So, my original plan was a plain Shoujo Rengoku 5 commentary in the similar vein of the one I wrote for Ese Souretsu Shinan. But a piece of sad news overshadowed the new albums.
Paprika will leave BUTAOTOME this year. You can read her translated message about this here. It’s news that greatly shocked me, and I’m still shocked now. Yesterday my mind was a complete mess, and I apologize for some errors I made in the previous post.
It was sudden. And something I didn’t expect at all. When reading about other circles’ disbandment, members leaving, and all that stuff, I was very proud of BUTAOTOME being able to go on for 10 years straight with the same lineup. However, it seems she left in good terms, and I’m glad. Just like a good family that accepts its members taking a different path in life. Sometimes you just have to accept them, and I always had this family imagery of BUTAOTOME members. I also understand Paprika’s choice. It’s hard to affirm yourself as a pianist and go overseas when you are bound to a doujin circle that heavily focuses on Touhou.
Now, most of the Paprika songs sound kind of sad to me, due to the sole thought that we won’t be able to ever listen to new stuff from her under BUTAOTOME’s name, or just her piano in Comp’s things. Also, looking around my room, with BUTAOTOME posters and memorabilia depicting a lineup that will become past. My biggest regret right now is that I will never be able to meet the Four. Just “the Three”.
I wonder how BUTAOTOME will continue without her. If the Coronavirus won’t be a bitch again, I can imagine a goodbye one-man live during October/December. Comiket 99 will be the first Comiket without a Nekokenban (unless there are plans for a second Best album). But for their regular stuff, and what will happen from next year onwards… I dunno. Perhaps they’ll find a new pianist? Honestly, I’m afraid that Paprika’s absence will affect the sound of their future music, or that in the longer end, they won’t be able to continue without her. I also hope they won’t neglect, erase, or even somehow try to replace every contribution of her from the track catalog (like making future vocal albums entirely based on themes that only had songs by Paprika).
I want to thank Paprika from the bottom of my heart for all the great music she gave to us. This last lustrum of Touhou Nekokenbans was amazing, with some of my all-time favorite Touhou instrumental albums. This last one sounds very promising from the XFD, and a great ending to this journey, I’m looking forward to it! The cat also made some of my all-time favorite BUTAOTOME vocal songs: Yokoshima na Honoo, Nakimushi na Kimi, Sukoshi Mukashi no Ohanashi, Shiroi Asa, Yousei no Yume, Mirai MELLOW, Bara to Shingan, and the list goes on. I wanna thank her for all the laughs I had with the comus. And for making me love tuxedo cats. And to give us MiniPap, one of the local deities of TC. I wish her all the best for her new path.
I am sad and I’m afraid of the future, but I greatly respect Paprika’s decision. I’m eagerly looking forward to her new activities (hoping she won’t change her name and/or become very hard to find), and I’ll be sure to report them here on TC!
Now, let’s move on the analysis of the new vocal album.
Shoujo Rengoku 5. I admit I wasn’t very excited about it back when Ane revealed the cover, due to me being not a huge fan of the last one. And when I first read the tracklist I was honestly disappointed: what’s this sudden Kikeijuu theme milking?! And three rearranges?!?! My first listen of the XFD wasn’t also very bright, but then most of the new tracks managed to grow on me. XFDs suck!!!11
When Magic Lantern and Ese Souretsu Shinan didn’t have any theme from the post-demo of Touhou 17, I thought the Pig just wanted to wait until the full version of 17.5. That game will probably introduce Toutetsu, the leader of the 3rd mafia party in the animal realm, and boss of the eagle spirit. So I guess we’ll see her on Shoujo Rengoku 6. Also, this album is officially Vegeta.
If there is one thing that it’s always top tier about the Shoujo Rengoku series is the album arts. I can sense some favoritism of Ane towards Yachie because her artwork in the cover seems to be qualitatively better than the other arts in the album (you can see the other WBaWC post-demo girls in the BOOTH page).
