Canon refers to story material officially accepted as part of a fictional universe. In the Touhou Project, only works produced with ZUN's involvement are considered canon, as ZUN is the sole determinant of canon in the Touhou Project. These works are listed under "Games, Print Works and Music" on the main page.
- 1 Official Statements
- 2 Canonicity of Windows and PC-98
- 3 Multiple playable routes
- 3.1 Known Canonicity of Playable Routes
- 4 Groups or individuals who produce both official and unofficial works
- 5 Fourth wall
- 6 Canonicity of other, non-Touhou works
- 7 Secondary Material
- 8 References
- Main article: Category:Interviews and Statements
While ZUN occasionally reveals additional lore via blogs, interviews & e-mails with fans, not all such statements are considered canon, as they may not be finalised and can be contradicted in later games or statements. A similar status applies to comments made by people who've collaborated on official works with ZUN. Additionally, ZUN has confirmed a secret background for the Touhou Project , as well as lore saved for future games. This implies questions unanswered by official works or statement exist and are yet to be revealed.
Canonicity of Windows and PC-98
The connection between the PC-98 era and the Windows era is a hot topic in the Touhou fanbase. In the english fanbase, the term "PC-98" refers to the first 5 games of the Touhou Project, whilst "Windows" refers to any official material (i.e. games, CDs & print works) created after the sixth Touhou game (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil). Though the PC-98 games were created by ZUN, he has stated that Highly Responsive to Prayers was simply a "study project", that one can just think that EoSD began from a clean state, starting a new series, and that he generally has nothing to say about the PC-98 era, which can be ignored as one would do with derivative works.
Is there an actual connection, then?
Short answer: Yes, very much so. While you can skip those games, as the events portrayed in them don't come up particularly often, they are not to be considered non-canon.
The world the Touhou Project takes place in was far from finalized in the PC-98 era. Initially, it was simply referred to as "the eastern country", without many defined landmarks, aside from a few - f.e. the Hakurei Shrine, the Human Village, Mugenkan and Makai. The games often make references to other, non-Touhou works (such as those of Izumi Takemoto) and their tone is very lighthearted - the dialogue is tongue-in-cheek and sometimes even fourth-wall breaking.
However, the setting is the same as the Windows era - Gensokyo was initially used as part of the title of Lotus Land Story, and mentioned again in Mystic Square's Music Room, although most likely as a reference to the music in Lotus Land Story. ZUN has confirmed it to be the very same Gensokyo portrayed in later entries, and that the characters from the first five games still very much exist. Past elements of the Touhou universe haven't been used not because of being non-canon, but simply because of ZUN's penchant for creating new characters and the awkwardness of fitting the old ones into the story.
References and carry-overs in later works
There have been a number of references and carry-overs to PC-98 within the Windows series. The following is a list of them. Any speculation is noted.
- Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Alice Margatroid and Yuuka Kazami appear.
- The Yin-Yang Orb has appeared in every game alongside Reimu, but it's unknown if it still has the same powers as it did in PC-98, or if it's still the Hakurei Shrine's greatest treasure.
- In Perfect Cherry Blossom, Alice refers to previously meeting Reimu in Mystic Square ("At last, former friend, we meet again. Have you only brought me your life as a gift?").
- Alice's sealed grimoire is likely to be the same as the Grimoire of Alice from Mystic Square.
- In Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Reimu alludes to a previous encounter with Yuuka ("Everything went back to normal when I defeated you back then!"). In Yuuka's article in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, Hieda no Akyuu stated that Reimu has exterminated Yuuka several times (although saying it's "probably bogus"), Lotus Land Story most likely being the first.
- In the very same game, Yuuka tells Marisa that she's "grown up quite a bit", referring to her being considered a child in the PC-98 era. She could also potentially be referring to one of Marisa's lines during their encounter in Lotus Land Story ("If it's going to bring me a boring life, I'd rather die!") when saying "Ah, you're still alive?".
