Friday, April 22, 2011

Musing and ranting on the Touhou series: the fanbase, the future, and some case studies of similar series

Title says it all.

After the last post which seems pretty much to concur with those who don't really like the series('s fanbase), let's now take a closer look at the issue:


(Incoming wall of text below: this will be partly ranting, partly serious discussion, and contain items which only the Touhou fans could understand/would care to read)


First of all: This was very much written a few days before Reitaisai - and of course, we know what happened at that time. After the incident, I've withheld this post, waiting until the whole thing settled down. But of course, procrastination later sets in, and I've pretty much forgotten about this whole thing.

So when I saw this post at deviantArt (yeah, they still have a bunch of gems in spite of the influx of terrible 'artists'), I felt that the I should just get it over with and put this up (I recommend reading the post as extra reading material by the way - there's some pretty interesting comments in there)

So yeah. Feel free to correct, shout, ridicule, to agree, to agree to disagree, or say whatever on this subject, right there under the comment section.


TOUHOU 13: ???


As the approaching of the (now unfortunately delayed) Reitaisai, I'm sure many attentions' are toward the 13th Touhou series game, Ten Desires. And even though the trial version have been released, I don't plan to discuss on the speculations for the rest of the game. Howver, I just wanted to mention this one speculation that is relevant to the incoming wall-of text: that is, the possibility of PC-98 characters (emphasis on Mima) making a comeback on the game.

If that is true - on ZUN giving in to the complaints of certain fans for bringing back Mima - then I somewhat pity the man. As said by a certain person off the interwebs:


"Mima: I´m sure it will appear, but because fans FORCED ZUN to, I kinda like Mima but haven't played the pc98 games so... Well, ZUN maybe doesn't want the tantrum fans made when UFO got released (OMFG! MAKAI! STFU! MAKAI AND NO SHINKI IS SHIT, REMOVE THAT JESUS YOUKAI NOW!)."


Let's not dwell on the above comment and save it for later shall we?


SOME (RANDOM) INFO OF THIS RAMBLER

As what you could gleam from some of the past posts, I am actually quite new at the series, having spend a good deal of time knowing its existence, yet never taking that first few steps to initiate myself into it. And when I finally did... the rest is history, to borrow the cliched-yet-irresistible saying.

I'm sure if I have mentioned this point before, but Touhou has a combination of elements which are all not usually found altogether in a single series - elements that have managed to convert me, so to speak. Without going into too much details, they would be:
-The music
-Huge character assemblages
-A large amount of excellent fanworks
-A flexible setting that allow creative fan's interpretation
-The indie aspect of the series

Out of these aspects, I'd like to touch on the second last point: namely, the fanbase for the series.


ON FANS: MEMES, NEWFRIENDS, AND THE OH-SO-SERIOUS ONES

I guess my case of being initiated into Touhou through slightly unconventional means (you know who I'm talking about) have helped in preventing me from viewing Touhou as just one of those sugoi kawaii desu moe series.

Though, I must confess one thing: when I had just started with the series, I was very much like those autistic Touhou fans. You know, the ones who wanted the series to become more well known (in other word, for it to be commercialized), wishing for more people to be involved as part of the fanbase. I'll just get straight to the point here: I like the series a lot, but as far as the fanbase goes... sometimes I love them, sometimes they're all right, and half of the time, they can get on my nerves.

Whenever I visit certain boards and websites during my (ever ongoing) procrastinating periods (I have never stepped my foot in /jp/, and I don't plan to at the moment), I find the attitude of certain fans to be plain annoying. A good example of the said annoyance would be the rehashing of the same old meme - up to a point where it's not even funny anymore.

I'm sure most are all too aware of the example, but I'll give one to put things in perspective: gluttonous Yuyuko.

Yuyuko is sad now

Sure, her lines in Imperishable Night leads to this infamous meme - you could argue that it's something canon, even - but I can't stand it when they view her as nothing more than having a black hole for a stomach, disregarding her other personalities - and I'm not saying sometimes, I am saying how some view her as, well, nothing more than a hungry ghost with a big appetite. In other word, it's all a 1-dimensionalisation process (hey I just made up that word).

And then there's other memes that tend to make me cringe for a bit - lonely creepy Alice, 'supatenko' Ran, and Sanae being a... err, not a good girl. Someone once commented along the line that "well OK, I know Yuyuko eats a lot, and Yukari is a hag, but is that honestly all that you can say about them" - you get the idea.

