern in terms of story development. As the characters do not grow, the stories only serve to spawn more characters. Change seldom
Ibid. Pg. 12 Ibid. Pg. 56
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comes to Gensōkyō except for the change in seasons. In most cases, while the repertoire of characters and locations grow in the world of Tōhō, there is a sense of nothing-ness in terms of change. Many of the plots ultimately follow a similar flow to Kawai’s parabolic curb in terms of story progression. It should be noted though, however, that while nothing ultimately happens, Tōhō Project does not follow Kawai’s description of the disappearing woman. Kawai’s model is built in contrast to Western structures of fairytales that involve a man entering the non-daily space to retrieve riches and marriage from it. The situation the protagonist encounters is framed in a separate universe, one that cannot be returned to. Once the non-daily wife is shamed, she disappears;87 in another fable, called “The Laughter of Oni”, a mother enters the non-daily space to save her daughter from the clutches of an oni (an ogre) and the story ends with how it started, a mother and daughter are reunited and continue to live on together.88 The mother and daughter gains nothing but the reestablishment of their daily space; they gain no riches, and there is no prince in shining armor that swoops them away to a life of luxury. They are only asked at the end to build a small stone pagoda in reverence
Ibid. Pg. 22-24 Ibid. 199-202 “TheLaughter of Oni”
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to their savior (the supernatural nun that helped the mother rescue her daughter) once a year since then, which is more a metaphorical gain in spirituality rather than tangible riches. While Reimu seems to be a magnet to supernatural situations, she ultimately enters into the non-daily space and leaves with nothing world shattering happening, similar to Kawai’s structure. Even when the heroines defeat a Shinto god, very little changes.89 However, it is undeniable that nothing changes. Much like how the mother and daughter are asked to construct stone pagodas in “The Laughter of Oni”, there are spiritual additions, or in this case, a larger cast of characters and the further detailing of locations in and around Gensōkyō. To be more specific, this chapter will explain the story behind a selection of works from the Tōhō universe. The games to be considered are, again, the twelve main games in the series as well as the three side-story games and the written and drawn comics and short stories written by ZUN. The early games are the most vague in terms of story and are the easiest to see a lack of growth. The first game, while it starts out with Reimu's intent to get revenge on her
Tōhō Fūjinroku – after the heroines defeat the god of the shrine, Reimu invites the goddess at the shrine to a party. The Hakurei Shrine maintains its superiority in Gensōkyō while the rival Moriya Shrine becomes an accessory to the world setting’s landscape. The demons do not oust the new gods either, and a sense of balance is established where all characters live in harmony.
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ruined shrine, shows no ultimate resolution or victory. Reimu ventures into the makai or jigoku (the “demon world” and “hell” respectively) based on the player's preference and the game ends with a wordless animation implying whatever evil is sealed. The monsters, however, are not sealed away at all, for one of the bosses from the jigoku route, Mima, reappears in the next two games and the fifth game. The setting of jigoku itself makes a reappearance in a later game, showing that despite being "sealed", the border between Gensōkyō and the supernatural realm remains permeable. Makai also becomes a destination in other future games. Ultimately, in Mima’s case, no matter what she does, she remains the same. Mima is defeated as the second boss in Reiíden, she reappears in the next game as the game’s evil mastermind behind Fūmaroku. Despite her defeat in the first two games, she once again reappears as a normal playable character in the third game and fifth game as a mischievous demon. In all cases she follows Kawai’s model. As a villain she gains a great amount of magical power, but is reduced to a minimal threat once defeated by Reimu. In Yumejikū, she temporarily gains greater power, but the ending specifically states that her mischief was
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eventually quelled as well. In her final appearance in the Kaikidan, she is a normal player character that only reestablishes the status quo in Gensōkyō. In Yumejikū, nine playable characters compete against each other in story mode to have their wishes fulfilled. Okazaki Yumemi fulfills the player’s wishes, but their wishes are ultimately odd or inconsequential. Reimu asks for something to help her do chores around the shrine, only to receive a robot maid that only does a fair job. Marisa asks for a powerful weapon, but in the end is unable to operate it. Mima attempts to gain a vast amount of power again, but only asks for the moon to be full all the time so that she may draw power from it. The moon’s irregularity is said to have been fixed with some trouble a few months later, nullifying the prize; Mima herself squandered her chance at power by not using any of it while she did have it. The final boss of Yumejikū, Yumemi, also shows the ultimate case of futility and non-change. Yumemi came to Gensōkyō from a world based in physical science as a researcher trying to prove the existence of magic. She ultimately succeeds in proving its existence through the battle data she garners from the player. At first glance, there is great change for her; she has been able to prove the existence of magic in her home world.
