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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Song of the Week! 29 March 2014

After the genre relocation of the Vocaloid songs, the Variety genre came to a lull again. That was, until another element of Japanese pop culture began to fill the void; songs from the hugely popular Touhou Project slowly, but surely, are coming into Taiko.

That's why today we're having a double feature for one of the most fan-driven Internet phenomena in recent history!

 Night of Knights (ナイト・オブ・ナイツ) Touhou Project Arrange - beatMario
Allx4 (199/166/157)x6 (287/251/225)x7 (502/470/454)x9 (651/636/634)
 Taiko 0 S (promo only), 0 M, Taiko 3DS 3, Taiko Ps Vita, Taiko +
 Game Music -> Variety

No name is as powerful in the Japanese indie bullet hell shooter development scene than Jun'ya Ōta (太田順也) -mostly known as ZUN- who is the driving force of the free-to-play game series for PC, known as the Touhou Project. After a long delay period, modern rhythm games have finally picked up on fan-made remixes of the game series' BGM, and some of their composers roped in for new songs too!

The game series started with the release of five different games for the Japanese NEC PC-98 series of computers from 1995 to 1998, with ZUN being the main developer as part of the game development club Amusement Makers during his student life at the Tokyo Denki University. After a 3 1/2 year hiatus, ZUN left AM in 2002 and started a one-man doujin (Japanese for indie) development studio called Team Shanghai Alice (上海アリス幻樂団). From here, ZUN continued to expand Touhou Project with more bullet hell and fighting games. ZUN also contributed to some games outside his brainchild project for different companies like Taito (Magic Pengel, Graffiti Kingdom), being mostly involved in the music-making department.

The series is steeped in lore, and it'd take more than this current wall of text to explain it all! All the games' stories take place in the fictional realm of Gensokyo (幻想郷, 'Illusion/Fantasy Village'), a village within the mountain recesses of Japan where humans and non-human creatures from traditional folklore -collectively referred to as youkai- lived peacefully and separated from the rest of the world. Many centuries before the Touhou Project storyline, the land was sealed away with a barrier as part of a"boundary of phantasm and substance" project by youkai sage Yukari Yakumo, in order to preserve balance between the human and youkai realms. Magical and spiritual abilities are common in Gensokyo, and the only way to access it is through the Hakurei Shrine at the boundary, guarded by shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei. Once in a while, particular events addressed as 'incidents' affect all of Gensokyo and often breaks the balance between the worlds; in the games, the investigation and resolution of the incident is up to Reimu and in the later games, other imitators and human characters like Marisa Kirisame.

Outside the official main game series, music albums and printed media ranging from manga series to artbooks, the Touhou Project spawned an insane amount of derivative works and projects since the release of the first modern PC game, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. (東方紅魔郷 ~, lit. 'Eastern Lands of the Scarlet Devil'). From the many hobbyist groups (henceforth referred to as 'doujin circles'), countless takes on the series' story and its characters were made, including doujin games, novels, manga/anime series, viral videos and -of course- music arranges and Flash videos, sparked first in 2003 by doujin music circle IOSYS. As a result of this incredible fan reception, the Touhou Project was included in the Guinness World Records in October 2010 as the "most prolific fan-made shooter series", with over 2000 active doujin circles as of winter last year. From 2004 onward, ZUN began to capitalize on this gigantic fanbase annually via the Hakurei Shrine Reitaisai (博麗神社例大祭, lit. 'Hakurei Shrine's Regular Grand Festival'), the biggest Touhou convention in which he shares the latest demos of his future Touhou Project games, several months before free distribution on the Internet. This year, Namco's Taiko franchise will be here to celebrate as well!

Night of Knights is the first of many Touhou doujin music tracks to hit Taiko no Tatsujin as one of the three promotional tracks made for the NicoNico Super Conference 2 in 2013. The song was arranged by Amori prefecture musician Beat Mario from Flowering Night (フラワリングナイト), and is the main theme of the character Sakuya Izayoi in the 9th main game of the series, Phantasmagoria of Flower View. (東方花映塚, lit. 'Oriental Flower Viewing Mound'). Unlike the Vocaloid songs featured in that year's Super Conference, it and Bad Apple!! were placed on standby until Momoiro was released. The English romanization of the title is ambiguous, as 'Nights' and 'Knights' are spelled the same in Japanese.

