Itanshinmon – review

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I wanted to talk about this old album for a very, very, long time. And now, here it’s its review, with the “2021 format” you have seen in recent reviews!

A peek into the depths of the heretical girls, and you’ll find decadence.
A sweet and fetishistic Touhou full vocal album.

Nobody expected the BUTAOTOME Inquisition! …okay, let’s start for real.

Concept

Itanshinmon is based on the three Touhou witches: Marisa, Alice, and Patchouli (+ Flandre as a filler). Hence, all the songs are arrangements of themes related to them. But this is not your average Touhou-s-three-witches-albums-that-shows-how-PC-98-music-is-so-cool! (considering that Marisa and Alice have plenty of themes one can choose from mostly thanks to the old works)

The album has been officially described as “gothic”. Ranko also used the word “aesthetic” (耽美, tanbi) to describe this album in blog posts written around the time it was released. Tanbi kei is a subtype of visual kei that is heavily influenced by classical European fashion and culture, which is something that permeates this album, and it’s in stark contrast with the previously released Shoujo Rengoku (Japanese-style, youkai, etc.)

Half of the lyrics of this album are written by Comp, while the other half is by Ranko, so it’s another 4/4. Ranko’s lyrics are really good for the most part, but Comp’s here are amazing! (tho, I always think 2013-2017 was Comp’s best lyrics era)

Design

Itanshinmon has one of the best and most unique artworks in the whole discography, which makes it an album I highly recommend getting as a physical copy. The cover art depicts Patchouli with empty eyes and her friend grim reaper, inviting us to the dark side of BUTAOTOME. Marisa, Alice, and Flandre also have their own illustrations, and the art overall is extremely detailed, similar to engraved art. A recurring theme in the overall design is “vanitas“. Vanitas paintings typically depict skulls, rotten fruits, and candles, all elements representing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. We also find a couple of Latin phrases associated with the whole concept of vanitas in the inlay: “vanitas vanitatum dixit ecclesiastes vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas” and “memento mori”. Their translation is “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity” and “remember you must die”.

Music

Itanshinmon is a very peculiar entry in the BUTAOTOME catalog and is well-liked among hardcore fans. It has an overall dark and Western-influenced sound and lacks any “Generic BUTAOTOME Song” that always finds its way into every Ranko-based album. Albums like this one are one of the reasons why I love the Pig so much, and part of what makes them stand out in the Touhou rock scene (something that Touhou Danmaku Kagura failed to do).

1. Tsumi to Batsu
“This escape feels like running around a pile of needles barefoot. That’s my punishment. I cry tears of blood.”
A decent opening track, and a definitely good, swingy take on the theme, definitely Buta’s best U.N. Owen! One of the particular instruments used in this album is the double bass, which appears in this track and the two Patchouli ones, but it really shines in Tsumi to Batsu! (it’s an ATELIER Z URB-Realist in case you are interested)
However, the lyrics are meh, they overall fit the album’s dark vibe, but they are basically Hiiro Gekka Sweets Time, sorry Ranko (but it’s not like Flandre “My Only Personality Trait Is DESTROOOOOY” Scarlet is a character for great lyrics).

2. Shi
“If you live only inside of my memories
It allows you to remain untainted and beautiful.
Eternity itself is – Death.”
Hey, I love that Ghost in the Shell opening. Anyway, this song is so full of awesome moments that I don’t know where to start. The instrumental break after the first refrain, the refrain that still keeps the “witches dance” vibe of the original song, the outro reprising the intro… but moreover, that second-to-last stanza, where the instrumental fades away, and an effect is applied to Ranko’s “itooshii”, giving some sort of “broken” feeling.
And on top of all of that, it has very, very good lyrics, I struggled to pick a quote for this review!

3. Anemone
“I pass through the promenade and get on a swing,
Pulling my trump card on the love I’m drowning in.”
I remember I was extremely hyped when I learned that we were finally going to get a Voile arrangement (I often trash on the EoSD OST, but I still enjoy some tracks). This sweet and gentle piece is not what I expected at the time, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I especially love how Ranko’s voice sounds so lovely here, the delicate piano parts, and the pretty unique and poetical vibe of the lyrics.

