Happy Birthday to Ranko! (2023) – Let’s talk about BUTAOTOME’s lyrics (Ranko edition)

It’s Ranko’s birthday!! Happy birthday to her!! 💜💜

I’m addicted to these focaccia snacks…

Here we have the second part of my “Let’s talk about BUTAOTOME’s lyrics” post, and… wow.

Ranko is my favorite lyrics writer among BUTAOTOME, and I really enjoy translating her lyrics (when translating a full album, I typically start with the songs written by her). While her writing style is usually quite simple, I love how she tries to write stories with her lyrics, and fill them with her Touhou headcanons and references (and wow, some of her early lyrics were depressing as hell). Sometimes, she might just use the characters as motifs and write something that includes her favorite interests outside of the world of Gensoukyou (although some references might be hard to understand without a commentary…). I also particularly enjoy the extra things she writes to accompany her lyrics, such as commentaries and short stories. And since she has a large number of lyrics, this time I’ll do a top 10 of my favorites!

10. Tabako to Tanuki to Musen Inshoku (from Suzu no Sorane)
Suzu no Sorane is an album I would describe as “misunderstood”, and that shines more for its lyrical content (so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are here just for the music). It also has a lot of Ranko lyrics, covering more than half of the album, so I think I should include something from it! I really like how she didn’t write a simple retelling of the namesake Forbidden Scrollery chapters, but just took some ideas/loose concepts from them and expanded them. I pick Tabako to Tanuki to Musen Inshoku because it’s a good example, and for a bit of representation of my girl Sanae. The original story is about one of the many “incident-of-the-week” in the Human Village, with a snake youkai who dines and dashes. Sanae and Mamizou appear, but they don’t even interact with each other, and there is one part where Mamizou brings some books and magazines from the outside world to Kosuzu. And thus, Ranko wrote something about the living goddess and the tanuki having some chats about the world they once belonged to.
(funny thing is that this album was released at the same time as Urban Legend in Limbo, which featured a much more popular partner for Sanae’s chit-chats about the outside world…)

9. Mikan no Yue (from Paradise Lost)
Paradise Lost is a criminally underrated album that I would love to re-review at some point. Among the songs Ranko wrote for it, I like Rasen Zetsubou and Kyoujin Nikki a bit more lyrics-wise, but I decided to feature Mikan no Yue for one simple reason: its related story in Yume no Hanashi. This simple book of stories written by Ranko is one of the things I translated that I cherish the most, and Mikan no Furusato is my favorite story. It greatly expands the setting of the song, and I was so invested in the translation, I did a lot of searches to make sure that I understood it. And it made me appreciate Reisen more, she is now my favorite character from Imperishable Night! I’m still wondering why the title of the story is different from the song… Perhaps the song was “incomplete” on purpose?

8. Utakata (from Shoujo Rengoku 3)
China’s favorite song, as I like to call it. But it’s still a great one, plus Mokou is one of Ranko’s favorite characters and I think I have to include at least one song about her favs!
I really enjoy the double meaning of the title. Utakata can mean either “ephemeral” or “bubbles on water’s surface”. Both of them are the opposite of Mokou, an immortal being who can use fire.
These lyrics are… sorrowful, yet beautiful, just like the song itself. They are all about the tragedy of immortality. I’ve always interpreted the pre-refrain stanzas as Mokou’s conscience judging her for her sins, and I appreciate the reference to the Juujuushinron/十住心論 (quoted by Mokou herself in her dialogue with Youmu and Yuyuko in Imperishable Night). Ranko does her searches!
I have to admit, I appreciate how behind their cute appearance and fun rock song to sing along, BUTAOTOME can be very dark edgy as hell, as you’ll see in some later entries.
(btw the groovy version is a stereotypical vocaloid song – happy rock instrumental with dark and depressive lyrics)

7. Guuzou Utopia/Kirei na Niji (from Shoujo Rengoku 5)
Wily Beast and Weakest Creature is one of my favorite Touhou works of all time, and a good part of my love for it comes from Buta’s arrangements. I think Guuzou Utopia and Kirei na Niji are subtly linked, so I include them together in this spot.
Guuzou Utopia is a twisted take on Keiki, depicting her a bit more like the wicked goddess seen by the animal spirits, and with a very strong “WORSHIP ME AND MY IDOLS!” component. I like how a friend of mine described it: “It’s Buta’s Keiki version of Shinra-Bansho’s Charisma Rengoku Tenshin
On the other hand, Kirei na Niji is about Mayumi and her devotion to her creator. The haniwa leader is very fond of Keiki, she is her entire world, but for the goddess… she is not the special one. But Mayumi still has to rely on her due to her nature.
In the end, the only one who can actually love Keiki is herself.
The feelings of a “created being” questioning their love for their creator is something we also find in the SeiYoshi song Y from Hikari, (one of the many songs that didn’t make the cut for this list…) although with lots more “hurt me, destroy me” phrases.

6. Bokura no Mirai (from Getsumen Tansa)
This one is not just one of my favorite songs (my favorite from Getsumen Tansa), but also one with one of the coolest basis for the lyrics. They are mainly based on ZUN’s comment on the original theme: the first lunar landing was seen as an event full of hopes and dreams for the future back in 1969, but… this current era is probably not what people back then were dreaming of. The refrains in particular are very nihilist.
It’s certainly not the first Voyage 1969 arrangement to have this type of lyrics, but sometimes it’s nice to have Touhou lyrics that make you reflect upon the real world (and that aren’t limited to Diao ye zong songs).
Oh, and Bokura no Mirai also creates a nice contrast with Ashita no Kako (an EirinxKaguya song, still with Ranko’s lyrics), which is also a very different take on Voyage 1969 music-wise! Together, they form a great example of one of the best things about Touhou arrangements; one can write lyrics for the same theme but through different angles, and generally be able to do different songs with the same basis.