- ZUN mentioned in at least two interviews that Genjii is "probably living in the lake at the back of the shrine." In Strange and Bright Nature Deity Chapter 12, when Reimu and Marisa Kirisame were talking about "glowing moss," Reimu said it would be nice to transfer it to the pond in the back of the Hakurei Shrine and Marisa responds that she could make it grow there on the turtles' backs. It's possible that one of them is Genjii.
- Mima appeared on the cover of Akyu's Untouched Score vol.4.
- In the 25th chapter of Curiosities of Lotus Asia Reimu comments that the Hakurei Shrine was once taken over by an evil spirit, most likely referring to Mima who frequently haunted its vicinity and was stated to be somewhat of a cursed deity of the shrine. The fact that Mima isn't mentioned by name, however, might mean it wasn't her.
- In Oriental Sacred Place, a ghost similar to bakebake appears on a map that Sunny Milk was holding. It's unknown if it was meant to be a bakebake.
- A similar reference is made in Urban Legend in Limbo and Antinomy of Common Flowers - when hit by Mamizou's Transformation "Futatsuiwa Clan's Curse" spell card, Sumireko turns into a bakebake-like creature.
- In the above games, Marisa's 8th palette is the same as her color scheme in the PC-98 from Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream onward.
- Various spell cards are references:
- The infamous Love Sign "Master Spark" resembles Yuuka's penultimate Stage 5 pattern from Lotus Land Story. Given Marisa's borrowing habits (and the only other Love Sign also being a copy), it's potentially meant to be her take on it in-universe, rather than being a simple resemblance.
- Marisa's Astrologic Sign "Orreries Sun" uses four magical orbs in a similar vein to her (and Mima's) PC-98 attack patterns.
- Fujiwara no Mokou's Fujiwara "Wounds of Metsuzai Temple" resembles one of the attacks of Evil Eye Σ.
- Sanae Kochiya's Sea Opening "Moses's Miracle" is strikingly similar to Alice's second pattern from Mystic Square's Extra Stage.
- The name of Doremy Sweet's Super-Express "Dream Express" is likely to be a reference to Mystic Square's Stage 1 theme.
- There are some musical references, as well:
- Reimu's theme "Maiden's Capriccio" in Lotus Land Story, as well as Marisa's theme "Love-Colored Magic" in Story of Eastern Wonderland were arranged in the game Imperishable Night. Also, the music comments for Marisa's theme "Love-Colored Master Spark" stated that Marisa had five themes when the game was released, indicating that the others are from Story of Eastern Wonderland, Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream, Lotus Land Story, and the Seihou Project game Shuusou Gyoku (since Immaterial and Missing Power is chronologically before, but released after Imperishable Night).
- "Nostalgic Blood of the East ~ Old World" has a part closely resembling "Plastic Mind" from Mystic Square. ZUN alludes to this in Imperishable Night's music comments.
- "Eternal Dream ~ Mystical Maple" is a reprise of "Maple Dream..." from Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream.
- Undefined Fantastic Object holds a good number of references:
- Makai made its first post-PC-98 appearance this game, albeit with a different way of entry. Both Reimu and Marisa seem to already know Makai, whereas Sanae feels confused by the world's nature. Also, Makai was again referenced in Symposium of Post-mysticism, providing more information.
- Byakuren Hijiri's Great Magic "Devil's Recitation" is incredibly similar to Shinki's penultimate attack.
- Nue Houjuu appearance as a ball of light has similarities to the Mysterious Orb; their appearances are identical, and both drop items when leaving the screen, each ending with an extra life.
- Marisa commonly used a wand in PC-98, and was seen with one again in this game for the first and only time in the Windows games thus far.
- The Stage 6 theme, "Fires of Hokkai", contains a heartbeat sound similar to what ZUN intended for the Stage 6 theme of Mystic Square, "World's End". Additionally, the later parts of the theme follow the same progression as the drum pattern in the intro part of "World's End".
