Touhou

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Touhou Project ("Touhou", 東方, meaning Eastern or Oriental, pronounced "Toh Hoh") is a series of Doujin scrolling shooter games in the "Bullet Hell" subgenre, developed by Team Shanghai Alice. It is most famous for its high difficulty level involving intricate bullet patterns, and the fact that instead of having spaceships and warfare vehicles, it has girls in frilly dresses: nearly every character is a Little Miss Badass, Cute Monster Girl, or Cute Witch, and wears some degree of Elegant Gothic Lolita clothing. Much of its popularity, however, comes from its enormous Doujinshi and Shipping community, unusual in that the community is creating doujinshi based on doujinshi, and is taken to another level with the equally enormous amounts of amateur musical arranges of the games' music. Indeed, most of the characters are given only a framework personality in the games, traditionally leaving most of the details up to Fanon. However, the series creator has written quite a bit of manga, stories, and general information for it as well.

Nearly all the games in the series have a plot along these lines: In the Magical Land of Gensokyo - a Fantasy Kitchen Sink in Japan, which exists halfway inside Another Dimension thanks to a powerful magical barrier - some Anti-Villain with a lot of Applied Phlebotinum on their hands thinks messing with the laws of nature to fulfill a not really evil plan would be a good idea. Miko Reimu Hakurei or magician Marisa Kirisame, due to annoyance and greed, respectively, must go out and fix the problem, occasionally with playable versions of bosses from previous games thrown in for kicks. They spend the first 2 levels wandering aimlessly and defeating random monsters/people that have no relation to the Big Bad. The third boss, however, happens to know something about the incident and points them in the right direction. The fifth boss is the Big Bad's Battle Butler, and the sixth boss is the Big Bad herself. After defeating the Big Bad, the main character will have a tea party with the Big Bad and their Battle Butler after which some other task arises, taking the form of the game's ultra-difficult extra stage.

Like Cave Story, it's also outstanding in that the entirety of the games, including the sprite graphics, 3D graphics, character portraits, dialogue, story, music composition, programming, bullet-patterns, and concept are all done by one person known only as "ZUN".

See also the extensive wiki about the game series.

The official games in chronological order: [1]

The long list

  • TH 01 Touhou Reiiden ~ Highly Responsive to Prayers [2]
  • TH 02 Touhou Fuumaroku ~ the Story of Eastern Wonderland [3]
  • TH 03 Touhou Yumejikuu ~ Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream [4]
  • TH 04 Touhou Gensokyo ~ Lotus Land Story [5]
  • TH 05 Touhou Kaikidan ~ Mystic Square [6]
  • TH 06 Touhou Koumakyou ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil [7]
  • TH 07 Touhou Youyoumu ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom [8]
  • TH 07.5 Touhou Suimusou ~ Immaterial and Missing Power [9]
  • TH 08 Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night [10]
  • TH 09 Touhou Kaeidzuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View [11]
  • TH 09.5 Touhou Bunkachou ~ Shoot the Bullet [12]
  • TH 10 Touhou Fuujinroku ~ Mountain of Faith [13]
  • TH 10.5 Touhou Hisouten ~ Scarlet Weather Rhapsody [14]
  • TH 11 Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism [15]
  • TH 12 Touhou Seirensen ~ Undefined Fantastic Object [16]
  • TH 12.3 Touhou Hisoutensoku ~ Choudokyuu Ginyoru no Nazo wo Oe [17] [18]
  • TH 12.5 Double Spoiler ~ Touhou Bunkachou [19]
  • TH 12.8 Yousei Daisensou ~ Touhou Sangetsusei [20] [21]
  • TH 13 Touhou Shinreibyou ~ Ten Desires [22]
  • TH 13.5 Touhou Shinkirou ~ Hopeless Masquerade [23]
  • TH 14 Touhou Kishinjou ~ Double Dealing Character [24]
  • TH 14.3 Danmaku Amanojaku ~ Impossible Spell Card
  • TH 14.5 Touhou Shinhiroku ~ Urban Legend in Limbo [25]
  • TH 15 Touhou Kanjuden ~ Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom [26]
  • TH 15.5 Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antimony of Common Flowers [27]
  • TH 16 Touhou Tenkuushou ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons [28]

Sister Series

  • Seihou (or "西方"; literally means Western)
  • Samidare (considered a Spiritual Successor to the Seihou series, but not a part of it)

Fangames

Other (see the Touhou fanfic page for more)



