This is going to contain massive, quick and dirty spoilers for everything I can currently remember, having beaten the game tonight, so turn back now if this is all too much for you. Also feel free to ask any questions I don't cover. I must have missed something.
Back when Yuuri was in high school, she was involved in a traffic accident with her family which only she survived. Because of her close brush with death, she gained the ability to see the dead. She consulted with a doctor about it, and was apparently completely cured, but it came back. It was all too much for her to bear, and she went up to the mountain to kill herself. She was rescued just before she could jump by Hisoka, who insisted that if Yuuri died then she would too, and then moved in with her. At the beginning of the game, we see Hisoka take Yuuri out for her first job using kagemi to find a book for Ren. They're attacked by a ghost, and Hisoka believes she should have kept Yuuri out of it. Hisoka warns her about taking on requests to search for missing people because she knows the dangers of it, but Yuuri is the kind of person who can't say no and does so anyway. Through all of her mitori, and having the same loneliness and pain as Ouse Kurosawa, she can choose to die with and in turn pacify her in one ending. I hear in others she can survive, but I only got her bad ending, so I can't comment.
A teenager (I'm guessing) who aspires to be an actress, but mostly takes gravure jobs. She's the daughter of Miku from FF1. Miku vanished when she was three years old, leaving Miu crying and watching her walk off into the sunset. Miu was taken in by Sachi Iyama, a friend of Miku's. She hardly remembered her mother, but wanted desperately to be with her, and eventually went to look for her at Mt. Hikami. She becomes trapped in a black box, but is rescued by Yuuri. While Yuuri sleeps she steals her Camera Obscura to go looking for her mother, and finds her in a box at the House of Joining. They make it out together, and spend most of the rest of the game asleep on a bed inside the shop. Miu can either save Miku during the dream, or she will vanish then and there. Either way, Miu survives both endings.
Perhaps the most interesting out of all three characters to longtime fans of the series, though you'd never guess it. Ren is an author who just cannot sell books. He has an assistant called Rui who basically moved herself in with him. For some reason he wishes to research burial photos for a book he's writing, and calls Hisoka for help, who's assisted him before. Inside the book is a photo of a mysterious, somehow sad, yet stunningly beautiful woman dressed in bridal attire. He heads to the mountain with Rui to do more research, but gradually finds himself being dragged in deeper than he thought. He finds the house of a folklorist named Keiji Watarai, who was researching the mountain and its rituals, a house that supposedly vanished without a trace. Inside he meets the ghost of an old friend - Sakaki, a restaurant owner who he's been friends with since their university days. He is led to the House of Joining, where he is beckoned by the old lady matchmaker to make a choice. This is where things get complicated - this guy has about four separate choices to make, perhaps more (see endings section for further details). When he was young he found Shiragiku's hair and touched it, accidentally using his kagemi powers, which is what caused him to repeatedly have a dream in which he appears to stab her at a festival, thinking it was his own past. It's not, by the way.
What's even more interesting than that, though - Ren is a descendant of Dr. Asou himself. He also looks similar to Dr. Asou, down to the glasses, so much so that the matchmaker confuses the two. More on him later.
Dresses boyishly. Does everything around the house because Ren is hopeless at it. Develops a heavy crush on him. She goes missing a lot, but he always finds her - even when she turns up dressed as a bride, or he finds her in a black box. Oddly enough, her fate never seems to be confirmed - she's last seen semi-comatose on the sofa, begging Ren not to leave, and she has no part in Ren's ending, nor the choice he makes. She writes often in her notes about how her body grows cold, her blood turning to water. No idea what happens to her, though!
A girl from nearby Mt. Kagiroi, a mountain that shared the same beliefs as Mt. Hikami. She was born with white hair and red eyes and a weak body, and everyone said she wouldn't live long, or make it to her seventh birthday. Everyone was afraid of her because she was so different, and she had no friends. One day, she met a boy while she was out playing. They became friends. Eventually she had a brush with death and nearly did die, but came back, putting this down to having the boy by her side. As those who have died once are said to be stronger pillars, she was to be sent to Mt. Hikami to be used in the black box ritual there. She knew that maidens at the other mountain were allowed to choose a partner to enter into yuukon with, and made her mind up that it had to be the boy. He was convinced to participate in a ceremony, customary on Mt. Kagiroi, where he cut off a piece of her hair to use as a yosuga to remember her by, making a promise that he would keep it and come back to her. However, after Shiragiku was sent to Mt. Hikami, he never came, and she was left alone in her box. But who was the boy, I hear you cry? None other than...
