Marisa Kirisame is one of the main characters from the Touhou Project games.
A magician who lives in the Forest of Magic, Marisa first appeared as the Stage 4 boss of Story of Eastern Wonderland and became a playable character in every game afterwards, eventually becoming the secondary protagonist of the Touhou series. In the Windows games Marisa is established as Reimu's best friend (and friendly rival), the two having known each other since they were kids. In contrast to Reimu, who was strong from the day she was born, Marisa is a completely normal human with no innate supernatural abilities... not that she let that slow her down. Nowadays she takes pride in her status as an "Ordinary Magician" who earned her spot in Gensokyo's list of notables through nothing but persistence and hard work.
In the XP4 fics, Marisa is a member of the Unlikely Heroes and ally to the Heroes Coalitions.
In PC-98 canon, Marisa is depicted as having red eyes and red hair in Story of Eastern Wonderland, wearing a purple witch's outfit with a white bow on her hat. However, her appearance quickly changes with Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream, where she has yellow eyes and blonde hair similar to the Windows canon. This appearance stays with her for the rest of the series. There was one instance where she grew black devil-like wings. In Mystic Square, her outfit changes from purple to black, which also stays with her for the rest of the series, and her hat gains faint pink frills.
Her clothing also changes somewhat, and her present black-and-white color scheme was achieved in the space between the PC-98 and Windows eras, when she participated in Seihou Project's first work Shuusou Gyoku; she showed up with white wings. In Embodiment of Scarlet Devil onwards, she wears a faint pink apron on top of her clothes. In Perfect Cherry Blossom, she gains a faint pink shirt under her black clothing. Marisa's appearance changes slightly with each release, such as a change in her hat bow's colour, a change in her ribbon's colour tied to her braid or a change in hair style. Also, in most of the games, she carries a broom with her.
As of Ten Desires, her hat's bow is purple, she has a purple ribbon tied to the braid on the left side of her hair, her shoes are maroon coloured with small purple ribbons on them, and she has a red ribbon tied to her neck. In Hopeless Masquerade, she uses dark blue clothes instead of her normal black clothes, she now uses dark blue boots instead of dark shoes, her hat's bow is white and she doesn't have her usual braid on the left side of her hair.
Marisa is very straightforward and informal with everyone. She can be condescending, as if trying to make fool of others, and often has difficulty expressing sympathy. She's quick to act if she hears anything interesting. Marisa is also a habitual liar, but she makes no effort to actually deceive as her lies are extremely obvious. However, she's shown to have intelligence. Her personality appears to be somewhat charming due to the friends she has and her ability to walk into the Scarlet Devil Mansion so casually. Marisa takes great pride in her status as the second strongest human in Gensokyo, and is somewhat miffed when people ignore her in favor of Reimu's status as shrine maiden. She puts more thought into her words than Reimu, and occasionally has to caution the shrine maiden from accidentally spilling the truth at an inopportune time. In later appearances, Marisa has revealed that she does care about the wellbeing of Gensokyo, but she conceals it underneath her usual rowdy self.
She has a mania for collecting things and may have a hoarding disorder. She's unyielding and unco-operative. As a hard worker, she's very diligent, but she doesn't like others to know that.
Unlike most characters, Marisa is known to use a distinct speech tone. The most typical and known example of this is the use of the sentence ending particle ze. "Ze" used at the end of verb stems delivers a "mannish" and "impolite" sound to the listener/reader. Ze is mostly used in a context to express one's will to act (similar to "let's" in English), and using it in other cases sound somewhat unnatural, perhaps "phony" or "showy". While she does speak in a rather "manly" tone, she doesn't speak in a "rough" and "masculine" language, but in an "impolite/casual" and "boyish" one.
In the PC-98, Marisa's way of speaking included "~da ze" at the end of sentences and "~ka?" at the end of questions as well as referring to herself with the pronoun watashi -- an androgynous mannerism. However, in Story of Eastern Wonderland, she used the very feminine atai, and her laughs are represented as girlish "kyahaha!" Other than the fourth stage in Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream and Lotus Land Story, and she laughed with "ufufu". Furthermore, in Mystic Square she didn't laugh, and, other than femininity, she had become pretty much the same as she is now. Also, although in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil and Perfect Cherry Blossom there are a few traces of PC-98 references, she didn't say "~desu wa" in the PC-98 canon as she does today.
