~Hakurei Shrine~ > Touhou Addict Recovery Center

Characters, music, personalities.

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a piece of music may be just as capable of detailing a character's personality and behaviour. I like to think that I know something about music, instrumentation and composition, so I'm putting together this thread to analyse characters' theme tunes and try to glean some personality from them.

I welcome everyone reading this thread to chip in - if you think that, say, Lunar Clock - Luna Dial's brutality mirrors Sakuya's attitude to everyone not her master, or The Venerable Ancient Battlefield's aloof, inapproachable nobility helps portray that of Kanako, then go ahead and post, even if you're not musically inclined. Otherwise I'm just writing to myself, and that feels awkward.

I will only go through the Windows games, as those are the ones I'm familiar with, starting with EoSD.

A few disclaimers first, however:
I won't be dealing with remixes (for the moment - this also includes chunks of IaMP and SWR) until I'm done with a game in question.  So I'll only get to EoSD remixes until I'm done with the EoSD core, for example. 
I feel I'm quite familiar with most of the characters presented in the games, both canon and fanon, and this will colour my interpretations of each character's piece. I'll try to keep this in mind, but if something feels off, I'd love to discuss.
I will only be analysing Boss themes, unless the Stage theme is appropriate, e.g. Alice's stage in PCB.
Of course, this is all opinion, so people are welcome to disagree.
Finally, I will attempt to be working under the assumption that ZUN knows what he's doing, 100% of the time, as questioning the creator will only lead to problems. However, I will also disagree with some of the pieces that characters have attached to them, on one basis or another. This doublethink will, no doubt, drive me mad, but eh, it's all in the spirit of fun.
I will separate posts as is convenient.

Major edit two!
Having finished every unique boss theme up to UFO, I'll link to my entries here. Links to individual analyses are either present, or analyses are in the original post; thanks go to to Lloyd Dunamis for taking the time to organise the individual links.

Perfect Cherry Blossom

* Letty Whiterock - Crystallized Silver
* Chen - Diao ye zong (Withered Leaf)

* Alice Margatroid - Doll Judgment ~ The girl who played with people's shapes.
* Prismriver sisters - Phantom Ensemble.
* Youmu Konpaku - Hiroari Shoots a Strange Bird ~ Till When.
* Yuyuko Saigyouji - Bloom Nobly, Cherry Blossom of Sumizome ~ Border of Life

* Ran Yakumo - A Maiden's Illusionary Funeral ~ Necro-fantasy
* Yukari Yakumo - Necrofantasia
Immaterial and Missing Power

* Suika Ibuki - Onigashima in the Fairyland

Imperishable Night

* Wriggle Nightbug - Stirring an Autumn Moon ~ Mooned Insect
* Mystia Lorelei - Deaf to all but the Song
* Keine Kamishirasawa - Plain Asia

* Marisa Kirisame - Love-Coloured Master Spark
* Reimu Hakurei - Maiden's Capriccio ~ Dream Battle
* Reisen Udongein Inaba ? Lunatic Eyes ~ Invisible Full Moon
* Eirin Yagokoro - Gensokyo Millennium ~ History of the Moon
* Kaguya Houraisan - Flight of the Bamboo Cutter ~ Lunatic Princess
* Fujiwara no Mokou - Reach for the Moon, Immortal Smoke
Phantasmagoria of Flower View

* Tewi Inaba - Lord Usa's Elemental Flag or White Flag of Usa Shrine
* Medicine Melancholy ? Poison Body ~ Forsaken Doll
* Yuka Kazami - Gensokyo, Past and Present ~ Flower Land
* Aya Shameimaru ? Wind God Girl
* Komachi Onozuka - Higan Retour ~ Riverside View
* Shikieki Yamaxanadu - Touhou Judgement in the Sixtieth Year ~ Fate of Sixty Years
Fightest Sign ~ Informed Recollection

