Concept and creation
Script error Minekura's Sanzō-Ikkō, or Sanzo Party, bears only a superficial similarity to the original four in the Monkey King. While their general physical design is similar to those from the novel, their personalities are the complete polar opposites. Their names are the same as the names of the characters in the Chinese novel, but given Japanese pronunciations:
- Genjyo Sanzo (玄奘三蔵) is Xuánzàng (玄奘) or Táng-Sānzàng (唐三藏, Tang's three scriptures).
- Son Gokū is Sūn Wùkōng (孫 悟空), or the Monkey King.
- Cho Hakkai is Zhū Bājiè (豬 八戒), a pig monster. His original name, Cho Gonou is actually Zhū Wùnéng (豬 悟能), the Buddhist name given to Zhu Bajie by Guan Yin when they first met in the original novel.
- Sha Gojyō is Shā Wùjìng (沙 悟淨), a water demon, classified as a kappa in some translations.
- Gyūmaōh is Niumowáng (牛魔王) Ox King
Son Goku (孫悟空 Son Gokū?) is the cheerful "Monkey King" who uses a staff, known as the Nyoi-Bo, as his primary weapon. He is the Seiten Taisei, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and whose true self and powers are released when his diadem is removed. As the Seiten Taisei he is very destructive and cruel, and nearly invincible. He's even able to take in the Earth's energy and regenerate because he was spawned from the sheer energy of the earth itself. During Saiyuki Gaiden, Goku was made a ward of Konzen and befriends both Tenpou and Kenren. When his diadem was removed, Goku killed many celestial beings in his craze. Konzen, Tenpou, and Kenren work to protect Goku, but all four became banished from Heaven. Goku was locked in cage high in the mountains and lost his memories. Goku is found by Sanzo and freed from his imprisonment, and Sanzo becomes something like a foster father to Goku. Goku accompanies Sanzo on his mission to track down Hakkai, and helps to prevent Hakkai from killing himself, and Hakkai later becomes his teacher. Goku joins Sanzo, Hakkai, and Gojyo to stop the resurrection of Gyumaoh, during which he discovered that he was Seiten Taisei, having previously been aware of it. Goku is voiced by Sōichirō Hoshi in Japanese, with the exception of when he was voiced by Kōsuke Okano in the first OVA series. He is voiced in English by Greg Ayres in the original series and Requiem, while Jimmy Benedict voiced him in Reload and Gunlock.
Sha Gojyo (沙悟浄?) is a hanyou  , a cross between a youkai and a human, and uses the Shakugetsujou, a metal weapon staff with a sickle and chain, as his primary weapon. In the anime it is implied that he has the power to either breathe underwater or at least hold his breathe for prolonged periods of time while submerged, possibly an inheritance from his demon father, who may have been a water demon (hence, Gojyo's own nickname as "Kappa"). His eyes and hair are blood-red, which expresses his status as a half-blood. Due to this, he is labeled as taboo and unclean by general society. As a child, he was perpetually being either ignored or beaten by his stepmother, who had been devastated to learn that her husband had an affair with a human woman, only to later be killed together with his mistress (presumably in a hate crime), leaving her to raise both their own legitimate child and her husband's illegitimate son all by herself. He was very close to his older brother, Jien, who constantly pacified his mother whenever she became violent toward Goyjo (in the manga, it is revealed that this forces to Jien to become his own mother's lover in order to do so, but this is never expressly state in the anime), especially whenever he tried to cheer her up as she was in a permanent state of depression over her husband's infidelity and death. Eventually, Jien kills their mother to save Gojyo, after she goes completely insane, and nearly manages to kill him in a berserk fury. The brothers then part ways due to their mutual shame and guilt over the tragedy, and only meet again years later on opposite sides of their current conflict. Gojyo smokes, gambles, and flirts with nearly every woman he meets (the last trait is implied to be mainly due to the trauma of being unloved by his abusive stepmother, despite his constant efforts at winning her affection) . He and Goku are also prone to fighting, though they do care about each other. Gojyo is quick to defend others and holds particular sympathy towards threatened children. Gojyo is voiced by Hiroaki Hirata in Japanese, with the exception of the first OVA series, in which he was voiced by Kōichi Yamadera. He is voiced by Illich Guardiola in English for the original series and Requiem, and voiced by Tony Oliver for Reload and Gunlock.
