Tue 14 Dec 2010
Around four years ago, I was introduced to Touhou Project by my friend. I have heard some of the music and seen some of the characters though Stepmania or other online activities, but that was when I was formally shown the game. To put it quite simply, I was hooked. Playing EoSD over and over again, trying to beat normal mode frazzled more nerves than I could ever imagine — to this day, I would still like to extend a large middle finger to Patchy’s stupid library — but it was some uncanny combination of music, art, and intangible goodness that made Touhou so much more immersible than it seems. Characters are nuanced, but details are kept purposely ambiguous for the reader to populate with his or her own mind. I read doujins (even the non-18+ ones!), I loved all the characters, I listened to all the music, I joined communities; it was the whole nine yards. But somewhere along the way, sometime between Imperishable Night and the n-th fighting game, something got lost from the franchise. Something that really can’t be assuaged, no matter how many new games there are.
Touhou has taught me that there can be too much of a good thing. Mountain of Faith was the first vertical scrolling Touhou game that came out while I was into the hobby, and I did everything but physically go to Comiket 72 to pick up a copy. Now after dumping hundreds of hours playing the games and reading about the world, I find it difficult to care about when a new game comes out. But let’s go beyond the game, there are lots of great games. Ico is a great game but I don’t see thousands of people making it their life hobby. No, Touhou Project is what it is because of the massive canon of characters. They aren’t the most relatable bunch, but that’s the point. Touhou characters represent ideals, and it’s genius — but as a franchise goes on, fans are going to want new content. ZUN isn’t dumb, he knows that and delivers. We get around 10 new girls each game and I just feel that characters in the new games feel more diluted. Maybe the initial “oh wow this is cool” gene faded away as I became more and more accustomed to Touhou, but I just don’t like anyone in Unidentified Fantastic Object.
And one thing that has particularly annoyed me from very early on was how inundated the doujin scene has become of Touhou. It feels like every Comiket in recent memory has been swarmed with the stuff. I don’t see a problem with creating good work, and far be it for me (who can’t even draw clouds) to tell other people about what kind of art they should do, but there’s so much great stuff outside of Touhou. And then of course, music. I understand how great ZUN’s soundtracks are, but seriously what is the point of having 24 remixes of the same track? I love getting my dBu on as much as the next guy but IOSYS was funny and creative for around 6 months. One more thing, electronica and Touhou do not mix and we have seen enough evidence in practice. You can’t make decent dance music out of the kind of music ZUN composes the same way you can’t make a frying pan out of peanut butter. However people will buy anything as long as there is Touhou emblazoned on it, and it’s what sells right? Maybe I am a little butthurt about Halozy.
I haven’t posted in a while, and I don’t want to come back with an image of being a hater. I didn’t wake up one day in June, decide that Touhou is the single worst thing that happened to me since the Cubs signed Milton Bradley, then destroyed all my merchandise. Over time I just grew… fickle and lost my former passion and interest. It’s just a game. You dodge bullets. What is wrong with us? Still, I would still defend Touhou’s incredible design and quality as art to my grave, and hell I relapse all the time. I found myself playing Subterranean Animism a few months ago, loving every second of it. The challenge and frustration was riveting, as was the sense of accomplishment after I finally got past Orin for the first time. Even now I have every Touhou game on my hard drive ready to go, just in case. You could say this love hate relationship is stupid, immature even. I loved it because of its innocence, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be, lost interest and started to despise it, but I still can’t keep away. There’s some kind of beauty in that in and of itself. Maybe ZUN planned it all along.