Friday, August 6, 2010

Touhou: the other side of the game

I’ll be honest about Touhou: I’ve heard about it way back since last year, but I’ve never actually check it out until about a few month ago.

And I’ve since then come to be a big fan of Touhou, and while it’s still too soon to say so, I think I’ll continue to stick around the series for quite a while.

Anyway, moving on to the post…

Jun'ya Ota @ ZUN, the loli loving, booze drinking, awesome creator of Touhou

Jun, a certain geologist from a certain university from a certain country (no relationship with the former, but related to yours truly)

So in the last post, I've talked on what Touhou is in terms of its original premise (that is, an indie game). But when people speak of Touhou, it’s usually more than just that - if you were browsing a few certain sites (e.g. Youtube, deviantArt, pixiv) for Touhou fanworks, you might not have thought (as have yours truly) that they were all based on a few series of an (indie, no less) game.

That is one thing that make Touhou so interesting - the fanworks are the one that actually draw newcomers to the series – I think most people find out about the game from fanworks – which in turn leads to more fanworks... and so on (or at least, that's the way it seems to be)

(of course, some of the older fans are not really taking it well at the type of new fans the series is attracting, but that's a different story).

If asked to sum up about Touhou, I’d say that it is a series of indie game that is known for mountain of fan arts, doujin comics, fan animated videos, and cover songs and albums.

The cast of Touhou from Touhou 1 to Touhou 12 - can you name them all? [click for larger picture!]

So how could a few series of an indie game gather so much fanworks in the first place?

Let's look at the games first: the premise of the games is quite simple, in which you are in a fictional place called Gensokyo. In each of these games, a new problem would arise, and it's up for you to solve them (I'd say save the day, but apparently different characters have different motive). And of course, along the way, you would encounter many characters, and as shown by the picture above, Touhou have a LOT of characters (I'll be honest, I think I could only name less than half of those characters), so this may be one of the reason why Touhou is quite famous - there's bound to be something for everyone.

And as you can see, besides a large number of characters, you also have a diverse characters' species (for lack of better word, haha): you have your typical human, as well as magician, vampire, oni, tengu, celestial being, nuclear powered crow... etc. As I said, there's a lot of characters indeed (it's not surprising that most of the characters are Eastern oriented, since Touhou could also mean Eastern, if I'm not mistaken - and the game came from Japan, anyway)

Example of a recurring fan joke

The other thing that might explain why Touhou get so many fans is that there is nothing that is absolutely canon - in fact, a lot of the running jokes/gag/meme/miscellaneous stuff that is found in fanworks are based on lines spoken by the characters in the games. This, as someone once said, means that in Touhou, 'fanon is canon' – many things are up to interpretation.

ZUN's artwork

Another interesting thing to note is that the games' character designs are... well, they're not exactly the best, as you can see above.

Fan's jab at ZUN's drawing style (exaggerated, of course)

And yet you get all these great artworks, which might lead to the uninitiated to think, "which anime are these from?":

Touhou fanarts

The same could be said with the music - although in my opinion, the musics are excellent in itself. Here's one example:

Original music

And here's the metal (!) cover of the song (slightly related note: I was actually listening to this cover way before I find out more about Touhou)

But of course, it's not all rock and metal - there's a lot of different version of covers for the songs as well, just look them up at Youtube, and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, we'll get to the last aspect of Touhou fanworks: the animated videos.

Besides the fanarts and fanmusics, a lot of Touhou fans have cited fanvideos as the thing that introduced them to the series (as for my case, it was the fanarts and fanmusics). A quick browse around Youtube (or Nico Nico Douga, a Japanese version of YT) for Touhou videos might lead you to some of these:

If you take a pause to consider that this all started from an indie game series, you couldn't help but think how much love the fans put into those works (be it arts, musics, or video). If you ask me, I'd say that Touhou might perhaps be the only series (so far) where the fanwork is the one that pull me in, as opposed to the original work (I already mentioned how I was initially put off by the game, didn't I? =P)

So if you're just (or is planning to) starting to get into the series, I can only suggest checking out the fanworks yourself. And for those wiki lurkers, I couldn’t recommend any better site than the Touhou wiki.

At the end of the day, this article was practically written as my own version of an introduction post to Touhou, after seeing a few of said posts myself (I hope the length of this article didn't put anyone off...)

Here’s hoping to hear words from any other Touhou fans (the old, the new, and the would be-s)

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