Touhou might end up being the next big thing in the states. The doujin cute’em up has always been big in Japan, but the recent appearance of the games on Playism and promise of PS4 and Vita ports seems like a prime opportunity for a fangasm. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say, “Well, I knew about Touhou before it was cool!” You can right now. I’ll help you.
The important thing to know about Touhou is that it’s okay if you can’t keep up with all the adventures. The stories change from game to game. As long as you can keep up with the personalities therein, you’ll be fine.
We’ll start with Reimu Hakurei, the official star of the series. She’s in all of the main installments and most of the spin-offs, and is one of the few humans among all of the supernatural suspects. That’s her in the image above, the shrine maiden in the red dress with matching bow. She’s usually a brunette and always incredibly powerful. In terms of personality, she’s lazy, simple and very lucky. You wouldn’t expect someone like her to be the primary protagonist, but here we are. Even though her job is to get rid of youkai, she’s pretty friendly with the ones that aren’t actively evil.
Reimu almost always shares the spotlight with Marisa Kirisame. Marisa is, as you can tell from her attire in the screenshot above, a witch. She’s incredibly studious, having gone from a regular witch to the second most powerful person in Gensokyo, behind Reimu. She’s arrogant, cocky, a thief and generally a jerk. Funny thing is, a lot of people seem to like her. Not just in the Touhou fandom, but in-game too. I guess terrible people are popular? (That was a joke. Marisa is great.)
The third “human” in the series, Sanae Kochiya, is another important player in Touhou. Like Reimu, she’s a shrine maiden. However, her power comes from being a descendant of a goddess, thus a goddess herself. (She’s still considered a human, despite this.) That doesn’t mean she’s more powerful than Reimu and Marisa. Nope, once she came to Gensokyo, she found herself stuck in third place. She’s a bit of an outsider, since she’s new to the area and is a bonafide geek. She loves math, science and robots. Of the three “main” heroines, Sanae is the most enthusiastic about her job and likely to do things for an altruistic reason.
That covers the “main” characters, but there are two other important women to know. The first is Yukari Yakumo. You can go ahead and think of her as one of the shadowy figures that probably controls everything. She’s a very old and powerful youkai, knows everything that is happening in Gensokyo at any given moment and has been credited with putting up the Hakurei barrier between the human and youkai worlds. Since she is so powerful, some may think she doesn’t care much about what happens. She does do a lot of sleeping and drinking, staying home most of the time. However, she will get very involved with current events when necessary, for better or worse. See a blond woman with pink frilly dress and an umbrella? You’ve found Yukari.
The last character is Patchouli Knowledge and, well, she’s the fan favorite. Everybody who knows Touhou loves Patchouli. She’s a frail, youkai shut-in who wants to stay home and read her books. Her health is so bad, she sometimes has trouble reciting her spells or walking. Her outfit reflects this, as her pink dress and hat look like a nightgown and cap. Could she be the cutest character in the games? Maybe!
OK, you’re all set! No sense learning about the dozens of other characters who play major and minor roles in the series right now. Maybe if the PS4 and Vita games get localized, there’ll be another lesson.