Len'en Project

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Len'en Project
ɺ̠e̞n.ẽ̞ɴ pɯᵝɺ̠o̞d͡ʑʲe̞kɯᵝto̞
Ren'en Project, 鏈縁Project, Len'enシリーズ
Illustration of Len'en's 4th anniversary
Created by Trick Nostalgie
Years active 2010, 2013–present
No. of Installments
  • 4 games
Official websites

The Len'en Project (連縁Project / 鏈縁Project, lit. Connecting Chain) is a Japanese doujin game series that specialises in shoot 'em ups by Trick Nostalgie, whose sole member is game developer JynX. The series is notable for taking heavy inspiration from the Touhou Project. As such, it is a series of 2D (with 3D background) vertically-scrolling shoot 'em ups. Although it takes inspiration from Touhou, the games are technically not fangames towards Touhou. It is set in a separate world which features an entirely new cast of characters, therefore having its own canonicity and plot.

Works[edit | edit source]


Le?? 鏈縁无現里 ~ Emergency everyday (unreleased)
Le01 連縁无現里 ~ Evanescent Existence
Le02 連縁蛇叢釼 ~ Earthen Miraculous Sword
Le03 連縁霊烈傳 ~ Reactivate Majestical Imperial
Le04 連縁天影戦記 ~ Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle
Le00 連縁カフェ ~ BOOK of the CAFE
Le05 レンエン モノクロムワールド (Monochrome World) (in development)

Music CDs
夢幻で无い世界 ~連縁无現里~

Critical Point Bidding its Last Farewell
Official Merchandise

  • Acrylic Figures
  • Clear Files
  • Stickers
  • Acrylic Keychains

General Information[edit | edit source]

The Len'en Project is set in the land of Mugenri, containing humans and youkai alike. It is sealed away from the Outside World by a mysterious spiritual barrier called the Mugenri Barrier. Yabusame Houlen is the main protagonist, and together with their friend Tsubakura Enraku, they are youkai exterminators who solve incidents. They were employed by Tsurubami Senri, the Shinto priest of the Senri Shrine. Tsurubami spirited away humans from out of Mugenri to force them to replace their job and go on a holiday to the Outside World.

In-game events[edit | edit source]

In-game events are similar to the Touhou Project, except that it works more deeply with connecting the plot of all the games together. In Mugenri, incidents occur once in a while, where there's an event that affects all of Mugenri with an unknown cause at the time it occurs. Frequently, incidents are due to a person's whim or curiosity, and usually Yabusame (and in some cases others such as Tsubakura) would go to investigate it to then find and punish the perpetrator. Such incidents can exist from a range of heavy clouds in the sky to an outright war between two major factors.

While the project involves characters interacting with each other and having humour added to it, the stories can get very serious and deep in lore. Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle especially has a lot of dialogue hinting to the amount of plot added to the series.

History[edit | edit source]

While JynX is often credited as the person who made Len'en as it is known today, they were not the original creator: that is credited to Daijin (even JynX admits that the Len'en Project is not 100% theirs). Daijin started by trying to develop Emergency Everyday with a group of friends, but JynX barely participated. However, for unknown reasons, the project came to a halt and it was abandoned. On 25 April 2012, JynX announced on Twitter that they have decided to start becoming a full-time doujin creator, inspired by their "mentor" who quit school and started up their own company, who is most likely Daijin.[1] JynX took an interest in the project and, on 1 May 2012, decided to remake it into a new game[2], so they asked for permission to carry on with the project, they were given two conditions:

  • "I have to create everything except for the title name from scratch."
  • "My seniors would transfer all their rights to the content to me and no longer have any involvement whatsoever."

That is, JynX must keep the current title "Len'en" (鏈縁) and work on the project by themself. Thus, Daijin passed full ownership of Len'en to JynX, and over time the game's story, characters, settings, design, and everything with Len'en has been completely overhauled to how it is known today.[3] Various bits of elements from the characters of Emergency Everyday still exist in some of the current characters of today.[4]

Name and Concept[edit | edit source]

Name of the Overall Series

As a whole, the series is referred to as the "連縁Project" in Japanese and the "Len'en Project" in English, inspired by the Touhou Project (東方Project). The name Len'en is composed of the kanji len (, lit. "connections") and en (, lit. "fate/relations/connections"). The developer, JynX, describes the series as a "similar to a certain shrine maiden danmaku shooting game, but if you try it you may think it's pretty different... but it's really nothing more than a rip-off of Touhou"-type danmaku shooting game, though the series has since shifted away from being STG-cetnred. JynX has stated that the Len'en Project is their way of paying respect to Touhou.[5]

The official romanisation of the kanji is Len'en[6], used for terms such as Len'en Series (Len'enシリーズ),[7] or by itself. Although it is more common to use the letter "R" in romaji, JynX instead chose to romanise it with the letter "L". The apostrophe is used to separate the two "syllables" because, in this case, it's ambiguous in romanisation. The romanised letters are "lenen", in which the Japanese hiragana is ambiguous to represent either "re (), n (), e (), n ()" or "re (), ne (), n ()", thus using the apostrophe for better indication.

