You can't let yourself be held back by common sense in Gensokyo, right? - Sanae Kochiya
Ah yes, the rather infamous Touhou Project. Known for having an immense cast full of girls with no men in sight (which is actually wrong, by the way), it is a phenomena in both gaming and anime culture especially in Japan where it thrives.
It is, of course, popular for a variety of things. The characters, the music, or perhaps even due to the fanbase itself. However, there are a lot of preconceived assumptions about this small yet detailed world especially because of the rise of things like Kancolle, F/GO, and the like which undoubtedly rode the coattails of what Touhou started. Touhou is just a waifu simulator, don't kid yourself, Azure!
While an understandable mistake, it's still a mistake.
And thus, I am to talk about the world of Gensokyo, perhaps my favorite fictional world to date.
Gensokyo, the land of the forgotten, of dreams. Pseudo paradise.
Once, Japan was full of youkai - mysterious beings that live off the fear and lives of humanity.
As humanity started to gain the knowledge of science, however, they started to attribute the mysterious events that youkai created to their newfound knowledge of the world. With that, the fear humanity had that was once attributed to youkai dissipated. The youkai are slowly dying; forgotten by humanity.
Forgotten by their cattle.
A disgrace, really.
As youkai need the fear and lives of humans to survive, a group of youkai and a shrine maiden that worships the forgotten god Hakurei, creates a barrier around the land of Gensokyo - perhaps the only land in Japan that still fears the night.
And thus started Gensokyo, where the forgotten thrive and exist. Japan started to forget of this land, but that's alright. They don't need the humans outside anymore.
Indeed, it is now paradise.
But of course, not for humanity. Especially not for the humans that live here.
Now, the Youkai have new cattle. Much smaller in size to their old feast, but it will suffice.
There is a lot to talk about this mysterious fantastic world. Of its rules, of its characters, of its laws, of its politics, of its relations to the other worlds that exist within the universe of Touhou. There is quite a bit indeed. Of course, that would be rather too lengthy, so I'll keep it as concise as possible.
In Gensokyo, a small village exists dubbed the Human Village. An incredibly generic name, isn't it?
Yet, it's called that because of one thing: it is the only place in Gensokyo where a society of humans live.
Near this village lives the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, a powerful human that maintains the balance of relations between humans and youkai. The descendant of the human that created Gensokyo, and she is named Reimu Hakurei.
A rather young girl, but tasked with such important tasks, she has no choice but to be powerful.
In this world, humans have to fear Youkai. Youkai need to be feared. Yet, these humans need to live. There is no fear without life.
Laws have to be set so that humans in this paradise do not run out. Many youkai are powerful and greedy, and will want to consume flesh of every human they can without thinking of the consequences set within the delicate balance of this world.
Thus, the shrine maiden and a group of old, powerful youkai set down a law.
Duels between youkai threaten to destroy the small world of Gensokyo.
However, a lifestyle without duels will cause the youkai to lose their power.
Accordingly, I would like to permit such duels under the following contract.
One: To make it easier for youkai to cause incidents.
Two: To make it easier for humans to resolve incidents.
Three: To reject a system wherein only the strongest have the right to rule.
Four: That beauty and thoughtfulness stand above all.
The Spellcard Rules. A system in which the beauty of what you can create wins. Rather than using your power directly, you use an interpretation of your power.
Quite the system.
This prevented careless Youkai to kill any human they please. Those that disobey are punished, by both human and youkai alike.
With that, a semblance of peace is found within this paradise. For both humanity and youkai.
Yet, of course, thinking that the problems that youkai would cause will stop with this law, is rather naive. The incidents caused by them will never cease.
After all, no matter how they look, no matter how peaceful they are, no matter how weak they are,
Youkai are the enemies of humanity.
That is what humanity has decided, for this is the balance that keeps this paradise.
The summary of the setting ends there. Gensokyo is quite the world, and is definitely not what a lot of people expect it to be at first. I definitely did not.
Now I actually talk about what I set to do. What makes Touhou worth it? What makes Touhou special from everything else?
A fanbase worth examining more than every other fandom. A fanbase that has created 3 fan animation series, a ton of fanimations, fangames, and fanmusic of incredible quality. And one that has lasted for 2 decades.
An incredible fandom full of gems that make any other fandom look bad; not only because of the quality content Touhou fans create, but surprisingly because there's not as much cancer as you would expect from such a thing.
You have the bad memes here and there, but that's about it, really.
The Touhou fandom has stayed strong.
ZUN, its creator, is awesome, and is probably one of the main reasons why Touhou fans can create such amazing content.
To start it off, he allows fanmade materials to be sold. Not just in some conventions, but commercially. Things like fanmade animation and games can be bought in some places like Steam or the PS Store.
Another part of him is that he is dedicated to his craft. You would assume that right now, ZUN would've been made Touhou to be an empire with the popularity it has. Yet, he does not. If anything, the fandom made it into an empire, not him. He does not want an anime of it to be made simply because it might get something wrong with his world, for example. It is very interesting on how this man creates things.
The game itself is superb. Period, no doubt about it. It's a bullet hell, and thus patterns are created to dodge.
The beautiful thing about the game is that the patterns depend on who the character is, and is actually based on what they are.
For instance, a character whose power is purification and only her purified rage remains in her being, for the one that killed her son - has the simplest patterns; yet incredibly dangerous ones. Tightly knit patterns that show the purity of her nature; in both her power and her intent to kill.
How everything is designed is amazing.
In such a populated world as Touhou, you would think that the characters are made and that's it. They're there with a barebones character and no backstory nor any lore, and that's it. Only there to complement the game.
You would be wrong.
Many characters in Touhou have interesting lore and backstory with them, and that makes the characters feel more alive. And while most characters don't have any form of development, all of them develop the world.
Simply put, how they interact with everything around them makes the world feel more alive. Their race, their religion, their ideals are thrown into the pit of Touhou and are mixed in with the others and create interesting interactions and even events, all of which flesh out the world.
And here we are, the greatest reason why I'm currently addicted to this series.
The world of Touhou is incredibly interesting.
For such a world of intrigue, there is a lot of politics and interactions involved. In the ideals of the groups, characters, and races on what Gensokyo should be, on what everything is, is simply interesting to see.
It is an ever developing world, full of the forgotten.
Yet, such a world will be hardly forgotten in this world.