Hold, and go no further! Thou willst hear me!
The following article pertains to manga and a novella that are part of the Touhou Project video game series. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you should read my Touhou Project Primer first. It’s best to play the games before taking in anything else.
Silent Sinner in Blue.
If you think this looks stupid, just wait: it is actually stupider.
So if you read that warning up there you’ll notice this article is a review of more than one manga AND a book. They are:
Touhou Bougetsushou (東方儚月抄, lit. “Touhou Ephemeral Moon Vignette”)
- manga: Silent Sinner in Blue.
- novella: Cage in Lunatic Runagate.
- and manga: Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth (月のイナバと地上の因幡, Tsuki no Inaba to Chijou no Inaba)
And that’s the order I’ll be discussing them in.
Touhou is a rather old franchise independently forged by the man called ZUN that is mainly a bullet hell game series, but also a lot of side material and manga. I’ve reviewed all of the official manga except the ones I’ll be talking about today. First thing’s first: Touhou Bougetsushou is deep Touhou — every part of it is. This isn’t a selection of things anyone can read and enjoy; if you don’t know about Touhou — and VERY SPECIFIC parts of it, and a lot of such parts — there’s just nothing here for you. My writeup will still be spoiler-free but this is basically a recommendation for Touhou fans, not non-fans. If you don’t know Touhou canon up to and somewhat after Mountain of Faith you’re not ready for this piece of the fiction. Although it is based from Imperishable Night, it doesn’t take place around then but instead years after. So, unlike other Touhou manga you can’t just pick it up without knowing what you’re in for (because those manga follow no specific storyline), you need a knowledge base.
So with that out of the way: what is this, and why is it three things? Touhou Bougetsushou is the banner title for three works released from 2007-2009. Silent Sinner in Blue and Cage in Lunatic Runagate (by the way, runagate is basically another word for deserter) are basically the same thing and need one another to make full sense…or as much sense as one can glean from them. Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth is a gag manga not by ZUN but with his blessing. It shares the banner title so it’s here.
As a part of the fiction, Bougetsushou was pretty much always sold negatively to me by the person who encouraged me to get into Touhou — specifically, Silent Sinner in Blue was the source of many complaints. Well, my tastes and his often align so certainly, I had problems with everything I’m recommending today! Still, sure, all of it is worth reading…but only to Touhou fans.
Now let’s start with Silent Sinner in Blue, one of ZUN’s first manga (his first were the Three Fairies manga) and an experimental attempt to take the plot driving “incident” concept from the games and base a manga around it. By the way the artist of this one is Aki Eda (秋★枝), who authored Wizard’s Soul (though that would be years later). SSiB is a somewhat serious work although Touhou is a largely goofy series. It’s about schemes, basically. What I liked about it was its nonsense, what I didn’t like was how it…handled things, I guess. Let’s get into it.
Alright so basically the whole manga is about legendary gap hag Yukari Yakumo trying to invade the moon. She failed once and is trying again now that new moon people have come to live in Gensokyo, the setting of Touhou. Moon people are called Lunarians, and basically every Earthling character in Touhou fucking hates Lunarians. I, too, hate Lunarias. Yukari seems to hate them because they’re douchey and have no respect for life (literally) below them. Her grudge has lasted a really, really long time.
The first part of her plan is bothering Reimu Hakurei, the notoriously lazy shrine maiden protagonist of Touhou, to have her learn how to summon gods. But I won’t outline all her steps since that’s kind of the “appeal” of the manga I guess. Anyway eventually the resident vampire, Remilia Scarlet gets interested in invading the moon herself, and gets her magician librarian friend Patchouli Knowledge to start building a rocket. See, all these names, and there are only more ways a newcomer will be confused.
Half of the miniseries is dedicated to figuring out how to make a ramshackle magical rocket boat and then firing it at the moon. The other half is what hullabaloo happens ON the moon. That’s it.
Oh sure there are MANY details I COULD talk about. But why? There’s the plot. Other stuff happens and resident sociopath Eirin Yagokoro is recruited to a cause. Whatever!
So mostly, this marks kind of a first in that I don’t really like Silent Sinner in Blue. I liked parts of it, and I didn’t hate it, so I figured that was enough to qualify it for something I could talk about. Honestly I don’t think there’s much worth in talking about the plot details of coincidences and “coincidences” and twists and turns despite those all being in the START of the miniseries. It’s just too much.