Mountain of Faith

* Minoriko Aki ? Because the Princess Inada is Scolding Me
* Hina Kagiyama ? Dark Side of Fate
* Nitori Kawashiro - Akutagawa Ryuunouke's Kappa ~ Candid Friend
* Sanae Kochiya - Faith is for the Transient People
* Kanako Yasaka - The Venerable Ancient Battlefield ~ Suwa Foughten Field
* Suwako Moriya - Native Faith
Scarlet Weather Rhapsody

* Iku Nagae ? Crimson in the Black Sea ~ Legendary Fish
* Tenshi Hinanai - Calamity in Heaven ~ Wonderful Heaven
Subterranean Animism

* Yamame Kurodani - The Sealed-Away Youkai ~ Lost Place
* Parsee Mizuhashi - Green-Eyed Jealousy
* Yuugi Hoshiguma - A Flower-Studded Sake Dish on Mt. Ooe
* Satori Komeiji ? Satori Maiden ~ 3rd Eye
* Rin Kaenbyou - Corpse Voyage ~ Be of Good Cheer!
* Utsuho Reiuji - Solar Sect of Mystic Wisdom ~ Nuclear Fusion
* Koishi Komeiji - Hartmann's Youkai Girl
Undefined Fantastic Object

* Nazrin - A Tiny, Tiny, Clever Commander
* Kogasa Tatara - Beware the Umbrella Left There Forever
* Ichirin Kumoi - The Traditional Old Man and the Stylish Girl
* Murasa Minamitsu - Captain Murasa
* Shou Toramaru - The Tiger-Patterned Vaisravana
* Nue Houjuu - Heian Alien
* Byakuren Hijiri - Emotional Skyscraper - Cosmic Mind

So let's start! Embodiment of Scarlet Devil.

EoSD feels to me like ZUN is still trying to figure out his synthesiser. A lot of the themes are all over the place, and, honestly, are a bit hard to analyse.

Rumia's theme - Apparitions Stalk the Night

We are immediately blasted with arpeggios that seem more in place at a trance party than in a fantasy wonderland. This sort of sound produces a sense of intensity - there are no gaps to breathe, as it were, so the entire passage blazes past you, giving that feeling of "whoa". And right now I'm gonna disagree with ZUN. From what we know of Rumia, canonically, is she's a slightly airheaded youkai with the appearance of a little girl. She also likes to eat humans. Her power is to manipulate darkness, which is so absolute that she herself can't see through it, leading to hilarious flight mishaps. There's no room here for high-powered intensity - Rumia is more macabre than she is intense, to me.
Once these are done, the piece moves into a calmer xylophone and ZUN!trumpet melody. The melody never moves out of the higher octaves, has simple accompaniment and few key changes. The key here is the high-pitched simplicity, which, to me, does a far better job of showing ZUN's Rumia - straightforward, few complications, certainly no outright twists, with very little mention of her darker side. And that's what she is, ultimately, in the game - a straightforward challenge with few gimmicks, to get our heroines warmed up. In hindsight, perhaps those few opening arpeggios attempt to show the darker human-eating side of her, and don't quite succeed.

Cirno's theme - Beloved Tomboyish Girl

Heh. Far, far too elegant and melodic for the Cirno we know and love. I doubt even Cirno thinks she's as elegant as the piece seems to suggest. It certainly doesn't give off "the strongest" vibe, but that's a fanon thing, and wouldn't be present in the piece. The piece still has plenty of merit, though.
The introduction is filled with, well, pretty meaningless arpeggios interspersed with well-chosen electronic glassy sounds to give that association with ice. Played fully legato, it's a set of very melodic passages that suggest elegance. Cirno freezes frogs for fun and has trouble with arithmetics. Elegant she is not. I did say I wasn't going to examine remixes, but IOSYS' Perfect Math Class does a far better job, to me, of showing her character with simple, confident chords with plenty of non-legato to show a simple, confident character without much flow or elegance. On the other hand, her airheadedness is reflected by the arpeggios never really going anywhere, and just sort of milling about.
The main melody pretty much follows the same procedure, although is closer to IOSYS than the introduction - a more confident melody with more focus on each individual note than on the flow, without any strong key changes to keep it clean and simple. Again, the melody doesn't really go anywhere, and mills about, but doesn't appear worried about it - there are no suggestive cadences or even out-of-key notes. Thus we have our Cirno - confident about her self and her character, unconcerned with future developments and more focused on the here and now.

