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Manga / Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit

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Cover of the first volume.
Kasen: Why did you become a hermit?
Toyosatomimi no Miko: Oho... That's a long story, but I suppose it comes down to one reason. I simply wanted to overcome my humanity. Wasn't it the same for you?
Kasen: But... my goal in being a hermit is different from yours. I wanted to become closer to people. That's all.
—Chapter 18, The Hermit as a Priest

In addition to the main Touhou Project video game series, there are a number of canon Spin Offs including comics and other print materials. Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit is the third manga entry in the Touhou Project franchise, drawing mostly on themes from the games Immaterial and Missing Power, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Mountain of Faith and Subterranean Animism (along with Ten Desires after its release). Similarly to Touhou Sangetsusei, it focuses heavily on world-building, but replaces some of that manga's comedy with mystery elements, while delving deeper into the relationship between humans and youkai. The manga was written by franchise creator ZUN and illustrated by Aya Azuma, serialized from July 2010 to June 2019 in Ichijinsha's Chara Mel Febri magazine.

Kasen Ibaraki, better known by the pseudonym Ibaraka-Sen ("Wild Rose Hermit") or just Ka-Sen, is a mysterious hermit with the power to guide animals, who has started showing up around the Hakurei Shrine for the first time in a while. Kasen is happy to lend advice or help the people around her with their problems, but tends to become frustrated when she sees people being lazy or greedy (which, given that she hangs around Reimu and Marisa, happens fairly often).

Complicating things, it's heavily implied that like her namesake Kasen is not a real hermit, but an oni who has disguised herself to achieve some hidden motive. However, her sheer devotion to living as an ally of humans seems a little too convincing for it to be all just an act...

    Note on Hermits 
"Hermit" is Touhou's official translation for sennin (known in Chinese as xian), essentially a type of wizard with Taoism-based Enlightenment Superpowers (most commonly flight, longevity and the ability to go without food or shelter). Examples in other media include Master Roshi in Dragon Ball, and Sages in Naruto.