Tropes that pertain to the story, fanon, fandom, or other non-gameplay elements
  • Aesop Amnesia: Each of the character's storylines in Phantasmagoria of Flower View ends with them learning An Aesop. If you play as Eiki, however, which takes place after all of the others, it turns out that everyone forgot or misunderstood what they were supposed to learn.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • At least every other picture of ZUN shows him drinking alcohol, with several bottles of it at his side, or both.
    • In the series canon, oni are the heaviest drinkers out of everyone, followed closely by the tengu, and the cast really loves their alcohol in any shape or form in the Expanded Universe.
  • All There in the Manual: Touhou games do a great deal of storytelling in-game compared to most top-down shooters, but some of the details of the plot are only available from the additional material on the game CDs. Additionally, most of the information about Gensokyo in general comes from the add-on books released separately from the games.
    • Curiosities of Lotus Asia is a series of Slice of Life short stories written by ZUN from Rinnosuke's perspective.
    • Eastern and Little Nature Deity / Strange and Bright Nature Deity / Oriental Sacred Place is a Slice of Life manga focusing on the various misadventures of the three fairies of light as well as, usually, Reimu and Marisa. ZUN is credited for "scenario", which could mean all sorts of things about how closely he oversees this, but he at least provides the general ideas.
    • Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red is a book presenting articles from Aya's newspaper. Most are focused on individual characters from EoSD through IN with accompanying interviews, but there are also editorials on major locations and Aya's perspective of what happened in the games. The book also included some music commentary from ZUN, an interview, a one-shot official manga, and several fan-made doujinshi.
    • A Flower Blooming Fragrant Violet Every Sixty Years is a short story contained in the otherwise non-canon fanbook Seasonal Dream Vision. From Yukari's perspective, it explains a bit more of just what the hell was going on in Phantasmagoria of Flower View.
    • Perfect Memento in Strict Sense is another book, part of the Gensokyo Chronicles, as written by the ninth child of Miare, Hieda no Akyuu. Like BAiJR, many of the articles are focused on characters up through PoFV, but there's also some general setting background information and expands on powers and relationships. It too has an associated one-shot manga, but less other goodies.
    • Silent Sinner in Blue is a manga about a complicated incident involving the Moon. Mostly set after MoF, it's more plot-focused than most of these works, but as with the fairies' manga, ZUN has the enigmatic "scenario" credit.
    • Cage in Lunatic Runagate is a series of short stories that tie into SSiB, though they focus more on the characters' personalities and backstories and is more serious than most Touhou material.
    • Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth are a series of gag 4koma related to SSiB and CiLR. Together, the three bear the title Touhou Bougetsushou. ZUN had less to do with this than with the other manga. He's said he pretty much just gave the artist/writer a general idea of who should show up when.
    • The Grimoire of Marisa is the third book, "written" by Marisa as she comments on characters' spell cards.
    • Ghostly Field Club, Changeability of Strange Dream, Retrospective 53 Minutes, Magical Astronomy, and Trojan Green Asteroid are a series of music CDs that also had strange, extremely short stories about two girls, Maribel Han and Usami Renko, who live in the future outer world.
    • Wild and Horned Hermit is another manga, set after the events of DS. Looks to be a semi-serious series following Kasen Ibara, mostly focusing on world-building. Still new, though.
    • Symposium of Post-Mysticism is a sequel of sorts to Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, covering most of the characters introduced since. In lieu of the non-character encyclopedia entries it has a number of newspaper articles and a transcript of the titular symposium between Byakuren, Kanako, and Miko. Contains an incredible amount of information on the setting's metaphysics.
  • Already Done for You: Perspective Inverted in Ten Desires. Mamizou found out that the heroines have already defeated Miko, the person whom she's called for by Nue to defeat. Doesn't stop her from fighting said heroines, just because. Considering Mamizou's power, perhaps the heroines should just stay at home.
  • Amazon Brigade: Almost all characters are female powerhouses. In contrast, the few living male characters aren't known to be fighters.
  • Animesque: It is a Japanese property, but fan art, Fan Vids, and other such things are very prone to making it look like an anime series rather than a game. There's a reason why there's a Fan Vid page.
  • Art Evolution: SO much of it getting zigzagged, leading to Memetic Mutations such as Undead Zombie Reimu (her appearance in Mountain of Faith, which was notoriously bad, even for ZUN's art). The 12th Touhou game, UFO, has been praised for ZUN's art improving.
  • Asian Rune Chant: Referenced in some of Sanae's spellcards.
  • Battle Butler: Many penultimate bosses are a servant of the final boss and have very unlikely job descriptions for someone of their combat abilities.
    • In Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream Chiyuri is Yumemi's research assistant in "comparative physics".
    • Mystic Square and The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil both have Ninja Maids in the form of Yumeko and Sakuya, the latter being by far one of the most popular characters of the franchise.
    • Perfect Cherry Blossom introduces samurai gardener Youmu. You wouldn't recognize her as such from the fanbase, though.
    • Eirin and Reisen from Imperishable Night both fit the part, being Kaguya's pharmacist and pet respectively.
    • Komachi from Phantasmagoria of Flower View also counts, since her official job is to be The Ferry Man of the Sanzu River.
    • In Mountain of Faith Sanae is the priestess of both the final and extra boss.
    • Subterranean Animism reverses this trend by having the Big Bad and the stage 5 boss be the pets of the stage 4 boss.
  • Badass: Every single girl, but that soccer ball is the most powerful thing in Gensokyo![29]
  • Berserk Button: The fandom has one in the question "What anime is this?" as well as when someone on YouTube claims that Touhou stole from the McRoll. For the uninitiated, the McRoll is based on Flandre's theme, not the other way around. Western fandom is also beginning to detest old memes (pads, etc.).
    • May the Lord have mercy on you if you tell Reimu she has awful night vision.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Don't annoy Yuuka or Yuyuko.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Don't annoy off Yukari (or Yuyuko again), Suwako, Suika, or Koishi, either.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Youkai as a whole act "odd" by human standards, and Yukari is weird even by their standards.
  • Bigger on the Inside:
    • Yuuka's mansion, Mugenkan, in Lotus Land Story. Justified, since it's located in a dream world.
    • The Scarlet Devil Mansion. Hand Waved - Sakuya uses her time and space manipulation to cause the effect.
    • Eientei. Hand Waves involving timehax are also involved, courtesy of Kaguya.
    • The Palanquin ship of Touhou 12 appears a lot larger on the inside as well - despite it being a massive wooden ship already.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: The Touhou M-1 Grand Prix, currently in its 6th cycle.
  • Boobs of Steel: Because ZUN almost never draws boobs on any of the characters, their bust sizes in Fanon are the result of mass Memetic Mutation among fanartists. The most mature-seeming characters will usually be drawn with the largest breasts. See Self Fanservice.
  • Bootstrapped Leitmotif: A character's Leitmotif usually ends up being the music from their boss fight, but this trope happens a few times. Meiling, Alice and Youmu all get their stage themes as Leitmotifs (along with their boss themes); Suika gets her pre-battle theme (again, along with her boss theme).
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Every game has at least one "death fairy"/"doom fairy" -- a seemingly normal fairy that has attacks and health comparable to most bosses. They always come from the top-center of the screen, and, like bosses, have abnormally elaborate bullet patterns.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens every now and then in the games.
  • Brick Joke: From Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth, the Banana Yogurt Natto Drink.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: The Grimoire Of Marisa includes a star rating for each spell card, but several are passed over for being too weak or too strong for the rating to matter, and others get silly ones, such as "Mega-Disgusting Score" for Wriggle's bug attacks.
  • The Cameo: Wild and Horned Hermit is absolutely covered in these. The story hasn't used many characters yet, but Azuma Aya seems to want to draw as many as possible.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Gensokyo has a food chain. You're not at the top of it, since most non-human characters will attempt to eat helpless humans away from the protection of a village. The youkai cast often threatens to eat the player character, but they're empty threats - none of the youkai eat humans anymore. Per usual, fanon jacks this up to insane levels.
  • Cast Herd: Given the enormous number of characters, it isn't surprising they tend to be split into distinct groups. Sometimes this is done per game, but other times, it's done based on location (Eientei/Moriya), based on intellect ("Team 9"), and so forth. Tends to be subverted over time as each group stars in works that elaborate on their members' characterizations.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy
  • Chekhov's Gun/Foreshadowing: A meta version for the reader/player. Perfect Memento in Strict Sense was released in 2006 before the game Mountain of Faith. With that in mind, look through some of the articles and realize just how much of Perfect Memento became used in future games.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Present in Perfect Cherry Blossom, of course. They apparently contain the power of spring. Some of the bosses charge their spell cards by absorbing cherry blossoms.
  • City with No Name: The Human Village (somewhat justified in that there seems to be only the one), and the Former District of Hell. Makai and Higan could be aversions if they contain actual cities. There's also a Tengu City somewhere up Youkai Mountain and a Lunar Capital on the Moon, but they may just be a product of people only talking about it indirectly (popular petnames).
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • The premise of Mountain of Faith, along with Gods Need Prayer Badly.
    • If Rinnosuke's theories are correct, the entire realm of Gensokyo inverts this. According to him, things such as magic, youkai, gods, etc. are able to exist in Gensokyo because people in the outside world actively disbelieve in them. For instance, in the tie-in manga Silent Sinner in Blue, he manages to find information on the Moon landings because, as he claims, enough people have become convinced that they never happened. There is also evidence to the contrary (what with him being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All), so this is hardly conclusive proof.
