My favorite Touhou characters (and their ties to BUTAOTOME)

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Updated on March 12, 2024.

For a while, I have been thinking of a nice way to “organize” my top favorite Touhou characters… and so I decided to apply some self-imposed rules:

  • The character must represent a different aspect of Touhou or specific work that I like
  • For specific works or group of characters, have only one character to represent it (ex. have only one character for Hifuu)
  • The character must have a good representation in BUTAOTOME’s catalog and/or be associated with a particularly great work by them.

There will be 9 characters, like the nine Muses of Greek mythology. Each one will also have her own Ane art. So, let’s get started!

Sanae Kochiya

From Tasogare Elegy (I could have picked Ichinichi or Nouzui’s cover, but I wanted to showcase a more uncommon art)

On every Touhou Popularity Poll, one has to pick a top favorite character who gets an extra point. In my case, it has always been Sanae. And as a recurring playable character, I think it’s also right to start with her, even though I always use Reimu for my game clears.

While she wasn’t my very first favorite character and the reason I discovered Touhou (that honor goes to Alice), Sanae has always been a character I liked a lot. I really like her design and while fanworks about her tend to be of various degrees of quality, when they are good… man if they are G O O D . From heartwarming stories to serious ones, mostly with a coming-of-age motif about her double nature as a human and a goddess. But why did she become my favorite? Well, back in the day I was surrounded by people who disliked her (mostly for stupid reasons, such as “she stole Secuia’s place :((((” ) while I was one of the few ones who honestly liked her. I was also a super mega normie when it came to Touhou music – I only listened to IOSYS, I didn’t know the specific artists, and even then there were plenty of songs I didn’t enjoy. When their album Touhou Meringue Shoujo Yakou was released, I quickly noticed there was a Sanae song and I was like “ooooh, a Sanae track, nice, hopefully it won’t be moeshit like the one in the previous album”. And when I listened to it, I was amazed. It just had a different feel from the average IOSYS song, it was cool, rock… What my girl needed in the sea of very offensive insults. I didn’t even know these were the same artists behind that one song I’ll talk about in a later section. A year later, I got into Buta and realized that that song… was theirs all along, it was IOSYS in name (and lyrics) only. So, yeah, the very first Buta song I unknowingly loved was a Sanae one and this is also why she is my top 1 Touhou character.

And speaking of Buta, the living goddess got a very good representation across their discography! Her main theme has plenty of arrangements, and while I do admit most of them are not interesting takes, there are two themes belonging to other characters that are much worse in that regard (hi Remilia, hi Koishi). Her stage theme has Mirai, which is one of the best Pig songs period. I also want to mention Kouunryuusui because she is in the booklet and it’s a really great one that made me realize that Eternal Steam Engine is so good. Last but not least, Sanae has also some great album covers, including my favorite album! Which I picked for the featured thumb of this post because #IchinichiSupremacy

Doremy Sweet

From Daihinmin’s booklet. Yeah, she doesn’t have a better art, sorry.

A character who has always intrigued me ever since LoLK’s demo was released. Dreams are such an interesting topic, aren’t they? They have always been a good source of inspiration, but they can also be pretty scary. Also, Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is one of my favorite Touhous ever, and she serves as a sort of my personal representative of that game. As I often put out, LoLK is a game where I just love everything about it, I’m happy to see anyone popping up in fanworks (even Ringo “My Only Trait is Eating Dango, but My Themes Are Cooler Than My Buddy’s Ones” Nolastname), and there was a time of my life where I was just addicted to LoLK-centered album and hunting arrangements from it, especially for Sagume. But there is one thing I absolutely despise… and it’s the game itself. Sorry, it’s just NOT FUN to play.

While Doremy has always be a high tier girl for me, what made me put her at the top of my favorite Touhou characters was this simple game called Touhou Cannonball. A game I probably wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t for the amazing Buta content it gave us. I started playing it at the end of December 2019, and Doremy was newly released. One thing I quickly noticed that she had the same voice as Madoka Kaname, the protagonist of my favorite anime, woo! I managed to get the baku despite the low rates, and she has been my homescreen girl for the longest time, almost permanently. Even when I finally got Sanae, I didn’t want to replace Doremy.
Cannonball is gone since almost three years, and I still miss it (although I do admit I don’t particularly care about a revival, I just want its music to be re-released). Now, when I start a new gacha, my first target is the Aoi Yuuki-voiced character, in memory of my old Doremy. And this is how Madoka eventually became my favorite of the Holy Quintet when I got back into MadoMagi hell and started playing Magia Record.

