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The Saiyuki Series: A Collective Overview of the Anime

Updated on July 30, 2016

Looking for information about the Saiyuki series anime?

This article contains a short overview and summary of the numerous anime in the Saiyuki series. Expect to see some information and details on each of the anime in the Saiyuki series.

This is by no means extensive though as the main aim of this hub is to give an introduction to the Saiyuki anime as well as show what might be so special and interesting about it.

Saiyuki Series: a collective overview and summary of the anime
Saiyuki Series: a collective overview and summary of the anime

Basics of the Saiyuki series

Kazuya Minekura, a mangaka (author / artist), is the creator of the Saiyuki series. The series is actually loosely based on one of the greatest classical Chinese novels entitled "Journey to the West".

The series started out as a manga (Japanese for graphic novel) and it's actually still ongoing. But there are many other media that is part of the Saiyuki series, which includes anime, music (there's a whole lot of great and awesome songs and music albums for Saiyuki), and even games (there's a PS2 game and even a GBA one).

The Sanzo-ikkou

Gensomaden Saiyuki Requiem Movie DVD featuring the awesome Sanzo-ikkou, namely Genjo Sanzo, Son Goku, Cho Hakkai and Sha Gojyo
Gensomaden Saiyuki Requiem Movie DVD featuring the awesome Sanzo-ikkou, namely Genjo Sanzo, Son Goku, Cho Hakkai and Sha Gojyo

These are the 4 main characters of the Saiyuki series.

The Japanese word "ikkou" is a term used to collectively refer to many people. It means group or party.

So it's like saying the Sanzo group or the Sanzo party and this would encompass the 4 men that make up the main characters of the series.

These 4 men can definitely be classified as bishounen, which is a Japanese term that means beautiful / pretty boy.

Look at the images of the Sanzo-ikkou that you can see here on this article and see for yourself just how handsome and good-looking all of them are. The Sanzo-ikkou have differing personalities and characteristics that make them clash sometimes (okay, a lot of the time, really).

Saiyuki Reload - Complete Boxed Set
Saiyuki Reload - Complete Boxed Set

The Saiyuki series is a highly recommended anime thanks to its wonderful cast of characters, interesting storyline, awesome music and songs, meaningful quotes and lyrics and more.

The pic features the 4 main characters. Yes, they're all very good-looking (bishounen), but there's definitely more to them than just their looks. Each has their own sad, tragic past that has shaped the way they act in the present.

 

They're not the least bit alike in any way and this can easily be seen in the way they act and the way they interact with each other as well as the constant fights and arguments that they're wont to have.

Seeing them fighting for the first time or fighting yet again might cause you to wonder why they're hanging out together and what keeps them together.

But if you keep watching the anime or reading the manga, you'll see that there's so much more to the Sanzo-ikkou than just merely fighting and arguing a lot of the time.

The 4 of them have this unique and very close bond of friendship that ties them together. They are very loyal to each other in spite of their differences. It's really like they were fated and destined to be friends and to remain friends.

Their dynamics and interaction with each other are interesting and even amusing at times. Keep watching how they act around each other and you'll see that they really do care about each other. And it is this bond that they have, which allows them to be such close friends.

Genjo Sanzo

Saiyuki - Journey Begins (Vol 1)
Saiyuki - Journey Begins (Vol 1)

This is how Genjo Sanzo looks like. Doesn't he look really handsome? He's definitely not your usual monk because he smokes, drinks, and kills.

 

His name can also be spelled as Genjyou Sanzou.

Sanzo is the leader of the group. He has golden-blond hair and deep purple eyes.He is very hot-tempered and gets mad easily.

You can even say that he is trigger-happy because he loves firing his gun to get people to shut up or to get rid of youkai (demons) that are trying to off him.

He is human and he's actually a monk of the highest order.

He holds the Maten Kyomon (the Evil Sutra) and he can use this as a weapon against demons to "makai tenjyou (purify the evil)".

Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 1 DVD cover. This one features Genjo Sanzo in his full monk outfit. You'll usually see him without the crown on his head
Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 1 DVD cover. This one features Genjo Sanzo in his full monk outfit. You'll usually see him without the crown on his head

He is an orphan and, when he was but a baby, monk Komyou (or Koumyou) Sanzo found him in a river, hence he was nicknamed Kouryu (or Kouryuu) the river drifter.

Sanzo is very close to Komyou whom he viewed as his mentor and father-figure, even calling him oshou-sama. Komyou is also the reason that Sanzo became a monk.