In the endings of the later PC-98 games her speaking style was pretty much the same as she is now today, and in the earlier game Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream, Chiyuri Kitashirakawa had a speaking style resembling Marisa in Windows canon. This could have been one source of influence. Although at first in Shuusou Gyoku, she spoke femininely, but immediately she then began to use a speaking style that's the same as she uses now.
Marisa is a normal human with no innate abilities, but her true strength lies in her ability to use one of the highest classes of magic power that humans can use – an unusual feat perhaps only possible because of the effects of the Forest of Magic. She's also faced very powerful humans and youkai and was able to solve a number of incidents in various scenarios, all being high achievements. However, her existence is closest to an ordinary person; she was born without any innate abilities (unlike Reimu Hakurei) and has been compared to "humans of a level close to us" by ZUN. As a result, the interpretations of Marisa's power can go to extremes. She has an attachment to power and has self-belief in ostentatious display of power. She always finds opponents to fight and plays by finding faults. However, she's actually a hard worker, and her power is the result of her secret training. For example, Marisa appears to have developed an innate resistance against poisonous substances, due to her gathering of mushrooms and living in the Forest of Magic.
In her previous fights, although she was sometimes able to defeat powerful foes such as Remilia Scarlet and Yuyuko Saigyouji, there were also times in Phantasmagoria of Flower View where she was defeated by Cirno and Mystia Lorelei, among others. In Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, she defeated many youkai and human opponents, but not overwhelmingly. Also, the story of that game ends with her being defeated by Tenshi Hinanawi giving forth her true effort. In Fairy Wars, she let her guard down when fighting Cirno, but Cirno still appeared to be "defeated", where it also tired out Marisa.
Concerning her resolution of incidents, ZUN has said that "Even when Reimu and the gang are defeated, they challenge again however many times they want, but on the youkai side they don't challenge again after being defeated, and are not attached to the results of winning or losing... to say it clearly, it is assuredly an inconsequential thing^^;" Whether they win or lose isn't important, and it's unclear how many tries she needed to defeat the last bosses.
Marisa has trained herself in magic that specialises in light and heat. She's an Eastern magician who takes a Western approach to magic, the opposite of Patchouli Knowledge. Although she's unable to use magic other than for destroying stuff, the destructive power alone is tremendous. It has few weaknesses, being equally effective against human or youkai. When she uses the spell card system, she makes a display of flashy magic whilst exterminating youkai without regret. Her magic makes for a good show for danmaku, but this is made possible only through her strenuous honest effort in creating layered effects. The majority of her spells rely on power over finesse and are themed after stars and other astronomical phenomena.
Marisa picks and collects various exotic mushrooms that live in the Forest of Magic. She boils them, crushes them, dries them, and furthermore mixes them, making strange chemicals or medicine. By heating them, submerging them into water, or by throwing things in directly, through trial and error, she finds a pattern from which magic-like materials come forth. Success or failure, she records the details of each experiment. In her house, there are a ton of various handmade grimoires.
She isn't seen as a hard-working individual by others, so it'd seem that this hard work in performing these magical experiments is something done honestly and hidden. But, since the aforementioned was recorded in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, people around her may've found out about it. According to Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, it's strange for a human to have mastery of magic of this level.
Also, Marisa is able to wield other kinds of magic other than light and heat magic; her best spiritual affinity being with water. In Imperishable Night, the magic to stop the night might be Marisa's; she worked out magic for the sake of organising a dishevelled room, but ended up making it even more disorganised, and she hasn't had any success in it so far. In Mountain of Faith, "Cold Inferno" – an elemental magic – was introduced. She also uses magic to summon hot spring veins, as well as magic to change people's clothes in an instant, with one example coming from Reimu.
In the PC-98, she used star magic as she does today. In Shuusou Gyoku, she fought using Orreries and was able to duplicate herself.
Fly in the Sky
Marisa is almost always depicted as riding on her broom when she flies in the sky. In the fighting spinoffs, she rides a broom only during assault skills like Witch Leyline and Stardust Reverie, while for all other occasions such as her intro sequence and her midair dash and flight, she flies without a broom. However, the graphics in those games were drawn by Twilight Frontier, not by ZUN, so this doesn't firmly confirm that Marisa is able to fly without a broom. In Shuusou Gyoku, however, she flew without a broom.