Doremy is probably the character in this list with the weakest tie to Buta. All the girls featured here have one representative album and/or plenty of songs, except for the baku – she is not in Getsumen Tansa (which can be considered as the LoLK album), her actual theme still doesn’t have a vocal arrangement, her stage theme’s lyrics are arguably more about Reisen than her, she doesn’t have a proper art I can use for this post. But I guess having a few amazing songs is better than having multiple remixes of the same theme that sound the same (take note…). Plus, Anchuu Mosaku and Sleep Junkie are among the best tracks of their respective albums!

Joon Yorigami

JoonRanko, from some freebie postcards that were given at Daihinmin’s release event.

Now, here is a character who started pretty low in my rankings and then slowly climbed them until she managed to be in this funny gathering. Antinomy of Common Flowers has become my favorite Touhou spin-off game. Besides importing all the amazing content from Urban Legend in Limbo (the urban legend concept, Sumireko with a continuation of her storyline, and of course Comp’s Dichromatic Butterfly arrangement), it adds tons of great stuff including a nice duo mechanic, more Doremy lore, and a great OST. I usually don’t like Uni Akiyama’s stuff, but man, his Hyouibana stuff is so good, such a shame that he is only recognized for Boring Moon.

I used to dislike Joon for her personality, but… Ranko managed to make me love her, even when most of her talks about the yakubyougami were just “Joon-chan kawaii!!!111” tweets. And she has a really good character arc about how even the most saint of all people have their own hidden flaws, there is no black or white. Joon is a piece of trash, but deep down she wants to become a bit better. Also, yeah, she is cute. But the one reason why she became a supermegatop character was a very good memory that happened last year. I don’t think I can talk about it without sounding like I’m bragging, but people who know it, know.

Although my liking of Joon is so heavily tied to Buta… I consider Daihinmin and Daifugou to be a not-so-great duology. Which is probably a very controversial opinion since these albums are getting their own live this week. Since they won’t get a re-review in the near future, the short version is that while Daihinmin is one of Buta’s best works, Daifugou feels more like an afterthought, an album made just for the Joon song. But hey, at least Fabulous is great. And also Honjitsu no Makugire ni, which is still a “Ranko song disguised as a Joon one” in my mind! (and I think it would be an amazing song to end the live!)

Sumireko Usami

Celebratory illustration for Violet Detector’s announcement and Sumireko’s promotion to playable character [original]

Well, a representative of Hifuu was obligatory, especially when talking about BUTAOTOME. While I thought Merry could have been a better option due to the Hifuu Club being first and foremost something from ZUN’s Music Collection… I ended up choosing Sumireko. Being a Violet girl with glasses and psychic power, she feels extremely close to me (okay, I don’t have psychic powers… but sometimes I jinx things). She is particularly disliked by many people due to her personality and for “ruining the Hifuu Club”. And so, I picked her because I dislike Hifuu purists and those who reduce it to just “RenMerry chucchu until yasashii uso ni.” 🙂

I have this weird relationship with Hifuu in general. I’ve always been charmed by its futuristic setting and it’s unique format that makes it its own series that can be separated from Touhou. I also admit that a lot of the non-mainline Windows games have that unique charm, and they don’t get easily plagued by Cool&Create boomer memeshit. I get excited by various Hifuu events, I still enjoy and collect the fan content, and sometimes I am just in the mood for some cheesy RenMerry. But there are times when I roll my eyes at the countless amount of RenMerry yuri/relationship songs and find them particularly tiresome. But I don’t automatically give a pass to anything with Sumi, and it also depends on the artist. Good RenMerry cheese from groups such as TUMENECO is miles better than bad Sumireko-centered albums (although honestly, the only album that comes to mind is one with an artwork that is basically a hentai doujinshi cover)

BUTAOTOME’s Hifuu material played a huge part in my love for these characters and their world, and I think it is some of their most consistently good stuff (hence why Yuusei Hakurankai is still the best greatest hits album). I’m also glad The Pig is one of the few groups that have been giving love to the violet child. (heck, in the past two Ano Hi Mita Gensou lives, Buta was the only artist who played a Sumireko-related song) Futatsu no Cinema is still one of the best Last Occultism arrangements despite being the very first. And I remember I was so euphoric when Occultic Dreamer was released and we finally got BUTAOTOME Violet Detector. I’m still hoping for the other themes! And that all the originals from ZUN’s Music Collection will get an arrangement!