- Mountain of Faith's Japanese part of the title, Fuujinroku (風神録), is a callback to Story of Eastern Wonderland's title - Fuumaroku (封魔録).
- While this isn't an official part of the series, ZUN composed Shinki's theme for Magus in Mystic Geometries.
Potential plot holes
It's unknown whether those are the inconsistencies ZUN was talking about, but here is an example list. ZUN has said to take the latest installments as the most accurate depictions.
- Marisa started using star magic after 2001, as shown in the 22nd chapter of Curiosities of Lotus Asia. However, Story of Eastern Wonderland's omake says that Marisa's third attack uses star magic, and she starts using it often by the time of Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream. If we are to assume that the events of Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream take place in its release year (1997), then this doesn't line up. It's also unknown what's the current status of her relation to Mima, as ZUN dodges the question.
- Entering Makai is portrayed differently - the PC-98 games show the gate to be in a cave behind the Hakurei Shrine (with the World of Fantasies serving as a boundary of sorts between the two dimensions) with rather simple entry. On the other hand, Undefined Fantastic Object has the protagonists travel to Makai on the Palanquin Ship, with miasma making getting in a more difficult task.
- Alice's article in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense states that she became a Youkai recently, while Mystic Square implies her to already be one. This doesn't necessarily have to be a plot hole, seeing as there are no exact dates given. Her relation to Shinki is unknown.
- Yuuka lives in Mugenkan in Lotus Land Story, while Phantasmagoria of Flower View shows her place of residence to be the Garden of the Sun. Given how the way to get to Mugenkan is portrayed very differently, it's unlikely for it to be in the Garden of the Sun.
Within the fanbase, PC-98 and Windows have been linked together in various ways, ranging from simply putting them in chronological order to outright (wrongly) theorizing that either Shinki or Alice destroyed and recreated Gensokyo due to the sheer scale of their attacks.
It's also common in derivative works to depict PC-98 and Windows versions of the same characters to be separate people, despite ZUN's affirmation that they are the same. The two canons are sometimes seen as completely different worlds, with different landmarks or dimensions - one example mocking this is Touhou Mother.
Multiple playable routes
When games have multiple playable characters advancing through the same levels, canonicity of each route becomes ambiguous. In in an answer to a question in 2003/12 on the former Gensou Bulletin Board, ZUN has said that when Reimu and others are defeated, they challenge again, indicating that the playable characters probably challenged again several times before finally defeating the last boss.
Many fans assume that Ending #1 in all games is what actually happened (although there's no proof to this other than the numbering), but if this is the case, then Reimu has won all of her fights except one, against Suika Ibuki in Immaterial and Missing Power. Some fanworks assume that all of the playable characters participated in the incident simultaneously, but fought different enemies at various times.
References in the dialogue and afterwords suggest that indeed all selectable characters set out to solve each game's incident, although in some games this is explicitly contradicted in the manual where it sometimes says, depending on which character you choose, only one goes out to investigate.
Similarly, in Imperishable Night, only one youkai team and one human team are said to investigate. Reimu claims that she's the one who solved the incident, but she also dodges all questions regarding the culprits. The Visionary Scarlet Devil Team's ending mentions plans of going to the moon, potentially being a tie-in to the Bougetsushou storyline. It's unknown which route is to be truly considered canon.
In the case of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, most of the playable characters' storylines refer to events that happened in other playable characters' storylines, making it possible to deduce the order in which they occurred, detailed on this page (Horizontal Version).
Known Canonicity of Playable Routes
Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
According to Akyuu, Reimu resolved the Scarlet Mist Incident on her own.
Perfect Cherry Blossom
Akyuu records that Reimu resolved the Spring Snow Incident, but this does not exclude the possibility that Marisa and/or Sakuya may have also been involved.
Mountain of Faith
Unidentified Fantastic Object
In an interview with Nae Radio on September 9th, ZUN confirmed Marisa B to be the canon ending because it directly connects to the extra stage.