"But Faults, you indulge in works that feature those memes, and you actually like them!" Well... that's a good point there: since meme are very much subjective - with some people having a certain toleration to some, and detesting the others (case in point: Yukkuri) - perhaps it's not the meme itself that is the problem here; but rather, those annoying fans which keeps on spewing the memes over and over until it's not funny anymore. And speaking of those annoying fans... good god, sometimes you couldn't hold an intelligent discussion with them without them acting all... autistic.

...all right, so I might have been a bit mean on the last point - to be fair, sometimes even the reaction of the so-called 'true' fans to these kind of fans also annoy me, with their hostility towards newcomers. And while we're on that issue, I've seen a good number of people suddenly claiming "hey I know a lot about Touhou!", but upon some checking, their 'knowledge' are mostly about those memes and other similar stuff. Do they view Touhou as a series with cute girls doing cute stuff?


THOSE OTHER FANS

Now what about the secondary fans? Nothing against the ones that only indulge in the derivative works of the series, mind: I am talking about the ones who have only touched the surface of the series - I bet they only watched some PVs and only read stuff off the wiki page, without actually playing the games - and yet they are then so eager (that word may be a bit soft - I meant rabid) to demand for Touhou to be turned into an anime series?

By demanding, I'm not simply referring to the ones that go "when is ZUN going to make an official Touhou anime anyway?": what I meant are the "OMG ZUN why don't you make a Touhou anime why are you so selfish do you hate us foreign fans or something!" kind of fans. Sure, it's true that I myself had initially felt that Touhou could use more exposure, but even I wasn't too pushy for an anime of Touhou, being aware that it would deviate from the original concept of the series.

Going back to the 'true believers' of the series, they have been some complaints on how the newer 'fans' started to like the series because 'the characters are cute/beautiful/sugoi desu', and then acting as if they know all about the series (refer to what I just mentioned above). Naturally I'm not too crazy about these people myself, but it's nothing that we could do much about, isn't it?

At this point you might think of me as being a sort of serious 'matured' fan, but I don't think so. It's actually the opposite: as much as I'd like to sound like I've been a longtime, I'm a relatively ignorant newfag - tho I do share some skepticism and cynicism of the older fans. Maybe it's just because I'm naturally serious; I don't know.


Anyway, I'm glad with the new guideline posted by ZUN - as someone had succinctly said, basically those fans (that wanted a Touhou anime) just got told. As much as the fan helps to expand the Touhou universe, keep in mind that the series belong to the man up there. Don't screw with the original!


With that, I'll just end the ranting part here and move on to a different matter:


LOOKING FORWARD...


For the first five Touhou games, I think that not many people who were there when the games came out would have expected the series to reach where it is now. The fact that it is all made by one single person may surprise the uninitiated... but there we go. Even now, I'm still scratching my head wondering that exact first moment where the fanbase of the series started to appear - a question which I would gladly just pass it as 'who knows?' (makes life more interesting that way).

When I was slowly immersing myself in Touhou - passing that initial ignorant-and-slightly-too-eager-fan phase - I was very surprised to find how people are still slowly being sucked in: I thought I was too slow at getting into the series, and things aren't getting any hotter from here onward. And the amount of fanworks are coming at an unprecedented rate, that it seems as if there is no end to them.

But eventually, a thought hit me: that one of these days, the series would decline. Of course not the point of being forgotten altogether, but it will decline for sure - just as a milk becoming sour after a long time, humans becoming old and eventually die, old ideas replaced by newer ones, empire falling after a period of glory (okay, I'm getting ahead of myself here). In other word, entropy.

As I mentioned just now, when I was getting into Touhou, no new games was being released in the nearest past; since there is a gap since the release of Hisoutensoku, I had this thought that perhaps the series is big enough as it is, that it couldn't go further anymore (I'm talking in terms of popularity and influence, not the further release of the games). And yet the fanbase starts to grow, perhaps at a tremendous speed.

A while ago, I actually had a bit of talk with another fellow Touhou fan on this subject, and he correctly pointed out that the series would one day reach that one peak, where a decline is to follow very soon afterwards. Exactly when will the series reach the peak was not discussed - it's not as if these things could be placed on a graph and be defined quantitatively, despite what some may try to prove - but he felt that it would take some time to reach there. So we felt a bit optimistic at how Touhou is faring at the moment.

