Thursday, September 20, 2012

Awesome Characters: Genjo Sanzo

Today I'd like to talk about Genjo Sanzo from the manga/anime Gensoumaden Saiyuki. It is a story based on the classic Chinese tale "Journey to the West" but drastically alters the characters and plot. The "west" mentioned in the title is India. The story has the characters making their way from Sanzo's home temple in China to a location in India where dark forces are trying to resurrect an ox-demon king. Sanzo is actually a title, rather than a name, it's the highest rank of buddhist priest, but his group of fellow travelers call him that like it's his name.

Sanzo isn't what you would expect from a priest, he swears and smokes and is almost always in a bad mood. He has a revolver known as a banishing gun which works significantly better than a regular gun on youkai. The English translation of youkai is often demon, but they're not creatures from hell, they're kind of like evil elves, they're just another race that lives alongside humanity and is generally more powerful than humanity. There was actually peace between most of the youkai and humans until the experiments to resurrect the ox-demon king started. It sent a "minus wave" out that causes youkai to lose their minds and go on murderous rampages. Sanzo's group is constantly battling crazed youkai on their way to India.

Sanzo is a complex character. His motivations are mixed. On the surface, it looks like he's going on the trip to India because he's a priest and the Three Heavenly Aspects ordered him to go, but he's only a priest because his mentor, Koumyou Sanzo, found him as an orphan, raised him, and when Koumyou was dying, he made him the next Sanzo. Sanzo is determined to avenge him and take back the seiten scroll the enemy youkai stole, which was supposed to be passed on to Sanzo along with the maten scroll which he still has and which the enemy wants. He's pretty obsessed with his goal and pretends like he doesn't care about anything or anyone else. But along the way, he does end up saving a lot of people from crazed youkai, and though he won't formally lecture as a priest, he does drive home some philosophical points to people when they need some sense knocked into them.

His fellow travelers is another area where appearances are deceiving. Despite the fact that when the group meets someone new, Sanzo will refer to his three fellow travelers as his servants, the reality is, they are his friends and he cares about them, and they have no obligation to follow him at all. He also respects them because all three of them are badass enough to take care of themselves. In fact, it's pretty common for them to have to rescue him. That's another thing I like about him, he's an aloof badass, but he's not over-powered.

Really, the dynamic between the four main characters is one of the best reasons to watch the show. They joke, they fight amongst themselves, they back each other up, they help each other deal with issues (each of them has a dark past of course) and they kick a lot of ass together.

I've realized writing this that Saiyuki is hard to explain in a few paragraphs, but I hope that was another interesting Awesome Characters post regardless. Sorry it's been like a month. :)


  1. I really do love these Awesome Character posts! Now I'm trying to come up with an awesome character for you... I'm thinking either Raphael from Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series, or Sam Temple from Michael Grant's GONE series...

    BTW, you shall henceforth be known as Sanzo. You can even refer to me as your servant when we encounter new people/potential enemies ;)

    1. Cool :D If you can't decide, you can always do one and then the other, lol!

      Someday I am going to dress up as Sanzo, it needs to happen.

  2. This is a great post, Bridget! It definitely makes me want to watch this to experience it first hand.

    1. Thanks! :D I'm hoping that when the manga finishes they'll make a Saiyuki reboot. Or at least continue where it left off.