Cho Hakkai (豬八戒?) is the mild, polite and level-headed member of the group who always looks out for their day to day well-being. Hakkai rarely displays anger, but when he does even Gojyo and Goku are afraid of him. He also is able to manipulate chi, allowing him to heal others (depending on how wounded they are), and create blasts of chi and make protective barriers. Hakkai also owns a pet dragon, named Hakuryuu (or Jeep). Formerly, Cho Hakkai had been known as Cho Gonou and worked as a school teacher. He was romantically involved with his elder sister, Kanaan, though they hadn't originally known this as they had grown up in separate orphanages (this is revealed in the manga, but is never made clear in the anime). Kanaan was later raped by a youkai noble, Hyakugen Maoh, while Gonou was away at work, and despite being rescued, she committed suicide, not wanting to bear the child. Originally human, Hakkai had changed into a youkai after massacring 1000 youkai, consisting of his neighbouring villagers (a tribe of crow demons who were blackmailed into sacrificing Kanaan in order to save themselves) as well as Hyakugen Maoh himself and the rest of his clan/household. Hakkai is found by Gojyo near-death, and is later tracked down by Sanzo and Goku. He tries to run away, but is confronted by the last surviving member of the crow tribe he massacred who tells Hakkai he ripped out the eyes of his dead brother. To atone, Hakkai proceeds to rip out his own right eye. He is about to tear out his left eye as well but is stopped by Goku. Hakkai then kills the demon, stating that he wants to keep living. Hakkai was forgiven for his crime, and proceeded to change his name and move in with Gojyo. To control his youkai powers, Hakkai wears a set of 3 power limiters, in the form of ear cuffs on his left ear, and he rarely removes them, only doing so when absolutely necessary. As a youkai, although much stronger, he becomes susceptible to the minus waves. Hakkai is voiced by Akira Ishida in Japanese, and Braden Hunt for the original series and Requiem. Steve Cannon voiced Hakkai in English for Reload and Gunlock.
Jeep (ジープ?), known as Hakuryuu (はくりゅう?) in the anime (though this version is also displayed in the manga on occasion), is Hakkai's pet dragon. Jeep has the ability to transform into a Jeep that the Sanzo party travel in. Though usually the size of a house cat, Jeep's transformation renders him much larger than his usual form. Jeep has also shown the ability to breathe fire. In his past life, he was actually the god Gojun, the Dragon King of the West (presumably related to the Blue Dragon Seiryuu, the celestial entity) and a commanding officer (Kenren Taisho's immediate superior) of Heaven's army. He is voiced by Kaoru Morota in Saiyuki, and Tae Okajima in Saiyuki Reload.
Kanzeon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) aka the Merciful Goddess: The Buddhist bodhisattva Guan Yin. She is portrayed as a hermaphrodite in the manga, while in the anime it gives no indication of her being anything other than a gorgeous older woman. Extremely flirtatious, she actually rarely helps the Sanzo party, usually watching their travels on the way to India from Heaven for her mischievous amusement. She has only once directly intervened, the instance being when Goku's diadem had broken and Sanzo was unconscious and losing blood after sacrificing himself to save Goku from being killed by his childhood friend, the former Talisman Master of the monastery where Sanzo had been raised (who had been corrupted into becoming evil by his very own talismans). In the same story, it was implied that she is actually the alter-ego of the Red Peacock Suzaku, as her shadow on earth was the silhouette of the Celestial entity. She was voiced by Shawn Taylor in the English version, and Misa Watanabe in the Japanese version.