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Ultimately, her research is laughed out of her world; she comes crying back to Gensōkyō to find more conclusive evidence. This pattern persists from PC98 games and into the Windows era. Each game enters the non-daily space in the prologue. The heroines find a disturbance out of the ordinary and resolve to either right the wrong or explore it. Through a series of serendipitous meetings, the heroines find out the source of this disturbance and a sense of balance is restored by the end, whether naturally or by force. In Yōyōmu the heroines investigate a never-ending winter; its conclusion only serves to only add more depth into the world without changing any pre-existing world setting. It turns out Spring was stolen away by a ghost princess, Saigyōji Yuyuko. Yuyuko planned to resurrect a corpse that had been sealed away under a yōkai cherry tree in the netherworld she lived in. She had stolen Spring to feed to the tree to allow it to bloom, but she fails because the body, unknown to her, was her very own. Yuyuko’s success would have unleashed a powerful cherry tree that led people to suicide as well as Yuyuko’s own
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“death.” She amicably agrees to return Spring90 and the natural order of the world is reestablished. Later, Yuyuko tells the heroine that a yōkai friend of hers helped her by weakening a spiritual barrier allowing her to absorb Spring from Gensōkyō. As the game’s extra stage, the heroines are asked to go to Yakumo Yukari and ask her to fix the barrier to its original state. The heroine manages to relay that message to Yukari and she agrees to fix the barrier, but she first challenges the heroine to a battle. The battle with Yukari ends amicably, and the yōkai is not vanquished. She professes that she had planned to fix the spiritual barrier regardless of the heroine’s wishes anyway. In the very next game, those very same characters, Yuyuko and Yukari, become playable characters and heroines. In Eiyashō, the full moon is stolen, depriving the yōkai of Gensōkyō its power, but the disturbance is once again pointless in the end. The yōkai decide to track down the culprit with the aid of Reimu and a number of other humans. They track down the culprit, Kaguya and retrieve the full moon. Stopping Kaguya’s plan, however, did not cause the emissaries that had planned to come to pick up Reisen touch down on the ground. The
ZUN (2005) Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red (pg. 30-31)
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magical barrier around Gensōkyō prevented outside intruders from entering in the first place, and so Kaguya returned the moon without a fuss after being defeated. Just the same, after retrieving the moon, Kaguya asks the heroines to vanquish Fujiwara no Mokō. When the player meets Mokō, she explains that she cannot die as she had consumed a drug that gave her immortality over a millennia ago. Kaguya had sent assassins to Mokō regardless of her immortality, just to annoy her. The moon would have been returned safely without intervention, and Mokō, while defeated by the heroines, remains at large; the entire plot of Eiyashō ultimately turned out to be a pointless affair. The floral disturbance in Kaeizuka is a rare case when the disturbance was a natural occurrence of Buddhist law, because of this, the plot of Kaeizuka was once again a collection of reactions from the heroines that were inconsequential to the situation. Despite the fourteen heroines that travel out to observe the strange case of floral bloom, none of them are at fault for the disturbance. The game’s final boss is only a Buddhist deity that came to investigate the backlog of souls being ferried into the netherworld from Gensōkyō. Meanwhile, many of the characters in Kaeizuka are wandering around Gensōkyō with no particular goal in mind. Only seven of the characters want to find out why the flowers are
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blooming, and of them, only three of them are actually worried about it. In contrast, six of the playable characters are only out to enjoy the scenery, along with the four others that are investigating the cause of the bloom. The sudden over-bloom of flowers was part of a natural cycle and solved itself once the backlogs of souls were ferried into the netherworld. Kaeizuka’s extra add-on game also added another story for the fall of that same year. In Bunkachō,91 Shameimaru Aya harangues the denizens of Gensōkyō and photographs their attacks. The game features no story and at the end of it, the player only achieves a sense of accomplishment. While the game is considered “cannon” to the series, its omission would not hamper the game play of any future game. Why do former enemies suddenly become allies? While they are enemies in one game, their new position as ally in another should come as a surprise. In Tōhō’s case, the change comes due to their relative motives within Gensōkyō. While players see them as enemies or allies, the character motivations generally stay the same. In the PC98 games, Mima makes a reoccurring appearance in the games as both an enemy and heroine. While she is a playable character and heroine, her story consists of
東方 文花手帖 – Shoot the Bullet was an add on game to Kaeizuka. The game features a tengu newspaper reporter’s journey around Gensōkyō to collect photographs for her newspaper.
