Spell cards (スペル牌 Superu fuda) appear to play an important role in casting powerful character-specific magic in the Len'en Project. When using a spell card, the user's offensive and defensive capabilities appear to increase greatly. In some cases, the user becomes completely invincible for the duration of the spell. While spell cards have only been shown to be used in danmaku battles, they can be used for any attacks, thus it can be deduced that spell card duels are not restricted to danmaku battles either.
Making Spell Cards
Making a spell card takes quite a long amount of time. Learning how to make a spell card takes practice, but a "natural" can make them by instinct. Once a card has been made, its creator can make indefinite copies of them. Spell cards contain a portion of its creator's power, meaning that anyone can use any card. However, only the original owner can draw out a spell card's full potential, and a card's power will be weakened further should it be out of a given user's league. When a spell card is taken from them, the owner cannot make copies of that spell card until it is returned.
Currently, the known "Naturals" are:
- Yabusame Houlen[a]
- Tsubakura Enraku
- Aoji Shitodo
- Hooaka Shitodo
- Kuroji Shitodo
- All of the Senri Shrine priests, Tsurubami Senri included
- All homunculi: Para
When making a spell card, one needs to fully execute the attack once, which imbues their skills and ability into the card. This makes it so that they would not have to execute the attack themself during battle, and any tools or bullets used during the formation of the spell are not necessary either, as the using the card will conjure them up as necessary. However, one may still use the original tools if they want to.
Therefore, spell cards with names implying the usage of a weapon do not necessarily involve the use of a physical weapon. While some do use an actual weapon (like Garaiya's Throwing Spear "Kama-Juumonji"), some use a weapon conjured up from the spell card's magic (As seen in Kaoru's Rapid Fire "Snake of Toxic Fog"), while some are unique, like Tsubakura's Swallow Card "Double Long Sword" and Tsurubami's Ink Card "Obsidian Blade", in which the long swords are made of ink.
Spell Card System
The idea of the system is based on the spell card system from the Touhou Project. In the story of the Len'en Project, however, spell cards have been stated to have different origins than in Gensokyo. The exact details are unknown, but they were apparently invented by the Senri Shrine's yet-unnamed second-generation priest.
Mugenri's spell card rules dictate that the winner of a spell card duel can order the loser to do anything, even killing themself. Disobeying this order would result in Mugenri erasing their existence. An order can, however, be withdrawn and one can avoid listening to the order by fleeing from the winner's sight before they issue an order. It is also possible to override existing spell orders with newer ones, although there is little chance of this actually happening in the series. The most important thing is for the loser to realize that they have lost and that they have to obey to the winner's order.
When it comes to the winner's order, there also seems to be some degree of flexibility regarding the loser's interpretation of and obedience to the order. For example, after being ordered to share information regarding the Shitodo family's attacker in Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle, Hooaka Shitodo reasoned that since it was a three on one match that they lost, they need only give one-third of the answer, with seemingly no consequence. Another example can be seen in Tenkai Zuifeng's loss to Suzumi Kuzu in Reactivate Majestical Imperial, where Tenkai accidentally disobeyed the order prompting Suzumi to remind them to do so, again with seemingly no consequence.
The spell card system doesn't restrict violence in Mugenri, but most of its residents consider it cowardly to kill in battle and would much rather restrict themselves to overwhelming the opponent and taking advantage of the order they are able to give to the loser.
In the Len'en Project games, spell cards manifest themselves in a few ways. In the shoot 'em ups, spell cards primarily act as a source of danmaku by enemy characters as they shoot a pattern or sequence of bullets at the player character, who tries to dodge them. They each require a name, consisting of the type of the spell card usually written in kanji (although said type seemingly isn't essential) and the card's actual name in 「quotation marks」. Spell card names don't have to be unique, for example, Lumen stole the name of their "Flash Cross" spell card from Yabusame's Intersection "Flash Cross". Most spell cards contain health bars that need to be emptied in order to defeat the spell card, but there are cards that make the user invincible, instead forcing the player to wait out the timer. Spell cards are used by bosses and midbosses on stages and have never been used by a stage enemy. They are also used as life-saving "bombs" by the player characters that turn them temporarily invincible and cancel out bullets.
- The first character to use the spell card system on-screen was Kurohebi.
- Spell cards can seemingly be stacked on each other, as Shion does so in their last attack in Reactivate Majestical Imperial (their second-to-last one in Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle). The extent of this is unknown, but the used spells presumably need to be in some way complementary, as Shion only modifies their first pattern instead of adding outright new ones on top (Mastication "Margaret Mahler" starts as a simple circle of bullets going outward, Digestion "Edward Thorndike" makes those bullets cross while still going out in a circle, Absorption "Jean Piaget" makes the bullets bounce from the edges of the screen, Incorporation "Melanie Klein" turns some of these bullets into knives and Assimilation "Anna Freud" makes said knives turn into small lasers once they reach the edges of the screen) and the card types shown in their names follow a sequence.
- Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle: Haiji Senri's profile
- JynX's Twitter: "It has a similar set of rules [with Touhou] but has a few minor differences. But I haven't said much about spell cards in the games yet so I can't say too much... You use special cards called Fu (牌) to fight, but it's not limited to danmaku. The top priority is to make your opponent feel like they've lost, the loser has to obey everything the winner says."
- Interview with Jynx (2017)
- Brilliant Pagoda or Haze Castle: New Emperor Team's Extra Scenario - Haiji Senri
- JynX's Twitter: "The cards have skills and power imbued into them, so when [Mitori is] using it none of their blood will be consumed. (That's why they're fine during the Ending) In addition, if you have the card you won't even need the Imperial Bow. However, Mitori had to use their blood and the Imperial Bow when creating the cards. I suppose a lot of time and blood must've been used on this card."
- Peing - February 10th, 2019
- Len'en Wiki:Interview with JynX (2015)
- Peing - February 4th, 2019
- Twitter DM with JynX and Sakanani
- Interview with JynX (2015)
- Evanescent Existence - Stage text