Kougaiji (紅孩児?): Based on Gyumaoh's Son, Kåfēise Dalu Hai Er (meaning "brown moose child") the Bull Moose Prince, Kougaiji is Gyumaoh's son, and the Sanzo party's most frequently faced enemy. He reluctantly takes part in Ni Jianyi and Koushou's plan in order to restore his mother Rasetsu-nyo, who was turned to stone by a curse. He has no animosity towards the Sanzo party (despite that Goku once beat him to within an inch of his life while in his true form) but makes no effort to hide that he loathes Ni Jianyi and Koushou. He deeply cares for other yōkai, but has never displayed any ill feelings toward humans. Despite that he's willing to let countless humans and yōkai die if it means bringing his mother back. A notable aspect that's added in the anime is that Kougaiji's sense of pride is greatly exaggerated at points. He often passes up chances where he could easily defeat the Sanzo part when they've been weakened in some way, desiring to defeat them when they're at full strength, and once attempted to singlehandly fight Goku when his power limiter was removed. Of everyone he's been around, he's been shown to care for Lirin the most and often attempts to keep her out of battles. He wields power over fire and the ability to summon powerful fiends. He's also a highly skilled hand-to-hand fighter. He generally serves as Goku's opponent.
Lirin (李厘?): Kougaiji's half-sister and Gyokumen Koushou's daughter. She deeply admires Kougaiji, and overall is like a female Son Goku in personality, though she's far more naive than even him. Although she likes fighting she's also extremely friendly. Lirin is highly skilled hand-to-hand fighter, but she isn't very smart and as running gag Sanzo "defeats" her just by tossing her a meat bun which she focuses on instead of fighting. Kougaiji is also used to this tactic, diverting her from her assistance by promising to bring her back food from his trip. When Kougaiji's group fights Sanzo's group, she's usually seen on Sanzo's shoulders. Sanzo views her as another monkey, like Son Goku. She is portrayed by Hilary Haag in the English dub, and Kaoru Morota in the Japanese version.
Dokugakuji (独角兕?): : Gojyo's full-yōkai half-brother, formerly known as Sha Jien. When he was younger he was very close to his little brother, and attempted to protect him from his violently unstable mother by having an incestuous affair with her. She attempted to kill Gojyo anyway, and Jien was forced to kill his mother to keep her from killing Gojyo; after this he left his home and brother, eventually pledging himself to Kougaiji's service. He's extremely loyal to Kougaiji, Dokugakuji himself believes he may have become attached to Kougaiji in this way for his vague resemblance of Gojyo, though he still seems to love his baby brother. He fights with a large sword, which he generates out of his own chi energy, like every other non-human fighter in the series. He generally serves as Gojyo's opponent.
Yaone (八百鼡?): An apothecary, alchemist, and Lirin's "babysitter". Her first appearance seems to show a relation to Kanaan, but it is not mentioned again later in the series. She is deeply devoted to Kougaiji, who saved her from being sacrificed to the Centipede Demon, and has rashly taken on dangerous missions to prove her loyalty to him. However, her primary role in the group is that of healer. She seems to be friendly enemies with Hakkai; she always addresses him with great respect, and on occasions they work together. Hakkai regards her as a fellow-healer and colleague.
Gyokumen Koushou: Gyumaoh's concubine and the mastermind of the plan to revive him. She's extremely cruel and selfish, and has shown to be willing to sacrifice anything to get what she wants, and is shown to enjoy her cruel acts. Has told Kougaiji that she'll only restore his mother to life if he helps her obtain the Five Sacred Scriptures (or Sutras). Despite being Lirin's biological mother she cares nothing about her own daughter and only sees her and Kougaiji as tools.