Still, from this small discussion, I then pondered on the nature of how the series would decline: would it end up in a sudden crash, or would it slowly fizzle out? More importantly, once that point is reached, would the fans continue to contribute something to the series, or would all the creative pool be drained so as nothing of good quality could be produce anymore? Or, if we were to return to the fans, would those newer fans infest the series with so much nonsense that it'd drive the older fans up the walls?

Once again, 'who knows?'.


...AND BACK THROUGH TIME

"But enough with all this talk on uncertainty!", says you. Well, all right then; since we have no way of knowing for sure the fate of the series, why don't we take a look back through time to see what happened to other similar series?

I picked these series based on some similar traits shared between them and Touhou - and, of course, because of my familiarity with them. They might seems to be odd choices, but here we go:


Pocket Monster series


A series which need no introduction, it represent my fear on one possibility on how Touhou could end up at the end of the day (at least, from my perspective)

Disregarding the fact that the series has its anime series, and a large number of official games, the premise of the series seems to share some certain similarity, in that you have a certain amount of freedom to tweak around for a bit - there's so many Fakemon (as some had came to call them) you could create, many possible settings which you could base your story on, and limitless possible characters (all mostly employed in fanfictions). And of course, the large amount of fanbase meant that there's a lot of different fanworks which you could find.

If some would stereotype Touhou as 'a game with a lot of girls characters', Pokemon is known as 'that kiddie game and cartoon' - I'm sure many could relate with the statement there.


As of now, I've rather lost interest in the series: the design for the newer Pokemon are too odd for my taste, if you want to know the truth. I haven't played the game itself, so no comment on the game systems.

Now don't get me wrong tho; I like the older series and all, the games and everything, but I just can't groove with the newer works (and the fans). Does this mean I've 'grown up' from this series? If so, I might end up growing up from Touhou later. Maybe...


Mother/ Earthbound series


Ahh yes, I love the games, even if they hasn't been any new stuff out of the series (spin-off doesn't count).

The series is even more well-defined than Pokemon - the setting is quite fixed - so there isn't much room for fan's interpretation. Even though that is the case, the game is quite unique for its time tho - different from the other staple RPG games - so I guess that is one of the main reason why fans are still sticking to the series, even after all these time.

Another point worth mentioning is the music of the series, which although not made by a single guy, are quite good and rather memorable - it is actually what I like the most out of the series. There isn't too many collective fan efforts to produce a full arrangement album... except for this one, perhaps.


This might be a bit out of topic, but I find the creator of the games, Shigesato Itoi, to be a pretty interesting fellow. Looking at some of his interviews, and some of the elements he included in the games, he came across to me as quite a clever fellow, with a good amount of humour too. He reminds me of ZUN for some reason - maybe it's the way he crafted the games, not aiming to create a game that follow the mainstream. All in all, he's pretty cool. He's the kind of guy I wish I could call him at anytime of the day to have a couple of drink - tea, perhaps - as we talk about random stuff (or just me listening to him talking).

Getting back on the main topic, there are only 3 series of the games - with the first one in the late 80's - and yet you still get people talking about it to this day. Looking at this series, I feel a bit optimistic on how Touhou would stand in the future.


Cave Story


This game is very much similar to Touhou: it is created by a single guy, it has some pretty good music, it's quite addictive (but not as hard as Touhou), and have result in some pretty good fanworks. The only difference would be that the game had became mainstream - having been turned into Wii - and that a lot of things in the series are very much fixed.

While it's true that anyone who have played the game would point out that the games let you choose a few decisions which would affect the rest of the gameplay, but in terms of storyline, it's quite linear. Still, Cave Story is perhaps one of the very few series that had made me to appreciate the aspect of indie games. You could tell that the creator, Pixel, spend a lot of time in working for this game.

Anyone who have played the game would attest that the extra stage is quite tough - so much so that I viewed others' playbacks, and playing through the stage everyday just so I could get the to the 'best' ending (something which I haven't managed to apply the same intensity with the Touhou series, sadly enough).

(if you haven't played the game, I'd suggest you visit this website and have a go at it)


I have no idea how this series would fare in the future, but some people have mentioned how this game doesn't look out of place with some other classics such as, say, Metroid. Would it be hailed as a classic in the distant future then? Or, if we want to apply the same question to Touhou, would the game - not the other aspect of the series - be remembered for what it is?