In Wild and Horned Hermit Chapter 9, Kyouko recalls "that shrine maiden" (shown to be Reimu) attacking her and then entering the mausoleum. Marisa and Sanae are also pictured off to the side in her memory of the incident, though she doesn't mention them.
Double Dealing Character
In Wild and Horned Hermit Chapter 19, Reimu complains that nobody noticed that she resolved the incident- or that there even was an incident- and so decided to hold a victory party to make it known. She also mentions that it was harder than expected because she was unable to use her purification rod, indicating that Reimu-B is the canon storyline. Marisa and Sakuya are also pictured posing beside Reimu when she complains to Kasen about lack of recognition for resolving the incident, so they may have also had some involvement in resolving the incident, with Reimu just taking most of the credit.
Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom
In an interview, ZUN revealed that the canon ending is a no-miss clear in Legacy mode (the heroine elects to not use the Ultramarine Orb Elixir, but still manages to not get hit). In Chapter 5 of Visionary Fairies in Shrine, Reimu talks to Eirin about meeting Clownpiece on the moon and Hecatia's involvement with Junko, but Eirin was unaware of the latter, which would contradict at least Reisen's extra story, and confirms at least Reimu's story.
Hidden Star in Four Seasons
In Chapter 42 of Wild and Horned Hermit, it's revealed that Reimu, Marisa, and Aya's stories are at minimum partially canon. Aya and Marisa both mention visiting the Ushirodo-no-Kuni, Marisa in particular mentioning getting there through the back of a jizo who lives in the forest and hearing from Reimu that she did the same. Later on, in Curiosities of Lotus Asia Chapter 31, Narumi personally corroborates Marisa's tale. Aya also reminisces about battling Okina Matara's attendants Satono Nishida and Mai Teireida. However, the Hakurei Shrine managed to get most of the credit for actually solving the incident. Chapter 8 of Visionary Fairies in Shrine has Eternity Larva tell the Three Fairies of Light a truncated version of Cirno's scenario. This makes Hidden Star in Four Seasons the first game to have all playable routes confirmed to be canon.
Groups or individuals who produce both official and unofficial works
ZUN collaborates with established doujinshi circles and artists to illustrate his official print works and games. However, even if an artist or circle has worked to create official material for the Touhou Project, other works by the same circle in which ZUN had no involvement in should not be taken into consideration. For example, Aki★Eda is the artist for the official Touhou manga Silent Sinner in Blue, but the storylines introduced in her self-produced doujinshi, such as Plastic Heart series, shouldn't be considered canon. Twilight Frontier's had collaboration with creating six fighting games in the Touhou Project, but other Touhou games by that circle such as New Super Marisa Land and MegaMari are also non-canon.
Also note that, despite being considered an official Touhou work, the canonicity of Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth may be somewhat debatable, both due to its gag nature, and due to ZUN being credited for the "setting and character designs" rather than the scenario unlike in other Touhou print works. According to ZUN in an interview on Nae Radio, he merely gave the artist rough instructions on "the usuals and conclusions". Due to the fact that some character relationships, like the one between Fujiwara no Mokou and Kaguya Houraisan, can be gleaned from Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth, it's still a good (if overemphasized for comedic effect) source of information. Several events in the comic were also referenced later in official works (the fast growing bamboo in Touhou Hisoutensoku's victory quotes, or Tewi Inaba's colored rabbits scam in Oriental Sacred Place, for example).
The fourth wall is an imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience. When a character within the work is speaking directly to the audience or is aware that they're just a character in a fictional work means that they're "breaking the fourth wall".
In the Touhou Project, there have been instances of the fourth wall been broken. They should be considered non-canon to the work itself.
- Almost all endings of each game, which either congratulates the player for beating the game or tells them to improve.
- The dialogue on Stage 3 of Story of Eastern Wonderland, Lotus Land Story, Mystic Square and Embodiment of Scarlet Devil trial versions explicitly state that the game is in the trial version and thus the player cannot continue.