    • In general, this is how youkai and gods come into being. The belief of them makes them stronger, while forgetting them causes them to ether disappear (Youkais) or return to being a nameless Divine Spirit (God). Gods, however are shaped by their Myths, which allows them to change their titles and powers due to their followers believing in them. Yasaka was orginally a Storm god before she became a Mountain god, for example. The real reason for Gensokyo is to seperate the Youkai from human imagiation, allowing them to shape themselves. This trope is played straight, subverted, and inverted all at the same time.
  • Conservation of Competence
  • Continuity Creep: The plots of the games were originally largely standalone. Each game was generally self-contained. However, starting with Mountain of Faith, the series has gained continuity, the events happening in each game becoming connected in various ways. ZUN has both stated that "Touhou is not a series" and included the phrase "Touhou series" in manuals.
  • Continuity Reboot: The first 5 games were released between 1996 and 1998 on the Japan-only PC-98 computer. In 2002, the series continued on the Windows platform starting with Touhou 6, Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. Although the numbering scheme still includes the PC-98 games, most of the characters and events in these games have never been mentioned again in any canon materials, including Perfect Memento in Strict Sense. The only exceptions are PC-98 characters who made reappearances in the Windows games: Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Alice Margatroid (looking much older than her appearance as a child in Mystic Square and with a different backstory), and Yuuka Kazami. Fans still argue if the rest of the PC-98s are canon and if Alice's new backstory can compliment hers in Mystic Square.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Wild Mass Guessing spawned from Rin Satsuki has either seemingly manifested in another game, or was too good to be true. Among a few of them are how the Japanese fandom believed she was a Taoist, due to her carrying an erhu, and being assumed a Qilin (sometimes romanized as "Kirin", which supports the romanization of her name, Satsuki Rin), which is primarily represented as a Chinese deity excelling in healing. Cue Imperishable Night and Ten Desires, with their focus on a nurse (HELP ME, EIRIN!) and Taoism, respectively, and her popularity has reignited.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: There are many examples, but some notable ones involve flying through the Burning Hells and fighting a boss who throws miniature suns at you routinely. Some of this can be justified by Gameplay and Story Segregation, but the player characters should have really died well before reaching Utsuho.
    • Reimu does comment on how incredibly hot it is and that she's feeling like she's about to get roasted. She (and probably Marisa too) is most likely only saved by her very powerful magic shielding her.
  • Cool Gate:
    • The Hakurei Shrine serves as a gateway between our world and Gensokyo, and has a traditional Japanese arch.
    • The gate at the Netherworld (Hakugyokurou) is an subversion, in that it is placed at the entrance to the Netherworld, but it doesn't open. People just fly over it instead.
  • Media Research Failure: Special mention to CNN, who covered the Shadow Art PV for Alstroemeria's "Bad Apple!!" with little to no idea about what they were actually talking about. They even went as far as to say that the stop-motion version was the origin of the entire thing, making this a Critical Research Failure. This incident led a number of Touhou fans to refer to CNN as the "Cirno News Network".
  • Crossover: "If it exists, there's a crossover with Touhou" is almost an internet rule. Seriously, it even has its own page.
  • Curtains Match the Window: All of the PC-98 characters have a same eye color as their hair (given that they're in their regular outfit). There is a fair share of Windows characters with this as well.
  • Cut and Paste Translation: There is at least one instance wherein the English translators just made stuff up, namely the "only a stage 2 boss".
  • Cute'Em Up: Thankfully, Gensokyo's not a Sugar Bowl that Tastes Like Diabetes, but it's still a major dietary source of Moe.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Almost every Youkai depicted in the series is one of these.
  • David Versus Goliath: Averted. The playable characters are all depicted as being at least as powerful and competent as any of the boss characters, and are the same size as the boss characters. Especially unusual in 2D scrolling shooter games, since most tend to have huge tanks and planes as bosses which are much bigger than the player character. The rules of danmaku, which every character follows, make sure that everyone has a chance of winning despite their difference in sheer power. The player characters even have their own special attacks comparable to boss characters' attacks... just not when you're controlling them.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: At least one ending to every game involves the main character having a tea party with the Big Bad, and dragons Sakuya Izayoi, Youmu Konpaku, Sanae Kochiya, and even Marisa Kirisame have become playable characters after getting defeated.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Pretty much every game has an ending like this.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the PC-98 games, you defeat the Angel of Death, two goddesses who created their own dream world (just because your player character was bored), and The Goddess of Hell. In the Windows series, the protagonist stops the mistress of the Netherworld with the power to invoke death in mortals, the local Charon equivalent, one of the Judges of the dead (who is implied to be more powerful than anything in Gensokyo), five gods, a hell raven who gains the power of nuclear fusion after devouring a dead sun god, and a vampire that can destroy anything she sees, not to mention the reality-warping youkai who may have created Gensokyo itself. This is one of the purposes behind the spell card system - it allows even weak humans and youkai a chance at fighting stronger opponents to settle accounts, without needless, one-sided bloodshed.
  • Do Not Spoil This Ending: ZUN has requested that the fanbase keep the endings of the games secret and, for the most part, the fanbase complies (although you can find all of them if you know where to look). Given that request, and the fact that, to get a good ending, one has to 1 credit clear the game, seeing the good ending of a game is a great accomplishment, indeed.
  • Dragons Up the Yin-Yang: Dragons are almost never mentioned or seen, but they are said to be in the highest class of beings in Gensokyo. The only dragon spoken of in canon is worshiped as a god by human and youkai alike for his power to create or destroy anything. It's said that he appeared in the sky on the day the Great Hakurei Border was erected.
  • Dream Land: The later stages of Story of Eastern Wonderland and the extra stage of Lotus Land Story.
  • Drop-In Character: Half the cast, to one degree or other, and into various locations, the most common being the Hakurei Shrine.
  • Drunken Master: The creator of the games, ZUN, is a drinker, and Memetic Mutation has progressed it to the point where, much like Suika Ibuki, he is never sober. This isn't too far from the truth. Practically every image of him seems to show a beer within arm's reach, and ZUN himself admitted being drunk during some of Imperishable Night's development.
  • Dummied Out: Rin Satsuki in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. Needless to say, she's prime OC Stand-In bait.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: A large chunk of the cast.
  • Every Girl Without Nice Hats Is Cuter With Hair Decorations
  • Everyone Is a Super: From common fairies to even average Gensokyo humans, who have some magic powers, it is flat-out assumed everyone has some kind of special powers or danmaku powers here.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: If we were to tell you that kedama essentially means "fuzzball" in Japanese, could you guess what enemy it refers to?
  • Eyes of Gold: Fairly common in Gensokyo.
  • The Fair Folk: Youkai tend to act like this. They have been relatively behaving this generation due to a lazy yet powerful Miko and trigger-happy Cute Witch who have been befriending them constantly.
  • Fairy Tale:
  • Fanime:
  • Fantastic Ghetto: The underground is basically a place where despised youkai eventually settle down.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The residents of the underground are mostly youkai who are hated or feared, usually for their power. A notable example is the satori species. According to Hatate's comments from Double Spoiler on Satori's spells, there used to be many satoris on Youkai Mountain, but they were banished to the underground because of their ability to read other people's mind.
    • Undefined Fantastic Object brings up the question of whether it's youkai who are oppressing humans or the other way around. It should be noted that the cycle of youkai terrorizing humans and being "exterminated" in turn is actually necessary for Gensokyo's survival. Not that that excuses some of the remarks our heroines make...
    • Reimu is unique in that, despite one of the few dealing with youkai being jerks on a daily basis, she doesn't care about them one way or another.
  • Fan Vids: a whole page of them.
  • Flandreization: Fanon is fond of this, characters commonly reduced to a single character quirk which may or may not have been a major part of their character in the original games. Given that this happens to every single character, often in multiple ways, a full list of every change would far, far larger than this page.
  • Flying Firepower: Everyone.
  • Full-Contact Magic: At least in the fighting games, as well as in fanworks, the intense nature of spell card duels is portrayed as having a fierce physical combat aspect, especially for the more physically abled girls.
  • Functional Magic: Inherent Gift, Theurgy, Device Magic, Alchemical Magic, Rule Magic, and Force Magic are all present.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Most of the games' names have both a Japanese portion and an English portion. The Western community refers to games by the acronyms of their English parts: Perfect Cherry Blossom - PCB, Imperishable Night - IN, etc. One wonders if ZUN took notice, as the 12th game's English name is Undefined Fantastic Object.
  • Gaiden Game: Anything with a decimal point in its number.
  • Game Breaking Bug: In Ten Desires, the game will up and crash if you are not using a bomb, a valuable resource, when the Survival Card of the Extra Boss ends. This is the second last attack in the entire game.
    • Even worse, that makes it impossible to capture in Spellcard mode because you aren't given any bombs to start with. Be grateful the patch for that only took a few days.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Certain dialogue reflect gameplay events; for example, Nitori will not comment that her optical camouflage suit broke if you time out her Optical Optical Camouflage spellcard.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: There tends to be a disconnect between what a character's powers are said to be, and what they can actually do. No matter what a character's stated powers are, they only manifest in the form of danmaku in-game. Justified, in that the spell card rules require danmaku to be used to solve disputes. It's what stops every stage 5, 6, and extra boss from curb-stomping you. See Holding Back the Phlebotinum.
    • Although divine beings are said to be poisonous to youkai, Remilia can safely suck Tenshi and Suwako's blood in Hisoutensoku in her alternate special move "Vampire Kiss".