Dr. Ni Jianyi: A wild card, mystery man, mad scientist, and Koushou's human lover. He owns a plushie bunny that he carries with him as his pet. He was also once a Sanzo priest (known as Ukoku Sanzo, he was the youngest to attain the rank before Sanzo) and was considered a heretic because he fought and killed his master (Goudai Sanzo) to attain his title instead of inheriting his chakra from the gods along with the Muten sutra (Which is later revealed, is hidden within the stuffed rabbit). During his time before becoming a priest he easily mastered all material arts and spiritual powers, growing strong enough that he could literally kill others with a wave of his arm. His pupil, a man whose name is never revealed and is known simply as "God" (Kami-sama), appears in Reload anime, as someone that Ni gave all the power he gained to since he no longer had any use for it, though at some points Ni is hinted to retain his power. Although he's extremely eccentric, he's also intelligent and ruthless. His reasons for aiding in reviving Gyumaoh are a mystery. Mysteriously, he knows of Sanzo's origins. He was also called Ken'yuu before attaining the title of Sanzo.
Hazel Grouse: A bishop from the West with a hatred for youkai, he, like Sanzo, was taken in at a young age by a master who was killed by a youkai. He has sworn to wipe all youkai off of the planet and create a peaceful world for humans alone and has even stated that the lives of 1000 youkai are not worth one human life to him. He makes no exceptions when it comes to the youkai he kills: he sees them all as mindless beasts, berserk or sane, adult or child. He typically relies on his companion, Gat, to fight, but has proven himself as an exorcist able to fall many youkai at once. The pendant he wears around his neck (resembling a star of David) is able to store up to 13 souls (one in each opening), taken from dead or dying youkai, that he then transfers into dead humans, thus reviving them. The humans thus revived have yellow eyes and can be used as gollems of a sort by Hazel to help him kill youkai. He is shown in a flashback as being a great student and devoted to his master, as his parents are dead.
In the Reloaded Gunlock anime, Hazel has a different origin. He would often kill youkai, and was eventually punished for it by being turned into one himself, which resulted in him killing the priest who raised him. He continued killing youkai but was eventually killed by Gat, under the orders of the Great Spirit. However, Gat feels sorry for Hazel, so he then chooses to revive him by sharing his own life energy, which also gives Hazel's necklace the power to revive dead humans with youkai souls (in the anime, the mirror appears to be able to hold an infinite number of souls). However, Hazel's memories become altered to make him believe that he was the one who killed and revived Gato instead . In the finale of the series, Hazel attempts to kill Sanzo and revive him, in order to get Sanzo to join him in wiping out all demons, but Goyjo, Hakkai and Goku intervene and Gat is fatally injured in the ensuing battle. Before dying, he reveals the truth to Hazel, resulting in Hazel regaining his own true memories. Hazel is then defeated in his youkai form by the Sanzo party, and feeling that he has wasted his life, then asks Sanzo to kill him. Sanzo complies with his request, though before shooting Hazel he comforts him somewhat by telling him that nobody wastes their life.
Hazel, along with Gat is the only 'American' character in the Eastern setting of Saiyuki. Interestingly, his behavior could, on several accounts, be interpreted as homosexual. He shows an undo amount of interest in both Sanzo and Gat, that could be considered gay or bisexual in nature.
Gatti "Gat" Nenehawk: Hazel's large bodyguard/traveling companion, he wields two pistols. He fights recklessly for Hazel because he can be instantly brought back to life or healed as long as Hazel has a soul stored in his pendant or there is a corpse nearby to take a soul from. His past is largely unknown except that he met Hazel several years before, was injured by him, but spared. He believes that being with and protecting Hazel is his destiny. He appears to be of Native American descent, and doesn't require sleep or food. He is said by Ukoku Sanzo to have been a young man of a tribe that worships nature and uses firearms. When the demons they had forged peace with attacked, Hazel tried to help. Gat originally opposed him and became the first human Hazel had ever mistakenly killed. He immediately was brought back, but his tribe saw him as an abomination against nature and shunned him.