I think my main issue with Silent Sinner in Blue, aside from Aki Eda’s art (which was less refined here and just mostly too sameface) was that it was serious. Forbidden Scrollery is also serious but in a very different way. SSiB attempts this sort of “dark and edgy” feel with characters lookin’ weirdly evil sometimes or doing things such as what’s pictured above (attempted murder! Actually illegal in Gensokyo nowadays) and I would just sit there reading with my cheek in my palm, unfazed. It’s just weird seeing as the series as a whole, while actually quite bitter and dark in the background, hardly brings any severity to the forefront. If it does (or if we’re going from SSiB‘s perspective, if it will) it does so pretty well. This is all clumsy and amateurish and ill-fitting.
During much of the second half we’re also treated to many battles against a Lunarian, further cementing one’s dislike of those people (myself included). She’s basically just an undefeatable perfect type, or a kid who doesn’t know how to play fight and simply counters all moves with an asspull (in her case she pulls gods from there). It’s irritating, and much of what the Lunarians say is irritating. They have a problem with how things live and die on Earth so they moved to the moon and became an advanced society that couldn’t die, but also technically don’t “live”. They’re very rude, honestly. While they’re actually pretty much right about most of what they say about Earth, they’re just really cunty about it. It is not without cause that they are colloquially known by many fans of the franchise as “moonbitches” (again, myself included).
Anyway the fights are also not very lovely to look at and that they’re one-sided makes them unfun. It is amusing how Reimu notes she expects to lose not because Lunarians are powerful, but because in this case she’s playing the “bad guy” role as an invader, and in her worldview villains always lose. Otherwise, Reimu is the defacto hero and while heroes may sometimes lose, Reimu never does.
So on that note let’s talk about what I liked about this miniseries.
There are things, it’s just that a lot of those things are “I’m a fan of this, so I liked it”. Basically I liked every appearance of Remilia, Patchouli, and of course Yuyuko and Youmu. I mostly liked Reimu and Marisa’s appearances as well, though maybe it’s because of Aki Eda’s art style here they generally didn’t feel as relaxed and closeknit as they do in other parts of the franchise. Reimu does pull some hilarious stuff off though (she’s very brazen, and she does well as a villain). I’ll return to characters later, however, because my absolute favorite thing about SSiB is how…out of its mind it is.
Nothing to argue with there.
This is fine.
Basically, Patchouli who does everything by the book decides to figure out how to go to the moon through outside world “magic” (she considers science to be magic, not out of ignorance, but just because she’s weird). However, she doesn’t actually approach the building of the rocket like a real world engineer, but instead takes “concepts” of rockets and rocket building and extrapolates broadly from those ideas, making decisions like “the rocket needs three stages” not because of…whatever the reason is we do staged rockets, but because rockets “need” three stages — you just can’t get to the moon if you don’t, so our rocket will have stages. Furthermore she mixes magic, religion, and whatever else will maybe work to get from ground to moon, including naming the rocket and project appropriately because if it’s poorly named it won’t be blessed with a safe journey.
Many off the wall ideas come from this and most characters accept them because 1) “well fuck it, I don’t know” and 2) “It’s Gensokyo so it’ll work”, and it does. Gensokyo literally lacks “common sense” due to how its weird barrier hides it from reality, so nonsense actually works, but the process is all hilarious and weird.
Patchouli is one of my big favorite 2hus and thankfully she’s in this a lot, being her (that is: odd, largely distant/absorbed in books, surprisingly friendly, fluffy cute). When things aren’t being needlessly dramatic the characters are mostly on point here. You’ll notice Reisen is in my #1 position on that sort linked there, and she does appear in this miniseries, CiLR, and Inaba, but at this “point” in the Touhou series overall she hasn’t grown enough as a character for me to think particularly much of her. More on that later. Remilia also features prominently and she’s just great all around. If you don’t like Remilia Scarlet you probably haven’t closely examined her character. While she’s bratty and “nobility”, she’s one of Touhou’s all around kindest and most caring characters (RARE), and she is indeed truly adorable.
My other highlights from this manga are the Hakugyokurou pair Yuyuko Saigyouji and Youmu Konpaku. It’s no exaggeration to say that whenever either of these characters have a speaking role in this franchise, I enjoy it.
Yuyuko is a ghost, Youmu is a half…phantom (which is not a ghost, but explaining how in Touhou context is a mindscrew). They have a job I won’t explain, but basically they’re often like a comedy duo more than anything. Yuyuko is at once really airheaded and actually all-knowing, except she does almost nothing with her wisdom and knowledge. Youmu is mostly serious, but is often described as a dork. Some people seem to think this is a “meme”. It is not. She’s a dork. She basically tries to play cool or be out of her element often and is the fool for it. Other characters often make fun of her because she’s that ridiculous. It’s just delightful, she’s just so earnest, there’s so much to like about her.