from Kochuuten

More commonly referred to as Jacketko, the girl on the cover of Dolls in Pseudo Paradise. Adelina is the name I gave to her, a name related to beauty and that is also pretty similar to my real name. For some reason, I have always liked Dolls in Pseudo Paradise the most among ZUN’s CDs. Maybe it’s due to its unique, unhealing sound, or because everything is better with a bit of Enigmatic Doll… And I’ve always liked the old fashioned design of the DiPP girl. She looks like a doll… and in a certain sense, she is. You know how most dolls (and toys in general) are basically a blank slate and people playing with them give them some kind of identity? Yeah. While the common consense is that “Jacketko is blonde and she is the most beautiful one of the honest men…” nothing is ever confirmed. She could be anyone else from the DiPP stories, or completely unrelated. She also could be not blonde. She is literally just a colorless artwork, one of the many random sketches ZUN used to draw at the time and with no particular thought. And we gave her an identity.

While the Hifuu Club is still the main “Touhou outside of the games” series, I think Adelina and another character will see later can also represent that. However, there are some other things only Adelina can represent. For instance, Dolls in Pseudo Paradise is the PC-98 of the ZUN’s Music Collection. Especially its first press edition, with the story of the honest men and Labelko (another “doll”). You know, I really like lost media and unused content. In some cases, they manage to give me a sense of nostalgia mixed with mysteries, a longing for things of the past that never happened. The original story of Dolls in Pseudo Paradise feels like part of some kind of hidden history. It’s a tale from an older, darker Gensoukyou, in the border between PC-98 and the modern era.

On the BUTAOTOME side… well, Kochuuten was the album I needed to fully unlock my love for Hourai Ningyou and it has become my second favorite Touhou album from them, even though it spawned my favorite hashtag! My old review is here, I think it’s one of the best articles I ever wrote.

Kosuzu Motoori

Celebratory illustration for the Forbidden Scrollery-only event Suzuna Gensou Emaki [original]

A girl who just appeared in my high rankings one day, like Maushold’s children. Touhou print works are certainly a mixed bag, but Forbidden Scrollery is the manga that left the biggest impact in fan creations, and the most popular one alongside Wild and Horned Hermit. It’s been years since it ended, but people still make fanworks about it (with also at least one event dedicated to it), probably more than the two ongoing Touhou manga.

Back when I was translating the entire BUTAOTOME track catalog, she appeared in my dreams at least two times (one of them was a Kosuzu fumo 💀), and that influenced my schedule. She is the closest character to a translator, so I guess it was fitting. And a bookworm with an extravagant collection is somewhat charming to me. She also makes a good foil to Sumireko, as both are humans who are fascinated by the fantastic world of youkai, but they have different settings and approaches to it. On a semi-related note, I think there is an overlap between the Hifuu fanbase and the Suzunaan one, with a common motif of the longing for mysteries and the unknown.

Kosuzu is certainly a peculiar case in the World of BUTAOTOME, as she still managed to find her place even before obtaining her own theme (she also got a good chunk of album covers from other artists back then, an impressive achievement for a no-theme manga character). Suzu no Sorane is an album I learned to appreciate over the years, but that I still don’t recommend to people unless they enjoy Forbidden Scrollery and/or the lyrical content in music. And while I’m not a fan of the original Bibliophile with Deciphring Eye, all of Buta’s arrangements of it are great, especially Inishie!

Keiki Haniyasushin

from Shoujo Rengoku 5 (this would have been my alternate pick if it weren’t drawn for another person – yes, that Mano)

Another game I absolutely love is Wily Beast and Weakest Creature. For some reason, I find easier to see each new Touhou game as its own self-contained work with its own characters, themes, and worldview, while everything from EoSD to UFO feels more like a whole bunch of stuff all together. Maybe it’s because I got into Touhou after UFO’s release. Anyway, WBaWC is a fun one, as the demo completely unimpressed me. Then the full version came out…

This is another game where I love absolutely everything about it… but it’s also fun to play. So I guess it’s my favorite Touhou by default. The overall dark atmosphere is right up my alley, and this was also the first Touhou where I felt truly invested in exploring mythological basis and such. Although a part of me wanted to pick Yuuma for this spot, as she is my favorite of the hell mafia bosses and I do consider her as a WBaWC character, in the end I picked Keiki simply because I like her more. Keiki is such a very fun character with tons of references, and a sculptor goddess who is also a bit socially awkward is just great in my book. And although she is not outright malicious, I also don’t mind more dark and twisted interpretations. (ZUN compared her to a dystopia-creating AI, for example)

