Where else would a girl with the power to translate any tome she sets in her lap reside except a library? Sure, some books may be more dangerous than others, but that's far from discouragement for a true bibliophile like Kosuzu Motoori!
Source: Yen Press
Being a tie-in to the spawling, complex Touhou Project franchise, this series is a tricky one to review. If you're an established fan, then it's an easy recommendation. However, if you are less familiar with the Touhou world of Gensokyo, it might feel intimidating. In this respect, one factor that works in Forbidden Scrollery's favor is that its main character, Kosuzu Motoori, was originally created specifically for this series. What this means is that unlike with the other characters who appear throughout, Kosuzu is a fresh slate, with no backstory to read up on beforehand. As for what she's like, Kosuzu runs a book rental shop called Suzunaan in the human village, has the ability to read any written language, and contains boundless curiosity. She is a cheerful and likeable main character who often gets into trouble involving said curiosity. Another thing that helps is that, although there are dozens of characters in the overall Touhou canon, the supporting cast primarily consists of just four of them, with a fifth becoming a regular about halfway through. In case you're curious, these supporting characters are as following. Reimu Hakurei, a youkai-battling shrine maiden and the main character of the Touhou franchise, features prominently, of course, as does Marisa Kirisame, the seemingly carefree magician who often co-stars in the games. The third character is Akyu Hieda, who has primarily appeared in non-game spinoff works like Forbidden Scrollery; she is from a wealthy family in the human village who work as Gensokyo's historians, and is a frequent customer at Kosuzu's shop. The fourth is Mamizou Futatsuiwa, an observant tanuki trickster who originally appeared in Ten Desires (Touhou 13). I will leave the fifth mostly a surprise, and will only say that she was first seen in Mountain of Faith (Touhou 10). In addition to these core cast members, other familiar faces appear throughout the series, some merely for quick cameos, and a few actively contributing to the story. The majority of this series consists of two-chapter short stories set in and around Suzunaan, often revolving around Kosuzu herself, or the books she sells and/or rents out. Conflicts both major and minor get resolved, usually by Reimu and/or Marisa, in tales peppered with Japanese folklore. If you're already into Touhou, you surely know just how much folklore ZUN crams into his creations, and Forbidden Scrollery is simply another example of that. There are plenty of mentions of youkai, youma, tengu, kappa, curses, tsukumogami, and all manner of supernatural things. Yen Press' English localization does contain translation notes in each volume, explaining some of these concepts (as well as the meanings behind Touhou characters' names), but a basic familiarity with Japanese folklore, Touhou fan or not, is highly recommended for new readers. The quality of the writing is quite good for a tie-in series, and that's doubtless due to the fact that Touhou's very creator, ZUN, is in charge of the story. The best tie-ins I've ever read always have one of the original creators involved, and this one is no exception. For the non-Touhou fans out there, expect storytelling that is a little bit meandering, somewhat humorous at times, and with no clear boundaries between "good" and "evil"; instead of such black and white concepts, Gensokyo contains various multitudes of grey. ZUN's style of storytelling can be an acquired taste, but is enjoyable in its own way. As for the art, it is very good. Touhou characters' designs are an elaborate mishmash of Eastern and Western styles, with lots of floofy skirts, frills, and little details. Artist Moe Harukawa brings their own sensibility to Reimu and the crew, and though their versions of a few characters can take a little getting used to, they do a good job bringing the world of Gensokyo to life on the page, with clear yet detailed artwork and paneling that helps the stories flow at a nice, readable pace. Once again, I absolutely recommend this series to Touhou fans, especially those who are familiar with ZUN's original games. If you're Touhou-curious, I am personally not sure if this would be a good introduction to the franchise, as the story comes front-loaded with several unexplained concepts that are second-nature to fans. Getting into Touhou, through this manga or other means, can take time and patience. If you're willing to make the effort, though, then you could do worse than to give this series a try.
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