Youmu, and some other characters, are focused on more strongly in the supplemental work Cage in Lunatic Runagate. I’ll be ending my thoughts on Silent Sinner in Blue here and moving on to CiLR about now. All in all SSiB is basically a barely-essential Touhou reading manga. It doesn’t offer a lot of entertainment value or extra details about the setting. It has a very Gensokyoan ending to Yukari’s master plan, though, and I did really like that, especially how it’s tied up in CiLR. Honestly CiLR helps a lot, although…
Eh, let’s just talk about it.
Cage in Lunatic Runagate.
Bearing one of the more baffling titles in the Touhou franchise, Cage in Lunatic Runagate is a novella comprised mostly of first person-narrated chapters (only the last is third person) that take place around the events of Silent Sinner in Blue. It’s written by ZUN with illustrations from TOKIAME. If SSiB requires a Touhou fan to get anything out of it, CiLR requires one even more desperately. There’s really no grounding. This is not like the other manga series where the protagonist is a new character with limited perspective on Gensokyo as it is, and so there’s some way for anyone to get some enjoyment out of it, this is 100% supplemental material for fans. For the most part I think of it in a better light than I do SSiB, but it’s not like I have no problems with the book. Here’s a helpful chart that summarizes my impressions.
So basically we have a book that’s half good, by my opinion. Let’s discuss it a little.
There isn’t really a plot to this book, but it’s basically further elaborating on the moving parts behind the moon invasion business in Silent Sinner in Blue. It contains a lot of scientific rambling (ZUN likes this) and forays into legend, with some flashbacks and such. Most of the novel consists of conversations between characters, and a lot of those characters are cryptic types. The book opens with a chapter told from the perspective of Eirin Yagokoro, who I really don’t like (and this book doesn’t help). Eirin is very strange and doesn’t seem to care about much of anything aside from Princess Kaguya, who is her ward. She’s an immortal, like Kaguya, and was exiled after deliberately leaving when she made the elixir of immortality that Kaguya drank. Eirin is very cold and matter of fact and murderous. She is a very unpleasant character. Later in the novella another character say’s she’s the kindest among them, and I think this character simply hasn’t come to terms with how little Eirin gives a shit about everything.
She’s very smart and a scheming type. Her chapter, like all the moonbitch chapters, made me sleep often when trying to read it. Very boring stuff, folks.
Kaguya’s chapter was mildly interesting at points because there isn’t a lot of canon Kaguya in the franchise, so seeing her thoughts about things was nice. Toyohime’s chapter was a chore. I can’t care about Lunarians, it’s just impossible. Not the snooty ones. Anyway Toyohime is one of two sisters and she’s the kind of airheaded but secretly serious older sister, while Yorihime is the younger, more responsible but also kind of tsundere imouto. That reminds me that in this novella we learn that Yorihime is shtupping Toyohime’s son. They’re married and everything. Technically these Wakatsuki sisters are royalty (princesses) so I guess incest is par for the course, but every time I read dialogue from Yorihime or see her somewhere I keep thinking, “dude, your husband is your nephew“.
So it’s a bit of a slog just starting CiLR, but after this things mostly get better.
The next chapter is about Fujiwara no Mokou and Fujiwara no Mokou is friggin’ awesome. This chapter is not a showcase of why Mokou is awesome, though — quite the opposite, actually. Mokou is Kaguya’s mortal enemy who hates her because Mokou’s dad fell for her and Kaguya, rather than just reject him, did what she did to all her suitors: sent him on an impossible quest. The humiliation really burned Mokou, and along with the torment of eventually becoming immortal (not Kaguya’s “fault”, but technically Mokou couldn’t have become immortal without Kaguya) Mokou decided to bear a murderous grudge against the mooninite princess.
Mokou’s chapter explains how she became an immortal and what she’s done for the past 1300 years or so. It is one of the very very few pieces of genuine tragedy in the Touhou series, and it’s not exactly sympathetic. As we learn immediately, Mokou killed a man to get the elixir of immortality, however doing so is one of her greatest regrets and sinful burdens. Not because she suffered for becoming an immortal, but because the man she killed was genuinely a very good person who helped Mokou a lot and even saved her life. Her story is a very well written, twisted account of the folly of man and the awful machinations of uncaring old gods. It’s about being gripped with blind vice and greed and about suffering, and longing for redemption. I rated it “beautiful” in my chart because it really is. Mokou’s uncommon immortal dilemma is also nice. She doesn’t mourn the loss of relationships around her, but instead secrets herself away from scorn, literally becomes insane, and even becomes so wrathful that she wordlessly murders whoever happens to come across her for 300 years. She only settled down in the last 300-400 years, partly because she found Kaguya again and could kill her every day, partly because she found a friend in another character, Keine Kamishirasawa.
