Just the other day, I decided I would stop by my local branch of Waterstones to see what new manga they had in stock. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the first volume of Forbidden Scrollery, an official Touhou manga series, was for sale. I decided to buy it, which is why I shall be sharing my thoughts on it here.
For those unaware, Touhou is a series of bullet hell games, created by one man known simply as ZUN. Whilst his artwork leaves a lot to be desired, everything else about the games are pretty great – provided you’re into bullet hell. The music may just arguably the most notable part of any Touhou game.
The amount of fan-created content for Touhou borders on the absurd – you’ve got games, music videos, even unofficial anime. Whilst I could speak at length about the fan’s creations, it is an official manga that I shall be looking at here.
Forbidden Scrollery was originally published by Kadokawa in Comp Ace. It started on October 26th 2012, and concluded on July 27th 2017. Yen Press are the ones releasing the collected volumes in English.
This first volume contains five chapters, as well a some bonus materials.
ZUN wrote the story, whilst the art is by Moe Harukawa.
Welcome to Suzunaan, your humble book rental shop and purveyor of knowledge on our fantastic world of Gensokyo. If the texts you seek are on the more… forbidden side, try asking out resident expert, Kosuzu Motoori. Demonic books are her passion! But borrower beware – they’re taboo for a reason…!
We kick off with Marisa Kirisame bumping into Akyu Hiedano. Akyu is on her way to return a book to Suzunaan. Akyu happens to be returning a youma book.
Marisa goes to the Hakurei Shrine, where she informs the shrine maiden, Reimu Hakurei, about youma books. Worried about the well-being of the village, Reimu and Marisa decide to go investigate Suzunaan.
They are greeted by Kosuzu Motoori when they arrive. Reimu and Marisa tell her to be careful with the types of book she is handling, but Kosuzu just insists she’ll rely on Reimu should an incident occur.
Kosuzu goes to Hieda’s place in chapter 2, ‘Flurry of Youkai Extermination Part 1’.
There are incidents involving smoke without fire during this chapter, which Reimu and Marisa naturally investigate. Things turn out to be calm.
Later on, there is another smoke incident at the Hakurei Shrine. It is settled before anything bad can happen. Shortly afterwards, Kosuzu shows up.
Reimu and Marisa discuss what Kosuzu wanted in chapter 3, ‘Flurry of Youkai Extermination Part 2’. She asked about the smoke and then left. Reimu figures that it is a youkai in need of extermination, so she sets out. Marisa also happens to remember something she has to do as well.
Marisa goes to ask Kosuzu about it, whilst Reimu is able to figure out where the culprit will appear next. Reimu seemingly takes care of it, but soon enough she and Marisa are going on a wild good chase throughout Gensokyo.
The snow starts falling in chapter 4, ‘Private Press Edition Hyakki Yakou Picture Scroll Part 1’. A new customer shows up at Suzunaan, who is after any books that are native to Gensokyo.
Later on, Reimu bumps into that customer, and she reveals herself as ‘The Uncaught Tanuki Disguiser’, Mamizou Futatsuiwa. Mamizou pretends to be a human when she’s in the village.
Reimu is investigating rumours of fox fire, and Mamizou hints that Suzunaan has answers for her.
Reimu asks about Suzunaan’s previous customer in chapter 5, ‘Private Press Edition Hyakki Yakou Picture Scroll Part 2′. Kosuzu refuses to divulge her customers’ information.
However, Reimu’s attention is caught by the tableware that has suddenly appeared in the book shop. Apparently they just appear overnight.
Marisa does some investigating of her own, and discovers that Mamizou is responsible for turning the tableware into tsukumogami. Marisa blames Mamizou for creating them, but Mamizou tells her that someone else was responsible.
Reimu and Marisa go to Suzunaan to investigate. They end up getting distracted by the books, but soon enough they believe they have put an end to the incident.
Following that are translation notes, and there is a one-shot called ‘Youkai Fairy Tales’ as well. The volume ends with a character design collection, because apparently more space needed to be filled.
So that wraps up the first volume of Forbidden Scrollery, one of the few official Touhou manga. It’s a fun read, and seeing Reimu, Marisa and Kosuzu go about their daily lives in the world of Gensokyo is rather charming.
There are also plenty of cameos from other Touhou characters scattered throughout. They aren’t explicitly named, but I certainly recognised them when they appeared. I have been a fan of Touhou for a fair while now, though. Somebody who just picked this manga up on a whim and has no prior knowledge of any Touhou stuff will be utterly clueless as to who some of these girls are. Fortunately, these cameos aren’t particularly important plot-wise – they are more or less just some fanservice.
I’m not so sure about some of the translations either, but that may be because I’m far more used to fan translations when it comes to Touhou stuff. Calling Reimu ‘The Beautiful Shaman of Paradise’ just doesn’t seem right – she should be ‘The Beautiful Shrine Maiden of Paradise’.
Also, I was used to Akyu’s name being rendered ‘Hieda no Akyuu’. Here, it is translated as ‘Akyu Hiedano’. The ‘Akyu’ makes sense to me, but I am left wondering if ‘Hieda’ is a better option for her family name.
I’d definitely recommend picking up this manga if you are a fan of Touhou. For those unfamiliar with it, I feel like some of the stuff contained within may go over their heads. There are translation notes which explain a few things, but don’t expect to learn what Touhou actually is from them.
Regardless, Forbidden Scrollery is a fun look into the world of Gensokyo.