Considering how he smokes and doesn't really care about the gods, he most likely wouldn't have become a monk if it weren't for Komyou.

Sanzo is searching for the Seiten Kyomon (the Light Sutra). This used to belong to Komyou but youkai came and stole this sutra, destroying Komyou in the process.

Sanzo still has issues about this because Komyou died right in front of him when he was still a young child.

Sha Gojyo

Saiyuki Reload, Vol. 3
Saiyuki Reload, Vol. 3

Sha Gojyo's red hair and red eyes add to his charm and looks, but there's a reason why his hair and eyes have that color. He's actually a hanyou (half-demon and half-human)

 

He has shoulder-length red hair and red eyes that have also been described as blood-red.

He is actually a hanyou, which means half-breed in Japanese.

Half-breeds, in this case, are half-human and half-demon.

Those born between a human and a demon are signified by the red color of their hair and eyes so those who know about this won't mistake Gojyo for anything other than a hanyou.

There are actually many people who believe that hanyou are cursed and bring bad luck. For this reason, they shun hanyou.

Saiyuki Reload volume 3 DVD cover. This one features Sha Gojyo with his Shakujou
Saiyuki Reload volume 3 DVD cover. This one features Sha Gojyo with his Shakujou

Gojyo is the resident womanizer of the group who also loves smoking and drinking.

You'll see him usually flirting with women and flipping his long red hair and speaking of how handsome and good-looking he is.

He's pretty lively and cheery and generally loves to just fool around.

However, Gojyo actually has issues with being a hanyou. He hates his red hair and red eyes. Once, he'd even cut off his beloved red hair. It grew back though.

Gojyo used to have a stepmother whom he actually loved and cared about. But his stepmother hated him and even tried to end his life.

He was protected by his older half-brother who is actually a full demon and is the son of Gojyo's demon stepmother. The brothers share the same demon father whilst Gojyo's mother was a human.

Son Goku

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, Vol. 2
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, Vol. 2

This is how Son Goku looks like. Don't be fooled by his looks.

He may look like a kid and he may act childish pretty much all the time, but the truth is that he's actually older than Sanzo, Gojyo and Hakkai. Like his friends, he also has a dark and tragic past.

 

You might recognize this name if you're a fan of the anime series Dragon Ball Z or if you've heard about said show.

But, in this case, we are talking about an entirely different Goku than the one from the aforementioned anime. The 2 Gokus in question are different though they may share the same name.

Saiyuki's Goku has brown hair and golden eyes. He's actually a heretic as signified by his golden eyes, which, in the world of the Saiyuki series, is a very unusual eye color to have.

Many would think that Goku is a full-blooded demon but he's actually more than that. He's born from the Earth, from nature.

If you see an image of him, you'll notice a golden coronet or circlet around his head. That's actually his power limiter. When that breaks, Goku becomes this crazy and enraged version of himself known as Seiten Taise and he goes on a destructive rampage.

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock volume 2 DVD cover. This one features Son Goku.
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock volume 2 DVD cover. This one features Son Goku.

But with the limiter on, Goku just appears to be a normal kid who is happy-go-lucky, innocent and naïve. He loves eating and, in fact, his favorite phrase is "Sanzo, harahetta (Sanzo, I'm hungry)".

You'll see him shoveling bucketfuls of food into his mouth and yet he never seems to stop being hungry and he doesn't get fat either.

Goku is the child of the group being only 18 years old as compared to Sanzo who is 23 and Gojyo and Hakkai who are both 22. However, Goku's true age is actually 518 years old.

In spite of Goku's cheerful demeanor, he also has issues with his past. For 500 plus years, he used to be imprisoned in a cave where he was all alone and where there was nothing to eat. This is why he really hates being alone.

He had to be stuck there for a long, long time until Sanzo came and saved him. This is why he really looks up to Sanzo. He adores Sanzo and views the blond as his sun (made even more apt because of said blond hair). Goku would do practically anything to protect Sanzo and, in fact, he even goes into berserk mode (his limiter would break) if Sanzo is in danger.

Cho Hakkai

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock (Vol. 4)
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock (Vol. 4)

Cho Hakkai is a human-turned demon. He's so nice and he's such a gentleman that you can always see him smiling. Don't get him mad though 'cause you'll definitely regret it.

 

His name used to be Cho Gonou (or Gono) but he changed it to Hakkai.

Hakkai is the resident driver of the group. He has brown hair and emerald green eyes.

