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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Song of the Week! 7 January 2017


For the first Song of the Week feature of the year, we have a couple of tracks featuring the Tengu, a figure that was spawn from both Japanese folklore and several religious backgrounds, up to be depicted in several forms through the ages...

 Tengu Bayashi (天狗囃子)
Version
Allx4 (166)x7 (271)x7 (456)x9 (734)
 Taiko 0 R
 103-206
 none
 ???


Arcade Taiko players have had the opportunity to unlock a 2-part Tengu outfit between the years, but the very first depiction of these supernatural beings in original Taiko song form has occurred only recently, with Tengu Bayashi (lit. 'Tengu Orchestra') as Red Version's final Don Point unlockable. This is the second song made by Hisui (翡翠) to be an instrumental track titled after a supernatural being from Japanese folklore (after Gashadokuro), so it's good custom for us to briefly talk about what lies behind the Tengu (天狗) nomenclature first.

With the naming based from the Chinese dog-looking Tiangou (天狗, which is also read as 'Heavenly Dog'), Japanese Tengu are considered among the ranks of Shinto gods of youkai being depicted along the years in many different ways and with many different motifs. From the most ancient Japanese literature, Tengu are depicted as kite-looking flying monsters who can take the form of predatory birds and possess people (especially women and girls) in their disruptive quest to mislead and corrupt pious people and monks (mostly of the Buddhist creed) by either seducing them, dropping them in dislocated places or corrupting their beliefs with unholy powers and temple-looting treasures.

Literature from the XII-XIII centuries also attest Tengu to be the ghost of heretical priests that have fallen for their anger and pride into the so-called tengudo (天狗道, 'Tengu Realm'), an earth-ly dimension from where they can't be sent off to neither Hell or Heaven, being themselves Buddhist cultists that were swindled away by bad principles in their former life.  In more recent times, it was spread the belief that Tengu are the ghost of arrogant people in general and acquired the role of forests and mountains' protector, while retaining their more wrathful aspects from former eras. Depiction of Tengu spirits from all ages tend to enclose all of these beings' nature in their avian form, with most drawings tending to 'humanize' the most bird-related body parts as overly-exaggerated human caricature, most popular of which being their long nose to act as a sort of beak. Being spawn from former Buddhist monks themselves, they're often depicted with a gust-generating fan, wearing holy items and the Yamabushi (山伏), the garb worn by ascetic mountain hermits.

Tengu Bayashi is the latest officially-credited notecharting job of Yuji Masubuchi (増渕裕二氏), for which he pulled off a mostly 1/16-based charted set with several cluster spikes to keep the playing pace high even in the lowest BPM sections of the track. It's also quite the long song with irregular timing stanzas all along, so that the main gimmick of the song's Oni mode for the players is to keep up with the rhythm changes as this Tengu improv concert goes on!

 Akeboshi Rocket (明星ロケット) Touhou Project Arrange - Kishida Kyoudan & THE Akeboshi Rockets
Version
Allx3 (120)x5 (200)x6 (368)x8 (560)
 Taiko 0 Mu (promo only), Taiko 0 W, Taiko Ps Vita, Taiko +
 164.23-172.99
 none
 thakeb


The very first Tengu-related song we got in Taiko gaming, however, made its debut more than a year earlier on both console and arcade titles, due to popular demand for Taiko no Tatsujin V Version's DLC Song Reccomandation poll. Being a danmaku series with its roots being oriented towards the Shinto mythology, even the Touhou Project series is the home of Tengu-inspired characters, among many other instances from other games of the past!

Coming back to some more Tengu trivia, the extended version of the Japanese epic Heike Monogatari - the Genpei Seisuiki (源平盛衰記)- appoints that not all Tengu are equal, as the former human life's being who generated one of those youkai can result in the creation of one of two categories of Tengu; while knowledgeable men become the greater and long-nosed Daitengu (大天狗), the ignorant ones will turn into the lower-ranked kotengu (小天狗), living in Cryptomeria trees and more commonly being referred to as Karasu-Tengu (烏天狗, 'crow tengu') due to their more bird-looking aspect. The latter of these Tengu categories is the closest one under which is identifiable the Touhou Project character Aya Shameimaru (射命丸文), a really fast Tengu reporter youkai which was introduced in Phantasmagoria of Flower View for then becoming the main character of the two photography-based danmaku spin-offs of the series later on: Shoot the Bullet and Double Spoiler. As kotengu creatures are often called konoha-tengu (木の葉天狗, lit. 'foliage tengu'), Aya can be seen in games of the series wielding an hauchiwa fan, whose shape resembles the one of a leaf.

Akeboshi Rocket (lit. 'Morning Star') is an arrangement of Shoot The Bullet's 4th Photo theme, Retrospective Kyoto (レトロスペクティブ京都), which can be heard in the last 3 stages of the game. The track has also been the name-giver of its debut album (which was released on March 2006 for the third Reitasai convention) as well as the source of inspiration for the current naming of the doujin which composed the song: Kishida Kyoudan & THE Akeboshi Rockets (岸田教団 &THE明星ロケッツ).

Originally known as Studio K2, this is a band focused on rock-based songs with vocals, starring the nick-named Kishida (岸田) as the bassist and main song arranger, ichigo for the female vocals, Hayapi (はやぴ~) as the guitarist and Mi-Chan (みっちゃん) at the drums. The band started in 2004 as a one-man band with Kishida creating custom music arrangements for a number of Type-Moon visual novel games as well as Touhou Project arrangements. As years went by, more members joined the act and its popularity rose up to the point of the band signing to major discographic houses, from Geneon Universal (2010-2011) to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, for which are signed to this day from 2013 for original songs that are used in a number of Anime shows such as 2010's High School of the Dead. Nowadays, the band is still in activity in the Touhou Project network of custom arrangements, as both live concerts and albums dedicated to ZUN's danmaku series have been occurring to this day.

As previously mentioned, the Akeboshi Rocket song came to Taiko thanks to the user input in the Ps Vita-related DLC song suggestion poll for V Version; however, the song was first made playable during 2015's Hakurei Shrine Reitasai in advance on arcades, with special codes being delivered for early-bird players of V Version attending the event and the song itself making its public debut (V Version first, White Version later) some months after the convention. Akeboshi Rocket is also notable in the rhythm gaming network for being one of the first playable Touhou Arranges in the SOUND VOLTEX series (link), as well as being a playable track in maimai (link) and Groove Coaster (link) arcades later on. Unlike those rhythm games' playable versions, however, the Taiko cut of Akeboshi Rocket was taken from its re-recording featured in the compilation album 2007-2010 Touhou Arrange Best (2007-2010 東方アレンジベスト), featuring an alternate guitar solo.

The song on Taiko features a very fluctuating BPM value like many songs from the former Taiko generations; as such, its BPM and scrolling speed changes after each and every stanza in order to give the feel that the chart is flowing under one single speed. Notecharter sentai and Touhou enthusiast Marimo Institute (まりも研究所) crafted a pure 1/16 chart set for the song, with its Oni mode featuring a set of increasing clusters in both number, length and hand-switching trickery that keeps up the pace until the very end with the inclusion of hit-heavy markers like drumrolls and hit balloons.

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