Written by SU_Tempest
Saturday, 09-Sep-23 23:39:21 UTC
Written by SU_Tempest
Cirno Day is always a good day for me. Pixiv gets its annual flood of Cirno artwork, my Touhou Discord servers all open their Cirno-themed channels, and it’s just a great time all around. A yearly reminder that this adorable idiot is as much of a main character as any of the “main girls” in Touhou.
Although I’ll always be at home in the various houses of electronic music, I am also a huge fan of many flavors of hard rock and metal. Touhou is no exception to that rule. I was originally researching (by which I mean, binging day in day out) Demetori to figure out the next song to talk about, but Cirno Day ended up rapidly approaching, and I simply couldn’t not have Cirno’s theme front and center today.
Which left me with a dilemma. As I hinted at in a prior blog post on Cohost, Demetori hasn’t produced a lot of arranges of any of Cirno’s themes. Fortunately, good friend and fellow metal enthusiast Yumi Sakata (go check their works out!!) came to the rescue with a pristine suggestion: Why not S.S.H. & Aether?
I had to dig into their newer catalog to find the right song, which meant listening to an album that, until today, I hadn’t. So, for Cirno Day 2023, I am treating myself to a new S.S.H. album and talking about the Cirno arrange in it.
The circle responsible for this song is officially known as 埼玉最終兵器 & Aether. It’s made up of two people: 埼玉最終兵器 (Saitama Saisyu/Saishuu Heiki, or Saitama’s Ultimate Weapon) and Eru, leader of the Aether circle and frequent co-composer whenever S.S.H. gets in the Touhou mood.
S.S.H. is not just anyone; this proudly Saitama-born musician has got an immense career as a doujin artist and a professional composer. As VGMDB will eagerly tell you, S.S.H. got his first professional gig at the age of 21 in 2003. My first exposure to his works was, perhaps less surprisingly than it might seem, not due to Touhou. I found out about him in the mid-2000s, a few years after he’d released Summer Vacation Game Music Festival in 2002, a 47-minute nonstop metal medley of a whole bunch of excellent video game music.
Eru is, as I hinted before, the leader of Aether and a frequent co-contributor to S.S.H.'s metal albums. This artist hails from Yokohama, and aside from being S.S.H.'s musical partner, he has produced a few non-Touhou arrange albums for IPs like AIR, CLANNAD, Ragnarok Online, X of Mana games, Etrian Odyssey, and Final Fantasy. In more recent days, Eru has produced what I believe is his first solo Touhou album, MYSTIQ SPELL, which came out during Comiket 99.
Although I was familiar with S.S.H. since my early teenage years, finding out his involvement in the Touhou scene was a surprise, to say the least, but a welcome one. In no time at all, this circle joined the ranks of my very favorites, alongside names like Alice’s Emotion, Rolling Contact, Demetori, and, more recently, Paradot and Holmgang ov Gensokyo.
Whenever I listen to S.S.H. & Aether, I remind myself these are two very distinct musicians with their own styles who have chosen to join forces and bless us Touhou fans with some of the best music the fandom has. Which is why it bears mentioning today’s song is very much an Eru production, through and through.
If I had to distill each artist’s style, I would call S.S.H. the speed metal to Eru’s power metal. It’s an oversimplification, they are both capable of actually producing songs that could be classified in either genre - and they have - but my point is S.S.H. usually sounds high-energy, high-speed whereas Eru is slower, more powerful, more deliberate, but no less impressive.
This arrange of Cirno’s original theme song, Tomboyish Girl in Love (or Beloved Tomboyish Girl if you’re an old fogie like me and you remember the earlier translation), is 4 minutes and 1 second long, and it effectively starts at 98% intensity, upshifts to 110% immediately, and stays there until the very end.
