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Touhou CD Rankdown

In today’s post, I’ll be giving my personal ranking of the Touhou CD’s, as well as highlight a few of my favorites from each one.

What Are the Touhou CD’s?

Even if you’re familiar with the Touhou Project, you might not know that besides the mainline video games, ZUN also directs the creation of various manga series and spinoff games. Additionally, every few years he releases music CD’s. These CD’s are composed of remixes of game tracks as well as original tracks that I suspect are tracks that were experimental or rejected, never making it into one of his mainline games.

CD tracks are different, often sizeably longer in duration and noticeably more experimental in style. For remixed tracks, they are often refined in a sort of “definitive edition”, while original tracks contain techniques and ideas not found in usual game tracks.

At the time of writing ZUN has released ten “mainline” CD’s, each accompanied with a side story1.

Ranking

My rankings are based nearly completely on the music itself, though I won’t deny the story has influenced my opinion in a few of the CD’s.

10th Place: Dateless Bar: Old Adam (2016)

Not my favorite album, some of the tracks are kind of grating on the ears.

Favorite tracks:

  • Old Adam Bar: Perfectly gives off that vibe of going down to a bar and gossipping with some regulars.
  • Pandemonic Planet: Touhou 15 extra boss rearrange. Like most album arranges of game themes, it’s basically a magnification of all the good parts.

9th Place: Trojan Green Asteroid (2012)

The original tracks are pretty strange and experimental in this album.

Favorite tracks:

8th Place: Neo-Traditionalism of Japan (2012)

A pretty good album, but I don’t think the tracks meshed with each other very well.

Favorite tracks:

7th Place: Dr. Latency’s Freak Report (2016)

ZUN’s first album of the modern era of Touhou. It’s pretty good.

Favorite tracks:

6th Place: Unknown Flower, Mesmerizing Journey (2011)

Shorter album composed in memory of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan that year.

Favorite tracks:

5th Place: Retrospective 53 Minutes (2006)

Released during that transitional period when ZUN decided to pursue Touhou as his life’s work.

Favorite tracks:


My top four albums stand apart from the rest in that each and every track is one I love a lot, whereas for the first six I mostly cared about just a couple tracks.

4th Place: Changeability of Strange Dream (2004)

A very important track to the series is in this CD. The story is also great.

Favorite tracks:

  • Kid’s Festival ~ Innocent Treasures: ZUN’s theme he composed for himself for a conference. Full of nostalgia, paired with melancholic lyrics that were never sung. This is one of the most important tracks in the entire series
  • Phantasm Machine ~ Phantom Factory: A Seihou Project rearrangement. Very techno and different and anything else in the CD. There’s not a strong melody like usual, but the tension is carried through very nicely. Kind of reminds me of the Kalos Power Plant from Pokemon X and Y.

3rd Place: Dolls in Pseudo-Paradise (2002)

This CD is the earliest one and is mostly arranges of existing themes. The Touhou Project and Gensokyo it paints in my mind is one that is ancient, primordial, and wild.

Favorite tracks:

  • Dichromatic Lotus Butterfly ~ Red and White: Arrangement of Reimu’s cameo theme in the Seihou Project, though I like this arrange much more than the original. It sounds like you’re taking a journey far, far away, to an exotic, primordial, and unknown land.
  • Reincarnation: Arrangement Mima’s old theme from Touhou 3. The rich brass trumpet fanfare over the classical Touhou 4-5-6 chord progression is great. In the final chorus, the track lets loose and ends with a screaming trumpet and thunderclap.
  • Legend of Hourai: The first track of the CD and of all the tracks here. It’s fitting, as the atmosphere it projects is one that beckons to a curious listener, drawing them in and telling them “this is the world of Touhou”.

2nd Place: Magical Astronomy (2006)

This CD is full of fanbase classics.

Favorite tracks:

  • Necrofantasia: The definitive version of this famous Touhou 7 track. A new piano bridge section and coda were added which drives this already amazing track further through the roof. After discovering this version, I can’t really listen to the game version anymore.
  • The Far Side of the Moon: It really feels like I’m floating in space watching the cosmos go by.
  • Demystify Feast: Arrangement from Touhou 7.5. Has the intensity of a boss and all of a sudden erupts into a triumphant chorus.

1st Place: Ghostly Field Club (2003)

The atmosphere in every track presented in this CD is masterfully crafted.

Favorite tracks:


  1. I disregard the album releases of the PC-98 game tracks (Akyu’s Untouched Score), as the tracks there do not meaningfully differ from the originals. ↩︎