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her attempt to gain power or to assert her megalomaniac personality as the “god of the human world.”92 Similarly, while Yukari is an enemy in Yōyōmu, her motives to attack the heroine are to punish trespassers that trounced her demon familiars. She acts in the interest of Gensōkyō in later games, whether to take back the full moon in Eiyashō or to drive out an invading celestial force in Hisōten. She is considered a sort of “puppet master” and it is never clear whether her benevolence is sincere or hiding some kind of personal agenda.93 In the end the characters remain the same. Any sort of perceived “change” or development in a character is actually due to a different angle the character is framed in. Outside of his computer games, ZUN also published a series of comic books and short stories with the help of other artists. His stories follow the same sense of story telling that his games follow and are almost entirely inconsequential to the games. In Silent Sinners in Blue, a 21 chapter comic series, the denizens of Gensōkyō travel to the moon while Yukari plots out a second invasion of the moon 94. While Yukari is the ultimate perpetrator behind plotting everyone’s adventure, the other characters decide to go
ZUN (1998)Tōhō Kaikiden Final Stage The entire storyline of Silent Sinners in Blue was instigated and orchestrated by Yukari’s mind games with both the denizens of Gensōkyō and the moon. Only Yuyuko saw through the clever plan. 94 Yukari tried to invade the moon several decades before the initial Tōhō game. Her motives for why she did this is unknown. All that is known about the invasion was that it failed.
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to the moon under Yukari's suggestion. After Yukari's plan is seemingly foiled by the Lunarian empire, all the characters return to Gensōkyō unharmed. By several layers of deception, Yukari had actually won the invasion by acting like she had lost, but in reality had succeeded in smuggling out a bottle of sake. The series ends with Yukari sharing the sake with her friends in Gensōkyō before the Lunarians can come back down to reclaim what's theirs. The story of Silent Sinners in Blue does not affect the stories contained within the games, nor do they have require the reader to play a particular game before reading. While the adventure takes the heroines to the moon and back, they return to the earth empty handed. Yuyuko steals the sake and brings it back to Yukari and the others, but the ultimate victory resulted in nothing but bragging rights for Yukari. The world Tōhō builds is ever growing, but static. Like a jigsaw puzzle without edges, each game creates its own section of the puzzlewhich can be pieced together to create a larger picture. The portrait has the opportunity to constantly spread out, but what’s already laid out on the portrait remains static. In reality, Tōhō Project’s games and publications can be enjoyed in any order, and entire games can be omitted without any loss
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to the quality of game play. Many fans do not own the first five games in the series due to its rarity or simply a lack of interest.95 For people who have just started playing, users on the popular video-sharing website, Nico Nico Douga, have posted various videos explaining memes and back-stories for the various games. These videos go into detail over character introductions and show viewers everything from the very basics (how is the game played?) to the most obscure (what happens when Mokō is caved?).96 Thus, even if players ignored certain games or played the games out of order, each story can be consumed by itself. Seeing that Tōhō Project allows its players and readers to consume bits and pieces without penalizing overall enjoyment, they follow Kawai's principles of a story structure emphasizing a sort of zero sum. This emphasis on “nothingness” is similar to religious principles pulled from Buddhism. With nearly 70% of the Japanese population believing in Buddhism97, the influence of religion is prevalent within its media from classical times.
Amusement Makers, the former publishers for the PC98 Tōhō games, no longer publishes the old games, making them nearly impossible to find by legal means. The current webpage for Amusement Makers does not acknowledge any sort of relation to Tōhō Project. 96 http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm2232206 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGegCta6F1o 97 CIA World Fact Book, “Japan” January, 25,2010 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/geos/ja.html#People
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This aspect of “mu” or nothingness is just one of the many principles that are often found within Japanese high and low culture; Tōhō is no different.