He's also very nice and kind. Really, the 'very' is an understatement because Hakkai is such a gentleman.

You'll see him smiling and looking all nice and happy all the time. He never seems to get angry.

Even when the ikkou are in the midst of battle and Hakkai is blasting youkai with his chi powers, you'll still see him smiling and even commenting on what a beautiful day it is today.

He does that a lot actually.

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock volume 4 DVD cover. This one features Cho Hakkai
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock volume 4 DVD cover. This one features Cho Hakkai

His favorite phrases are "yare yare desu ne (oh dear)" and "hewa desu ne (what a peaceful day)", which can be pretty ironic if you hear him say that whilst his three friends are busy arguing and screaming at each other in the background.

Listen to Hakkai talk and you'll hear just how polite he is. It's also in the way he uses certain Japanese words.

You only need to compare it to how Gojyo, Goku and Sanzo speak to easily get an idea just how polite Hakkai is.

Hakkai is actually a human-turned-demon. This means he used to be a human but he's now a demon.

Like Goku, he wears a power limiter but this is in the form of three silver ear cuffs clipped to one of his ears. When those ear cuffs are removed, Hakkai turns into a demon, much like Goku's Seiten Taise form.

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Though you see Hakkai always smiling and looking happy all the time, this is actually just his usual front, his facade.

Behind the smile, you'll see that Hakkai has issues with his past too.

He's an orphan and he used to live in an orphanage. When he grew up, he left and he soon met Kanan, who became his lover.

The two lived happily for a while until the day that Kanan was abducted by youkai.

Hakkai, who was still Gonou then, went in search for his lover to save her from the demons.

In the process, he ended up eradicating a thousand plus youkai and even bathed in their blood, which was the reason why he turned into a demon.

He was able to find Kanan however it was too late. Yes, she was still alive then but this didn't last long as, after saying a few words to Hakkai, she pulled out a dagger and ended her life right in front of Hakkai who was understandably devastated by this.

Gensomaden Saiyuki

Saiyuki - Old Friends New Enemies (Vol. 2)
Saiyuki - Old Friends New Enemies (Vol. 2)

Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 2 DVD. This is the first season of the anime series so this is where you can meet the Sanzo-ikkou for the first time.

 

This is also sometimes known as "Genso Maden Saiyuki" for some unknown reason, which really doesn't make it any easier for people who are trying to find information about this but only know the anime as Gensomaden Saiyuki.

It's sometimes even spelled as Gensoumaden Saiyuuki. This is the very first in the anime of the Saiyuki series.

This is where we get introduced into the world of the Saiyuki series. This world is called Togenkyou and humans and youkai used to co-exist in peace.

However, that soon changed as youkai suddenly started going on a rampage. They began to off humans, generally causing havoc and chaos around the world.

Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 2 DVD cover. This one features Goku with his Nyoibou (Almighty Staff).
Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 2 DVD cover. This one features Goku with his Nyoibou (Almighty Staff).

The changes in all the youkai are caused by what is known as the Minus Wave.

This Minus Wave happened due to Gyukomen Koushu's (or Gyokumen Koushou), a demon, evil plot.

She aims to resurrect her husband, the evil demon king known as Gyumaoh (or Gyumao).

In order to resurrect her husband, Gyukomen thought it was a very good idea to combine science with magic. This is actually forbidden and considered taboo. This is also what caused the Minus Wave.

With all this going on, it was obvious that the demons needed to be stopped as the world was in danger and in need of saving.

As such, the Goddess of Mercy, Kanzeon Bosatsu, assigned the job of saving the world to the Sanzo-ikkou.

Saiyuki - Confronting Their Demons (Vol. 3)
Saiyuki - Confronting Their Demons (Vol. 3)

This image of Sha Gojyo shows him carrying his weapon, which is known as a shakujou. It's a really cool weapon and Gojyo's an expert in using it

 

The ikkou were sent on a journey. They were heading to the west where Gyokumen was in order to stop her evil plans.

Gensomaden Saiyuki is thus the beginning of the ikkou's journey to the west.

In this anime, they encounter many people, humans and youkai alike. Some try to get rid of them to prevent them from reaching their destination.

Some befriend them and help them though a lot of the time, it is the ikkou who ends up helping many people.

In short, yes, the ikkou definitely get distracted with a lot of side quests that prevent them from reaching the end of their journey anytime soon.