The amazing Buta songs we got from WBaWC are the cherry on top, and the related albums are all pretty high in my rankings, with Goku being the rebirth album I needed after a very dark time of my life.
By the way, if they will ever do something good with Unfinished Dream of All Living Ghost, I think I’d consider it as an extension to their WBaWC stuff, because UDoALG just feels like WBaWC 2 to me – even the Japanese name of the games can be combined in one single term: Kikeijuuouen (鬼形獣王園 – and I might be the first one who has created it zoooomg!).

Yuyuko Saigyouji

from Obake no Sakurazome

A character who deserved her spot here from the very beginning. When I was deciding my lineup of Muses, I originally discarded Yuyuko (and the PCB cast) because I couldn’t be able to think of PCB while also thinking of Epitaph (which is… really not my favorite album).

I always liked her, to me she is the most poetic Touhou character. She has a great design, amazing motifs, a good dose of tragedy, and cool inspiration. Plus her boss fight in Perfect Cherry Blossom is total peak, probably the most epic moment in the Touhou games. Yukari x Yuyuko has always been one of my favorite pairings, partially for Concealed the Conclusion nostalgia.

Yuyuko has a really good lineup of songs (even in Epitaph! I actually love Ego, and she is not even on the cover!). Kurakimichi has been an old favorite of mine (Engen Kagura Uta in general, actually)

*add more tomorrow*

Yuuka Kazami

(woooaaah, I can still get 10 years old art from Twitpic…)

We end this journey with a character who has always been there, even though she never was a number one or what. Yuuka is pretty much a forgotten character by this point, I guess she could still be a PC-98 character. Her PoFV appearance just gave her a slight redesign, a last name, and flower powers. I like her as a refined and gentle flower lady who can become very ruthless in certain situations, and I enjoy works that play a connection to dreams (as she was the mistress of some sort of dream world mansion).

PC-98 can be considered as its own thing and she can easily be the a representative of that, but due to being a side of Touhou that is very neglected by Buta, I don’t want to talk about it. Instead, I want to talk about the reason why Yuuka has always been there. And it’s her Seihou Kioh Gyoku appearance. This… pretty unfinished-looking game gave Yuuka the most cursed ZUNart interactions with my favorite character ever AKA Muse. Said interactions are literally just Yuuka saying random phrases that are not directed at specific characters and Muse saying “Who are you, you feel so different”, but still, there are plenty of popular Touhou ships based exclusively on being on adjacent stages in the same game. I think there’s potential to have Muse and Yuuka as best buddies. A battle manga could be good for example, as I see both of them as very brutal attackers who enjoy fighting.

By the way, did you know which was the very first Buta song I ever listened to? Freaking Panorama Girl. It was summer 2010 and I was just browsing le internet, searching for some Enigmatic Doll arrangements and Seihou content. And many, many times I got jebaited by videos titled “Seihou Arrange,” album descriptions saying “contains Kioh Gyoku arrangements”… only to be just a Flower of Japan arrangement. So yeah, the very first reaction I had to the music artist who changed my life was a giant “FUCK YOU”. The Irony. Anyway, Yuuka is one of Ranko’s favorite characters, and since she has a nice variety of themes, she has plenty of good Buta songs, such as Munmun Manman (please release it in a proper album) and Kioku no Fuchi, along with its related story. And not just Buta – the very first release I experienced being released was Kaen Ranzen!

Now imagine these characters having a tea party and the chaos happening.

Now, I said that this is a group of Muses, and well, they do deserve an outside leader, their Apollo. And this secret tenth character…. is none other than Muse Seihou. Yeah, yeah, she has no song, no usable art except for the one Ane made for me, and she is not a Touhou character (more like a “Touhou-adjacent” one)… But she is above the rules!

However… I think it’s not the time to talk about her. Since she is a very, very important character to me and has no creative tie to Buta, I decided that her own part might just be its own post. I don’t know if I’ll even publish it here, since… well.

If you managed to read this whole delirium, thank you! What are your favorite Touhou characters? Is there any character you learned to appreciate thanks to Buta, or your favorite circle’s works? Feel free to comment!