The Kikeijuu songs sound so amazing. I was first turned off by Kirei na Niji due to a certain song about haniwa propaganda ruining Mayumi’s theme for me, but once I got over it I managed to truly appreciate it. I love how Guuzou Utopia sounds so fast and fun compared with the magnificence of its original theme, and Ai is just great and pretty much everyone I know loves it. Yay trumpets (tho, why does it have the Koishiest of the titles)! In an opposite fashion with the cover and the arts, the only track that doesn’t sound that exciting is Rokubun no Ichi (Yachie’s track), but we’ll see with the full.
The three rearranges don’t sound particularly exciting, they aren’t songs I really love and they give me the feeling of being 3 songs that were randomly picked to reach the usual 8 tracks quota. It’s a very understandable choice due to the small timeframe between releases, but it’s funny how we got these three Shoujo Rengoku versions right after an album with the best chosen rearranges.
But my favorite track in the XFD is seika (to not be confused with Seika from Bowling, which is written with different kanji). ButaHifuu is always great, and when Ranko does her trrrrrilling rrrrrs, I’m instantly sold. And I really love the swingy sound it has! Due to the original theme (see below), my first thought about the song was that it was somehow related to the coronavirus, and being about the disappointment of not being able to meet a dear person (the fans), and the hope that this pandemic will be over soon. But after the sudden announcement, I can’t help but think this is the Paprika’s farewell song.
Speaking of its original theme: I don’t think Renko and Merry fit the Rengoku series and its youkai setting, plus with their big amount of themes it’s very stupid to arrange the same one multiple times. Why Unknown Flower (that now has 3 vocal arrangements) and not, for example, Eternal Festival of Illusions or Outsider Cocktail?
Unknown Flower, Mesmerizing Journey was an original track in a small CD ZUN sold at Reitaisai 8, May 8, 2011. That event was rescheduled from its original March 13 date due to the Tohoku earthquake, and it was the only time, until today, that something major affected the doujin world. I first thought Unknown Flower was chosen as a sort of nod of that one time. But ZUN’s comment about the CD said that it was themed around a charming trip in Tohoku. Travels… Remember which BUTAOTOME album had a travel motif? Exactly, Oriental Yumekikou, with its last track, Hoshi no Mukou ni, being an Unknown Flower arrangement about the end of a journey, and nostalgic places. So the theme might have been chosen to represent the end of a long journey with a friend.
Robin also made me notice how Ai’s lyrics, from the sample, were unusually cheesy and character-unrelated for BUTAOTOME. But now they might have sense. The general theme of this album seems to be about not losing hope and finding something to believe in, which it’s something we truly need in this current time.
And that’s all I had to say for today. I’m looking forward to this album a lot, despite its flaws, and I will review it as usual. Thank you for reading my ramblings!
Addendum by Ranko no Ane
This is a translation of a comment Ranko no Ane left on this post, where she cleared some of my doubts about Shoujo Rengoku 5!
I asked Paprika to make all the 3 rearrangements, so I was very confused about whether to put so many rearrangements in a CD, or requesting new songs.
The theme of this Shoujo Rengoku is “crowd (a social animal)”, and the original themes were chosen based on it.
Unknown Flower, Mesmerizing Journey/Michi no Hana Michi no Tabi was included because humans are creatures who live in crowds as well. As you mentioned in this article, Japan and the doujin world had a very painful experience with the past earthquake, and we are now facing even greater difficulties – that was one of our thoughts.
Even though there are no events, there is a lot of impatience for making CDs, because doujin and the printing shops may die if everyone does not work.
Also, we thought that the people outside Gensokyo, which are the Hifuu girls, also lived in the Buddhist six realms (in Buddhism the six worlds through which souls transmigrate), which can be considered as purgatories.
But this CD is a bit of a spin-off of Shoujo Rengoku, so I think it’s natural for the listeners to ask questions.