About a year or two ago I really go into Touhou. I think it started when I was speedrunning a game called Touhou Luna Nights. It’s a fun game, a fangame, and it’s a “search action game”. I like it, you should buy it, maybe speedrun it with the rest of us. We were in AGDQ 2020. None of that’s really important for the topic for today, just my musings on where it all began for me. Anyway, I dug into Touhou a bit. The music’s really bangin and I was already aware of a few tunes, even if I didn’t know that they were Touhou. One example is Phantom Ensemble.
Many of the characters are quirky and fun so everyone has to have at least one 2hu waifu. Mine is Parsee Mizuhashi (and yes we’re gonna use ZUN art)
Parsee Mizuhashi is a hashihime, a bridge guardian. Ain’t she the cutest thing? She guards the bridge between the surface and the underworld. Simple enough. Without going too deeply into lore, 2hus have some kind of magic power. Let’s see if you can guess what Parsee’s power is by seeing the names of some of her spellcards.
- Green-Eyed Monster
- Grandpa Hanasaka
- Tongue-Cut Sparrow
So, if you’re not familiar with Japanese fairy tales you probably won’t get it from either of the last two. Basically, these spellcards’s names reference jealousy. Grandpa Hanasaka is about a guy who kills his neighbor’s dog for jealousy, Tongue-Cut Sparrow is about a sparrow whose tongue is cut by a man’s wife because she felt that her husband was spending too much time with the sparrow. Presumably, you know that the color of envy is green so in English we say that you have “Green eyes” if you’re jealous of something or someone. Her power is to control the jealousy in others.
How did we get here though? Well, she guards the bridge. Her job is to remain stationary while she watches others pass through. This is a pretty understandable feeling for anyone whose seen their friend succeed while you feel like you’re not progressing at all. Over time these feelings turned to resentment.
Her stage music is called ‘The Bridge People No Longer Cross‘. Why they no longer cross it I do not know and I didn’t find anything in the Touhou wiki telling me why so I choose to believe she may not being the best job (or an exceptionally good job) in guarding the bridge. But the only thing we need here is that she’s guarding a bridge that no one crosses. In short, she’s lonely.
The pieces are now coming together, now we need to get to what I feel from her boss music. This boss music is crucial. It tells the story of her descent into madness. Now the music is designed to sorta loop so we’ll have to take this on a piece-by-piece basis.
The first bit is until the drums really come in (not what I think are snares that are consistently playing, the bigger ones that play on off beats). Basically, the melodic introduction. It sounds sad to me. It’s utilizing alberti bass (utilizing six 8th notes) to complement the piece, which is why I choose to interpret this as 3/4 since I feel like if it were in 6/8 it’d try to emphasize the 4th beat more. I also feel it as a one-two-three a lot harder through the half-quarter and quarter-quarter-quarter patterns that are prevalent.
Once the drums come in, it’s weird. I don’t think the drums are playing in the same rhythm structure as the melody. The drums are playing on the off beats AND they’re playing in 2 rather than three. In music, this is called polyrhythm. Through some kind of melodic magic ZUN gets all of this to come together in the bridge (heh). I interpret this as an attempt to connect to others. I play by the beat of my own drum and you yours, but we still manage to connect on one level or another, ya know? But it can be difficult at times, which brings us to the part that comes right after the bridge (heh).
So the melody repeats, faster this time. And now there’s a frantic undercurrent of sixteenth notes. Rather than moving onto a second section or “B” section, we return to the A section. The sixteenth notes rise and fall very rapidly. I feel a series of highs and lows but we’re still holding onto the main melody. This is what I consider the descent into madness.
Then we’re back to the beginning because 2hu boss fights are usually pretty short so ZUN probably didn’t compose too much.
So what I get is someone who is sad, tries to fit in with others for a brief moment, but then through a series of high and low energy moments being fill with hate or sadness becomes what they are today.
Now all of this is beautifully put to video in Neteminity Theatre 666. In their case they use ‘The Bridge People No Longer Cross’ but they capture the feelings in a similar way. But they manage to go a little bit further in their video. In the video Parsee Mizuhashi is performing on a stage. She performs her curse killing those around her, including the audience. While she seems to be cheerful as she performs the curse, at the end she cries realizing what she’s done.
If you read the YouTube comments it’s pretty clear people can appreciate the sadness of her story (they also seem to appreciate her tongue-click which is like swearing under your breath in Japan). But let’s explain what’s going on here.