V. Musical Influence and Description While the visual properties play an important role in Tōhō, the music should not be forgotten. ZUN composes his own music for the game and leaves his author’s commentary in the game’s music box. The music, while not quite traditional, reserves a taste of the traditional. This odd mix is perhaps one of the most notable facets of Tōhō’s remixing of the traditional into the modern. His Window’s era games all have a recurring title theme that sounds somewhat Japanese. He comments on Kōmakyō’s title theme, “Since it is Tōhō, I made it to sound Japanese. Well, really, the game itself isn’t really traditionally Japanese in any way.” In the game after that, he comments on Yōyōmu’s theme that he continued from his last work to make the theme song traditional-sounding once again. This time around he also incorporates an ending theme inspired from the children’s song, “Sakura Sakura.” The eighth game, with the greatest amount of folk-culture imbedded within the
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framework of the game, has the most amount of traditional music involved. The game features the similarly traditional sounding opening and ending music, but what stands out in particular is the music played during the fifth stage. The piece, entitled “Tsunderera Cage ~ Kagome Kagome”, draws its influence from the folk-song “Kagome Kagome” which is used in a children’s game. As previously noted about Eiyashō, this game seems to remix the most amounts of the folklore and culture into a modern setting to recreate the old into the idealized new. The title “Tsundere Cage” is an example of exactly that. Kagome Kagome is a children’s game similar to “Ring around the rosey.” A group of children surround one child and sing the song while the child in the middle covers his or her eyes. The child in the middle must detect who is behind them when the song ends. “Kagome” translates to the “caged eyes” the child in the middle has. The “cage” mentioned in the game’s song title is probably referencing the cage that covers the eyes. Tsunderera, on the other hand most likely references a combination of tsundere and Cinderella. Tsundere is a common characteristic found in otaku media. Galbraith describes a tsundere character as an “icy-hot” character98, or a character that acts cold at first, but
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gradually warms up to show affection later. This character-type is often cited as a moé characteristic. The combination of tsundere and Cinderella then becomes a sort of a “princess” character that wants to be affectionate but is unsure of how show such affection. Combined with the Kagome Kagome cage, the “Tsunderera Cage” suddenly denotes a scampish princess locked in a cage. The song lends to the level’s boss, Reisen, who is a moon rabbit that Kaguya and Eirin are trying to keep from being taken back to the moon. In “Tsunderera Cage’s” case, the original folksong is taken and remixed. It is given a whole new level of meaning by the new form, but still retains the essence of the original song to keep it grounded in its original score. He draws from music to express the scene or atmosphere he wishes to convet. ZUN best describes his strange mix of Japanese and Western influences, however, in his theme song for Reimu in Kaeizuka. “The fact that (her theme) can’t be entirely Japanese in style is Tōhō style.”
VI. Foreign Influences The ability to remix culture not only augments reality to fit a fantasy that otaku wish to live in, but also serves to allow anything convenient to slip in. As Azuma described
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the “Edo Merchant Culture” in the world of Saber Marionette J, the traditional fantasy world, despite being a retreat from the industrialized West features ultramodern technologies.99 Similarly, Tōhō features the foreign within the traditional to create a further idealized view of Japan for otaku: a world where yōkai can use an iPod.100 Thus, it is impossible for Tōhō, despite its name, to be considered entirely Japanese. Despite all the Japanese cultural influences found in Tōhō Project, it is impossible to escape the fact that Tōhō draws heavily from Western influences as well. ZUN never denies the fact that Japan today had changed from its medieval times and works in many Western or modern concepts into his work to create a synthesized world with a touch of both the modern and Western within the classic Japanese setting. As a reflection to the Japanese consciousness, the world setting is an idealized location that is both ambiguous in time and identity. As Azuma described previously, this world is representative of the ideal national-nostalgia otaku wish to see. In respect to Western influences, since the world of Tōhō derives its existence from an idealized mixture of the past and present, thus the setting is distinctly Japanese, but from a time that is now
Azuma (2009) P.22 ZUN & Asai G. (2004) Elfic Magazine Tōhō Kōrindō ~ Curiousities of Lotus Asia Chapter 2 Pg. 133