In the Reloaded Gunlock anime, Gat's origin is different. He lived in a native tribe (not stated where) that worshiped a being they called the Great Spirit. A group of hunters eventually came and started killing a large amount of the wildlife. Gat and his tribe tried to stop the hunters but were powerless against their guns. Gat, fatally wounded by a bullet, is revived by the Great Spirit and kills the hunters. He is then taken to Europe where Hazel is killing numerous demons and under the Great Spirit's orders reluctantly kills him (since Hazel was just a boy). Guilty of his actions, Gat asks the Great Spirit to revive Hazel with his life, which the Great Spirit does so, giving Hazel's necklace the ability to revive humans with youkai souls. Gat willing goes along with the charade the Great Spirit created until the finale of the series, where he decides to fight the Sanzo party without Hazel using any souls to revive him. As a result, they kill Gat, but before he dies he reveals the truth about Hazel's memories being altered.
Zakuro (雀呂?) is a youkai villain who works for Ni Jianyi. His main power is illusions, in which he has the enemy look into his eyes and manipulates their mind using sound. He first encountered Sanzo, Hakkai, and Gojyo and proceeded to battle them until eventually being overpowered. Later, after being lost and suffering from lack of food and water, he is found by Goku, who strikes up a friendship with him. After a short battle with territorial youkai, Zakuro discovers that Goku is part of the Sanzo party. The defeated youkai, thinking that he has partnered with the Sanzo party, run off to rally the news of Zakuro's 'betrayal' with Zakuro chasing them and trying to clear up the confusion.
Toushin Nataku Taishi only appears in Saiyuki Gaiden and in the anime and briefly in the manga*War Prince Nataku: Nataku is based on the Taoist deity Nezha. He is a half-mortal war god who won the then-divine Son Goku (Sun Wukong)'s friendship, since both golden-eyed boys were branded as "heretical" beings due to the nature of their births. Unfortunately, Nataku falls into a catatonic state (the reasons for this are not disclosed in the anime) and sits in the divine garden of heaven with only the Goddess of Mercy to keep him company, staring blankly ahead for all time (it is implied by Kanzeon Bosatsu that he is waiting for Goku to return). In the series, Nataku is decidedly more somber than Goku and is resigned to being a puppet to the Gods, He was 'given the honor' of being the War Prince, a role which is later passed onto Homura. The title of "war prince" is more of a curse then an honor, since whoever has the title repeatedly sent into battle without any regard for their well being. Feared and hated by most of the other gods for being too excessively powerful, a demon to the other gods, and he is shunned as a social misfit and lonely outcast, despite actually being the premier warrior of Heaven's army. In the anime, Nataku goes by a different title than in the manga, but his background is still very much the same - right down to his father (the overambitious and duplicituous Commander Li Touten), and the use of a long spear as a weapon of choice. It is gradually revealed that Li Touten is exploiting his son for fame and recognition from the rest of Heaven, and it is also implied that he is actually using him as tool in order to gain political power and influence among the other gods (reversing the traditional role in mythology that Nataku is actually to blame for his own misfortune). Nataku's father is later confronted by the past reincarnation of Cho Hakkai (Field Marshal Tenpou Gensui), and further mistreatment of his son is then yet to be seen in the series.
Toushin Homura Taishi, a character added into the anime version of Saiyuki GensoMaden mid way into the series and becomes the main antagonist. Homura was stated to be the half-human grandson of the daughter of the King of the gods of Heaven with a human man from Earth (presumably inspired by the Taoist legend of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, involving the goddess Zhinu and her mortal lover Niulang). Although he succeeded Nataku Taishi (who destroyed Gyumaoh-Bull Satan 500 years ago), he eventually grows disgusted with the boring tranquility of the lazy life in Heaven. He had some relationship with Sanzo and his comrades. He calls them by their names from a previous existence. He comes to hate the system in Heaven since he was once romantically involved with a pureblood goddess, but the union between them was forbidden by his own maternal grandfather. As punishment, she was reincarnated on Earth and he was imprisoned in Heaven, in order to prevent a union between them, and she later died of old age while he continued to go on living. He is eager to get Sanzo's Evil Sutra, as his ultimate ambition seemed to be the creation of a perfect world with Son Goku as the catalyst for the creation of a new Heaven and Earth, and but it is shown near the end of Saiyuki Gensomaden, that he was actually looking to be defeated by somebody who is worthy of him, Son Goku—the "perfect world" being only a place where he could obtain the most honorable and worthy death. His motivation for this is that because he's half god, he would eventually die of old age, and because was born a warrior god he felt is was most fitting to die fighting. He constantly observes the Sanzo party's movements, sometimes sending his underlings to fight them to push them to grow stronger or going to meet them in person (along with his two companions, Shion and Zenion) to do so, which always resulted in him brutally thrashing Goku. Though not truly evil at heart, Homura is nonetheless very ruthless and isn't bothered by sending others out to die, though he doesn't actively seek to kill others. Ultimately he doesn't believe in the existence of good or evil. He considered Zenion and Shion friends and was deeply affected by the deaths. His weapon is a flaming long sword possessing tremendous power. He can wipe out a troop of monsters at one swing. He uses the Power of Spirit, better known as Chi, like Cho Hakkai. He's always seen wearing a pair of handcuffs which serve as his power-limiters, and becomes far stronger when he takes them off. He's killed in the finale the Saiyuki Gensomaden anime by Goku, and at his request his left to die in his own world. In the manga, Homura makes only a brief appearance in Saiyuki Gaiden, talking with Zenon and Shien.