The lyrics are actually quite clever (at least if the translation is to be trusted). Parsee tries to fit in with others but can’t quite get it right. She’s awkward. She says, “The withered flower falls” as she stands in the shade. Parsee is the flower. Why is she withered? No real friends, no attention, no love. Her heart is the thing that’s falling. Her heart is being corrupted. The tempo speeds up and honestly this is my favorite part. Now she is actively rejecting others. When given advice, she outright rejects it because she feels like she has to actively change herself or try to communicate with others while other people have this sorta ‘built-in’.
Now we hit the climax. Instead of trying something else or finding something or someone else she accepts her feelings of jealousy and resentment. Rather than fight it as she may have in the first act, she ‘bathes her heart in it’. She then performs the curse and wipes everyone out. But let’s take a moment to talk about the curse.
This is the curse. Basically, you dress up in white and wear an iron ring on your head with three lit candles and head to your favorite sacred tree. Then you hammer nails through a straw effigy representing your target. Do this for seven days and your target will be cursed. Here’s the most interesting part. If you are spotted at any point performing the curse, it won’t work. What an interesting condition. If someone sees you performing the curse, it doesn’t work. How does this conditional play in to Parsee? Well, remember she’s a withered flower. There’s no one to notice her, no one who would notice her. I feel like if someone did, we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
She feels great during the curse but afterwards she feels great regret. I think in the end, Parsee actually wanted to like the other people and be liked by them in turn. This feeling wasn’t strong enough to prevent her from performing the curse and by the end she wishes she hadn’t done it. Because while before she maybe was just unsuccessful in making friends, she always had a chance to do it the next time if she were so inclined. But now? That’s gone. Now she can’t make those friends. In time she will likely convince herself that she was right and go through this loop again and again with others that she meets.
Honestly the video is just so perfect and really encapsulates what I think Parsee is.
Remember that Parsee’s power is to control jealousy. Let’s take a moment to look at the seven deadly sins which we can all remember because we’ve all seen Fullmetal Alchemist
I tend to think of these sins like this:
|Internally motivated||Externally motivated|
|Internal effect||Pride, Sloth||Envy|
|External effect||Greed, Gluttony||Lust, Wrath|
Basically, I think of the sins in terms of what motivates what I think are actions representing the sins and what they impact. To briefly explain my thoughts on all but Envy:
Pride is internally motivated. You don’t become excessively proud because of someone else, but you also don’t actively “inflict” your pride on someone else either so it has an internal effect.
Sloth is also internally motivated. Sloth I think of as apathy, and I don’t think something causes you to become apathetic. Basically the task to undo sloth is to find an external motivation to move forward. The sin of sloth at worst will probably just create work for others but the intent isn’t to “inflict” sloth on someone.
Greed and Gluttony are basically the same sin with Gluttony having an extra step of consumption to it. They revolve around this idea of hoarding (and then consuming) objects. I interpret these as having internal motivators because in my mind they originate from desiring something normal like food or money and then taking it to excess. They have an external effect because they manifest and impact the world around you. Greed results in hoarding or preventing people from having something they may need (like food in a famine).
Lust and wrath are typically considered sins of passion and basically they’re responses to external stimuli and the sins could result in property destruction or rape (also external).
Envy is the odd one out because it’s in a box all alone. Envy isn’t just a desire for something else (which would put it closer to greed or gluttony) but a desire for something else… that someone else has. The motivation is explicitly external. The sin of envy is held in one’s heart though.
I don’t know where I was going with that, maybe a reader can help me figure it out in a comment. Bringing us back to topic though:
I think the reason I appreciate Parsee so much is I see Parsee as what I could’ve been had I gone down the other path. When I was young I was bullied mercilessly. Why? Because I was a nerd. I liked Pokemon, I liked video games, and I was very smart. I was a bit of a teacher’s pet. I’ve come around to accepting bullying as a natural part of human nature, as a tool to create conformity. But I was also very proud, so I would not conform. This continued all the way throughout high school. I’ve never felt like I fit in. When I see Parsee’s story, I wonder how much would I curse the world had I been alone even to this day. I feel a genuine connection to Parsee and her feelings because I think I’ve tasted her feelings. And because I think I know what she feels because I’ve felt it, I also think I know what she needs, because I know what I need. Affection, appreciation, love. So I guess in a way, I can love Parsee because I am trying to love myself. That wasn’t meant to sound egotistical but I think it does.
I guess in a roundabout way I made this blogpost about me instead of Parsee. That’s not my intent but I guess Parsee is an example of the core idea that I’m trying to convey.
Anyway, I’m done rambling. Glad I got that off my chest. Thanks for reading.