Eru treats us to a brief, four-second drum intro, then jumps immediately into the opening notes of Cirno’s illustrious themes, with punchy electric guitars leading the charge, followed by a backing of drums, bass guitars, and organs. This is an almost Sonic-like ingredient list, something that has been used to great effect to bring a more American flavor to wholly Japanese productions. But instead of a Sonic Adventure-style soundtrack, Eru gives us a distinctly heavy and imposing sound, something that sounds more like his audio signature.
Although the arrangement is fairly straightforward in its structure, it’s no less intense and iconic. Following the intro, we have the first and second bars of Tomboyish Girl in Eru’s own rendition, though at 1:00, he deviates briefly from ZUN’s melody to go on a short riff and treat the audience to a brief interlude where the drums and the bass go on alone. Then, the main electric guitar resumes at 1:13 from the first bar of Cirno’s theme. As if Eru has slightly too much energy that can be fully contained by the ZUN original.
At 2:05, Eru begins the first few notes once again, then goes on a sick guitar solo before letting the organ resume the same notes at 2:25, only to transition to the second bar again at 2:36. And off we go once again. Eru repeats the trend of starting with the original melody and going briefly crazy with it at 2:51 before sending us into the song’s final minute. We get the first bar once again, the sheer intensity not letting up for a single second until the outro, which arrives at 3:47 and finishes quickly and cleanly with a pair of drumbeats and the guitars and organs trailing off.
Eru’s arrangement of Tomboyish Girl might be what you’d expect if you’re a seasoned amateur of Touhou music, but would you expect anything else? Rather than send us into an overcomplicated arrange with a barely recognizable melody and trying to build the musical equivalent of fine cuisine, Eru serves us a nice, big, chunky burger of powerful auditory overload. It’s Cirno but power metal. It’s Nineball giving a metal concert in front of Reimu’s shrine. It’s unabashedly itself and proud of it.
While this is not the hardest nor the heaviest song on the Grand Grimoire album - that would be Track 6, Eru’s arrange of Into Backdoor from Hidden Stars in Four Seasons without hesitation - it is probably the most fun and the happiest in tone.
I’d go as far as saying it’s very listenable even if you don’t have much interest in metal but do know Cirno’s theme well. In short, it’s pretty infectious! I’ve had that song on repeat about five times by the time I finished writing the above two sections, and we’re looking at another five times tonight, I’m sure of it…
…Which leads me to the section where I normally talk about where I was when I first listened to this. If you’ve been reading these reviews and following along, you might have noticed I like to reminisce to the time when I discovered the song you’re reading about today.
Today is special - not just because it’s Cirno Day, but because I discovered the song I am now reviewing on the same day. If I had to describe how I feel right now, I’d say “Hot, muggy, and uncomfortable” because it’s a sickeningly hot and humid summer day, lightning struck 5 times less than a mile away from me, and we had a flash spell of rain.
But… I think I don’t pay enough attention or give enough credit to the here and now and the importance of enjoying the present. I could talk your ear off about the past and what it was like to be a Touhou fan or discovering such and such circle in the depths of the late 2000s to early 2010s (and I probably will do that again when I get around to Demetori), but what about today?
Well… As I listen to this metal arrange of Tomboyish Girl, I realize that I am surrounded with fans of all ages and backgrounds, and it’s never been better than now to be into Touhou. It turns out, it is possible to be in a fandom for well over a decade and still find new people, new good stuff, and new albums to listen to… I’ve also realized just how much of a good thing it is to introduce your friends to your obsessions and make them their obsessions.
You ever successfully infected a friend with your sheer love for something? That’s what I’m most thankful for. I hope, one day, that someone will get the bug I’ve gotten for Touhou music from reading my things, and create a whole new fan.
Happy Cirno Day, fellow Touhou fans. Keep on being baka.
Song title: おてんば恋娘
Album: Grand Grimoire
Circle: 埼玉最終兵器 & Aether (also known as Saitama Saisyu Heiki or SSH)
Release date: 2017/12/29 (Comiket 93)
Touhou originals remixed:
- おてんば恋娘 ; Tomboyish Girl in Love (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, Cirno’s theme)
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