5. Kokochiyosa ni Shine (from Hanafuda)
Now, I enjoy Ranko’s lyrics mostly for their derivative works factor, but I also want to include an original song. Most of them are pretty good, and they still have that story-like feel of her Touhou lyrics.
And which song I pick if not Kokochiyosa ni Shine? I think it’s one of Ranko’s best performances, I’m very glad it was included in the original best and even brought back live! And it’s also my boyfriend’s favorite Buta song :bibisun: But this is a post about lyrics. And I think this song is amazing even in that department! These lyrics depict this scenery of helplessness and no way out, as if sinking into a swamp of despair, but the speaker in the end has someone who is in their same shoes and can help them go through the adversity. I especially love the contrasting elements between the first and the second part (“When we woke up at the dawn…” vs “When we slept at the twilight…”).

4. Towa no Maigo (from Shoujo Rengoku)
I think the Shoujo Rengoku series is consistently good in terms of lyrics, and Ranko delivered some pretty dark lyrics for the first album (except for maaaybe Bajitoufuu no Hate), and I think Towa no Maigo is the best from the bunch. It can make someone think a bit about the history of the world and all the atrocities committed in the past. With her abilities, Keine watches all over it (maybe she knows the truth behind some events?) and comments on humans’ foolishness.

3. Bara to Shingan (from FREAKS)
I love FREAKS. I’m very glad it was the first album I got autographed! I love how Ranko’s lyrics in this album have a recurring fairytale theme, and I was very tempted to dedicate a full spot for its four songs, but I wanted to stick with the “one song max two per spot” rule. And since The Little Prince is a novella I hold very dearly, Bara to Shingan wins. These lyrics feel more like a whole tribute to the story, from the prince’s rose to the key phrase of “the essential is invisible to the eye”. I can somewhat associate Merry with the prince, due to her more childlike personality, and the many worlds she visited in her dreams with the various planets he visited on his journey!

2. In The Black (from Daihinmin)
Daihinmin was an album that had quite good lyrics overall, but the award for my personal favorite goes to this one. It’s a great example of lyrics that are not about the specific Touhou character, but they use some of their motifs, and Ranko expands on them by adding some of her favorite hobbies. In this case, she picks the Men in Black (Mamizou’s urban legend) and adds the Cthulhu TRPG to the mix. The Great Old Ones are not something you typically find in a Touhou song… I personally enjoyed all the board game lingo and stuff in the lyrics, I remember when I and my friend were questioning how to properly translate “ichitarinai” and “ichitarita”!

Before moving to the final song, I have to admit something: when I started writing Ranko’s post, I didn’t know what to put on the first spot. When I first got this idea of dedicating this year’s birthday posts to the lyrics, I already knew my top 1 for Ane. I also already know what will be the top 1 for Comp (you’ll discover it on his birthday), and while I won’t write a post for Paprika, I can tell you Shiroi Asa is my favorite one. Ranko is my favorite lyricist, and while I really like lots of her lyrics, there wasn’t That One Favourite. As I was writing, I gathered some songs for that one special spot. But in the end, also due to some recent acquisitions, this one…. no, these two won.

1. Ori no Naka de Miru Yume/Kimi no Naka de Miru Yume (from Folie à deux)
Folie à deux is an album that will always have a special place in my heart, one of my all-time favorite Hifuu works (although I hold all of Buta’s Hifuu works in high regard), and in my top 10 Buta albums.
These two songs are connected, not just for their almost identical title, so they have to be in the same spot.
What happened between Trojan Green Asteroid and Neo-traditionalism of Japan? This is BUTAOTOME’s take on it. Ori… depicts Merry in the sanatorium, trapped inside her cage of madness. She can’t distinguish between real and fake, and she is unable to find the true Renko in her dreams.
Kimi… is Renko’s viewpoint. She sees Merry in her dreams, perhaps she is inside Merry’s dream, but true to this album’s title, she is also experiencing the same kind of hallucinations as her partner.
The two of them exchange letters, and I wonder if a certain letter managed to reach Renko…
These two songs also include some nice references to their original themes, with mentions of space travels in Ori (Magical Astronomy) and fake landscapes in Kimi (Retrospective 53 minutes).
I also think these songs could be interpreted/expanded to have some sort of bad ending, but it would require including Comp’s lyrics and other elements from the album into the mix, and I want to save these talks for when/if I’ll ever re-review Folie à deux.

(btw, for those who might have noticed a pattern… No, Comp’s top 1 lyrics won’t be a Hifuu or Yukari-related song)

Honorable mentions: all the other songs that got stories in Yume no Hanashi, Show Loop (It’s kind of weird, but as I said in the Chess review, that opening line is 100/100), Sukoshi Mukashi no Ohanashi (the Seihou references! VIVIT is canon in the Butaverse OH NOES time to sacrifice her), the “-teki” trilogy from the original albums, Tomodachi wa Mizu no Naka (I really like how it’s under Nessie’s viewpoint), Honjitsu no Makugire ni (I thought it was a Ranko song disguised as a Joon one…), Watashi Shuugouron (Let’s go find the mountain where the rainbow is born… I still love that line), and many, many more… I could have talked no stop about them, with also some other sections dedicated to full albums such as Arikitari na Nouzui yo…, but then this post would have ended up turning into a top 20 or even more, and I had a deadline to follow.

Aaaand that’s all for this post! It was quite hard to write due to the vastness of the track catalog and great lyrics overall, so I hope you have enjoyed it! What are your favorite Ranko lyrics? Once again, happy birthday to her!

(p.s.: yeah, I’ve missed the opportunity to include Birthday… but I thought it was too old and depressed… 😅)

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