Hold, and go no further! Thou willst hear me!
The following article pertains to a doujin manga that takes its setting from 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.
First, [fitting music].
Vector Spectacle is so fucking awesome!
Vector Spectacle (ベクトルスペクタクル) is a Touhou project non-H doujinshi series written and drawn by Hokuto (北斗) of the circle Scichil (サイチル), a circle which also consists of an author named Passport (パスポート), who is not credited for work on Vector Spectacle. Like any Touhou doujin, ZUN has nothing to do with it, and thus you may be asking “why are you reviewing a doujin — fanfiction?” If you are asking that, I respond: do you see that shit up there?
There are some Touhou doujinshi that just shatter the bar, Vector Spectacle is definitely one of them and easily my favorite for a cornucopia of reasons. Although I generally recommend not looking into doujins and other fanstuff for Touhou until you’ve gotten a grasp on the canon, Vector Spectacle is too good. You can pretty much just read it, and it does a lot to make sure even a first time Touhou fan can enjoy it.
As a brief on Touhou: it’s a franchise, about a world of fantasy called Gensokyo hidden away in ours, that was started and one-manned by a person named ZUN, and it’s mostly a series of bullet hell shooting games, but there are many spinoffs and manga and side materials. It’s…It’s got a lot of doujins. It’s got its own con. Most of them aren’t nearly as good as something like Vector Spectacle though.
To be more specific about this series, it’s an action/adventure, comedy/introspection, and yuri romance (possibly) tragedy manga starring the antagonists of “Touhou 14: Touhou Kishinjou ~ Double Dealing Character”. Those antagonists are Shinmyoumaru Sukuna (a kobito (inchling) princess) and Seija Kijin (an amanojaku)… Firstly, I am, like, smitten with Seija Kijin. While she’s not my number 1 and not even my number 2 or technically 3, Seija is a character I can get behind 100%. The story of Vector Spectacle is kind of like an alternative telling of the game where Seija was protagonist: “Touhou 14.3: Danmaku Amanojaku ~ Impossible Spell Card”. That game probably made 98% of the amanojaku fans out there. I’ll get more into that stuff later, but basically Vector Spectacle is the tits. It’s got a riveting story, bombastic style, insane action, and just fun, fun, fun all around. The art is so fucking gorgeous. I’ve reread it countless times already. At the time of this writing four “chapters” of it are out, and it currently clocks in at about the standard length of a single volume of manga, so I think it’s all good for review. Let’s get into this bad boy.
There’s only a little backstory you need for this story. Reimu Hakurei is the hand of the law in Gensokyo and exterminates youkai for a living, Yukari Yakumo is Gensokyo’s lawmaker, and both have conceived a balanced, if odd world wherein people and youkai aren’t needlessly hurt or killed. Seija Kijin devised a plot to turn society on its head in Double Dealing Character, aiming to make the weak rule over the strong. This made Yukari really angry, apparently, because now all bets are off and all rules are broken. She has demanded the rebel amanojaku’s head, permitting the use of impossible to dodge attacks to take her in.
The manga opens up with Seija on the run as usual, while Yukari here makes her bid to Gensokyo’s youkai. The manga seems to start off seriously until Yukari pulls a lame gag, immediately letting you know that the manga is going to be very jokey.
After we see Seija shouting at the sky, cursing her failure, we switch to the Hakurei Shrine, where Shinmyoumaru is. Here we see how the manga will be using multiple protagonists, since for the most part each chapter mainly uses one of the two characters for narrative focus and perspective.
Shimmy here is a real qtp2t, and I do like her a lot, but not nearly as much as Seija. With her introduction come some very necessary and amusing summaries of the past: how Shinmyoumaru and her entire race were long trapped away until Seija found her and showed her the world, Aladdin-style. This is particularly where canon splits, as the yuri element is added (and Touhou is not a yuri franchise).
Shinmyoumaru, unaware of amanojakus’ true nature, both found Seija to be her first and best friend, as well as her first love. Amanojaku are contrarians, they don’t make friends at all and instead function opposite to social norms in all ways for the express purpose of bothering others. And they really believe in doing things wrong, too. They are also notably silver-tongued, and like to trick people into making very bad decisions. This is what Seija did to Shinmyoumaru, getting her to use a legendary family heirloom called the Miracle Mallet that can grant wishes and power. This led to the events of DDC, and now Shimmy’s pissed.
While she’s bemoaning never seeing Seija again for a variety of reasons, Seija pops in. After this a lot of silly stuff happens, but Shinmyoumaru convinces Reimu to not immediately turn the amanojaku in, and eventually they find time to be alone.
So Seija being Seija sees an opening in the little princess’s heart and figures “Why the hell not? Let’s convince her to reverse society again”. It seems to not work at first, because of course, but then in a double surprise Shinmyoumaru decides to restart the revolution anyway, much to Seija’s confusion.
Reimu, who has taken a liking to Shinmyoumaru (this is canon, though it’s very exaggerated here), then embarks on a quest to retrieve the inchling before she is slain along her path to helping that wanted criminal. Other youkai come along too from DDC but there’s no need for me to focus on them.
