As some of you guys may or may not know, I am a writer for Word of the Nerd Online that specializes in writing about anything anime or otaku related. This weekend I was able to attend Anime Weekend Atlanta, a convention located in Georgia that featured quite a few guest artists from Japan. One particular guest at AWA was ZUN, the creator of Touhou. Now, nobody was able to acquire an interview from him (as far as I know), but he did not leave us empty handed. I attended his personal panel and recapped it in the article below. The original article can be found here at Word of the Nerd Online!
ZUN, one of the biggest independent game creators in Japan, has made his way to North America for the first time at Anime Weekend Atlanta. On Day 1 of Anime Weekend Atlanta, ZUN held a Q & A panel. The number of attendees were limited and many couldn’t make it. However, if you missed the con or the panel, we at Word of the Nerd Online will give you a summary of the Q & A. Questions that were asked from the members of the audience.
*Most of the content was abbreviated due to time constraints, so not all questions and answers will be word for word.
Q & A:
Question: How do you decide which Yokai you’ll use in each of your games?
ZUN: It depends on the theme of the game. It also depends on the traits of each of the Yokai and how they’re matched to the theme of the game.
Q: I heard there was a rumor that the games were going to be sold on Steam. Is that true?
ZUN: Steam is really good. I like it. There is talk about it, but it’s just talk. It would be good if it was, but it’s just a rumor. Nothing has been decided. It’s also really difficult to release. The process would be really complex to complete.
Q: How much time do you put into a game?
ZUN: Usually it takes about 4 months. As you know, I make 1 game every year. It takes a lot of time to come up with ideas, and I barely have time to sleep. Every time I’m awake, I’m either working on a game or drinking beer.
Q: What is your source of inspiration for making the amazing soundtracks featured in the games?
ZUN: I’m very influenced by video game music. Much of which is usually from the 1980s and 1990s. Those songs are usually instrumentals.
Q: Your games are produced from mythology and much of your personal experience. Where do you come up with the ideas to make these fantastical elements?
ZUN: Much of the storylines are taken from my personal experiences during my childhood or from recent travels. Most of it is all from personal experience.
Q: During your stay in America, have you tried any new interesting beers?
ZUN: I’ve tried many beers. Many interesting beers; however, I learned one thing when I came to America. Meals are too big and beer is too little.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about Satsuki Rin? The character that was cut out from Embodiment of Scarlet Devil?
ZUN: Ahhh… Well, Embodiment of Scarlet Devil was the 1st for the Windows platform. I wanted her to be a playable character in the game, but due to time constraints I had to cut her out.
Q: Would you consider making any more Phantasmagoria games or branch out into different styles of games?
ZUN: I’d like to, but only if the timing is right or if I feel inspired to.
Q: What is your favorite Jojo line?
ZUN: “Daga Kotowaru” (Translation: But I won’t). A line from Rohan Kishibe, a character from Part 4 of Hirohiko Araki’s manga, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Q: I heard that in Undefined Fantastic Object, there was going to be a boy character. Are you considering to make any boy characters in the future?
ZUN: I feel as if boys get in the way of the game. I’d like to make boy characters in another game as long as the game was completely unrelated to Touhou. Boys would just ruin the balance of the series.
Q: What kind of software instruments do you use to make the games?
ZUN: I use the Roland SD-90. It’s old, but it’s something I still like to use.
Q: Of all the Touhou fanworks you’ve seen or heard, what are your favorites?
ZUN: I do look at some fan works, but if I see something really good I get jealous. Also, if I ever did say I favored a fanwork in public, it wouldn’t be fair to the rest.
Q: Do you ever plan on bringing MIDI files back to the games?
ZUN: MIDI is behind the times now. I originally used them since computers had low specs and the internet was pretty slow, but now everything is better and faster. I use WAV files now since they sound the same. I do not plan on bringing back MIDI files.
Q: You said in an interview that you would continue making Touhou games even if their popularity were to drop. Do you still hold true to this statement?
ZUN: Honestly, I can’t make anything except Touhou. As long as I’m still moving and I’m fine with it, I’ll continue making Touhou games.
Q: Are the PC-98 games considered canon compared to the Windows series?
ZUN: There are a few contradictions in the story when putting the PC-98 and Windows games side by side, but I would take reference from the latest games to consider what is canon.
Q: What is your favorite beer?
ZUN: I get this question a lot. My answer is Kirin.
Q: Moriya Shrine disappeared all of a sudden and were suddenly not involved. Did the events in Hopeless Masquerade have anything to do with it?
ZUN: There’s not really a particular reason. That’s my final answer. It’s not gone. I just haven’t included it recently.
Q: When you see new fan art, games, or albums, how excited are you to know to see how it got so popular? How it is loved by many people from all over the world.
ZUN: I am very happy. I am absolutely blown away, and I just love that you guys love it.
Q: Which song, that doesn’t have to be you’re favorite, are you most proud of?
ZUN: I’ve made a lot of music, hahaha. I don’t have a favorite, per se. If anything, the most recent songs I make tend to be my favorites.
Q: Earlier in the Opening Ceremonies [for Anime Weekend Atlanta] you mentioned that you were going to localize the Touhou games. Is there a set date?
ZUN: Like I said earlier, there aren’t any plans. I’m not opposed to it, but there are no plans to localize them right now. They could or could not be localized. Honestly, I make the games all by myself and I don’t know how to go about localizing them. If anything, I have noticed the English patches.
Q: Where do you come up with the insane bullet patterns for the games? I play them a lot and think, “I’m gonna make it! OH NO I’M DEAD!
ZUN: For the difficult modes I visually put them out there and make sure they’re flamboyant. After I make one, I see if I can clear it myself by trying again and again and again. If I don’t clear it I’ll just tone it down a bit.
Q: Are there any characters that hold a special place in your heart?
ZUN: Hakurei Reimu.
Q: What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Independent game developers now?
ZUN: I think that the biggest challenge in general is that most Indie developers don’t learn from the games that came before them.
Q: Where do you buy your hats?
ZUN: I buy them from a lot of places like normal stores, flea markets, or nearby events. I just look around and buy the ones I like.
Q: Has there ever been a fan character that you wanted to put in a later game? Possibly Maybell?
ZUN: Hmm… Well, I don’t really watch a lot of fan works because I don’t want to be influenced by them.
Q: Do you have any advice towards any aspiring game designers?
ZUN: It’s a simple answer. JUST DO IT.
Q: After seeing how much Touhou means to its fans, how does it influence your workload and your outlook on life?
ZUN: More than influencing my life, I feel like that the work has become a part of me. It’s all just me.
Q: Will you consider bringing back very old characters from the series?
ZUN: I won’t say no. There’s your answer.
Q: Have you ever considered taking some of your musical ideas and take them into orchestras, small bands, group ensembles, and etc?
ZUN: I don’t need to, because I have the fans do it for me.
Q: Letty Whiterock never fought at her full power. If she were to show her full strength, how strong would she be?
ZUN: There’d have to be a special incident/accident for this to occur.
Q: If you could find yourself trapped in a hotspring with two of your favorite characters, who would it be?
ZUN: Give me a minute. *Drinks his beer* Marisa definitely and another weird character. Of course beer would have to be involved.
Q: Do you have a message to give to the fans?
ZUN: I honestly didn’t think that there would be this many people since Touhou isn’t available in North America. I’ve seen a lot of people in Touhou cosplays, but for some reason most of them seem to be men. I’ll be here all day tomorrow and Sunday. I’ll be wandering around so please say hi. In the meantime, I’ll try to learn English.