Perfect Memento in Strict Sense states she uses the magic broom to ride around on because she believes it's an essential tool for a magician. It was originally a normal broom but sprouted leaves as a side effect of Marisa using it in magic rituals. Whether she actually needs her broom to fly or if it's just for show is unconfirmed.
The speed at which she rides a broom to fly is potentially the fastest for a human, this fact being echoed in the games. Although ZUN has mentioned that Aya Shameimaru is the fastest in Gensokyo, it has never been confirmed that Aya is actually faster than Marisa, as the two never contested with each other in terms of speed.
In Fairy Wars, her broom is nowhere in sight; it's possible that Makoto Hirasaka may've simply chose not to draw the broom into the sprite or has forgot about it. She was, however, seen with one in her article with Cirno in Symposium of Post-mysticism about this fight.
Learning other People's Moves
Marisa's Love Sign "Non-directional Laser" was copied from Patchouli Knowledge's regular attack from Embodiment of Scarlet Devil as confirmed by ZUN. Other than that, there are also others suggested to have been stolen: the Love Sign "Master Spark" that resembles Yuuka Kazami's and Gengetsu's laser from Lotus Land Story, her Orreries Sun that resembles Mima's, and the Cold Inferno that resembles Remilia Scarlet's familiar in Imperishable Night. However, there's no official evidence that these are also copied moves.
It's unknown if Marisa is inherently talented at imitating others' moves, or if she simply manages to do so due to sheer effort. She uses her mini-Hakkero to use the Master Spark, while Yuuka uses her version of the laser through other means. Thus, her copying of the master spark seems more analogous to a person copying a fire-breathing dragon by using a flamethrower rather than a person copying a fire-breathing dragon by breathing flames merely through observation. Marisa also states that she can't imitate Kaguya Houraisan's spell cards as they use special items that she doesn't possess. In that case, it's analogous to a person being unable to copy a fire-breathing dragon since there are no devices on hand.
It's unlikely her implied tendency to copy other's moves is abnormal, as magicians such as Marisa build upon the work of others. Marisa claims in The Grimoire of Marisa that it's "magicians who build on observation", while Patchouli Knowledge uses the pride of magicians to add their own original touch to another's work while preserving and respecting the original. Magicians seek the truth according to Patchouli. They act like researchers in this sense, building upon the work of others. However, other magicians such as Patchouli and Alice Margatroid haven't been depicted using imitations as blatant as Marisa's for spell cards.
- The characters for Kirisame literally mean "drizzle" or "misty rain". Marisa doesn't make much sense though... the first character means "magic", the second "logic" or "reason", and the third "sand". There is large amount of speculation on the extremely controversial theory that "Marisa" is, in fact a given name with possible origins in the romantic language family. However, the Western name theory does have a lot of logical backing, as Marisa is a mix of Eastern and Western culture, plus Western names aren't unheard of in Japan.
- Speaking of rain, "drizzle" is Marisa's associated weather in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
- Marisa has a large number of fan pairings, most commonly being with Alice Margatroid, Reimu Hakurei, and Patchouli Knowledge, though pairings with Sakuya Izayoi, Flandre Scarlet, Nitori Kawashiro, Youmu Konpaku and sometimes Rinnosuke Morichika are also popular. This has led to an image of Marisa being something of a player.
- Moreover, "Witch of Love Potion", originally the stage theme from the obscure game Torte le Magic of which ZUN composed the three-tracks-long soundtrack, but arranged in Dolls in Pseudo Paradise, albeit having no initial relation to Marisa at all, may go in the favor of that image ; not to mention the ambiguous backstory of this song talking about an unnamed person secretly buying a love potion.
- As Reimu is often referred to as red-white or "the red-white", fans frequently call Marisa black-white or white-black in parallel.
- Marisa is one of the most frequent characters to appear in the Touhou series, tied with Reimu after the release of Fairy Wars.
- Marisa has 6 theme songs (excluding remixes), more than any other character in the series.
- Despite her self-indulgent personality and lack of concern for others (or more likely because of these things), Marisa happens to be one of the most popular characters with fans, winning a 2005 Touhou popularity contest.