Would you say ZUN has good character design? Like actually good, or are his characters great only by chance due to their awkwardness?
I would say a lot of them have pretty awkward designs. It's a blessing that Touhou fan artists are really good. ZUN can occasionally make great designs though. I like Koishi, Sakuya, Raiko, and the Watatsuki sisters' (are they designed by ZUN?) design even though I don't exactly like all of the above.
Character design as in the art, or character design as in the entire conception of the character? I mean it would be charitable to say he's a mediocre artist. Yeah the drawings are hit and miss. On the other hand, the success of his ability to create simultaneously compelling and open-ended characters is evidenced by half this board being Touhou threads.
I've always felt that Alice has incredibly good design. She can look incredibly elegant, beautiful, or cute depending on the artist.
If one of the criteria for good character design is making a character easily recognizable, I think ZUN succeeds quite often. It's hard to mistake one 2hu for another. It can be hard to say for sure whether it's the design itself or simply the popularity, but some of the character designs are iconic.
Yes, some people simply are good at making compelling character designs. ZUN is definitely one of them.
His character designs combined with the bad artistic skill makes for open-ended body types with fantastic clothing and accessories. That's why it gets so many fanart.
It's really hard for me to pick my favorite 2hu based on looks alone. Zun is clearly a genius to the core.
There's so many joke guides on how to make your own OC 2hu by just copying the first tissue pattern found on google and giving her a silly hat, turns out every fanmade 2hu looks like absolute garbage.
I for one respect his designs, specially considering everyone except sisters or close related characters all look so unique among each other and out of the usual anime stereotypes.
I think he's got a knack for making memorable, interesting characters. As time goes on, he continues to prove he's not going to allow himself to be constrained by moe archetypes and goth loli clothes. With each new game, he turns out more inventive and striking costumes. Of course he's not infallible, but considering the staggering number of characters he's turned out there are very few real misses.
His design is very good. ZUN's designs are quirky and unique: every 2hu is incredibly distinctive even when their actual complexity is low. Every one of them has a distinctive silhouette.
That's what makes his designs stand out: not that they are cute girls or wear frilly dresses, but that they all have unique features: Flandre's wings, Byakuren's gradient hair, Suwako's hat, Youmu's phantom half, Suika's chains, etc. Very few people can make over 100 completely unique characters.
His designs are very memorable solid. I like how he often includes references to the original monster in the form of unique clothing, like Nitori's kappa shell becoming a backpack
Think it comes down to ZUN has a very solid grasp and understanding of the original classical literature so he is able to make some pretty unique design takes whilst staying true to the origins.
Most people who try to do OC designs end up showing very superficial pop culture understanding of the things they're supposedly based on.
If I had to pick one word, I'd pick beautiful. Her clothing and color scheme have always struck me as really, really pretty. For my taste, her beauty is basically ideal. She's a slavic goddess.
I'm not sure his grasp of the classics has anything to do with the way he draws them (after all there's nothing particularly ingenious about giving tengus the traditional hat and shoes), I think it's just he knows how to exercise restraint. He strikes an interesting balance between originality and authenticity (obviously much more on the originality side of the spectrum).