ChinaHong Meilin's theme - Shanghai Alice of Meiji 17.

I always found Hong Meilin's shticks conflicting - she has flower and rainbow-themed ranged attacks in the game, yet is usually portrayed as a martial artist who prefers to go at it close and personal. Yeah, yeah, Spell Card System. Fneh.
Anyway, my personal view is that this is a gorgeous piece, and really signifies the beginning of EoSD proper to me - ZUN has seemed to get a good grip on the music now, and is really using it to get flavour across. Or at least some pretty tunes.
Shanghai Alice is, to me, all about its mixing of Eastern and Western styles. The main melody, played by violins and...something plucked - you can't miss it - has an Oriental vibe to it which contrasts strongly with its own Western cadences and key changes. The melody is quite forceful in standing out above its accompaniment, and doesn't give much room to breathe, keeping the listener hooked without an opportunity to break the suspense. Texture-wise, we hear both melodic legato, and plucked staccato, the former on violin, the latter on that plucked thing, again showing the two worlds that conflict in this piece. Putting it all together, we get a Hong Meilin who is a personality that stands out, is part of two different cultures, yet takes the strongest aspects from both, combining them into something different. We get a powerful elegance and a careful precision. We get an intoxicating intensity.
[snark]Now if only more people portrayed her as thus, instead of as a submissive gate guard.[/snark]

Patchouli Knowledge's theme - Locked Girl - The Girl's Secret Room.

My favourite piece amongst all those in EoSD. Every time I hear it, I keep thinking, why this intensity? Why never a major key? Why such a heart-wrenching melody (not even mentioning the SWR orchestral remix)? And then I realise the context, and it cracks me up. You are beating up an anemic, asthmatic, short-sighted girl who always wears a nightdress, and rarely leaves her room in fear for her health. In any context, this is tragic by itself - that gives us the insistence on the minor key. She's going to bloody well fight back with everything she's got, her pride appears to come before her health - hence the intensity, both in music and spell patterns (god damn you non-directional lasers). The heart-wrenchingness comes from the desperate power in the melody - this is where the game comes first, music second - Patchy is a fantastic mage, with more spellcards than you can shake a stick at, all of them gorgeous, but she can only use them if her health permits - this feeling of being terminally crippled is mirrored in the melody. However, I always come back to the same conclusion - it's too tragic a melody. She is never portrayed by ZUN as being significantly hindered by her disabilities. Hell, we know she's ancient so we know she gets by pretty much fine. She's perfectly capable of showing initiative, as demonstrated in the games where she can be a protagonist. Perhaps if her disabilities were more important points in her narrative the melody would be more appropriate.

Next installment (when I feel up to it): Lunar Clock - Luna Dial, Septette for the Dead Princess and U.N. Owen was her

Aw, no replies? Surely it's not that boring a topic!  :(

Sakuya - Lunar Clock - Luna Dial

To me, this one always comes out of nowhere, compared to Shanghai Alice and Locked Girl. Here we get more of an electronic rock vibe than anything else. Unlike with Rumia, however, I feel this is totally appropriate - a sharp contrast to the previous two Boss themes suggests something very different, and the diminished chords poking out of the background in the introduction set us on the edge. Actually, much about the piece does this, the biggest aspect, to me, being that there's not really any distinctive melody for the entire first half, with a series of arpeggioes and broken chords in the second half suggesting a possible melodic development, but never properly coming to life before the track loops. It's hard for me to say if this shows anything about Sakuya herself, as opposed to providing a background for her unstructured and somewhat confusing spellcards. Perhaps, personality-wise, this shows unresolved conflict and aggression that Sakuya prefers to loose on the world than keep bottled up. The usual uninterrupted flow of sound that we get for most of the characters' themes is present in Lunar Clock, but has a very characteristic section of a few cadences of diminished chords, where the music stops, starts, stops (you know that bit, you can't miss it) - that attempts to trip up the listener. To me, this both reflects Sakuya's time-stopping tendencies, as well as, perhaps, showing a will to intentionally deceive and take advantage. What character do we get out of this? I would say cruel, willing to do unto others before others do unto her, unafraid of deceiving and manipulating to hurt, yet is also conflicted, unsure with where she's going, and not really able to resolve a path for the future.

