Our second manga review for November is Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki.
Saiyuki is the story of four reluctant - and irreverant - heroes: the monk Genjyo Sanzo
(or "Genjo"), the monkey
deity Son Goku
, the half-demon Sha Gojyo
(sometimes, "Gojou"), and the demon Cho Hakkai
, dispatched by the Sanbutsushin
to stop the possible resurrection of the Bull Demon King, Gyumaoh. Along the way they are beset by (inept) assassins, bad weather, and their tragic personal pasts. Meanwhile, the villains, two unlikely confidants, Gyokumen Koushou (Gyumaoh's concubine) and mad scientist, Dr. Ni Jainyi, continue their attempts to restore the long-dead king. Due to these experiements, a forbidden mixture of science and holy magic spawns the Minus Wave, infecting all the demons in Shangri-La
with maddness, shattering the fragile peace that once existed between human and demon. As the violence escalates, it's up to these four misfits to save the world. Eventually.
The "Sanzo Ikkou" (Sanzo Party)
Generally called "Sanzo" by his traveling companions, though his full title is "The 31st of China, Genjo Sanzo." A brutal, wordly man, he doesn't fit the stereotypical image of the passive, or pacifist, cleric. Disregarding basic buddhist principles, he smokes, drinks, swears profusely, and generally follows his own path. Sanzo is a cold, rational thinker and somewhat aloof. Arrogant and short tempered, he nonetheless prefers to remain above the melee unless the situation is desperate. He is strongly opinionated, and despite his terse demeanor, highly moralstic and quick to defend the weak. His primary weapon is a Smith and Wesson revolver which he wields as an expert marksman, and is rarely without it in combat. A secondary "weapon" is the holy sutra he carries on his shoulders, the Meitan Sutra(scripture of darkness). Last but not least, he's often quick to whip out his harisen (paper fan) and whack his way through the occasional interparty conflict.
Cho Hakkai, formerly known as Cho Gonou. Though originally human, Hakkai became a demon (and changed his name) after he slaughtered a thousand demons of the Hyakugenmaoh tribe for the kidnap and rape of his beloved sister/wife, Kanan. (According to Japanese legend, a human can become a demon, or youkai, after bathing in the blood of a thousand demons). He is polite and softspoken with a deceptively innocent demeanor. He is often the straight man of the group, known for his dry observations and aphorisms in the heat of combat. Hakkai's primary weapon is his Ki
, a type of metaphysical energy. He wears a monocle over his right eye, the remnant of a self-inflicted injury sustanined shortly after his dealings with Hyakugenmoah's tribe.
Half demon, half human, Gojyo belongs to both worlds and to neither. His red hair and eyes betray his status as a halfblood, and he's often labled taboo and unclean in general society. Part kappa
(a water demon) and wholly a ladie's man, he can be friendly and easy-going until someone or something offends his innate sense of justice. As he was an abused child, he's quick to defend and fight for lost or wayward children, often without concern for his own wellbeing. He smokes and drinks almost as much as Sanzo, fights constantly with Goku, and never passes up a chance to woo the ladies. His primary weapon is the shakujou, a long, double-bladed staff not unlike a trident.
Though often referred to as a demon, and rarely so as a God, Goku is really neither. From his illustrious roots in the Classic novel, Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'En
, to his downsized, but nonetheless unforgettable characterization in Minekura's Saiyuki, Goku has always been a study in contradiction. He was born from of rock of primordial chaos, and is nearly indestructile. He is at turns child-like and ingenious, often at the same time.
From Classic Novel to Anime
Names of characters in the Chinese novel are pronounced differently in Japanese:
Themes: Shounen Ai
Sometimes referred to as Shounen Ai
in the United States and elsewhere, though it's known as Boy's Love in Japan, Saiyuki, among other anime with all male leads, contains elements of Boys Love, or stories that typically focus on the emotional interaction or interdependence between young attractive men, or bishounen
. Not to be confused with the more sexually explicit genre, Yaoi
, Boy's Love nonetheless suggests that such relationships could develop between the characters given the impetus.
Minekura's series are noted for their complex male characters and the relationships they form. While many of her works feature Boy's Love
overtones, Saiyuki is primarily an action series - Boy's Love content is mostly subtextual. However, the series was extremely popular among doujinshi
circles; though it reached its peak in 2001, it still inspires doujinshi creators, and is popular fodder for yaoi adapatations in fan circles. The Boy's Love content is tame compared to Patalliro Saiyuki
; another anime/manga parody of Zaiyuji and one of the few Boy's Love series by a male mangaka.