  • Ghibli Hills: What most of Gensokyo's landscape consists of, Scenery Porn included.
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: A good half of the cast.
  • Good All Along:
    • As with White and Grey Morality, nobody is really evil in Gensokyo, which helps facilitate Defeat Means Friendship. Actively noted by ZUN, who mentioned that the "darker" plots of Mountain of Faith and Subterranean Animism (see Sorting Algorithm of Evil) would be shifted back to the lighter tone of the rest of the series in subsequent games, which was indeed the case with UFO, save for the aforementioned philosophising about the nature of youkai and humans.
    • Fanworks love to avert this, claiming that one (or more) character is a jackass psycho. It's a running gag in some boards that everyone is evil, and some fans are of the opinion everyone is too rude to be truly "good".
  • The Greatest Story Never Told:
    • By the end of Imperishable Night, only all the team members, Kaguya and company, and Keine know that the real incident was the corrupted Moon. Everyone else thinks that the real incident was the unending night, which was actually caused by the protagonists you chose in order to buy time to fix the Moon.
    • From Reimu's interview in Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red, it would seem Gensokyo's residents are unaware of her resolving any of the incidents.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Most youkai seem to get by with whatever talent they're born with and no training whatsoever.
    • Reimu's laziness, yet apparent genius lets her get by without any training either. Averted with Marisa, who works like crazy just to keep up.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: UFO stage 6 theme has this. Probably counts as a Mythology Gag to the PC-98 games, since ZUN wanted to do the Mystic Square stage 6 theme with heartbeat sounds.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Pretty much every character has some Informed Ability that is nearly useless if taken at face value, and the ones that don't are basically triple-7's on the Superpower Lottery. Danmaku prowess is sometimes even completely exclusive to what power a character has, though more frequently the character's ability plays a role in their danmaku to varying degrees, such as Cirno's ice projectiles making up most but not all of her attacks.
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The spell card system was created, because the youkai would have no other way to fight Reimu, who is canonically unbeatable by any method when she isn't messing around and killing her would possibly result in the collapse of Gensokyo's barrier, which separates it from our world. For Reimu it may just be an excuse to be lazy and not take things seriously. Some of the more forward thinking youkai recognize that the spell card system allows them to sit down and have tea with mortal enemies, and keeps the place at least safer, if not safe.
  • I Believe I Can Fly: Pretty much everyone. By this point, the series has stopped trying to justify it. Subverted originally, Reimu walked or used Genji, a flying turtle.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: With the exception of Sangetsusei and some of the music CDs, the Japanese title of every official Touhou work shares at least one kanji with the name of a character introduced in it (or involved, in the case of Seasonal Dream Vision).
  • Image Board:
    • Pooshlmer is a major English imageboard for most of your Touhou needs.
    • Voile, not to be confused with Patchouli's library, is where people translate the fancomics.
    • Although Danbooru isn't specifically dedicated to Touhou, roughly 25% (and growing) of its content (over 265k images) is Touhou. Some individual characters (and not even just the main characters) have more images than entire popular series such as Final Fantasy and Lyrical Nanoha.
  • Immortality:
    • Resurrective Immortality:
      • All who drink the Hourai Elixir gain the resurrective type.
      • The fairies work like this: They have very short life spans, but are reborn in the same shape (a healthy one, that is) as soon as they die even if they're blown to pieces, essentially making them immortal.
    • The Ageless:
      • Magicians who become "complete" gain a this - they stop aging, but disease may or may not still kill them, as they're still as fragile as humans.
      • Lunarians don't age, since it's "impure". They can die by non-natural means, though.
      • Toyosatomimi no Miko and company were seeking this, as was Byakuren.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Practically everyone. Notable exceptions are Kaguya and Yuyuko, when she's not busy harassing her guardian.
  • Fundamentally Female Cast: The entire cast just happens to be female with the apparent exception of Unzan, although he's less of a person than an angry cloud, and Rinnosuke, who is an Expanded Universe character and Non-Action Guy. The PC-98 games had Genji, who doesn't count due to being a turtle, and half of Shingyoku as well.
  • Informed Ability: Due to how danmaku battles work,[30] most characters' stated abilities have very little relevance to their gameplay performance.
  • It Amused Me: Bored characters do a lot of crazy things in this series and are occasionally responsible for the entire plot with no further motive than to shake things up. Many extra stage fights are along these lines on the part of both protagonist and boss. This is the entire reason why Tenshi comes down in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
  • Justified Trope: So many. The Spell Card Rules, drafted by Reimu, justify Non-Lethal KO, Let's You and Him Fight, Super Move Portrait Attack, the ability to have crazy semiregular incidents while maintaining White and Grey Morality, and even the use of the Bullet Hell genre itself... because the tropes are the law. And for very good reasons: it lets youkai do what they do best, lets Reimu easily resolve the incidents, and lets youkai fight back without fear of killing Reimu, which would be a very Bad Thing.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Almost everyone wears pretty frilly dresses.
  • Leitmotif: Each boss in the main series gets a unique song for her Boss Battle, which naturally becomes her Leitmotif in fanworks.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: The justification for the danmaku combat system.
  • Let's See You Do Better:
    • Interestingly enough, that's how the games were created. ZUN couldn't find any game he really liked, so he created his own. And boy, did it work.
    • In addition, a good chunk of the fandom's appeal is the opportunity to do this with ZUN's artwork/character designs.
  • The Library of Babel: Patchouli's library (often called Voile, after her stage theme) is frequently interpreted as this. Canon is somewhat vague on the details.
  • Little Miss Badass
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The youkai are living it and loving it. Only Mokou has a problem with immortality... and that was because she very possibly killed a man to get her dose of the Hourai Elixir. In the expanded universe, it goes slightly beyond that, having resigned to her fate after going crazy from sheer boredom at one point.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Well over a hundred as of Ten Desires. Even cutting that down to only characters that have appeared in Windows games, there are still about 60.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: A large number of Youkai and other groups, with every mainline game adding at least one more. Even "youkai" is just an umbrella term.
  • Love Confession: There's a series of artwork revolving around the viewer confessing to a Touhou character. Aside from the unbelievable nerdiness of this, there are some subversions - getting rejected, suffering a horrible death and/or beating, or confessing to joke characters, like a yukkuri, or Unzan, or some other ridiculous meme... or ZUN himself. Or Suwako's hat.
  • Lovely Angels: Imperishable Night, the 8th game in the series, fits this trope by the player playing a team of two characters, although most LA teams are a little bit more functional than they are in this game.
  • Lower Deck Episode: Fairy Wars, a much shorter game than usual, focuses on a quarrel between Cirno and the Three Faeries. Every single person in the game is a fairy, with Daiyousei, Lily and the Three Faeries themselves as bosses, rather than any of the usual "A-list" cast members. Except at the end of the extra stage, where Cirno takes on Marisa.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: Tewi the rabbit, an unabashed prankster whose explicit power is giving people good luck.
  • The Magic Goes Away: There are various fanmade interpretations of this, ranging from "Magic has disappeared from the world at large, and Gensokyo is one of the few remaining homes for it," to "It's an elaborate Masquerade which allows creatures of magic to exist without being bothered".
  • Meaningful Name: Most characters have at least one name (the family name, most often) that's vaguely related to what they do.
  • The Merch: A good amount, considering it's a doujin series. It includes, but is not limited to: doujinshi, costumes, mousepads, jewelry, plushes, and high-quality figures, including Figmas.
  • Mission Control: In Subterranean Animism, various youkai provide this to Reimu and Marisa, leading to different ammo/bombs, different special skills for Reimu, different dialogs and endings, and different ways of getting horribly mauled by Satori.
  • Monster Mash: It's fairly commonplace in Gensokyo for miko, witches, vampires, ghosts, aliens, faeries, oni, goddesses, and all sorts of other youkai to have tea or sake together.
  • Mook Promotion: Most of the normal enemies in every game are fairies. However, the ice fairy Cirno is a self-proclaimed strongest fairy, and may well be one, appearing as a boss in few games and being the sole protagonist of Great Fairy Wars with an ability to freeze bullets.
  • Mooks: Fairies, in addition to the lesser-used Fuzzballs and Doofy Ghosts. Fairies are suicidally overconfident, weak, and effectively immortal (regenerative), though the last doesn't manifest in the games, probably because they "respawn" somewhere safe offscreen. These factors combine to make them pretty much perfect mooks.
  • Multiple Endings
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Touhou Soccer, where the girls use their massively destructive spell cards to play Soccer.
    • Turns out that ghosts make excellent air conditioners.
    • Similarly, there's an entire pool on Danbooru of Cirno being used for mundane ends, such as chilling drinks.
    • Both Sakuya's and Kaguya's timehax abilities are used to maintain their homes in various ways.
    • Yukari regularly uses her Phenomenal Cosmic Powers as a glorified transportation system.
  • The Needless: Magicians who are turned into youkai don't need food or sleep, though they do both out of habit or leisure. They don't age, either.
  • Nice Hat:
    • Touhou Wiki, which lists 123 characters, has a special category called "Characters without hats"... with 8 names.[31]
    • ZUN also has a Nice Hat.
  • The Night That Never Ends: The plot of Imperishable Night plays with this. It's your characters causing it, so they can find the source of the real incident.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Despite what the majority of fan work will tell you, all the official content has virtually no romance (and always kept to backstories or non-sequitur jokes) and absolutely no sexual themes.
  • Non-Lethal KO:
    • The spell card rules mean the games follow this trope. There is very strong lampshading of this, and very good reasoning for characters not wanting to kill the human characters. Also, since most of the characters are youkai, odds are many of them can't be killed by physical damage anyway, while the fairies which provide most mook enemies are said to have very short lifespans but constantly revive, giving them little concept of mortality.
    • A good number of characters are implied to have killed people, but no one that's introduced ever dies. The only exception to this is Mokou apparently dying during her battle... and it doesn't count, since she's immortal.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Team Shanghai Alice, the name ZUN operates under, is (1) a single person, not a team; (2) based in Ebina, Japan, not Shanghai; and (3) he isn't named Alice.
  • Not Drawn to Scale: In particular, boss characters tend to look taller in cut-ins than they would logically seem to be based on their sprites or other aspects of their character. Most fans depict Remilia as fairly short, but her cut-in makes her as tall as Reimu.
If their sizes appear to be different on the game screen than given above, it's because of some mystic force like perspective, so pay it no mind. :-)
—ZUN, after discussing some characters' heights in an e-mail
  • Older Than They Look: Applies to pretty much every character that isn't stated to be completely human, which is Reimu, Marisa, Sakuya, and Sanae. And even then, questions have been raised about Sakuya, even in-universe.
  • 108: There's 108 scenes in Double Spoiler.
  • Only Six Faces: Not only is ZUN susceptible to this with his famously crappy character art, but so are some of the official manga artists, such as Aki Eda (Silent Sinner in Blue) and Makoto Hirasaka (Touhou Sangetsusei).
    • One step up in the fighting games. As far as Alphes' character portraits go, literally everyone has the same face.
  • Onmyodo:
    • Lots of characters use Ofuda as weapons.
    • Yukari and Ran have Shikigami. (The latter is a Shikigami herself.)
    • Almost every boss in the Windows games is shown surrounded by a magical circle with a pentagram inside. Chen, Sanae and Iku also incorporate pentagrams in some of their attacks.
    • And with Mononobe no Futo we now have an actual Onmyodo magician in the cast.
    • Mamizou uses lots of shikigami in her spellcards, in the form of human-shaped, dog-shaped, bird-shaped and frog-shaped paper dolls. She can also make copies of herself presumably by transforming her shikigami, since her ability is to change the shape of objects.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Including fairies, angels, demons, vampires, ghosts, gods, robots and likely at least one dragon.
    • Our Elves Are Better: While in Touhou "elves" means fairies (who are none too bright), the Lunarians fit this trope to a T, especially the "Space Elves" type. (There's also Parsee having pointed ears, but that's besides the point.)
  • Parental Abandonment: Mr. Kirisame is the only parent of a canon character who is not dead, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for. And even then, he's only mentioned, and Marisa quickly ignores and attempts to change the subject.
  • Pettanko:
    • Nearly all of the cast gets this treatment due to ZUN's art style, which makes characters tend to look like early preteens no matter their age or described appearance. Very few characters in the entire series seem to have noticable breasts. Fanart takes this as a license to give the characters whatever figure they feel like, though the more popular ones usually get a general appearance agreed upon by most fans.
    • The Fighting Game installments of the series have really muddied the waters here, as the art was done by an artist who is perfectly capable of and willing to draw girls with busts.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In Imperishable Night, the boss fight with either Reimu or Marisa is the result of one or both sides either not understanding what's actually going on, or outright refusing to listen. When the Ghost Team tries to mention the Moon to Marisa, Marisa says "this has nothing to do with the Moon!" and if Magic Team brings it up to Reimu, she turns around and blames them for the Moon as well!
  • Power-Up Magnet
  • Powerup Full-Color Change: In Hisoutensoku, characters with superarmor become red-tinted, while the auto-counterhit state Meiling can acquire is indicated by her becoming yellow.
  • Punny Name: Hisoutensoku ("lacking perception of natural laws"), the Humongous Mecha that Touhou 12.3 is named after, is a pun shout Out to Gakutensoku ("learning from natural laws"), Japan's first robot built in 1929.
  • Puny Humans: Humans in Gensokyo are vastly outnumbered and outpowered by youkai (and other subraces), and the number of humans who can go toe to toe with them can be counted comfortably.
  • Recurring Riff:
  • Recursion: Think about this for a moment: the fan games listed above, as well as any others not mentioned, are considered doujin games. Touhou is a doujin series. So...doujin of a doujin???
  • Red Shirt: The fairy maids that Remilia takes with her on her lunar expedition in Silent Sinner in Blue fit the classic Star Trek redshirt archetype in that they accompany the main characters onto an alien world and are completely useless when dealing with the native inhabitants.
    • Then again, it was already well established that Remilia's fairy maids are useless at everything.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The plots of The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Most non-human characters.
  • Reference Overdosed: The series is full to the brim with references to mythology, science, and some popular culture.
  • Retraux: The soundtracks for Perfect Memento in Strict Sense and Silent Sinner in Blue are made in style of PC-98 synth.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • The rabbits in the Inaba comics.
    • Also, depending on who you ask and/or the artist, the yukkuris.
    • There's a meme about depicting Keine's hakutaku form as one.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The number one rule for Muggles in the backstory. Be polite. All the rude people the series focuses on have the firepower - or at least regeneration - to survive it.
  • Schizo-Tech: There are actually four different technology levels in Gensokyo: humans and youkai, who are pretty much at medieval level; items that come from the modern world outside (and, in the PC-98 games, came with the Outsiders themselves); the kappas, who are tinkering and working on Magitek, including Optical Camouflage and Hellfire-powered geothermal power plants; and the Lunarians, who top the tech tree in canon and have futuristic technology, which in Silent Sinner in Blue is revealed to be a Japanese version of Crystal Spires and Togas. Even the outdated technology that the renegade Lunarians displayed in an exposition in Gensokyo is far more advanced than anything on Earth.
  • School Swimsuit: Fairly common in fanart in general. Touhou EWI series by WINN, has the girls play their themes and fire danmaku at the same time while wearing school swimsuits.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: In most games the characters the player didn't select still exist, just don't expect to hear from them until the ending.
    • Subverted in both Lotus Land Story and Imperishable Night, when the character you didn't select shows up as one of the bosses.
    • Naturally averted in the versus shooters and fighting games where you get to fight most of the characters you didn't pick. Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku even have everyone's story canonically happening in some order.
    • Interestingly played with in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. Rin Satsuki was supposed to be a player character for that game, but was removed for unknown reasons. A line from Marisa during her route suggests that Rin had a profession as a doctor, like Eirin, but Fanon takes this all over the place.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Er... often. Some of it is due to the heavy use of references to eastern mythology or folklore and metaphors that only make sense in Japanese.
  • Self Fanservice:
    • One important reason for Touhou's popularity is how ugly ZUN's original character art is, inspiring legions of fan artists to improve it. As alluded to elsewhere, he seems to have trouble drawing a girl who looks postpubescent, leaving fans to come to a consensus on what some characters should "really" look like.
    • In a broader sense, the entire series itself has next to nothing resembling sexual or romantic content, but you would never guess that from the fandom.
    • Bare Your Midriff: Fanart often shows the blouses worn by characters such as Reimu, Marisa, Flandre or Sanae riding up when they raise their arms.
  • Shout-Out: Many characters are Shout Outs to one thing or another. Full details on all of them on the character page.
    • Many, many references to Alice in Wonderland, including a character named Alice.
    • ZUN is an admitted fanboy of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and as such there are lots of shout outs to that series. Sakuya performing ZA WARUDO is one such example.
    • Three different characters have references to the works of Agatha Christie.
    • Stage 6 of UFO has rows of fairies that move in a zig-zag pattern and fire bullets straight downwards, as a reference to Space Invaders.
    • Nue, the Extra Stage boss of the above game, has mutiple. She has a spell card that uses PlayStation buttons, and references the Nue of legend.
    • One strip in Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth contains a reference to the Wizardry series. Also, a certain weapon in the comic is labelled "HHG of Aunty Ock".
  • Sleeper Hit: Even the fandom is baffled at how a simple shooting game got so popular.
  • Slice of Life: Very common in official written works, especially the manga Eastern and Little Deity / Strange and Bright Nature Deity / Oriental Sacred Place[32] and the short story serial Curiosities of Lotus Asia. This tends to put off some fans who are used to the combat-heavy games, though others enjoy the laid-back view of Gensokyo.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness:
    • Canon Touhou works in general tend to be on the silly side.
    • Fanworks can be anywhere on the scale. ZUN seems to encourage this intentionally, for instance by never explicitly nailing down how dangerous it really is for humans to live in Gensokyo.
  • Space Station: Torifune, introduced in Trojan Green Asteroid. It is[33] a Japanese space station designed to test terraforming practices. Then it somehow became an illusion and is now a fantasy jungle floating in outer space.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Official spellings for character and place names can vary within the series. For example, ZUN writes "Gensokyo" in English in Perfect Cherry Blossom--this is predominantly the spelling the fandom uses. The back cover of Grimoire of Marisa spells it as "Gensoukyo." "Gensoukyou" and "Gensokyou" are alternate spellings directly derived from the romanization from the kanji involved, and there has been a push by some fans to make either spelling the common variant.
  • Spring Is Late: In Perfect Cherry Blossom.
  • Story Arc: So far, the series can be split into two arcs, with characters from the first unlikely to show up in the second.
    • The first Arc represents the first five games, with Mima as a recurring villain-type even though she's only a primary opponent in the first two.
    • The second Arc so far represents every version released for Windows, with a new villain every time. Also, games after Touhou 10 have a plot that is kick-started by events in the game before.
  • Stronger Sibling