LAST WORDS: WHY I BOTHERED TO WRITE THIS WALL OF TEXT ANYWAY?

So in the end, what brought me to this subject in the first place? Why bother writing something which most people won't care anyway?

Let's just say that I have something against the effect of fanbase towards a series (e.g. Bleach, Naruto and K-ON, tho I actually like the second one), and I'm slightly bothered with the direction that Touhou is heading right now. Somehow it seems to be that it's losing its 'indie' feel, now acquiring that 'anime/manga-ish series with kawaii characters' - which can be a bad or good thing, depending on how you look at it.

I am very sure that the series would still be around in the future, although the nature of the fanbase at that time is highly unknown. Maybe the fans of that time would be more annoying, that most of us oldfags would view them with disgust. Or maybe the present newer annoying fans would turn into mature seasoned fans, with the ones having attention span moving on to infest other popular series.

Or maybe we would lose interest before we reach that stage, as some people have become so.

Not a single damn was given at the end of the day~

But for now, I would rather take it easy and enjoy what the series (and the fanbase) could offer to me. Despite the serious tone that I try to keep on throughout the wall of text, I'm just as autistic as the other fans which I so fondly refers to. I may act that I'm dissatisfied with what they're doing, but in the end I myself am guilty for some of their behaviours (tho I'd like to think that I'm not as bad hahaha).

I hope ZUN keeps to his word and doesn't become a sellout:

"I'm going to keep making games that stand out, so if all my fans disappear I'm still happy I can keep doing the games I want."



To those who are still reading to this point: What is your view on the whole series fanbase? Is it bringing the series to a pool of stagnation? Is there anything that could be done about the influx of newer (annoying) fans? Should we even bother about them? Any other relevant comments related to this whole hullabaloo?

9 comments:

  1. Well said.

    To be honest, I'm just a casual fan who likes to draw fan arts of the characters, and yes, DA does have its' own gems among a sea filled with... >.>
    Then again, Pixiv is about the same at least even some of the bad ones are, "passable".

    Regarding making Touhou anime... THAT is scary though. At first, I liked the idea then it struck me.
    If a series became commercialized... that means...
    The end of all those excellent fan-made videos and songs... Which I liked them.

    Now... time for me to plan yet ANOTHER artwork. =D

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  2. I despise the series "fanbase", everyone from the ones who only watched one of the PVs and thinks that McRoll'd is the best song to the typical atrocious imageboard inhabitants. And I despise some peoples attitude and all the memes as well. If I see something about "greedy bitches", "sluts", "hags" or "gluttons", I feel like punching someones face in. Touhou is one of the things I much rather enjoy on my own, I only know one person that I can (and want to) discuss it with.

    I wonder why almost everything I like has such horrible "fans". I could go on even more, but I won't.

    >I have never stepped my foot in /jp/

    That's good. And I would keep staying away from the whole site if I were you.

    >Mother/ Earthbound series

    Great games. I wish I could afford a copy of Earthbound one day. ;_;

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  3. I share your feelings on characters from the series being reduced to a single defining characteristic. It's a shame that there's such a huge gap between the quality of the fan-made artwork/music and the fan interpretations of the characters themselves. And then, like you mentioned, these 1D characters get put in PVs leading to a new wave of fans that are just as bad. At least the people clamouring for an anime are better than the ones who still think Touhou IS an anime.

    Regarding the eventual demise of the series, I think it'll be a slow decline. It's too big to just disappear after, say, a bad game or two. I think Touhou's popularity will peak sooner rather than later just because it's already been popular for an unusually long time as far as that sort of thing goes.

    At the end of the day I try not to pay much heed to the annoying parts of any fanbase. If I did I think weeaboos would have long since scared me off any Japan-related media.

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  4. I am not a Touhou fan. I'm a casual. I know a few characters, dedicate myself to saving art of some (I LOVE YUKKURI), enjoy the music, fap to some artwork, and that's it. I don't know what the 'true' fanbase is like, but the Touhou fandom always struck me as unique because they are so rampant (in a positive light, most of the time).

    >A large amount of excellent fanworks
    >A flexible setting that allow creative fan's interpretation

    Precisely. This is what strikes me about it. It's great, and that's what a fandom should be like. I mean, I'm like that for Yume Nikki. With the only original work being the game itself, it's all about fanwork and fan-interpretation, y'know? That's what really makes things like Touhou distinctive in my eyes. You have the official stuff (just the game?), and then you have swarms of user-made stuff (merch, ero, remixes, videos, etc). There's so much of it. It can get militant!