4. MiChi
“I will show you the dreams’ deepest parts
No one has ever known about.”
Time to go orchestral! I really, really LOVE this one. It’s one of the very few the Grimoire of Alice/Alice-related arrangements that give me Rozen Maiden vibes (if that makes sense…), so it takes me back to when I first discovered Touhou in 2010 despite being released after.
The familiar In The Hall of Mountain King melody, the imagery of the lyrics… Welcome to Alice’s wonderland, a decadent, unknown land.

5. Souzou
“You resemble me, so I voluntarily get hurt.
I want you to laugh at and forgive my foolish self.”
One of the two Paprika tracks in this album. This reminds me that Paprika’s tracks were a novelty at the time, but then they became pretty much a common thing, so they kind of lost their unique flavor in this album. But they are still some good songs.
Among them, I prefer Souzou – I like the piano more (having a full solo intro really helps), and I especially love the second-to-last stanza, with the lyrics mentioning the passing of each season.
(by the way, for ReiMari fans who also love some PC-98 tie-ins, I recommend reading the short story based on it from Yume no Hanashi!)

6. Sei
“Soon, something will go wrong and sadness will come.
Even if the world is covered by doubt, there is life.”
I find it hard to describe this track, I think the best adjective would be “otherworldly”. I’m fairly sure it was very unique at the time, but now we have some tracks with a similar vibe, (such as Yurikago no Naka de and HARI HARUHARI). But Sei is still great on its own, an amazing take on a forgotten Marisa theme. Also, I like the part at 1:33.
Fun fact: “sei” means “six” in Italian (as well as “[you singular] are”). And this is the sixth track of the album. :thonkmcnugget:

7. Helen no Namida
“To advance means to forget –
What remains in the end is you.”
Another slow song for Patchy, this time more somber and with heavy Spanish influences, similar to tango. I really like the references to Western stories and myths throughout the lyrics, in particular, Macbeth; curiously enough, his story started with a meeting with three witches. (oh, there is also a painting called “Helen’s Tears“). Also, the “kodoku kodoku…” intro part, and a similar effect to Ranko’s voice is applied later in the song, to the “kodoku na moji” part. Almost to emphasize the loneliness.
The combination of all these elements makes me imagine Patchouli in her library all alone, observing the deeds of humanity through her books.
Also… I know it’s due to sharing similar influences, but the non-Locked Girl melody reminds me of a very old Muse (band) song… Muse?!?!?!?! In my BUTAOTOME?!?!?!?!? :Violet.exe has stopped working:
#Muse(character)DeservesHerButaSong

(btw, Hecate was a secondary character in the Macbeth play, although some people think she wasn’t in Shakespeare’s original story, and she was pretty much the boss of the three witches. Now I wonder… If Itanshinmon was made after Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom’s release, would it have included an Hecatia track?)

8. Gomakashi
“I’ve tried to deceive this lying heart of mine,
But only thinking about you fills me with so much happiness.”
To close the album, we have another Paprika track, in her usual style, and with lyrics dealing with Alice’s feelings towards Marisa. I feel like each duo of tracks about the three Touhou witches (Shi/Sei, Anemone/Helen no Namida, MiChi/Gomakashi) is meant to have some sort of light and shadow contrast, but it seems more evident with the puppeteer’s tracks. Here I particularly love Ranko’s melancholic tone and the strings at the end!

End notes

Itanshinmon is one of the most unique entries in the entire BUTAOTOME catalog and an amazing one, it’s in my top 10 Buta Touhou albums. I highly recommend it to people who want to see beyond their “generic Best of stuff”. It also forms an excellent duology with Majotachi no Ongakushitsu (next review after Hakuma?), so I recommend getting these albums together.

All the relevant buy links are listed on the album page. And if you don’t know how to buy, check Merami fan’s guide!

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