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past with the addition of ideas and concepts that, in reality, are out of place. For example, the scenery of Tōhō is a mixture of both the traditional and the Western. While Gensōkyō is predominantly Japanese, the land has some out of place locales. The Scarlet Devil Mansion featured in Kōmakyō is a western mansion located on the side of a lake in Gensōkyō. There are a total of two Western mansions in Gensōkyō, and a number more are featured elsewhere in the games. Reimu and the others travel to another mansion in an earlier game where they meet Kazami Yuka and in another palace they meet the lord of makai.101 In Yumejikū, while not a mansion, the final battle takes place in a cross-dimensional ship that looks anything but Asian. These non-traditional spaces are literally from out of this world in Yumejikū, and far removed from Japan otherwise, but still exist within the world of Gensōkyō. The reason behind the appearances of these out of place settings in Gensōkyō is explained in Perfect Memento in a Strict Sense. Humans with the help of Yukari created the Hakurei barrier the demon.102 The barrier was built to attract and shelter yōkai from the increasingly scientific world. Its attraction was strong enough to call a number of non-
Kaikidan – The final boss is Shinki, who claims she is the creator and goddess of makai Perfect Memento Pg. 51
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Japanese monsters to mix in with the rest. Thus, the Scarlet Devil Mansion appears in Gensōkyō. While the vampires and their servants in Kōmakyō are the most well known Western style characters in the series, the games feature a large number of characters at least ambiguous in their origin, especially in the earlier games. While the Window’s era games offer a great deal more of character back story and cultural reference, the PC98 era games have much more sparse information. The first two games do not even have any details about their character save for their spoken dialogue and their names. Many of these characters appear in Western clothing or have a Western name, making their origin vague, even when their origin may seem Japanese at first glance. Many of the characters are given Western names. Several of the characters have no kanji reading for their names, such as Alice Margatroid, the magician, and Letty Whiterock, the yuki-onna. Their names, written in katakana, show that they are foreign beings. In Alice's case, she is a magician from makai and is entirely a foreign entity. She is not an original denizen of Gensōkyō. Similarly the Prismriver Sisters are clearly from a foreign land. The three poltergeists and their mysterious fourth sister disappeared along with their
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mansion from some place in Europe and reappeared in Gensōkyō103. Letty, however, is an anomaly. Her name is not Japanese, but her classification as a yōkai is a yuki-onna, a ghost that is traditionally Japanese. The mix shows that even the characters inspired by Japanese folklore can contain a number of Western influences. Officially, Letty exhibits no characteristics that make her particularly Western than her name. Another similar character is Marisa. In Marisa's case, her name is written in kanji, but her name sounds vaguely Western. While “Kirisame” sounds distinctly Japanese, her given name “Marisa” can be read either way. In a way, her name is like that of Naomi's from Tanizaki Junichirō: “written with three Chinese characters… written in Roman letters, it could be a Western name.”104 Furthermore, she has been depicted as a black witch with a steepled hat for the entirety of the series thus far. Despite her lifestyle though, her familial ties to the Kirisameya grounds her origin to Gensōkyō. Considering Marisa's clothing, her Western clothes are not a unique instance of a mix of cultures. The clothing featured in Tōhō is dated, reminiscent of the Meiji-era when
The Prismriver Sisters' character introductions from Yōyōmu. The fourth sister has never appeared in game and her true identity is not known. 104 Junichirō Tanizaki Naomi 1985 Pg. 5
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traditional Japanese aesthetics and Western aesthetics commingled within the rapidly modernizing society, somewhat like that of a ukiyo-e painting of men and women dressed in Western clothing. Whether the clothing seems Western or Asian in nature, the clothes evoke a time that's at least a century ago. ZUN also has been noted for his character designs that often feature some kind of hat or ribbon that decorates each character's head.105 All combined, characters wear an ethnically confused mix and match outfit where a button-up white blouse and black skirt can be complemented by a tokin and a pair of geta. The Meiji aesthetics are most likely the result of the time line of Gensōkyō. The Hakurei Barrier sealed Gensōkyō and established the separate world from the human world in 1885.106 The sixty-year cycle then fits the years 1945 and 2005, as described earlier and would also help explain why the Westernization of Gensōkyō stopped when it did. If the creation of a separate world is to shelter the yōkai from an increasingly scientific world, then the creation of the barrier could be seen as an attempt by the people of Meiji to preserve the old.
The Touhou Wiki has even dedicated a page listing characters that do not have hats. Out of the 114 characters listed, only eight of them have no hats. 106 Although unconfirmed, the start date of 1885 is what is noted on the Japanese Tōhō Wiki fan-site. http://thwiki.info/?cmd=read&page=%B8%B8%C1%DB%B6%BF%C7%AF%C9%BD
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Fig. 6.1 Shameimaru Aya the Tengu news reporter that sports a strange mix of fashion inspirations from both the traditional and modern.