Remilia Scarlet - Septette for the Dead Princess

I have trouble listening to this piece. First off, take the time to listen to the PCB stage 4 track ("Capital of Flowers in the Sky"), pay close attention at around the 1:00 mark, and especially the 1:10 mark. I played PCB before I played EoSD, and I was rather confused to hear that motif as the main theme in Septette, repeated all the time. Every time it crops up in Septette, I keep making that connection, and it distracts me from the actual piece. Additionally, I watched Cruel Sisters and the Suffering Maid a few too many times, and now I just can't listen to Septette without imagining the video and the song. Admittedly, it's hilarious, but it sure doesn't help in this particular exercise.

So, Septette for the Dead Princess, final boss theme. This piece oozes with personality. I'll split the piece into several parts to make my life easier. The first part, until about 1:09 has a repeating theme (that distracting one I mentioned) played with a single ZUN!trumpet, clearly standing out above the accompaniment. The melody is calm, precise, no-nonsense, with many strong notes, yet with a clear, smooth melodic line. This epitomises Remilia's aristocratic nature. This is the Remilia you see on first greeting - collected, firm, full of confidence and power. Perhaps a bit macabre or sinister, as illustrated by the diminished arpeggioes in the sections where the trumpet doesn't play. In fact, this is something that Remilia will certainly not hide - these sections are very clear, never hidden underneath a melody.
From 1:09 to about 1:22 we have a bit of a transition section. All in major, and characterised by piano chords following the ever-present smooth trumpet section - all somewhat throwing off the image that had just been set up, followed up with a, well, mischievous cadence at the very end. Let me explain that - cadences are chord progressions, and can be a way of changing key within a piece. There are a few different types, and evoke a specific mood of the transition, most tending to string the listener along with chord after chord before resolving into a satisfying new tonic chord. 1:22's cadence does exactly that...but then holds the melody off for a second, just a bit longer than it should, stringing the listener a long, leaving him to choke a bit, then continuing as if nothing had happened. Interpret that as you will, but I clearly see a Remilia who is able to effortlessly wind another around her finger by putting on unusual character airs, but only do so to tease, certainly nothing malevolent.
From then on we start off with a doubled trumpet to mirror the first part, but these are quickly drowned out by a piano improvisation that lasts until the track loops. Although not technically an improvisation, it's clearly intended to sound as such - a stream-of-consciousness release of emotion that doesn't care if it overshadows the previously-established aristocratic coolness. And that's our final piece of the Remilia picture - ultimately, she doesn't care how she is seen, as long as she is able to operate free and uninhibited. She probably won't be actively malevolent, unless this improvisation takes her in that direction, but is just as likely to spin off somewhere else. However, that aristocratic tone will always be present in the background, whether by choice, force of habit, or something else.

Next installment (because it's somewhat difficult): U.N. Owen was her

Not sure I agree that BTD doesn't fit Cirno. It's light, airy, and playful, with a kind of scatterbrained background flurry of notes. At the main happy piano part, those strings in the background are a little sad; highlighting how she gets teased maybe. But overall it's a featherweight, icy, merry tune. It's total Cirno.


--- Quote from: Amaterasu-ōmikami on September 04, 2009, 12:46:55 PM ---Not sure I agree that BTD doesn't fit Cirno. It's light, playful, with a kind of scatterbrained background flurry of notes. It's total Cirno.

--- End quote ---

Oh, absolutely, it fits, but I feel that the introduction could use more of the scatterbrained-ness that's more present in the main part. I may have been a bit too harsh judging Beloved Tomboyish Girl (or was it Daughter? I could swear I saw Daughter used instead of Girl somewhere) coming off Rumia's theme.

So, you write posts about how the characters are reflected thorugh their themes and you don't think of mentioning that Luna Dial uses the ticking of a clock as percussion? For shaaaaame.  :V


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