    I support you standing up for touhou. Godspeed, faults.

    >these kind of fans also annoy me, with their hostility towards newcomers.

    Yeah, that's an issue with some things. And then after a few years the former-newcomer becomes hostile and scathing towards the new newcomers, because he was treated like that. It's a vicious cycle.

    >As of now, I've rather lost interest in the series [poke].

    Brofist. Same here. *Whispers* I don't even venture past the first 151.

    >ZUN

    I really don't know what he's about, but I've never liked him, to confess. He always struck me as so militant when it comes to his creation.

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  5. >Some random person's comment

    What? I don't think ZUN is "forced" into anything. If he wants Mima back, he'll put her back. I'd think she'd be cool to bring back as well, particularly from the details in the game guide and the general storyline of this game, but it's not that important really. It'd just be nice to have some more of the older characters show that they still have a place within the Touhou universe, since everyone else pops up from time to time. Plus, she was a playable character and actually had an important relation to one of the main characters in the series, but we've never heard from her since PC98.

    From what the commenter said, it seems more like he just wants Mima in because he saw all his friends wanting her in. Which sucks, but it's just some dude jumping the bandwagon just because.

    >sometimes I love them, sometimes they're all right, and half of the time, they can get on my nerves.

    The same an be said of all fanbases really, it's just more prominently shown with a series that has a fanbase as huge as Touhou. And the fact that lots of people don't really pay attention to the main story lines means they'll get most of their information regarding the characters from other fans that don't pay attention to the core of the series. Meaning they'll just be meme spouting to try and fit in with the crowd.

    I find that in moderation sometimes the memes work out well. Such as an occasional 4koma that uses it in a way that hasn't been seen 1000 times and can make it funny. The problem is, most people don't get creative with it. It's nice for a laugh if done right, but it's annoying because people just make the same jokes that are boring. I believe you pointed this out in your rant, but worded it a bit differently. It's not the jokes that are inherently bad, it's the people that beat the dead horse with a stick and still think it's cool.

    >Pokemon and Mother

    Funny, a lot of the people that worked on Mother also worked on Pokemon.

    I kinda feel people disregard the drastic changes that come out with each generation of Pokemon because they just scratch the surface and see "New pokemon, plot with kid going and defeating team X, new moves, same shit." Not that I blame them, because on the surface it really does just look like rehashes galore. I don't think it's seen so much as a kiddie series (I think even normals don't find it strange considering how many college students play the games still while having normal interests), just people not interested in it as much as when they were kids.

    >Would it be hailed as a classic in the distant future then?

    I don't think so. The difference between classics like Metroid and more modern 8-bit like Cave Story is that, back then those were the games that stood out. With a flood of crappy games that came out in that era, there were fun games like Metroid that you simply had to get so you wouldn't miss out. If Pixel somehow managed to develop this game with the limited technology back at the time and get Nintendo to license it, then it probably would have taken a place along side the classics. But it probably would have been milked in typical Nintendo fashion as well, not that it's necessarily a bad thing for that to happen.

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  6. Not a touhou fan, my friend is though. He rages hard at the fanbase.

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  7. I'm personally just entering the Touhou-sphere, taking it nice and slow. I've been playing the games and am yet to get into the whole fan based content associated with it. However nice post and I can imagine exactly the type of fan you are talking about.

    In terms of a Touhou Anime, I don't think it would be a good idea if it became popular, the main appeal of the fanbased content Touhou has is how it is refined and actually good. I think if there is an anime it would turn into 'Linkin Park AMV' level crap.

    I don't think the fandom will kill Touhou though, the good stuff will still be out there, you just need to know where to look, simply filtering out the shit.

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  8. Late~

    I feel I'm unqualified to speak on the matter, since I'm not much of a "good fan" myself, but I'll throw in my two cents: I avoid acknowledging the fanbase for any of the things I like. It just tend to give me a headache. As far as I'm concerned, those new fans don't exist 'til they contribute something of substance.

    Touhou shouldn't become an anime, it should just stay a game series; no one has the right to bitch on that, especially western fans.

    ANYTHING can have a bad fanbase, it's almost a law of the universe.

    Interesting that you bring up those other series. A similar "stagnation" is especially evident with Pokemon, and I'm not even going to go into why.

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