Needless to say, they have a long, long way to go. Part of what prolongs the ikkou's journey may be the fact that they're actually trying to get to the west by land.

Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 3 DVD cover. This one features Gojyo.
Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 3 DVD cover. This one features Gojyo.

No, they're not walking all the way to west. Well, at least not all the time.

There are some times that they might need to walk but, generally, they travel by way of a green Jeep.

This Jeep can actually transform into a small white dragon named Hakuryuu. Or, to be more precise, it is Hakuryuu that can transform into a jeep.

This cute white dragon is Hakkai's pet and Hakkai is actually the one who drives said Jeep. Sanzo sits beside him while Goku and Gojyo are in the backseat of the Jeep.

The main arc in Gensomaden Saiyuki is the one about Homura, who is the fighting war god. Homura has plans of destroying the current world and creating a new world. The ikkou stop him of course, but that's an over simplification of things because a lot more happen before they can stop Homura.

Saiyuki Reload

Saiyuki Reload DVD cover. The Sanzo-ikkou is featured here.
Saiyuki Reload DVD cover. The Sanzo-ikkou is featured here.

This anime is the sequel to the anime Gensomaden Saiyuki. It's much shorter than Gensomaden Saiyuki though as it contains only 25 episodes.

In Saiyuki Reload, the Sanzo-ikkou are still on their way to the west.

And yes, they experience many more distractions and side quests that prevent them from getting to the end of their journey as fast as possible.

The main arc in Saiyuki Reload is the one about Kami-Sama. Kami-Sama is a self-proclaimed monk of the highest order (much like Sanzo but in Sanzo's case, he is a monk of the highest order) except he really isn't because he doesn't have his own kyomon as proof of this.

He steals Sanzo's Maten Kyomon and, of course, the ikkou can't just let that go so they confront Kami-Sama to reclaim back what is rightfully Sanzo's property.

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock is the third season of the anime series. It's the sequel to Saiyuki Reload

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock (Vol. 1) + Collector's Box featuring the Sanzo-ikkou. You'll notice that Gojyo's hair is redder in this season when compared to how he looked in Gensomaden Saiyuki wherein his hair was more of a pinkish red
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock (Vol. 1) + Collector's Box featuring the Sanzo-ikkou. You'll notice that Gojyo's hair is redder in this season when compared to how he looked in Gensomaden Saiyuki wherein his hair was more of a pinkish red | Source

This anime is the sequel to the anime Saiyuki Reload. Are you wondering if the ikkou have finally reached their destination?

Unfortunately (for the ikkou at least, but, really for the fans of the series, it just means even more fun and action), no, the Sanzo-ikkou are still traveling to the west.

In Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, expect the usual fun and interesting side quests that the ikkou will yet again embark on as they get distracted by many things preventing them from getting on with their journey.

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock has the Against the Stream arc, which is based from the Saiyuki Reload manga.

In this arc, the ikkou take a swim, plunging into the depths of a raging river. They survive of course, but they get separated from each other.

Or, to be more precise, Goku gets separated from the others. While Goku encounters demon prince Kougaiji (this is the son of Gyumao) and has a fight with him, Sanzo, Gojyo and Hakkai encounter demon Zakuro (he has illusion powers and he's been sent to exterminate the ikkou).

Aside from the Against the Stream arc, Saiyuki Reload Gunlock also has the Even a Worm arc. This introduces the characters Hazel and Gato from the same arc in Saiyuki Reload manga.

Saiyuki Reload Burial OVA

See the Sanzo-ikkou before they went on their Journey to the West

Saiyuki Reload Burial OVA DVD cover. Background, from left to right: Ukoku, Komyou. The Sanzo-ikkou is featured in the foreground
Saiyuki Reload Burial OVA DVD cover. Background, from left to right: Ukoku, Komyou. The Sanzo-ikkou is featured in the foreground | Source

OVA means original video animation. This isn't really an episode type of anime and it also isn't a movie type of anime.

This only contains three parts or three episodes, if you will.

You can actually deem Saiyuki Reload Burial OVA as the prequel to the Saiyuki series because the events in this OVA happen before the ikkou ever go on their journey west.

However, this OVA was released way after Gensomaden Saiyuki was shown.

This OVA is actually based on the Burial arc in Saiyuki Reload manga.

The first part focuses mostly on Komyou Sanzo and Ukoku Sanzo (also known as Nii Jianyi (or Ni Jienyi)) while the second part is mostly about Goku and Sanzo.