Names of Individual Entries

Every entry in the Len'en series contains the word "Len'en" (れんえん), though it may be written in various different forms, which reflects different game systems as well as story.[8] So far, three different renderings of "Len'en" have been seen, 鏈縁, 連縁 and レンエン, though it is known that JynX has other variations in mind as well.[9]

Prior to Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle, the series started out using 鏈縁 in the first three entries, where 鏈 (lit. "connection/chain") was used rather than the simpler-looking , though producing an overall similar combined meaning. JynX often used the simpler-looking in casual writing even back then[10], and has stated that they consider 連縁 the "base form" of the series name, while 鏈縁 gives the feeling of the "origin" instead[11], perhaps in reference to Emergency Everyday, whose Japanese title used 鏈縁.

In the fourth instalment, Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle, replaced the kanji in the title, as it made writing a lot easier and "it seems lighter".[12]. JynX later decided to make this the official form of "Len'en" for the series as a whole.[13] Later, with the release of version 1.10a of the prior games, their Japanese titles were updated to show the simpler-looking kanji as well (e.g. 連縁无現里 over 鏈縁无現里), grouping the 4 games into a single category.

The naming scheme for the games are initially modelled off that of Touhou's, with a "連縁OOO" pattern; originating from one of the first songs ZUN composed for Highly Responsive to Prayers, Touhou Kaikidan (東方怪奇談). The title of the first three games of the Len'en Project fall under the format as shown in the following table:

Format: Japanese main title double-byte space double-byte wave dash English subtitle
Example: 連縁无現里 ' ' '' Evanescent Existence

From Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle and onwards, the convention has been mostly broken, and entries simply contain the word "Len'en" as a bare minimum.

Rejected Name

Through the Len'en Maniacs' Quiz, it was revealed that "Enjaku Monogatari" (燕雀物語), "Story of the Swallow and Sparrow" or "Story of the Little Birds", was once considered for the name of the overall series.

The name is based on an early concept for a main character pair who would later become Tsubakura Enraku and Suzumi Kuzu, which is in turn based on the word "enjaku" (燕雀, lit. swallow sparrow), which refers to "small birds". The word comes from a quote out of the Chinese historical text Records of the Grand Historian (史記), specifically from chapter 43 House of Chen She (陳涉世家). The quote is "The small bird in its peace knows not of the large bird's ambitions" (燕雀安んぞ鴻鵠の志を知らんや, enjaku izukun zo koukoku no kokorozashi wo shiranya), where "swallows () and Eurasian tree sparrows ()" refer to "small birds" and "swan geese () and swans ()" refer to "large birds". The quote is meant to refer to how the average person is unable to understand the thoughts and ambitions of great people.

Story Arcs[edit | edit source]

The change of use in the kanji used to write Len'en also stems from the arcs of Len'en's story that JynX has in mind, of which currently two are known: the Mugenri Arc (无現里編) and the Past Arc (過去編). Each arc is planned to use a different way of writing "Len'en" in order to differentiate them[8], they are as follows:

The Mugenri Arc

The Mugenri Arc begins with Yabusame and friends' arrival into Mugenri[14], signified by the use of 連縁. Initially, the arc was indicated by the use of 鏈縁 in the Japanese title. This was later changed to 連縁 with the release of Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle, later, JynX has stated that they are not finished making games with the 鏈縁 title.[15]

Entries in release order:

The Past Arc

While the details are unknown, it is divided into several smaller arcs and most likely details the adventures of Yabusame and friends prior to entering Mugenri[16], and is signified by the use of れんえん.

Entries in release order:

Characters[edit | edit source]

The characters in this project are either human or youkai and take many references to the characters of the Touhou Project. A certain number of characters have names that are themed around birds, called "Bird's Name". The characters' genders are generally left ambiguous in the Len'en Project. It is likely that their genders will never be revealed, and that it's simply up to the player's interpretation. As such, this wiki uses gender-neutral words.

Inspirations from the Touhou Project[edit | edit source]

There are many aspects of the Touhou Project that the Len'en Project, as a series based on Touhou, imitates and parodies. The gameplay, character drawings and the music are all similar to Touhou in early creations, but have branched into something more unique. However, there are things that are based on Touhou but which are unique in their own way. For example, while Touhou often uses the kanji fu () in many of it's spell card names, the spell cards in Len'en use the kanji hai (). These two kanji have more or less overlapping meanings, but fu is generally translated as "sign", whereas hai is more like "card". The difficulty and speed of danmaku, however, is notoriously harder, resembling the difficulty of the Seihou Project.