ZUN: 'When it comes to Gensokyan sisters, in general the younger one is "broken"'.

  • Stronger with Age: A general rule of the setting. Animals will turn into youkai if they manage to live long enough, and something similar appears to apply to humans, going by the immortals we've seen.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: It Stops at the Affected Area and Immediately Dissolves ~ Lunatic Udongein, best known for its Ear Worm (O-Over Dr-drive! O-O-Over Dr-Dr-Drive!) is a prime example, but quite a few of IOSYS' Touhou-inspired songs could easily count.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Also, the Japanese name of every game includes "Eastern", "of the East", or "Oriental". That is, after all, what Touhou means.
    • Wild and Horned Hermit uses theme titling, though it's more obvious in Japanese. All of the titles take the form of four kanji describing the character, followed by a single hiragana, followed by two kanji for the character's species.
  • Title Drop: The final spell cards in Perfect Cherry Blossom, Imperishable Night, Mountain of Faith, Ten Desires and the story mode of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody. Also tends to happen in the dialogues.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Perfect Memento in Strict Sense marks fairies as such. Subverted by the fact that fairies are immortal.
  • To Serve Man: There's multiple mentions that the youkai of Gensokyo eat humans. Akyuu says in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, though, that it doesn't happen so much today unless you're an outsider or a hermit. The Hakurei Spell Card Rules may have been responsible for this change.
  • Touhou Will Ruin Your Life: After a few weeks of being in the fandom, there's a chance you'll be letting memes slip out of your mouth or using Touhou-themed forum avatars.
  • Trading Card Lame: Rumbling Spell Orchestra.
  • Trope Overdosed
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The stories with Maribel and Renko are partially set in the near-future of the outside world.
  • Vague Age: Basically everyone that isn't the Scarlet sisters, who have known ages.[34] We have a rough idea of what centuries Mokou, Kaguya, and Byakuren came from, and that's about it. Even the normal humans have so little past and such rough art that's hard to tell.
  • Vicious Cycle: The events of Phantasmagoria of Flower View happen every sixty years. Subverted, because there is no real danger save for confused people picking random fights with each other, which is just another day in Gensokyo, and the incident solves itself eventually.
  • Waddling Head: Yukkuris.
  • Weather Dissonance: Basically the premise of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
  • Webcomic Time: Almost averted, since Mountain of Faith at least. The stated time between Kanako's arrival in Gensokyo and her meeting with the other religious leaders in Symposium of Post-mysticism is stated to be about 4 years. In realtime, less than 5 years have passed since Mo F has been released.
  • Whale Egg:
    • Might be the case for some unexpected creatures. In one chapter of one of the manga, it's suggested a couple of times that a mysterious egg may be from a cat youkai.
    • The same chapter also confirms crow tengu having eggs, and while they're related to birds, the two examples we've seen of that species look basically human.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Awesome: Touhou Soccer.
  • White and Grey Morality:
    • Those who are good are apathetic to everything unless it affects either their interests or Gensokyo itself.
    • Most of the final bosses in the series are more selfish than they are outright evil as well, having a lack of consideration for the rest of Gensokyo rather than outright finding pleasure in screwing over everyone else.
    • A few notable exceptions: the Saigyou Ayakashi of Perfect Cherry Blossom - a mindless, man-eating tree; Utsuho Reiuji during Subterranean Animism, who was mad with power and wanted to melt the surface world (although to be fair, she's also rather stupid); and Taisui Xingjun, provided he actually exists.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: And lots of them. See the Touhou WMG page.
  • Wings Do Nothing: Everyone in Gensokyo has a method for flying, whether they use wings or not. One footnote in Perfect Memento says that "... even without wings we can all fly." This shouldn't be too surprising given that Everyone Is a Super.
  • Witch Species: "Magician" is both a species and job description. Natural magicians are born able to use magic and don't need to eat, but are otherwise identical to humans. Human magicians need to learn a spell to replicate the bit about not eating. After that, they can both learn spells to stop aging, at which point they're considered "complete" magicians. It's never actually stated that the magician species is the result of the "abandoning food" magic being inheritable, but it seems likely.
  • Word Salad Title: In both English and Japanese, and the likelihood of occurrence appears to be a function of how closely related it is to the main games. The main games have a few meaningless titles, but rarely get worse than obscure words and/or odd grammar. Print materials are almost universally oddly phrased in English, and occasionally near-meaningless. The music CDs range between "Ghostly Field Club" and "Changeability of Strange Dream", and are if anything worse in Japanese.
  • A World Half Full
  • World of Action Girls: Yup.
  • World of Badass: Pretty much.
  • Xanatos Gambit / Batman Gambit: The entirety of Silent Sinner in Blue. The second is inside the first.
  • Youkai: Makes up a very large portion of the cast, even when not taking the minor stage bosses into consideration.
    • Moe Anthropomorphism: A lot of the characters are actually humanoid representations of abstract concepts.
    • Rubber Forehead Youkai: Most of the the monsters in this series are one or two features away from looking entirely human.
    • Human Youkai: Some do look completely human.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair:
    • For actual blue-haired characters, Remilia, Nitori, Tenshi, Kogasa and Cirno count. Though Remilia's initial appearance featured her with white hair.
    • Even excluding the youkai, there are the silver-haired Sakuya, Youmu, Keine, Mokou, and Eirin, though the latter is from the Moon.
    • And the green-haired Sanae.
  • Zigzag Paper Tassel:
    • Reimu's and Sanae's haraegushi.
    • Kanako's and Tenshi's shimenawa.
Tropes in the games' gameplay
  • Air Jousting: Marisa's broom charge attacks in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: From Lotus Land Story onward, bosses will change the background.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The fighting games. Highlights include not particularly understanding if the character is melee or range oriented, using moves that can't possibly hit, virtually never using cards,[35] and difficulty selection in arcade mode doing nothing. This was bad enough for people to start work on an AI hack but the project seems to have died since.
  • Awesome but Impractical / Difficult but Awesome: Depending on who you ask, certain shot types are straight on unwieldy or rather useful but take some getting used to.
    • Half the shot-types in Mountain of Faith and Subterranean Animism, namely MoFs ReimuC and MarisaA, and SAs ReimuC and... all of Marisa's.
      • MarisaA in SA isn't too bad, and she still has enough power in her focused state to still deliver hurt to enemies up front.
    • Undefined Fantastic Object is actually pretty good with avoiding this, with all-around great shot-types... and MarisaB.
      • Overall, typical wide-spread shot types suck in these games. It's usually better to just take Homing Amulets instead.
    • Marisa's Master Spark bomb in Undefined Fantastic Object definitely falls under Awesome But Impractical. The massive speed penalty it saddles her with makes it nearly impossible to collect a UFO that isn't flying almost directly at you. Timing color changes is even worse.
    • Death bombing introduced in the fifth game on. When your character gets hit, you have a fraction of a second to press the bomb button to save yourself. The timing varies with each game. However, the timing is very, very precise. You basically need to predict your own death in order to use it.
  • Beam Spam: Every single character.
  • Beyond the Impossible: The whole series could be characterized as "And here, ZUN thought if you can win after 20 tries, the game is too easy".
  • Bonus Boss: Every game except Highly Responsive to Prayers, the versus shooters and the fighters has at least one extra boss. Perfect Cherry Blossom also has the phantasm boss, a Bonus Boss to the Bonus Boss. In the phantasm stage, the extra boss reappears as a Mid Boss.
  • Bonus Dungeon: Where the extra boss hangs out.
  • Bonus Level of Hell:
    • Not the extra stage, but rather the frequent trips to Makai, the Netherworld, etc.
    • Ironically enough, the 11th game, Subterranean Animism, takes place underground in the former location of Hell, and the game's Bonus Dungeon is the only stage to take place above ground.
  • Boss Subtitles: Everybody gets these. Even most of the side material includes them. They're known to change, too. Head over to the Touhou Wiki for the full list.
  • Breaking Out: Highly Responsive To Prayers has many elements of this.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Extra Stages.
  • Bullet Hell: The Touhou games are a well known example of the genre, quite possibly even moreso than CAVE's shooters, at least outside of Japan. Mind you, Cave shooters are commercial, while Touhou is Doujinshi.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Any spell card declaration results in the name of the card showing up at the top/bottom of the screen. Also, in the fighting game Immaterial and Missing Power, you choose one specific spell card out of three for each of your life bars, and you cannot actually use them until you input a command to declare them.
  • Computers Are Fast: Not present in the normal Shoot Em Up games, but have fun beating Lunatic AI in the two-player games.
  • Cosmetic Award: Clearing a scene with a high enough score in Shoot the Bullet or Double Spoiler unlocks commentary from Aya or Hatate. Score has no other purpose.
  • Dead Character Walking: Certain versions of Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom has Merlin Prismriver continue attacking even after the Prismriver sisters are supposed to be defeated, potentially killing your character. So much for sisterly solidarity. This bug has been mercilessly ridiculed by Doujin artists.
  • Desolation Shot: In Mystic Square, the Amazing Technicolor Battlefield disappears when you dispel Shinki's penultimate spell and blast her wings off. The background of the battle's final phase is a slow pan down over Makai, which is now on fire as a result of the fight.
  • Difficulty Spike: Most games seem to have one, usually around stage 4.
  • Dual Boss: Several examples, sometimes with three bosses instead of two:
    • Yuki and Mai in Mystic Square.
    • The Prismriver sisters in Perfect Cherry Blossom.
    • Sunny Milk, Luna Child and Star Sapphire in Fairy Wars.
    • Seiga and Yoshika in Ten Desires.
    • Miko, Tojiko and Futo for one of the former's spellcards in the same game -- although Miko does not do a single thing during it.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: 4-6 have a system where the bullets become faster and denser over time. In the case of 4 and 5, it's somewhat tied to how well you're doing, but in 6 it just keeps going up until you die, which resets it.
  • Early Installment Weirdness/Oddball in the Series: Highly Responsive to Prayers isn't even a danmaku game. It's more of a weird Breakout clone, with some Shoot'Em Up elements in boss fights.
  • Every Ten Thousand Points: In many games you get an extend every ten or twenty million points.
  • Expansion Pack:
    • Touhou Hisoutensoku, an add-on to Scarlet Weather Rhapsody that introduces a new storyline and playable characters, including Meiling and Cirno.
    • Double Spoiler can be considered this for Shoot the Bullet, which was originally meant to be updated as new characters appeared.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Any first completion of most games. To get the proper ending, you must not use any continues and not be on easy mode. Given the genre, this is borderline impossible. And in the case of Imperishable Night it's completely impossible, since you have to get the normal ending before the good one.
    • You could get the ex stage in Subterranean Animism on easy, but a bug relocks it.
  • Fake Difficulty:
    • It's arguable that all of the Touhou games suffer from this, due to the ambiguity of the hitboxes on the bullets requiring more a ton of Trial and Error Gameplay, although that really comes with the Bullet Hell territory. Story of Eastern Wonderland was the worst about it though, as your hitbox was rather large, and if you died it would offset slightly -- enough to make some previous safe spots no longer safe.
    • Undefined Fantastic Object's fifth stage clouds the screen with literally hundreds of Point and Power Items. Normally, this would be a great thing for scoring and power alike, but the items can often cover the bullets onscreen, usually resulting in a "WTF just hit me?" reaction from the player. Also, MarisaA uses very shiny lasers to attack, which shoot from four options around Marisa. Almost all of stage 5 uses very shiny bullets, approximately the same size as said options. It's not uncommon for a player to run into a bullet because they look almost exactly alike. The fact that the red bullets can also blend into the red background makes it even worse. This problem is present in Mountain of Faith and Subterranean Animism as well, though to a lesser extent.
  • Fighting Game: Three fighting game spinoffs: Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, and Touhou Hisoutensoku.
  • Fighting Your Friend:
    • Stage 4 of Lotus Land Story has you fighting whichever character you didn't choose. Only Reimu and Marisa were playable at this point.
    • It was repeated in stage 4 of Imperishable Night, which has you fighting either Reimu or Marisa, depending on the team you choose.
    • Much of the story of Immaterial and Missing Power, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
  • First-Person Snapshooter: The Gaiden Games Shoot the Bullet and Double Spoiler, in which you play a reporter whose sole method of dealing with enemies and bosses is taking pictures of them.
  • Follow the Leader: Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream was made shortly after Twinkle Star Sprites.
    • Seihou was rather obviously inspired by Touhou.
  • Flawless Victory:
    • Capturing spell cards, which requires wiping the spell card's corresponding Life Meter segment or, in the case of a survival card, surviving it without losing any lives or bombs.
    • Fairy Wars gives golden medals for capturing cards without dying, bombing or freezing any bullets. That was probably ZUN's idea of a joke.
  • Flying Saucer: Part of the system in Undefined Fantastic Object involves collecting small UFOs from certain enemies that carry them. Upon collecting a red, blue and green one or three of the same color, a large UFO appears, abducts all items onscreen, and tries to fly offscreen. The saucer drops rewards upon defeat - the loot varies depending on the UFO's color and how much it absorbed.
  • Genre Shift: Technically, Touhou itself is a Genre Shift.
    • The first game on the PC-98 was basically Alleyway with Reimu hitting a ball.
    • The second game was a shooter, but the closest one can get to the modern gameplay with Mystic Square, incidentally, the last PC-98 game.
    • The two Phantasmagorias also count, considering that the other games are single-player scrolling shooters whilst Dim. Dream and Flower View are versus shooters.
    • Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, and Hisoutensoku are 2-D fighters.
    • Nobody is entirely sure what to call Shoot the Bullet and Double Spoiler.
  • Harder Than Hard: Lunatic mode. It's aptly named.
    • Ten Desires adds Overdrive. It's an extra difficulty added to specific spellcards (one for each non-cameo character) that's unlocked by capturing that spellcard on all other difficulties. They range from being the next logical step up after the lunatic version to being much, much worse.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Intentional, as the games are quite impossible until you learn to exploit it to the fullest. The radius of the hitboxes of large bullets are smaller than the radius of the sprites, so it is typically possible to move the player's hitbox into the very edge of the bullet's sprite and not die. In addition, the boss' hitboxes are usually purposefully larger than their sprites in order to make it easy to shoot the boss.
  • Hit Stop: Some high-power spellcards in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku, like Komachi's "Unpitiable Pitiable Life", Suwako's "Mishaguji-sama" and Meiling's "Light Lotus Palm" use this effect.
  • Hold the Line: Some of the bosses have spell cards that make them invulnerable, and you can't do anything other than dodge and wait for time to run out.
  • It Got Worse: Most final bosses' and extra bosses' final spell cards start out fairly simple, even elementary... then it gets faster, or stacks more components simultaneously over time/damage. By the end, the spell is an all-out nightmarish mess that fills the screen or moves very quickly, or both.
  • Kaizo Trap: After beating bosses, it takes a second before the projectiles turn into tokens. So if you aren't careful, you can win, but still die.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Subterranian Animism stages 5 and 6, which take place in the former Hell of Blazing Fires, further warmed by an underground STAR.
  • Made of Explodium: Frogs. There's a shot-type and four seperate spellcards based on them blowing up.
  • Marathon Boss: By shmup standards, anyway. Each game has a Bonus Boss which typically takes 8-10 minutes to defeat.
  • Mercy Mode: After running out of continues a few times in Imperishable Night, the game's options allow you to start with a few additional lives. "A few" ultimately resulting in a continue's worth of lives totaling 8, where most other games only let you have half as many. Perhaps another reason for Easy Mode Mockery specifically in IN. Somewhat played with - continuing after a certain point gets you a bad end and the inability to continue.
  • Mickey Mousing: Some levels try to perfectly synchronize themselves with their music, to the extent where you get bonus enemies to destroy if you kill the midboss quickly, and perhaps even skip a pattern if you kill the first few too slowly.
  • More Dakka: And how! Taking your time in some of Imperishable Night's last words will eventually result in the bosses reaching the bullet limit, causing some of the patterns to glitch up. This is just about the closest you can get to having enough dakka.
  • Multiple Endings: At the very least, each shottype gets its own ending. Beyond that, specifics vary:
    • Most games give you a character-specific bad ending for beating the game after using a continue. The Phantasmagoria games don't care, and Fairy Wars just doesn't give you an ending if you continue. Mountain of Faith also gives you one regardless of continues if you played on easy.
    • The games that have route selections give you an ending based on which route you take.
    • Imperishable Night combines the two above into something odd. You get a Bad Ending for running out of continues. You get a normal ending for facing Eirin as the final boss, who you'll be locked into fighting if it's your first time playing with that character or if you continued.
    • Ten Desires gives you a 'Parallel Ending' if you beat the game on normal or higher with at least three bombs in stock (bombs from unused lives don't count).
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • It's fairly easy to get to the end by arcade shmup standards, as it wasn't designed to take your money. Doesn't stop it from being frustrating for some players, though. Especially on higher difficulties, getting a good ending is quite a feat.
    • Games 10 through 12 made things worse by having continues send you back to the beginning of the stage (thankfully reverted back in Fairy Wars) and removing the option to increase your base lives above three (this one still stands).
    • God help you if, for some weird reason, you want to beat the extra stage. Even its in-game description is something to the effect of "Are you out of your mind?"