The chapter comes to an end after Mokou has realized she shares something special with Kaguya beyond animosity, and that she would be torn apart if Kaguya were to disappear. It ends really subtly but really powerfully, and it made me pull out the ending theme to Nier: Automata, “Weight of the World”, as it was incredibly thematically fitting. Great story. Almost worth reading if you don’t even know much about Touhou.
The next chapter is about Yukari’s bullshit. I don’t particularly like Yukari exactly for things such as what we see in this chapter. She’s very esoteric and nonsensical. That’s the whole chapter. Fuckin’ A. Moving on.
The next chapter was a pleasant surprise. It’s about a moon rabbit named Rei’sen, or at least that’s how translators have decided to render レイセン to avoid confusion with another character named Reisen. Technically Reisen’s name is spelled with kanji, but originally, the two Reisens had the same exact name due to having the same owners. And that right there, “owners”, is important.
I ended up liking Rei’sen more than I expected I ever would after reading this chapter. She’s introduced in SSiB as an AWOL rabbit who escaped mochi/medicine-pounding duties on the moon but in doing so got wrapped up in the schemes of greater powers and eventually back on the moon under new masters and now a soldier. She is introduced with the start of the manga, but she isn’t a big focus of that miniseries. She’s not, like, a new favorite of mine or anything, but she did solidify my opinion that I like all the moon rabbits in Touhou.
In Touhou, there are two kinds of rabbits: Moon Rabbits and Earth Rabbits. Earth Rabbits are youkai most like other beast youkai in the franchise: they’re evolved versions of normal rabbits, however in this setting they’re all led by this character named Tewi Inaba. I’ll get to her when we’re on the next and final manga. Moon Rabbits are aliens and to this date we don’t know where they came from or how or anything. My headcanon is that they’re moon natives, which makes the Lunarians the absurd invaders who came into they’re native lands and made the natives their slaves. Because that’s what rabbits are to Lunarians: dumb slaves. Tools, really. The common moon rabbit is literally oppressed and not free.
However moon rabbits are kind of weird. They have an innate camaraderie with all their brethren and can telepathically pseudo communicate with one another using their large ears over pretty much any distance. They’re almost all lazy and cowardly and they almost all love singing, dancing, rumor-spreading, and playing around (making them a lot like earth rabbits), however they’re somehow awfully human. They all have unique personalities unlike the earth rabbits (who are all kind of the same and all under the thrall of one Tewi Inaba). Even if one of their own betrays them by going to Earth or attacking them, the betrayer and betrayed will still get along on the grounds that their lives suck, so they understand why someone would leave. They gripe about not being free, but fear fleeing due to the punishments they’d face, and at the end of the day they’ll forever remain close-knit, no matter the distance, though they don’t really seem to consciously realize this bond they have.
So we have Rei’sen, a very common moon rabbit. She spends the chapter having very relatable fears, problems, and regrets. She fled from the moon because she thought, as a slave, she was being underutilized pounding mochi, but now as a soldier with her life literally on the line at all times she really misses her happy and innocent life. She chats with her new soldier buddies on the same wavelength as they amusingly comment on the protagonists of SSiB fighting with Yorihime (saying they want to fight despite hiding when the protagonists first showed up, and likely not wanting to fight at all), she keeps her comments to herself, and she worries a lot. Eventually she’s tasked with writing a letter to Eirin about the situation and events (in SSiB, she took Eirin’s letter to the Wakatsuki sisters) and her writing it is very sweet and innocent. She bids thanks to Reimu who took care of her when she collapsed after fleeing the moon (despite Reimu thinking she was a youkai, which she ordinarily exterminates on sight), and later considers bidding Eirin to treat Reisen with care (which, having the FULL context of Touhou at my disposal all the way to recent events, rather moved me). Rei’sen’s chapter was charming and re-contextualized moon rabbit relations for me, giving me more reason to like the downtrodden punks. Also more reason to scorn Lunarians after Toyohime read Rei’sen’s letter and made fun of it for being unrefined (and rabbits having “no knowledge”).
The next chapter is about Youmu and it is a riot…if you like Youmu.
It’s about Youmu trying to comprehend her incomprehensible elders. The gardener of the Netherworld doesn’t understand her mistress, Yuyuko Saigyouji, nor her mistress’s old friend Yukari Yakumo, so she spends the chapter recalling how she spent the last half year trying to understand and failing spectacularly. If you like Youmu for all the reasons you should, all those reasons are here for you. She tails people poorly, fails stealth missions, openly “spies” and then says “uh, nothing” when people ask why she’s taking notes or muttering to herself. Just, wonderful Youmu overload as she investigates the rocket the devil is building. A+ stuff.
