Japan’s most popular indie series arrives in the West

Touhou 14 out now on Playism

The Japanese indie sensation Touhou has been around for nearly two decades. Since debuting in 1996, the series has transformed from a collection of obscure shoot-’em-ups into a cultural phenomenon, spawning a myriad of derivative works across virtually every artistic medium.

Unlike most creators, developer Juny’a “Zun” Ota has welcomed the fan-made projects based on the world and characters he’s hatched, which has been key to the series’ popularity.

“People love the characters, and being able to use those same characters in their own creations has allowed the fandom to snowball and grow in popularity,” says Playism marketing manager Nayan Ramachandran, whose company is distributing two Touhou games for western audiences starting today — something that’s never officially been done before.

“That ability to be involved in the world of Touhou is incredibly powerful,” Ramachandran adds. “Imagine being given permission by Marvel to make your own comic books and games with Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers. Imagine how gigantic the fandom would become.”

We don’t have to imagine how popular Touhou is in its native Japan. The series headlines events like Comiket, which twice a year sees over a half million people crowd into the Tokyo Big Sight expo center to purchase independently-made works, many of which are Touhou-related.

Today, people around the world will have their first real opportunity to see what all the fuss is about, as Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character is now on sale via Playism, marking the first occasion the series has been made widely and legally available outside of Japan

One of the fan-made games, bullet hell-style platformer Takkoman, has also been released.

Kyle MacGregor Burleson