I am a huge fan of the Touhou Project series. It is a ‘Bullet Hell’ style shooter game filled with many interesting and unique characters, most with some kind of mythological origin, which in turn lead to my fascination with Japanese mythology. However, today I’m going to talk about a character who seems to lack any origin at all, and who is rarely given too much thought.
        After all, it’s the final bosses that drive the story and generally have the largest impact, so forgetting some of the people on the way there can almost be expected, especially in the case of someone like Rumia, who only has one appearance throughout the series, and scarce appearances in the supplementary material.
        To begin with, the player sees Rumia in Stage One of Touhou 6: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. The story is that a red mist is covering the land of Gensokyo, and the protagonist, whomever the player picks, is setting out to stop it. However, in what quickly became Touhou tradition after this game, the first couple of bosses generally do not have anything to do with the main plot, and Rumia was the first to show it. Her profile even says that “She is of no importance to the story, and isn’t up to anything in particular in her life”.
        She abruptly shows up in the night and threatens to eat the protagonist, either unaware or uncaring of the red mist, and both Reimu and Marisa show that they really aren’t threatened by her at all, speaking with her casually and dismissively until the fight starts. It doesn’t help that she has her arms outstretched, apparently trying to convey the imagery of Jesus being crucified. Not only does it not scare the protagonists, Marisa at least had to ask her why she had her arms stretched out.
        When Rumia does battle, unlike other bosses, she seems less like she has a pattern of attack and more like she is throwing different types of bullets at the player at random. First she’ll try shooting directly at you, then flying to the side and letting out a wider spread of shots, then aimed lasers that activate a second later. All of these, to a degree, can be dangerous, but she uses these tricks on their own with no real plan or secondary attacks backing them up, further proving the protagonist’s assessment that she isn’t much of a threat.
        When she appears, she’s introduced as the “Youkai of Darkness”. For clarification, a youkai is essentially any supernatural creature from Japanese mythology, whether it is a ghost or monster or demon. So we know she is a youkai, though that doesn’t say much. We at least can say she is a creature of darkness, which sounds a little ominous. Her ability is said to be ‘manipulating darkness’, which again sounds worrying, but she doesn’t seem to put it to use in the game proper, which the profile also points out.
        In fact, the main use she has for her powers is to cover herself in a ‘bubble’ of darkness to block out the light and heat, which sometimes causes other youkai to crowd around her for the shade too and leaves Rumia herself with heightened light sensitivity. Speaking of sight, compounding her woes is the fact that she cannot actually see through her own darkness, meaning when she uses her powers, she’s blinding herself. She has, by her own admission, run into a few trees because of this.
        Perfect Memento In Strict Sense, an official book detailing many of the series’ characters even pointed out that she once caught a human in her darkness bubble… and flew right on by, obvious that she had come near someone at all. The writer even points out that she would be threatening if she wasn’t so incompetent, and goes as far as to call her stupid for using her powers in such an ineffectual way.
        Combine all this and her rather subpar combat with her silly attempts to frighten her enemies, and it’s pretty clear she is inexperienced at hunting down humans and somewhat childish, likely a very young youkai. Though she does hunt humans, she isn’t very good at it and seems to prefer just lazing about in her bubble, having little to do and no inclination to find something to do. In fact, she has cameoed in a few Touhou mangas, but never in a speaking role and never doing much, just watching. It’s a little sad, really.
Further, when interviewed by Aya Shameimaru, a reporter, she said that she never has any goals because “It’s too dark to see, so my view never changes no matter where I go.” and seems surprised when Aya points out that’s her own fault for making it too dark to see.
        She expresses hate for sunlight in general, which makes “my skin gets all red and I can’t think straight, my hair gets all dry so I get split ends, and on top of all that I get really sleepy”, all of which points to her having an adverse effect to sunlight either as part of her species or again because she continues to avoid it. Aya supports that by saying it’s because she is ‘lacking in something’, likely exposure to sunlight, which would help her tolerate it.
        In any case, you might think from all that that she is more active at night, but she isn’t really, simply flying randomly then too. Aya expresses disappointment at this, and even gives her advice when it comes to hunting humans at night. Rumia says that attacking humans is a youkai’s job, implying she sees it as her duty to do so, but apparently feels no urge to do it well, as she dismisses Aya’s suggestions by saying it would be too much effort.
        So adding all this up, Rumia is a young and immature darkness youkai who, thanks to her power, has avoided the sun for most or all of her life, and thus has come to have adverse reactions to it. She hates the day and is more active at night, but even then she only attacks and tries to eat humans out of what she sees as an obligation, and one she isn’t very enthusiastic about. She seems to have no passion for anything in particular, preferring to lay in the darkness and do nothing.
        In fact, she fits the definition of autism quite well, in that she finds anything breaking her particular routine of, well, not doing much of anything to be ‘too much effort’ and dismisses it as such, even though Aya’s advice was essentially to wait along roads at night for people to cross, a plan that has a better chance of success than flying about and would, ironically, require less effort. This is even expressed in her attacks in that she never tries to plan out her attack, merely using random shots that come to mind rather than bothering to come up with any plan at all. She refuses to change or be changed, which is a little depressing. Much better for the humans she would otherwise be hunting, though.

2 thoughts on “Rumia

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