- Reimu and Rika talk about Rika being a Stage 1 boss in the Extra stage of Story of Eastern Wonderland, while stating that if Reimu followed Rika during Stage 1, then Reimu's battle with the Evil Eye Σ would've been Stage 2.
- Yuuka's bad ending in Mystic Square, stating that the player needs to train harder and choose Yuuka again to play the game.
- Flandre Scarlet utters "I meant you can't use a continue!" to Marisa in her scenario in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, since you can't use one during an extra stage.
- Kogasa Tatara was seen saying "Surprise~" on the CD of Undefined Fantastic Object, speaking to the owner of the CD.
Canonicity of other, non-Touhou works
The appearances of some Touhou Project characters in the Seihou Project are most likely not canon, as they're simply guest appearances that haven't been referred to at any point in the series. Seihou Project is owned by the Doujin circle "Shunsatsu sare do?", who too branched away from Amusement Makers just like Team Shanghai Alice.
Project Blank is owned by the Doujin circle RebRank, who too branched away from Amusement Makers just like Team Shanghai Alice and "Shunsatsu sare do?". The whole series had no involvement from ZUN whatsoever.
Two members from "Shunsatsu sare do?" (Ponchi and Yoko(blankvision)) have participated in the making of Samidare and RefRain. There appear to be some connections between Project Blank and the Seihou Project - in the Extra Stage of Samidare, VIVIT was looking for the holy grail for her master, Erich. She was also looking for it in Shuusou Gyoku's Extra stage.
Uwabami Breakers is owned by The Drinking Party. ZUN's involvement consisted of creating the game's engine (based on Mountain of Faith), composing Amakasu Barley Tenji's theme and leaving official profiles for each character. The game has no story relation to the Touhou Project, but the characters use the spell card system.
Interviews, ZUN's various internet posts, etc.
While those are (obviously) sources from outside of the Touhou Project itself, various interviews with ZUN often reveal things about his game-making process or inspirations, and sometimes can provide insight into story elements - one example would be the lecture held by ZUN at the Toukai High School in 2005, where he heavily implies a link between Yukari Yakumo and Maribel Hearn.
ZUN's Contributions to doujin works
While ZUN has occasionally contributed to Touhou fanworks, their story elements aren't to be considered canon unless written by ZUN himself.
An example would be Touhou Unreal Mahjong, for which he composed Rinnosuke Morichika's theme - while Curious Old Shanghai Tile can be classified as his official theme, Rinnosuke's appearance as a character in the game is unrelated to the official Touhou installments from a plot standpoint. The fan comics included in the official book Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red and the fanbook Seasonal Dream Vision should also be considered non-canon (with the exception of Extra of the Wind, which was written by ZUN) for a similar reason. On the other hand, A Beautiful Flower Blooming Violet Every Sixty Years - ZUN's story written from Yukari's viewpoint, describing her trying to remember the cause behind the flower incident cycle - can very well be considered an official part of the universe.
- ZUN's E-mails
- Meiji University talkshow "Dawn of Touhou"
- ZUN's reply to messages on the former Gensou Bulletin Board 2
- Story of Eastern Wonderland/Story/Prologue
- Highly Responsive to Prayers/Translation/Prologue
- ZUN's AWA Q&A Panel
- Strange Creators of Outer World/Who's Who of Humans & Youkai in Gensokyo/Yuuka Kazami
- Notes on ZUN's Genyou Denshou Lecture
- Mystic Square - Manual
- Mystic Square/Music#Final Stage theme
- Strange Creators of Outer World/Introduction of Previous Works/Mountain of Faith/Mountain of Faith Interview with ZUN
- ZUN's reply to messages on the former Gensou Bulletin Board 3
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Reimu Hakurei
- Symposium of Post-mysticism: Part IV
- Interview on Nae Radio (September 2009)
- Strange Creators Interview 01