In addition, in both series, characters' abilities are described in a way that intentionally sounds awkward or unnatural. In Touhou, characters' abilities are often described using the phrase teido no nouryoku (程度の能力) that roughly means "ability to the extent of". Reimu Hakurei's ability, for example, is "ability to the extent of flying" (空を飛ぶ程度の能力, sora wo tobu teido no nouryoku). Abilities in the Len'en Project are described in a similar manner, but with the phrase teki na nouryoku (的な能力) which roughly means "something like (ability)". For example, Yabusame's ability is "Something like crossing dimensions" (次元を超える的な能力, jigen wo koeru teki na nouryoku).

The biggest inspiration from Touhou so far has to be Haiji Senri, who is known to use spell card patterns that are directly imitations of those from Touhou.

Another strong influence from Touhou is a focus on the name "Alice" (アリス), inspired by ZUN'sdoujin circle name "Team Shanghai Alice" (上海アリス幻樂団). The name "Alice" apparently holds some significance in Len'en[18] and is most notably found in A World Outside Fantasy, where there is a music track titled "Alice Leaping Atop Lily Pad Ice" and the short story has the character Hoojiro Shitodo quoting Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

When asked why it was chosen and what its significance is, JynX replies that the reason and importance might be clearer if we looked into why ZUN himself chose "Shanghai Alice".[18] According to ZUN, the name was chosen to represent "a blend between Japanese and Western styles". To him, "Shanghai" (上海) has the image of "a multicultural city where the East and the West meet"; While "Alice" may be "a child living in the foreign concessions there", or perhaps suggests "a strong fairy-tale element".[19] It's not yet entirely clear why or how this relates to Len'en or its story.

Additionally, it is known that the name "JynX" along with Kanae Tabinoki's design and character theming are based on the Eurasian wryneck, "arisui" (蟻吸) in Japanese, which contains the Japanese pronunciation of "Alice", "arisu" within it. This may have also been inspired by "Team Shanghai Alice", although it was never directly comfirmed.

Additional Information[edit | edit source]

  • Every year, JynX celebrates Len'en's anniversary by drawing an illustration with dialogue (although there is no dialogue to the illustration for the 4th anniversary).
  • Whenever JynX is asked about any direct connection between Len'en and Touhou, they say it's "up to your imagination".

References[edit | edit source]

  1. JynX's Twitter: "On this night at the end of April, I think it'd start getting a bit serious studying to become a doujin creator."
    JynX's Twitter: "I had a reason for this decision: Today, I learnt that my master (A friend one year older than me) is going to quit school to start up a company, which made me feel like I should probably make up my mind soon."
  2. JynX's Twitter: "I've decided! I'll be remaking an original game that we were making from scratch, and release it in some form or another~."
  3. Unreal Indolence Record: Len'en Tasouken ~ Earthen Miraculous Sword (12 September 2013)
  4. Interview with JynX (2017): Len'en Miscellaneous, Question 77
  5. Interview with JynX (2015): Question 1
  6. JynX's Twiiter: "Overseas fans can just use 'Len'en project'!"
  7. Unreal Indolence Record: Len'en series 4th game: Len'en BPoHC (Trial version) is released! (5 June 2015)
  8. 8.0 8.1 JynX's Twitter: "Oh yes, name changes don’t only indicate a change in game system, but also a change in story. I plan for the past arc and such to not use 連縁 nor 鏈縁 but れんえん."
  9. JynX's Twitter: "Right now, I have 3 to 4 variations of Len'en in my head… Hmm, which one should I start with…"
  10. Unreal Indolence Record: Evanescent Existence & Earthen Miraculous Sword: Trial versions (12 September 2013)
  11. JynX's Twitter: "To begin with, 連縁 is the base form, and 鏈縁 gives the vibe of an "originator". I’ll continue making various forms of Len'en in the future, but 連縁 will be the base form of the series."
  12. Unreal Indolence Record: Year 2015, new original game "Len'en BPoHC" (31 January 2015)
  13. JynX's Twitter: "Oh right, the series has been called the 鏈縁project up till now, but officially speaking, it'll be called the 連縁project now."
  14. JynX's Twitter: "By the way, the "Mugenri Arc" follows the timeline after Yabusame and friends came to Mugenri. In other words, games starting from EE onwards. The Past Arc is also separated into several "arcs"."
  15. JynX's Twitter: "Ah right, I'll also make something for 鏈縁 again one day."
  16. JynX's Twitter: "I really want to work on a Past Arc game soon~. I want to talk about the journeys Yabusame and Tsubakura had up until now."
  17. JynX's Twitter: "Ah, by the way, it's a story taking place in the past arc~."
  18. 18.0 18.1 Kanae Tabinoki Stream: [Chatting Stream] Grab a Cup of Tea or Something, Let’s Chat... [Kanae Tabinoki]
  19. Meiji University Anime and Voice Acting Research Society - "Dawn of Touhou" Talkshow (Page 5) (Japanese Source)

External links[edit | edit source]