The isolated world of Gensōkyō is temporally located ideally at the cutoff point where yōkai went from becoming a real field of study, to the study of folk culture. As the fashion of Western sciences became popular, the Japanese moved to adapt their study of the supernatural to Western methods. While the supernatural persisted for the layperson to understand the new concepts brought in by Western technologies, the yōkai were increasingly “associated with a space of the rural and past, and accordingly, nostalgia.” 107
Foster Pg. 114
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Gensōkyō’s continued existence in a separate dimension cites the evolution of the romanticism held by the people of Japan. Whereas many of the yōkai are described to have been blood thirsty, their roles have, since times of old, become much more domesticated. Akyū notes the change in how yōkai and humans interact. At the end of her book she writes a monologue. In it she notes these changes:
The humans that originally feared the yōkai, or those humans that wished to exterminate the yōkai have disappeared. Now the world is changing to become one where yōkai come visit the human village and where a human is invited to a demon’s abode. This edition of Gensōkyō Chronicles is the first one of its kind since the formation of the new Gensōkyō. Nowadays, humans are seldom eaten by yōkai.108 While the Gensōkyō Chronicles were originally a guide for humans to survive in the supernatural lands of Gensōkyō, Akyū admits that the book has taken on a far more different role. The entries, while still showing the yōkai as a threat, are more a character introduction rather than a proper survival handbook.109 The cultural change in yōkai is what the audience of Tōhō is looking for. Instead of the fearsome or grotesque fiends of the night, the fans of Tōhō look for something both more affectionate and accepting of
Perfect Memento Pg. 152 Though it is important to remember, the book is a companion book to the fandom. A true copy of the Gensōkyō Chronicles would most likely not sell very well to fans.
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affection. While Yukari is said to still commit act of kami-kakushi110 on people from outside of Gensōkyō,111 she never presents herself as a malicious being, nor does she appear to do anything malicious. While she is classified as a dangerous yōkai, she spends most of her time sleeping in the day, and for that matter, sleeping all of winter as well. 112 Despite this, she teams up with Reimu out of mutual concern for Gensōkyō in Eiyashō and fights against Tenshi Hinanai in Hisōten113 to protect the integrity of Gensōkyō. The yōkai and humans of Gensōkyō live on an idealized plane where nostalgia reigns, but with just enough new age thought that it is not too alien for the intended audience. While the yōkai feel it is an idealized locale for their safety from the scientific world outside, its consumers – the otaku players of the Tōhō games – gensōkyō and the yōkai inhabitants are the idealized entity of their view on Japan. They are mostly harmless, to their admirers and display many elements of moé that otaku find appealing in characters. The otaku can take comfort in knowing that, no matter how powerful or fearsome a
神隠し - Refers to instances where people disappear for mysterious reasons. The wording notes that the missing person is “spirited away” by Gods. 111 Yukari’s ability to manipulate the boundaries of reality apparently gives her the power to freely pass through the Hakurei Barrier. 112 Perfect Memento Pg. 48 113 This was a game developed by a different group from Shanghai Alice, but ZUN still had a hand in it’s creation.
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character in Tōhō may be, they would not be harmed.
VII. Conclusion Tōhō Project reflects the aesthetics and tastes of the otaku of today. While it is set in a world that is distinctly from the past it is not entirely that of a previous era. The combination of moé and folklore created a new vision of classical Japan. The world of Gensōkyō is modern in its presentation and allure, but it simultaneously evokes a nostalgic setting. The folkloric elements of Tōhō, while initially from classical roots, are reenvisioned to support the romanticized view of Japan that otaku wish to hold. The world of Gensōkyō is filled with yōkai and other powerfully magical beings. The setting and stories contain elements of folklore and traditional culture, but they are all remixed and recreated to suit the tastes of otaku.
The characters within Tōhō are static. They do not mature, nor do they change
their surroundings. Their lack of change can be attributed to both a lack of interest among otaku who favor the consumption of moé characteristics over the consumption of a “grand narrative” and a general trend towards the zero-sum aesthetic the Japanese developed
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through Buddhist influences. Either way, characters in Tōhō only serve to expand a static world that fuels and satiates an otaku’s desire for a romanticized fantasy land that is frozen in time. While the world is frozen in place, Gensōkyō and its inhabitants are not accurate representations of the old Japan. It is, instead, a vision created by otaku that may be idealistic as much as it is nostalgic. As the music shows its inability to be quite “all Japanese”, the mixture of modern and foreign influences molds the world of Tōhō Project into an idealized vision of what otaku wish to see in classical Japan. The magical world of Tōhō allows not only the co-existence of fearsome yōkai and humans, but of foreign entities of poltergeists and vampires as well. While Gensōkyō is a nostalgic land at first glance, it is filled with out of place things that grounds the setting in both the past, and present. The creation of Tōhō Project’s world is only possible through the idealized vision otaku look for in their fantasies. Thus, while traditional folklore remains in the minds of the modern Japanese otaku, their idealized view of it differs from whatever it originally was. Tōhō serves as the fantasy world of what Japan could have been and can still be for otaku of today.