Had you guessed? That's right. Kunihiko Asou is the very boy you see in the trailer hiding with Shiragiku. He grew up on Mt. Kagiroi, the same place Ren spent his summers as a child, where he met Shiragiku and was chosen as her yuukon partner, taking her hair with him (not actually stabbing her, as he thought). The event was so traumatic to him that he forgot all about it, assuming it must have been a dream. Her hair was left in a branch family storeroom, forgotten for years. When he was an assistant, before he became a scientist in his own right, he developed a prototype Camera Obscura and was invited by the residents of Mt. Hikami to go there and take photos of the shrine maiden there, thinking that it would better express her beauty and soul than a painting. He accepted, and travelled there, taking photos of the scenery as he went. He was finally summoned to the House of Joining, where he took a photograph of Ouse dressed as a bride and fell in love with her. He took the photo, containing part of her soul, with him when he left the mountain. He leaves various notes scattered across the area. That's right: they hid him in plain sight. He's in the last trailer multiple times and we never knew.
The final boss, fabled blue lilies. She was a shrine maiden on the mountain, and she was given the honour of becoming the Great Pillar to support the mountain and stop disaster from occurring - ie yomi (evil black water) overflowing from the spring and tainting everything - which was so important that all of the other maidens couldn't stop crying when they found out it wasn't them. In recognition of her duty, to soothe the black swamp, she was conferred the surname of Kurosawa (relation to other Kurosawas unconfirmed). In order to soothe the maidens put inside the black boxes and make them stronger pillars, they would perform yuukon to marry men to the maidens in the boxes, then put the man in the box along with them. Traditionally a man would select the bride's photo from a painting, and her soul was said to appear in bridal wear for that time only in the House of Joining, but residents of Mt. Hikami heard rumours of a contraption that could take photos and summoned Dr. Asou. When he arrived to take Ouse's photo. Like every other woman in this series she fell for him, and from the moment they saw each other an unspoken vow was made. Asou left the mountain with her photo, part of her soul still inside it. Ouse's residual feelings for Asou, along with the feelings of all of the shrine maidens massacred by Kyozo Kururugi, were too much to take: her ritual failed, the yomi waters spilling from inside her box, and she turned into an evil ghost, forever waiting for someone to die with, or use mitori on her so she can be at rest.
A lady who was taught kagemi abilities by old women on the mountain. She's old friends with Ren, routinely helping him to find missing books because he's too messy. An unspecified amount of time ago, she was requested to search for a girl named Akari who went missing on the mountain. She found her, but it was too late, Akari jumping to her death right in front of her eyes. Hisoka convinced herself that it was her fault, having given Akari the reason to jump, and the incident scarred her deeply, causing her to withdraw from taking requests to search for humans. Hisoka herself goes missing on the mountain, and is finally discovered inside a black box at Mikami Shrine by Yuuri. Hisoka insists that she must stay and become a pillar, meaning that Yuuri can be saved, but Yuuri refuses to leave her behind. Hisoka is possessed by the ghost of another bride, and Yuuri has to defeat her. She's alive, though, and makes it safely back to the shop, where she sleeps until the ending. Whether she saves Yuuri in time or not is up to you. Hisoka survives whatever happens.
At some point after FF3, she got pregnant and moved to live on her own, where she befriended a woman named Sachi Iyama. She had a baby called Miu, who is heavily hinted to be Miku's baby with Mafuyu, her dead brother. When Miu was 3, Miku sensed her natural lifespan drawing to an end (apparently because she had a baby with the dead) and headed for Mt. Hikami, planning to enter into yuukon with Mafuyu and die along with him. Miu finds her inside a black box, looking just the way she did due to having been used as a tokoshiebana - a shrine maiden who never ages while she protects the water and mountain - and takes her home. Eventually, Miu finds her crossing the water to the other side at Omagakyo, and tries to stop her leaving. It's all pretty fruitless, though, as Miku isn't cured and still has little time left to live, even if you get the ending where you save her completely. No happiness to be found here.
Fuyuhi and Haruka
Two teenage girls who go missing on the mountain. When they were in high school, they attempted group suicide with three other girls, but only they survived. They kept it a secret, promising to go together someday. They had been friends since they were very young children, and the song you hear them singing is their graduation song. Fuyuhi dies quickly, slitting her throat after being forced by a ghost's curse. Soon after you find Haruka inside a black box. Yuuri manages to rescue her and take her back to the shop, but she vanishes that night, Fuyuhi's ghost behind her, returning to the mountain. No formal explanation is given during gameplay, but you fight Haruka's ghost multiple times, and hear her ghostly singing around the room she stayed in late in the game, so we can all deduce what happened to her. Her ghost list entry says that she was put into a black box as she possessed the ability to perform mitori, like the shrine maidens before her, and used as a pillar, beckoning women with strong power to the mountain to join her.