The third part centers on Hakkai and Gojyo and also introduces a character named Banri who is a demon and a friend of Gojyo's.

Ukoku Sanzo is one mysterious character. You'll have to watch the Saiyuki series or read the manga (graphic novel) to find out more about this guy.

Komyou Sanzo is Genjo Sanzo's mentor and father figure who died right in front of him.

As you can see, Saiyuki Reload Burial OVA focuses on the past. This is before the whole journey to the west started.

You'll see Goku looking much younger here. You'll even see Sanzo looking much younger too, including being just a kid as he travels around, alone.

The part with Gojyo and Hakkai doesn't show them as all that young as compared to when they were journeying to the west, but we do see how the two are as close friends and as they shared the same house.

Saiyuki Gaiden OVA

Saiyuki Gaiden Complete Collection
Saiyuki Gaiden Complete Collection

Saiyuki Gaiden OVA DVD. Did you know that Sanzo, Gojyo and Hakkai had past lives and that they used to be gods before they were reincarnated? Find out their story here. Goku's here too, of course, but he's not a god.

 

This OVA is based on the Saiyuki Gaiden manga. This one is an even more prequel to the Saiyuki series than the Burial OVA is. Why? Because this is about the Sanzo-ikkou before they were even born on Earth.

What does that mean? Before the Sanzo-ikkou were mortals, they were gods, or at least 3 of them were. As aforementioned, Goku is something else entirely being born from the Earth. Anyway, they all lived in Heaven and they had different names.

Sanzo is Konzen Douji (the nephew of the Goddess of Mercy), Gojyo is Kenren Taishou (a general in Heaven's army) and Hakkai is Tenpou Gensui (an adjutant in Heaven's army). Goku is still Goku of course.

Young Goku was actually entrusted by Kanzeon to Konzen to be his caretaker. Of course, you can definitely expect Konzen, Kenren, Tenpou and Goku to to have as close and as special a bond of friendship as the Sanzo-ikkou.

Gensomaden Saiyuki Requiem Movie

Gensomaden Saiyuki Requiem Movie

Saiyuki: Requiem
Saiyuki: Requiem

Why, yes, there's a movie for the Saiyuki series too. Watch it! It's awesome. You can see the 4 main characters (naturally) and some of the other old characters. Of course, you'll be meeting new ones as well.

 

In this movie, the Sanzo-ikkou are still on their way to the west. You might be asking, what's new? Well, there are a lot of new things actually.

The ikkou does get sidetracked and this is one long distraction they have to deal with before they can resume their journey.

We get a blast from the past as a character from Sanzo's past shows up. This character is actually the cause of trouble for the ikkou in this movie.

This character's name is Dougan and let's just say he appears to be a little bit too obsessed with Sanzo. Don't forget, he also appears to be just a tad bit too crazy. He tries to separate the ikkou. He tries to off them. The ikkou fight back of course. But that's to be expected and, again, this is an oversimplification of things because a lot more happens in this movie.

What do you think of all the anime in the Saiyuki series?

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of the Anime of the Saiyuki series

Conclusion

This is just a pretty short overview and summary of each of the anime in the Saiyuki series. Know that a whole lot more things happens in the anime than what was mentioned here.

While it might seem that the series might be trite and simple and unoriginal, know that it really isn't. Why? Because there is so, so much more to the series than what has been said here. Saiyuki has a whole lot of depth and complexity to it that can't easily be explained in just a few words.

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The characters (all of them, really, not just the Sanzo-ikkou, well except for the nameless random youkai who's sole purpose in life seems to be just to show up and try to destroy the Sanzo-ikkou only to fail) are all imperfect with their weaknesses and flaws and this is what makes them real.

This is what makes them more than just characters in a story because people can relate to them.

These characters all have reasons for their beliefs, for their actions and for the way they act and the way they live. You know they're not like that just because they are. For instance, why do you think Hakkai is always smiling all the time? (hint: go read his character profile above).

All in all, the Saiyuki series has its humorous and fun moments that will really make you laugh and also render you highly amused. But. more than that, the series also has its moments of seriousness where you will really think and ponder things as you hear some of the characters telling you their beliefs, life lessons and philosophies. There's a whole lot of themes that the Saiyuki series touches on and these themes include life, gods, destiny, fate, freedom, light, and darkness.

If you haven't checked out the series yet, know that it is highly (read: very, very) recommended. And you really should just go and check it out already. Try it and see for yourself if you like it.

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© 2013 Ceres Schwarz

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