Chapter 1, and the premise of the series, end with our villain protagonists finding their hideout from the game: the Shining Needle Castle, an upside-down castle where inchlings used to live. From hereon, they face a very difficult journey.
Between our two “heroes”, the one who’s more of a protagonist in this series is Seija Kijin. Her turmoil over the realization of the affection she has for her partner in crime (who she wanted to think of as a tool) presents the central conflict for the series, and her existence causes the regular conflict the two of them are going to face throughout the manga. Amanojaku aren’t supposed to love. It’s not simply “yuck, I can’t fall in love!”, but a matter of what it *means* to be an amanojaku. Purpose, and following it, is very important for a youkai, and shaking the foundation of one’s purpose can literally cause them to cease to exist. So that’s the problem she ends up facing in this series.
In general, as a character, Seija is a 100% asshole. I wouldn’t call her evil, per-se, but she’s one of the few legitimately antagonistic characters in the franchise, and what’s more she’s very determined and very cocky, while also still understanding the position she’s in as a weakling. Impossible Spell Card was all about her using whatever means necessary to survive, and eventually to triumph over the best Gensokyo had to offer and laugh over the remains. She’s just delightfully scummy. Basically, she cheats. In DDC all she could do was flip the screen and thus your controls, in ISC she snatches up a bunch of magical tools to be equipped to face the challenges ahead of her. They’re all cheating by using attacks she can’t avoid, so she uses literal cheat items to avoid them anyway. Brazenly. It’s just great. And since you’re controlling her it’s really easy to get into her role and understand her as you share in her woes and triumphs.
But through it all I won’t forget how Seija is a bastard. Vector Spectacle deals a lot in her struggling with being a bastard as she falls in love with Shinmyoumaru, and it’s pretty fun and interesting to watch.
Seija has a very satisfying character arc, as she retains her “fuck ’em all and fuck you as well” rebellious and curmudgeonly personality while attaining anti-heroic qualities and going to incredible lengths for the sake of her princess.
Speaking of the princess, Shinmyoumaru is the driving force behind most of what happens in this manga. Seija has a gungho personality herself, but Shinmyoumaru’s enthusiasm cannot be outmatched. She’s responsible for many awesome moments herself, which is unsurprising if you know about her character. Shimmy is basically tiny as heck but badass beyond belief, like the legendary Issun-Boushi (her ancestor) she takes after. Issun-Boushi’s eventual thing was taking down oni ridiculously over his size with a single needle. As for Shinmyoumaru, she takes on the protagonists of Touhou (notoriously strong) and does so with possibly the most intense final boss theme in the series.
While often very silly, Shinmyoumaru is basically endlessly confident in all she does, whereas Seija is often doubtful or worried about what will happen next. After all she’s got the whole of Gensokyo against her, she knows it’s genuinely dangerous even if at times she revels in victory. When faced with bad odds she’s like to say “Shit! What now?” while Shinmyoumaru is more like to say “Bring it on! I’ll never give up and don’t care what happens to me!” They, however, will both truly never give up, which makes them a good couple.
And that’s about all to say, I think. The series isn’t over yet; I pray it does have an ending because hey, doujin series never have to finish — Hokuto is beholden to none. Anyway I must say I like Reimu in this, because she’s in “game mode”, basically, as opposed to most of the official Touhou manga where most of the time she’s in relaxation mode. Reimu’s basically intense in this, knowing she is the end all and thus she will squash any resistance before her as a nuisance.
Other than that the humor in this is lovely (and the series really is pretty lewd at times, in a funny way). It’s very off the wall and fast-paced. This, combined with its oddly thought-provoking story make it a delight to read over and over. I highly recommend this manga, it’s just too fantastic.
Check it out, Touhou fan or no!
Vector Spectacle can be bought through MelonBooks (guide for registration), and Hokuto’s pixiv page can be found [here], while his twitter is @hokuto529. It isn’t available digitally… and unfortunately the last time I was in a physical MelonBooks location I wasn’t able to find it. I’m going tomorrow, as it turns out; hopefully I’ll find the series (I didn’t; the MelonBooks SFW doujin floor in Nagoya turned into a BL floor and the store moved upstairs where 3/4s of the place had become dedicated to porn…;_; So I just ordered it online). The latest volume was released in May of 2017, while the one before it was released in August of 2015. So. Yeah. Enjoy the wait! I’m hoping he can wrap it up soon, not because I want it to end, but because I want to know it HAS an end. It’s certainly heading to an end point at least. I could give it 2-3 more chapters. All the chapters are translated, though the latest hasn’t been typeset. It was released for free by Hokuto on his pixiv, though, and translated subsequently on danbooru. Also the volumes of Vector Spectacle aren’t numbered, but instead have kanji names: Jou (上), Chuu (中), Ge (下), and Ura (裏). You can think of them as “Up”, “Middle”, “Down”, and “Reverse”.
Alright, thanks for reading! I’m not sure what will be next but the next two articles are already finished, so they shouldn’t be late. See you then, have some music (Seija’s theme rocks)!