Keiji Watarai and Kazuya Sakaki
Watarai was a folklorist, with an English father and Japanese mother, who grew up in England, but moved to Japan after becoming fascinated by Hikami's legends. Sakaki was a friend of Ren's who owned a restaurant. Both men saw the photo of Ouse and were cursed by it, falling in love with her and called to the House of Joining. When they saw her, however, they were terrified by her appearance and changed their minds, and were stuffed into black boxes by the old lady, roaming around coated in yomi water after death.
There are lots.
To get the bad ending, where Yuuri commits suicide with Ouse, use mitori on her while she's still underwater. If you want the good ending where Yuuri apparently lives, do this after defeating her once, when she appears on the surface.
By far the most variety. In the final choice, choose Shiragiku and enter battle with her. If you win, she will forgive Asou for breaking his promise and rest in peace. I hear you get a bad Shiragiku ending for some condition, but I don't know what it is.
If you choose the photo and reach out to touch Ouse when she appears, you get an actually rather nice scene where he turns into Dr. Asou. There's a flashback of Asou leaving the mountain and looking at her photo, sad that he'll probably never see her again. Back in the bridal room, she turns into her beautiful bride form and Asou admits he loves her. She tells him she could read it in his mind, but wanted him to say it - that her real wish was to live with him - before she vanishes. Asou does a lot of ugly crying, and Ren finds himself standing there alone. If you simply take a photo of Yomi Ouse standing there, she asks if you came to break up with her, and there's a flashback of Asou taking her picture. She says that it was painful having part of her soul taken from her, but she was glad. Then she requests Ren take one final picture of her to preserve her before she returns to the darkness. You have to look at her through the camera - in which she is shown in her human bride form - and take the photo. When Ren looks up, she's gone.
In any case, Ren's survival appears to be canon, whatever you pick (except perhaps Shiragiku Bad, I've no idea about that one).
Two endings, unknown conditions here. The first has Miku promising she's not going anywhere, and Miu says that's a lie - and Miku vanishes. Miu says she knew that she was no longer of this world, and that when she found her she was already almost gone. She stands there sobbing alone. In the second, she stays behind with Miu, though there's little time left because she's almost dead already. The two sleep on the bed, holding each other. Miu survives whatever happens.
How do you get the costumes? Other curiosities
I'm not sure if the order you do it in matters, but I got Yuuri's kimono for seeing her bad ending (1st play), Miu's kimono for her bad ending (2nd play, nothing on first) and Ren's only costume for seeing the ending where you choose to reach out for Ouse (2nd play, nothing on first). Note that if you unlock costume conditions and you exit the mission, you will still unlock them and retain any movies etc. you unlocked while playing. You don't have to finish the chapter.
There are rumours that the ending song changes depending on whether or not Yuuri wears the kimono - anyone want to confirm?
What was the ritual and why did it fail?
On the mountain is a big black pool that serves as the gateway to the underworld itself. The water inside it is tainted and evil, melting and corrupting anyone who touches it. In order to soothe the water and stop it erupting, therefore dirtying all of the beautiful pure water the mountain worships, the residents would put shrine maidens inside black boxes with some of the yomi and sink them beneath the surface. The maidens would stay purified at all times, their bodies and hair permanently wet, earning them their name (nuregarasu no miko). The maidens would perform mitori on those who came to the mountain to die, returning them to the water from whence they were born and allowing them to die properly. When they had done this enough they would be put into the boxes and used as pillars, preserved forever - the stronger pain they had experienced, the longer they would last, before their bodies were melted by the yomi and they vanished altogether.
Mitori alone wasn't enough, however: they also required a yuukon ceremony (marrying a living man) to stop them being lonely and help them continue their role for longer. A man would be brought from outside the mountain to choose a bride's picture from a multitude of paintings, and be put inside the black box with her. For that moment alone, the bride's spirit would appear inside the House of Joining for him to see. If he rejected her, however, he would be stuffed into a box of his own and cast off at Imidani.
When Ouse was to be put into her box, Asou turned up to take her photo. Both developed feelings for each other, causing an unspoken vow - that they would enter into yuukon together - to be put in place. He left the mountain, however, leaving Ouse alone forever. At some unspecified point, a guy called Kyozo Kururugi decides that all of the women on the mountain must die (I think because he fears mitori, but I honestly don't know) and kills everybody, crushing their eyes one by one with his knife. Because of the sheer weight of all of the killed maidens' emotions (I think?) and her longing for Asou, Ouse's ritual fails and her box opens, yomi flooding the mountain, causing a massive landslide and killing many people below. Everyone is tainted by its evilness, turning into vengeful ghosts who kill anyone who enters the mountain.
- midwinter, Rheo, LadyHepatica and 9 others like this