ZUN: Next episode! Look forward to "tears of blood in the extra stage!" (Er, I mean good luck.)

    • And if that's not challenging enough for you, PCB has the lovely phantasm stage after the extra and IN has the last word spell card section. Even unlocking these is next to impossible. Actually beating them requires more effort than the rest of the game combined.
    • All of the above are put to complete and utter shame by the Gaiden Game Shoot the Bullet, which is 11 levels of the most sadistic, multi-layered spell cards in the whole series. Unlike any of the other games, you have no extra lives, no bombs, you lose when you time out, your only weapon is a camera that needs to be charged and manually aimed for long distance attacks, and some bosses are only vulnerable for a fraction of a second. Lastly, the difficulty is not adjustable at all. You do take on each spell card individually and have infinite retries, but the incredible difficulty makes clearing it impossible for most people.
    • The sequel, Double Spoiler, is somewhat better thanks to improved camera controls and a new unlockable character that makes most cards easier to beat. It's still harder than the normal Touhou games, though.
    • How hard is the extra stage of Fairy Wars? Imagine having an initial bomb stock of zero, and cliptastic bullet patterns so intricate that you cannot dodge without a freeze counter at around 80%. It’s certain death if you don’t have enough ice power or you can’t trigger the ice shield in time.
    • Hell, even fan-made crossover games fall into this, probably a direct result of putting danmaku in genres where you're actually affected by gravity and don't have a tiny hitbox.
    • And of course for the really crazy people, there's Ultra mode hacks, or cranking up the framerate to play at 150% speed...
  • Normally I Would Be Dead Now: An in-game feature later games gives you a very tiny window after you are hit to bomb, thereby preventing a loss of a life. The eighth game actually makes an entire gameplay mechanic based around this, although that instance is more of a Big Damn Heroes moment as the teammate of the one that was hit comes in and uses the bomb.
  • Won't Work On Me:
    • The final card of the final boss is immune to bombs, though they still clear the bullets away (though usually with some diminished effect, like a smaller radius or only getting half of them or somesuch). You'll have to grind down their health the normal way.
      • The only exception to the rule is Utsuho Reiuji, the final boss in Subterranean Animism, which gains an armor instead, in other words, you can continue doing reduced damage to her with a bomb, but this comes with the cost that the bombs doesn't clean the bullets in the screen.
    • All extra and phantasm stage bosses have this effect for all spellcards, except in Fairy Wars. In the versus shooters they are completely invincible for certain period of time.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: standard for Bullet Hell game protagonists. Curiously enough, when you meet playable characters as bosses they gain Super Toughness instead.
  • Pacifist Run:
    • The bosses' attacks are all on timers, and it's possible to beat them just by outlasting them. They'll even blow up at the end regardless of whether you fired any shots at them. Since this requires inhuman dodging skills on some of the harder attacks, it has become a favorite Self-Imposed Challenge for Touhou gamers. Given the difficulty of the games to begin with, this kind of challenge is usually considered another sign that Touhou players are insane.
    • Most of the extra bosses actually have a secret difficulty on their last (or second-to-last, in Yukari's case) spell card, triggered by attempting to go pacifist. Normally, those spell cards start off easy, but get harder as the boss loses HP. To prevent cheesing the game and trivializing what should be a climactic end by just waiting, the spell card will have an extremely hard pattern, even harder than the normal final pattern, starting at 30 seconds left if the boss has not lost enough HP.
  • Parabolic Power Curve: It's generally accepted that the stage 5 boss will be harder than the final boss, or at least as hard. The reason for this is that stage 5 bosses tend to have more experimental or random patterns, with fewer bullets but much trickier dodging. Final bosses are all about large quantities of bullets at all times, but because they're fired in easily predicted patterns, they're not nearly as challenging for experienced players, even if it's their first time fighting that particular boss.
  • Recursive Ammo
  • Scenery Porn: Next time you watch a replay of any game from Mountain of Faith onward, ignore the pretty bullets and look at the backgrounds. They're absolutely stunning.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: Significantly more the case in the photography games, which have things like Double Spoiler's 11th level being easier than its 8th level, and the bizarrely difficult 3rd level of Shoot The Bullet. Great Fairy Wars is also infamous for its difficulty spike, even for a Touhou game.
  • Schmuck Bait: About the upper quarter of the screen is an area called Point of Collection, or POC. If you're in this area in general, or if you have maximum power, all items that enemies drop will float towards your character. This is essential to racking up points. Except... it's highly recommended you stay away from the POC area unless you know you can sweep around. Sometimes it's too tempting to grab up all the items and then enemies suddenly come out to take a life.
  • Score Screen
  • Smart Bomb: Touhou uses a more stylish take on the Smart Bomb, and it depends on the player selected.
    • "Spell cards" are named Vancian style magic attacks. Whenever someone uses a spell card, the screen goes to an abnormal background, a portrait of the character appears on the screen, the name of the spell card is shown in the corner, and a circle surrounds the user, getting smaller and smaller until the effect runs out. When a boss uses a spell card, a bullet pattern appears on the screen. When a player uses a spell card, they use a Smart Bomb.
    • In the 2-player Phantasmagoria of Flower View, the game uses a Split Screen approach in which using a spell card SmartBombs your side of the screen and puts bullets on your opponent's side of the screen.
    • It's also a notable source of Gameplay and Story Segregation, since in Imperishable Night, the playable characters become bosses and use their Smart Bomb attacks on you as bullet patterns which look nothing like each other. This is lampshaded in the in-game commentary, where the author says, "This is another spell card that doesn't look much like when the player uses it."
  • Stalked by the Bell:
  • Super Move Portrait Attack: The player's and the boss's spell cards. Utsuho's nuclear-based spell cards come with warning sirens and big yellow "CAUTION!!" tape on top of that.
  • Trial and Error Gameplay: Many, many, many times.
    • When Mima flashes in Story of Eastern Wonderland it means she's about to ram you. Moving to the side is recommended.
    • Yuuka has an attack more or less guaranteed to kill you the first time you see them in both fights in Lotus Land Story. In her first fight, there's her so-called "Master Spark"; it's very obvious that she's about to do something, but there's no indication that you need to be on the side of the screen to survive. In the second fight she has an attack that places a shrinking circle under the player: Gamer instinct is to get as far away as possible... and the attack hits everywhere except in the circle.
    • The fourth stage of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil has certain enemies that will cancel all bullets on screen when they die. The stage is much more passable if you know about them, but a first-time player won't.
      • In the same game, the normal bullet pattern Remilia uses after her second spell card is essentially a cheap shot against anyone not expecting it/not being careful enough, because it comes out WICKED fast.
    • Mokou's Forgiveness "Honest Man's Death" has a gimmick that's completely unique in the entire series: The laser won't kill you if you move towards it when it's firing. Most people have to get help with this one online.
    • Yuugi's Four Devas Arcanum "Knock Out In Three Steps" is basically impossible to capture the first time you see it. It relies on being in the right place before the bullets start moving.
    • And of course, there's several instances in the ENTIRE series where memorizing where enemies come from at which point in each stage and destroying them as soon as possible greatly reduces the amount of bullets you have to dodge. It's safe to say that it is virtually impossible to not be subject to this when playing these games.
  • Turns Red:
    • Almost all the the spell cards in Shoot the Bullet and Double Spoiler, as you take successful shots.
    • Inverted in the main series, where some spell cards will speed up if the player isn't damaging the boss fast enough.
  • Units Not to Scale: With the exception of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, bosses are markedly larger than the player, regardless of how large they're supposed to actually be. This is also Lampshaded by ZUN. Occasionally, fan art makes jokes based on how large the hitbox of a boss is.