Wild and Horned Hermit provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Jerkass: Reimu. While she may have not been the nicest person in other Touhou print works, she was never THIS rude and self-serving.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Chapter 19 focuses on Sanae and the Moriya Shrine, along with why they were not involved in the events of Hopeless Masquerade and Double Dealing Character. Later, chapter 29 focuses on Sumireko.
  • Art Evolution: By far the most obvious of any Touhou manga - the early art is in a loose scribble-like style, while later chapters are highly defined.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: Kanda and Kume are supposed to be Steller's sea eagles, but their white heads make them look more akin to the American bald eagle.
  • The Beastmaster: Kasen's signature talent. She can talk to animals and keeps a great number as pets, including cryptids like giant eagles and even a young dragon. She also knows all the ways in which an animal can become a Youkai and can teach them how to prevent the transformation or guide it along a more benign path.
  • Blackmail:
    • In Chapter 44, upon finding out from Kasen that the Myouren Temple has had Unzan transform into a giant Buddha statue for Nirvana Day, Reimu blackmails Ichirin into letting the Hakurei Shrine (plus Sanae) sell food near the viewing area, and having him transform into a goshintai for one of the Hakurei Shrine's own festivals, lest she tells the villagers they're actually worshiping a youkai and causing a riot. Sanae even calls them the Gensokyo Yakuza for doing so.
    • In Chapter 45, Tenshi and Shion put themselves in charge of the Hakurei Shrine's flower-viewing party. When Kasen tries to talk some sense into them, Tenshi responds with a thinly-veiled threat to tell the Celestials she's been "abusing animals in the earthly realm".
  • Book Ends: Chapter 1 is called "The One-Armed, Horned Hermit", and the final chapter is "The Horned, One-Armed Hermit."
  • Call-Back:
    • The freak bolt of lightning in chapter 21 of Strange and Bright Nature Deity is revealed to have been caused by a raijuu, which Kasen had since caught and kept as a pet.
    • Chapter 19 reveals that the cable car to the Moriya Shrine (mentioned in a newspaper article in Symposium of Post-mysticism) is to begin construction, with Kanako finally having received permission for it to pass through tengu territory.
    • When talking about the Barrier in Chapter 25, Marisa mentions their trip to the Moon, with panels showing Remilia's rocket and the Watatsuki sisters.
  • The Cameo: Kosuzu and Akyuu from Forbidden Scrollery appear in a couple of panels in Chapter 20. Kosuzu also shows up at the end of Chapter 34, when Reimu returns all the novels she borrowed from Suzunaan.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sanae mentions at the end of Chapter 37 that the ropeway that the Moriya Shrine has been trying to build for years, first mentioned in a Bunbunmaru article in Symposium of Post-mysticism and offhandedly brought up again in Chapter 19, will finally open following winter's end.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The fox girl from one of the earlier chapters makes a return in chapter 30.
  • Crossover: Kasen shows up in chapters 16 and 17 of Oriental Sacred Place, in a pair of stories that carry an unusual amount of Wild and Horned Hermit's tone.
  • Cross Through:
    • A minor example. One of Reimu's flower-viewing parties is depicted in both Wild and Horned Hermit chapter 16 and Forbidden Scrollery chapter 6, and the cast getting drunk in the first manga leads to Remilia's pet escaping in the second.
    • Kasen's baby dragon creating so much rain turns out to be responsible for the rat infestation in Forbidden Scrollery's "Rodent Infested Summer" storyline.
    • In chapters 33-34, Kasen and Sumireko start meeting up at Kourindou to import items from the Outside World; this continues into Curiosities of Lotus Asia chapter 29, where Rinnosuke references their previous meetings and gives his own thoughts on the matter. In addition, Reimu getting lethargic and seemingly depressed in chapter 34 is revealed to be because she'd been doing all-nighters reading all the books she'd been borrowing from Suzunaan in chapters 40-41 of Forbidden Scrollery.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Averted. Despite implications that she is very powerful, Kasen is one of the few characters to become friends with Reimu without fighting her.
  • Distant Finale: Wild and Horned Hermit's epilogue takes place around a year after Chapter 50.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The sketchy art style from chapter 1 went away by chapter 5.
  • Enemies with Death: Or maybe frenemies? Komachi Onozuka shows up frequently to keep an eye on Kasen, which theoretically isn't that unusual for hermits except that Komachi knows Kasen isn't really a hermit. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear.
  • Foreshadowing: In chapter 25, Kasen is seen wondering about the barrier and is told how the shrine sits on top of it. In the last page she can be seen wishing for the day the sky shatters. The first part ties in to Urban Legend in Limbo where a crack in the barrier is made.
  • Funny Background Event: In Chapter 1, Reimu can be seen using the "Kappa arm"note  in the background of several panels, including comforting Kasen by patting her shoulder from a few feet away, or plugging one of her ears when Kasen goes off on a rant.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: The ground of Genbu Ravine, home of the scientifically-minded kappa, is made up of these, although it is a natural volcanic formation, and the location as shown in the games lacks them.