Zenon comes down with Prince Homura only because he dislikes the evil monsters and spirits. Like Sanzo and Gojyo, he frequently smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol. His revolving 'Demon Blaster' destroys dozen of monsters. His right eye is covered by a black patch. It is revealed that the eyepatch is his demon limiter, after he became a demon himself after having killed 1000 demons, and he goes berserk when he removes it. His full power in his true form is so great that if he stays in it too long he starts to lose all control of it. Zenon agrees to follow Homura for multiple reasons. One being he is disgusted of both life in Heaven and of living in general, another is that he wants to find the demon who killed his wife and son. Years ago, Zenon went freely between Earth and Heaven (the year was not specified in the anime) as an assassin for the gods. He eventually married a human woman who became pregnant with his son. The other gods found out about this, and Zenon agreed to give up his immortality and just live with his family as a human, since he preferred to live on earth anyway. However, one of his subordinates (who was a youkai), was told to bring his wife (and unborn son) to Heaven, but killed them instead. He kills the demon two episodes after his first appearance, but decides to stick with Homura to the end. He wields a banishing gun like Sanzo, only his has the form of an assault rifle. He dies in battle against Goyjo and Hakkai towards the end of Saiyuki Gensomaden. In the manga, Zenon makes only a brief appearance in Saiyuki Gaiden, talking with Homura and Shien.
Shien comes down with Prince Homura for exciting adventures. He never harms anyone unless he has to defend himself. However, once getting in a battle, he is fierce, slaying the opponent with his twin 'Light Whips.' Despite that he nearly always lets the Sanzo party live when he fights them. He previously worked under War Prince Nataku, and wonders what Nataku saw in the human world, after the fight with Gyumaoh, as Nataku told him he wanted to stay longer. A celebration is held every year when he descends to view the scenery Nataku seemed to be most fond of. Despite his calm exterior, he's racked by the guilt that he followed the orders to not help Nataku against Gyumaoh. He wears a hair which later turns out to be a power limiter in his final fight against Hakkai in Saiyuki Gensomaden, where despite Shien's power he's killed by Hakkai when he was aided by Hakuryuu after Hakkai causes Shien to lose focus by playing on the fact that he hides his guilt. In the manga, Shien makes only a brief appearance in Saiyuki Gaiden, talking with Homura and Zenon.
Script error During its premiere as an anime program the manga Saiyuki sold more than 3,200,000 million as of Volume 6 estimation by ComiPress. Meanwhile the manga Saiyuki Gaiden and Saiyuki Reload continues to be at the top 10 weekly Japanese ranking chart whenever a manga volume debuted. In 2000 Genjo Sanzo won the best Male Character for an Anime at Animage Grand Prix. In 2006 Saiyuki Reload was listed by PUFF (also known as Manga Oscars) known by many fans as one of the definite study guides for those who appreciate manga, as 10th in Long Stories categories.