Night of Knights is the first song in many years after Taiko Ranbu Kaiden to have forked paths for all of its difficulties, and the latest for the genre to have any of those since the Pirameki Taisou songs. On Oni difficulty, the note difference is very little, but the route changes every 8 stanzas, and the continuous flow of notes on each route makes it difficult to stay on the Master route all the way. Big notes, drumrolls and balloon notes are in common for the three routes, but be careful playing the Master route's 1/24 Kat clusters!

 Cirno's Perfect Math Class (チルノのパーフェクトさんすう教室) Touhou Project Arrange - ARM + Yuuno Yoshimi (IOSYS) feat. miko
Allx4 (153)x5 (254)x7 (413)x8 (692)
 Taiko 0 M, Taiko 3DS 3, Taiko +

One month after the public release of the Touhou songs from the Super Conference 2, Taiko Momoiro started featuring an even heavier presence of the series with a huge collaboration event starting on February with 3 songs, with this one being the hardest of the lot currently. Cirno's Perfect Math Class was composed based on Otenba Koi Musume (おてんば恋娘, lit. 'Tomboyish Girl in Love'); the Stage 2 boss song for the ice fairy Cirno from The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil- and arranged by IOSYS.

Founded on October 10th, 1998, IOSYS is mainly focused on the creation and distribution of their music through free and digital means, rather than being associated with a musical label. Its members -mainly residents from Hokkaido and Kanto- often use their music to parody characters from different videogame franchises, such as Atlus' Etrian Odyssey series and the Touhou Project. Touhou is a large part why this group gained a huge following, with Flash videos like 'Marisa Stole the Precious Thing' (魔理沙は大変なものを盗んでいきました) and 'Stops at the diseased part and melts quickly ~ Lunatic Udongein' (患部で止まってすぐ溶ける ~ 狂気の優曇華院). More recently, IOSYS' members have begun making original compositions for mainstream rhythm games too. This song's arranger, ARM, already has several songs on pop'n music (Fushigi no Kuni no Kingdom Kareshi), maimai (Streak, Minna no Maimaima), Groove Coaster (No Way Out, Skyscraper) and SOUND VOLTEX, just to name a few.

The other people from IOSYS which were involved in the creation of Cirno's Perfect Math Class in 2008 are lyricist Yuuno Yoshimi (夕野ヨシミ) and vocalists miko (Cirno's voice) and quim (other voices). The Flash video accompanying the song features ice fairy Cirno teaching (and failing spectacularly at) math in front of other Touhou series characters acting as bad students. The song is also the first track of IOSYS's 2008 album Touhou Anthology of Ice and Snow (東方氷雪歌集), whose other tracks are more rearrangements of Otenba Koi Musume, all of them parodying something, even TV commercials and anime shows like Hokuto no Ken and Lucky Star.

The song sounds fast but BPM 175 is status quo for Taiko no Tatsujin, except for a very small section at BPM 43 between the second and third Go-Go Times. Like many general 8* Oni songs, Cirno's Perfect Math Class features small clusters of 3 and 5 hits and repetitive stanzas. It has few breaks, making this more of a stamina challenge. In all of the song's charts, the number 9 is referenced in its notecount and balloon hit count, referencing Cirno's association with the number 9 after being labeled as "9. Moron"in the layout explanation of Phantasmagoria of Flower View.

  Cirno's Perfect Math Class (チルノのパーフェクトさんすう教室) Touhou Project Arrange - ARM + Yuuno Yoshimi (IOSYS) feat. miko

x10 (939)
 Taiko 0 M, Taiko 3DS 3, Taiko +

The release of three Touhou songs in February was a treat, but an even bigger surprise awaited fans when all three of them came with Ura Onis as well. This chart makes Cirno's Perfect Math Class currently the only 10* in the Variety genre ever since Yawaraka Sensha was deranked to 9* three years ago. Despite the rating, it's a pretty low-difficulty 10*. Clusters are longer and trickier, with long note streams thrown in, but the relatively low BPM compared to the rest of the 10*s  played a major factor holding it back from being even harder. The song ends with a total notecount that is yet another reference to the ice fairy Cirno.


  1. "is up to Reiko"
    Err... I think it should be Reimu.

    1. Oh, shoot. Not very used to Touhou names