  • How Unscientific!: In Chapter 2, Reimu calls the Moriya Shrine's cold fusion experiment underwhelming, saying she expected something like a thermonuclear demon to appear. Kanako remarks that nothing that unscientific was going to happen, and Marisa points out that that's not something a god should be saying.
  • Hugh Mann: Kasen is most definitely a hermit and not an oni. Sure she covers where an oni would have horns, has multiple oni accquaintances (whom she advises to cover their horns if they ever disguise themselves), sneezes whenever people talk about oni and can be repelled by beans, but that's obviously just a coincidence.
  • Infinite Supplies: Reimu honestly doesn't know just how she gets her youkai hunting supplies.
  • Insistent Terminology: When Yukari discusses with Kasen the phenomenon of humans from Gensokyo being brought to the Outside World when Sumireko enters Gensokyo in Chapter 35, she insists that it cannot be called "spiriting away" because that's her thing, and the "humaning away," as she describes it, is not being caused by her at all.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: When told in chapter 6 that Reimu and Marisa have caught an "electric animal", Sanae's first thought is Pikachu with a black bar over its eyes.
  • Lethal Chef:
    • In Chapter 34 Marisa cooks Reimu a meal in an attempt to get her out of the funk she seems to be in; however, it includes several poisonous dishes like pickled narcissus, hemlock salad, and viper sake. At one point Reimu just straight-up asks if Marisa is trying to kill her.
    • In Chapter 45, Shion's status as a poverty god results in her having very low standards for the food she serves.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Forbidden Scrollery, which tends to focus more on the darker aspects of youkai and how they differ from humans, Wild and Horned Hermit is generally more lighthearted and comedic in tone, and tends to focus more on the ways in which humans and youkai are the same and how they can coexist.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Kasen's title in the narration is "The One-Armed Horned Hermit" - a reference to the noh play Ikkaku Sennin, generally translated as "One-Horned Hermit".
  • Mauve Shirt: A group of kappa characters are introduced and make regular appearances throughout the series, but have few lines and no known names.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Chapter 34 sees two different UFOs showing up: a flying saucer Sumireko summons to the Hakurei Shrine, and a mysterious light that flits about in the sky while Marisa and Kasen watch. The story explicitly leaves it hanging whether they're actual alien crafts or just a trick, since that part of the story takes place on World UFO Day and it would have been tasteless to investigate.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: If Kasen is an oni then she displays some remarkably un-oni-like behaviour. For instance, she's quite capable of outright deceit, which oni tend to find abhorrent because of their straightforward natures.
  • Mythology Gag: Yukari's insistence about spiriting away being used to reference her taking of humans from the Outside World to Gensokyo in Chapter 35 is a reference to her Perfect Cherry Blossom title, "The Mastermind Behind the Spiriting Away".
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Zigzagged. While it's well known that possession by certain types of youkai can cause personality changes, in Chapter 35 when Marisa theorizes that Reimu's sudden lethargy is possibly due to something possessing her (Though she finds it unlikely that Reimu could get possessed.), Kasen states that mental conditions are perfectly capable of happening without possession being involved.
  • Our Gods Are Greater:
    • Sanae states in Chapter 30 that since fungi can do things such as fermentation, changing behavior, and making people happy (In the case of the fungi ball Reimu discovered in her storehouse), all things considered the domain of gods, some types of fungi can count as deities as well.
    • In Chapter 36, Reimu ends up going up against a hunger god, a type of evil divine spirit formed from the jealousy of someone who died on the road from starvation.
    • In Chapter 44, Komachi and Kasen have a conversation comparing Jesus and the Buddha that has the latter theorize that since miraculous things were said to form from the Buddha's ashes, they're less of a Buddha as in Bodhisattva, and more of a god.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Chapter 19 centers on Reimu and Sanae getting into a pretty heated debate about sake, sparked because Sanae criticizes Reimu for drinking too much. Sanae ultimately wins using this technique, presenting Reimu with high-quality sake that was drunk at important moments in history as a peace offering. Kasen realizes that the sake is perfectly ordinarynote  and that the "important moments in history" were ones where people made fools of themselves because they were drunk. However, Reimu accepts Sanae's words at face value and doesn't realize she's being played, making her look like a fool; Kasen remarks to herself that "the revenge of a modern young lady" can be quite terrifying.
  • Pocket Dimension: Kasen's home can only be reached by following a highly-specific path, and has its own climate. She can even change the path if someone discovers it. Word of God says this is the same technique the Lunarians use to hide the Lunar Capital, and that this is equivalent to changing your passwordnote .
  • Poor Communication Kills: After the opening of the Moriya ropeway in Chapter 43, all the shrine visitors go to the Moriya Shrine, something that Reimu complains about. Then Sanae comes and asked Reimu to help out at the very busy Moriya Shrine, seemingly to rub her victory in Reimu's face. Near the end of the chapter, however, it turns out that she really was overwhelmed and needed some help.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: Chapter 18 is set during the early events of Hopeless Masquerade, and reveals that the humans the Player Characters were trying to "save" were only interested in watching cool fights and betting on them, rather than caring about their message.