Notes

  1. Almost always, the games are referred to by the Japanese-speaking fans only by the Japanese part of the title, and by the English-speaking fans only by the English part of the title.
  2. Eastern Strange Spirit Legend ~ Highly Responsive to Prayers
  3. Eastern Sealed Demon Chronicle ~ the Story of Eastern Wonderland
  4. Eastern Dream Dimension ~ Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream
  5. Eastern Fantasy Land ~ Lotus Land Story
  6. Eastern Wondrous Romance ~ Mystic Square
  7. Eastern Scarlet Devil Land ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
  8. Eastern Bewitching Dream ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom
  9. Eastern Gathering Reverie ~ Immaterial and Missing Power
  10. Eastern Eternal Night Vignette ~ Imperishable Night
  11. Eastern Flower Viewing Mound ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View
  12. Eastern Cultural Album ~ Shoot the Bullet
  13. Eastern Wind God Chronicle ~ Mountain of Faith
  14. Eastern Skies of Scarlet Perceptions ~ Scarlet Weather Rhapsody
  15. Eastern Palace of Earth Spirits ~ Subterranean Animism
  16. Eastern Star-Lotus Ship ~ Undefined Fantastic Object
  17. Eastern Lacking Perception of Natural Laws ~ Chase the Enigma of the Superdreadnought Guignol
  18. Originally referred to as Unthinkable Natural Law by English-speaking fans, it was soon superseded by simply Hisoutensoku. There are still people who refer to it as Unthinkable Natural Law.
  19. Double Spoiler ~ Eastern Cultural Album
  20. Great Fairy Wars ~ Eastern Three Fairies
  21. Referred to by English-speaking fans as Great Fairy Wars or simply Fairy Wars.
  22. Eastern Divine Spirit Mausoleum ~ Ten Desires
  23. Heart Fabric Tower ~ Hopeless Masquerade
  24. Eastern Bright Needle Castle ~ Ten Desires
  25. Eastern Record of Deep Mysteries ~ Urban Legend in Limbo
  26. Ultramarine Orb Tale ~ Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom
  27. Flowers of Possession ~ Antimony of Common Flowers
  28. Jade Scepter of the Skies ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons
  29. The soccer ball is able to withstand every girl's spell card.
  30. they're essentially a formalized dueling system designed to level the playing field and reduce lethality
  31. Though they count hair accessories and animal ears as hats.
  32. yes, that's one series with title changes
  33. or will be, with the Mary and Renko stories taking place in the future
  34. And even for them we only know their chronological ages. Fanwork has portrayed them physically resembling anything from teens to preschoolers.
  35. Arcade mode only. Story mode AI doesn't have cards to use.