The final chapter is basically an epilogue to really put a bow on any leftover details from SSiB. It’s fun, there’s a lot of good stuff like Reimu being Reimu on the moon, Remilia being unreasonable, Yuyuko being hungry, and finally Yukari being goddamn glorious to finish it all off. It does well to pull everything together and leaves me with a very positive opinion of the book overall, even with my poor opinions of the start. See, I wrote a lot about it, that’s because I really liked it.
I don’t have any major complaints unlike with Silent Sinner in Blue, so Cage in Lunagate Runagate definitely gets a thumbs up from me. For Touhou fans. Seriously this is just nonsense if you don’t know your Touhou.
I’ll now move on to the last “part” of Touhou Bougetsushou: Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth. Not much to say about it, honestly.
Inaba of the Moon
and Inaba of the Earth
That about says it all, doesn’t it.
Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth (月のイナバと地上の因幡, Tsuki no Inaba to Chijou no Inaba) is a yonkoma gag manga by Arata Toshihira (あらたとしひら) that was essentially granted “part of the franchise” status by ZUN (really, it has almost nothing to do with the other two parts of Touhou Bougetsushou). It’s generally considered “semi-canon”, and my personal interpretation of it is “generally, canon in spirit, but not in letter”. It’s a gag manga, a lot that happens in it simply makes no sense in the context of Touhou. To be honest it feels like a pretty typical doujin 4-koma collection, this one just happens to be “official”. It’s not bad. It’s fine. It is what it is and I don’t really have much to add beyond that.
The series stars Reisen Udongein Inaba, my favorite character in Touhou, not that it matters since she still hasn’t obtainted the character development at this point in history which has made her my favorite. Later she becomes just amazing, but for now she is Reisen Udongein Inaba: AWOL moon rabbit who abandoned her duties to escape to the moon during the last Lunar War, where she was found by fugitives Eirin Yagokoro and Kaguya Houraisan. They took her in, and she became Eirin’s apprentice of sorts. This happened about 40 years ago from when the manga takes place. In this manga she’s basically the straight man who’s subject to abuse and pranks. The series centers around Eientei in the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, where Kaguya and the rest live, and the three of them plus one are the main characters of this work (many other characters appear for jokes and such).
In this manga, and generally in Touhou canon, Tewi is a prankster. She’s an earth rabbit who is probably one of the oldest characters in the series (so she doesn’t listen to Reisen, or anyone), as well as probably being the legendary White Hare of Inaba. She proposed a deal with Eirin long before Reisen showed up to keep Eientei hidden in the forest, where she is master, in exchange for knowledge being gifted to her and her kin.
Now let’s stop here, because I have to talk about how among the few genuinely evil characters in Touhou, Tewi is one of the worst offenders.
I am not joking or exagerrating, there is legitimately nothing funny about why I call her evil. Sure she’s a prankster but that’s not what makes her evil. At this point in the canon the most you could call her out on would be how all earth rabbits are subservient to her, and her evil does have something to do with that.
Essentially, for whatever reason Tewi knows all youkai rabbits. If one is born she knows about it, and it goes under her thrall. She is able to command every single one and not a one falls out of line. Certainly they’re all happy, but getting there is the legitimately fucked up and sickening part. Without spoiling anything, as this is revealed in Wild and Horned Hermit, youkai such as beasts (in this case rabbits) are often born through pain, suffering, neglect, grudge, and death. Youkai are bad things, and they often have bad origins. Tewi is a profiter, and she deliberately profits off of some fucked up shit. That’s all I’ll say about that. She’s enormously selfish and self-interested, and her only allies are those of her race. She is really, really horrible. Tewi is a dreadful person. She is not cute and lovable, as she often comes across here.
Anyway that’s really all I have to say about Inaba. If you want a Touhou related slice of life manga to read, this one exists and you can read it. It has a lot of reference humor, though it’s pretty decent for reference humor.
…Phew. I’m done. That’s all of it. Touhou Bougetsushou is overall okay, but not amazing like the manga I have previously reviewed within the Touhou canon. I’m glad I got it out of the way and read, at least. But man, Inaba really is a lot like a doujin… Speaking of doujin, maybe I’ll recommend a non-H one tomorrow. Something to show how good a Touhou comic can be. I’ll see you then. Until the next review (sorry this one was late!), thanks for reading!
…oh right I usually end with some music
Touhou Project doujinshi