  • Prequel:
    • Chapter 26 sets up the events that eventually lead to Urban Legend in Limbo.
    • Chapter 40 has Kasen note the odd weather that eventually becomes a full fledged incident in Hidden Star in Four Seasons.
  • Raijū: Reimu and Marisa find Kasen's pet raiju and get poisoned by its thunder.
  • The Scapegoat: In Chapter 35, when Reimu accuses Yukari of being behind the randomly disappearing human villagers, she goes along with it to cover the fact that it was actually a side-effect of Sumireko coming to Gensokyo via her dreams.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Kasen's severed arm contains all of the wickedness that comes with being an Oni; having it reattached makes her undergo a brief Face–Heel Turn, but Reimu is able to cut it off and reseal it.
  • Squishy Wizard: Marisa explains that magicians tend to handle dangerous chemicals like arsenic and quicksilver, then realizes that's why they might be so fragile (illustrated with Alice and Patchouli).
  • Status Quo Is God: At the end of the series Kasen achieves her overall goal — recovering her missing arm — but has it sealed away again because it contains her evil Oni side. In the process Reimu learned that Kasen is an Oni, but can't reveal it to anyone without damaging her own reputation. In the post-series interview ZUN and Aya Azuma even say that Kasen's relationship with Reimu, Marisa, and the rest of the cast would probably remain the same in spite of everything that happened over the course of the series.
  • Stock Phrases: The standard Touhou "character titles" used here all follow the format "(Species) of (Four Character Idiom)".
  • The Plan: During the final arc, Kasen planned for the eventuality that regaining her arm would make her go evil, and secretly gave Reimu a fragment of Onikirimaru (a legendary Oni-slaying sword) so she could cut it off again. However, even then Reimu doesn't see the plan on her own and Tenshi basically has to spell the whole thing out to her.
  • Trouble Entendre: Yukari and Kasen's conversation at a party in chapter 33 is superficially about dandelions, but is actually a veiled threat about Kasen's involvement with the Outside World.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Reimu and Marisa wear a surprising number of different outfits from chapter to chapter, albeit most are variations on their Iconic Outfits. In the post-series interview, artist Aya Azuma said that she enjoyed having the opportunity to draw the characters in everyday outfits that you'd never see in the games.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: While Reimu can be extremely serious about her job, most storylines here take place when she's "off the clock" and doesn't need to act professionally, causing her greediness and cynicism to come to the fore. This sits poorly with the disciplined Kasen, whose view of Reimu is rather dim as a result.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Chapter 38 has Kasen theorize that the tengu and other mountain youkai are likely using the Moriya Shrine for unknown purposes since Nitori lies to Sanae about why the trolley isn't working, and the tengu seeming a bit too cooperative in their agreement to protect the trolley from other youkai. It turns out there's nothing "unwitting" about it; the whole thing was set up to instill in the human villagers a sense of awe regarding both the tengu and the Moriya gods.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 47 ends with Reimu trapped in Hell thanks to none other than Kasen's missing arm.
    • Chapter 49 seemingly has Kasen attacking Reimu, revealing herself as Ibaraki-douji, and her oni horns clear to see. And part two of this chapter has Kasen regain her arm... but doesn't back down and then prepares to fight Reimu once more.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In Chapter 41 Marisa chews Reimu out for blatantly ignoring an Incident that's right in front of her face (the weather is going nuts all over Gensokyo) because she's been exploiting the shrine's pleasant weather to hold a festival and make money.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Chapter 25 features a variation. Following a comet sighting, Marisa spots Sanae at the human village using the incident to drum up interest in the Moriya Shrine. Marisa remarks that if Reimu found out, she'd probably have an even worse get-rich-quick scheme, and imagines her selling rubber tubes filled with oxygennote . On the very next page, we see Reimu at the shrine preparing that exact scheme.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: In Chapter 25, Reimu is explaining her oxygen tube scheme (see above) to Kasen, who manages to finish Reimu's sentence. Reimu responds "Exactly! I knew you'd get it!", and Kasen's reaction shows that this remark is almost physically painful to her.
  • Zashiki-warashi: The central youkai of a chapter where Gensokyo's Zashiki Warashi population leaves to find gainful employment in the Outside World. Yukari offers a replacement in the form of hobgoblins, but the idea never takes off because people can't get past their appearances. There's still a happy ending: the Zashiki Warashi return after a whilenote  and get warm welcomes home, while the hobgoblins become part of the Scarlet Devil Mansion's staff. However, it looks like Yukari herself may have set the whole thing up — they are her spies in the Outside World and the Human Village...

Welcome back, partner.

Alternative Title(s): Wild And Horned Hermit