There has always been big controversy about the genre an anime like Saiyūki should labelled under. Is Saiyūki a shōnen, a seinen, a shōjo, or a shōnen-ai? The author that created the manga series on which the anime is based on, Kazuya Minekura, has never been particularly precise in giving an answer to this question, but she let us know one thing for sure; Saiyūki is not a Boys’ Love manga. In respect to the author’s will, the Saiyūki series is classified as a “fantasy adventure” work on fandom’s fan pages, but there are still some newcomers to the Saiyūki’s universe who think our beloved Sanzo and company like to spend their free time in bed together – and not sleep, of course. The reason for it is quite simple, and it doesn’t (only) have to do with fans’ fantasies and hopes; although not rated as a shōnen-ai, Minekura’s sympathy for BL is pretty evident.
The BL element is really strong in Saiyūki, even though no very big equivocal scene has been shown neither in the anime or the manga, with the exception of a couple funny episodes in the very beginning of the first series. Saiyūki has always been a pretty serious work, sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. The few funny moments inserted to lighten the plot were not enough to make fans’ life easier, and certainly has not prevented them from shedding rivers of tears at the end of each arc. Every character in Saiyūki had it rough in its life and goes on living tormented by pain, guilt, and regret.
This, together with the great story, the characters’ bonds, the suffering, the hopes and wishes the characters place in each other has become fertile soil for thousand of fan fictions, dōjinshi, and every other possible kind of shipping material available for fans who wanted to dig deeper in those ambiguous places, half words, mysterious behaviors characters in Saiyūki tend to have when it comes to the people they love the most. The result is a great variety of ships – mainly male x male, since in Saiyūki there are very few female characters – which we selected for you in this Top 5. Let’s dive into Saiyūki’s tender side, but watch out for spoilers if you haven’t read the manga or watched all the anime’s spin-offs.
5. Koumyou Sanzo x Ukoku Sanzo
Two of the most mysterious and loved characters in Saiyūki series are, no mistaking, Genjō Sanzō’s beloved master and adoptive father Kōmyō Sanzō and the wicked heretical priest Ukoku, better known as the brilliant Dr. Ni. Komyō Sanzō and Ukoku have known each other for years before Kōmyō’s death, and their relationship has been controversial from the very beginning. As many other characters in Saiyūki who knew and respected Kōmyō, Ukoku has also been captivated by the high priest since he first met him. Kōmyō Sanzō was an eccentric person who looked like a flaky guy but who hid an incredible power he never let see to no one. Understanding what was in Kōmyō’s mind is one of Ukoku’s struggles and greatest regrets. Even now that Kōmyō is dead and his illegitimate child has grown up, but there is something that Ukoku is missing about Kōmyō and that he will probably never be able to understand.
This inner struggle of Ukoku is what has got fans’ imagination running wild about him and Kōmyō’s past relationship, when they were living in the same monastery and were still close. The logical Ukoku is so bored of living a tasteless life just wanted to achieve any wild-goose chase as possible and couldn’t stand Kōmyō’s pacific nature he couldn’t find a reason for. In a whole world of hurt where death is the end of the journey, the disillusioned Ukoku desperately tries to survive by devouring the corpses of others, but still seeks answers about the meaning of existence that he thinks Kōmyō brought in the next life with him. This ambiguous relationship pupil-master of them and the pain of Ukoku who still can’t forget about Kōmyō after years have inspired dozens of fans who classified them as one of the best shippable couples existing in Saiyūki’s universe.
4. Sha Gojyo x Genjo Sanzo
Talking about opposites, but on a completely different level, the blood red-headed sexy kappa Sha Gojyō and the dark and extremely handsome Genjō Sanzō couldn’t be any more different from each other. That it is also the reason for them to be so much of a popular ship. Although they wouldn’t like to know it, there are plenty of reasons for their huge success, starting from the bounce of illustrations Minekura-sensei has drawn depicting the two together in ambiguous poses. The fact is that, being so full of hate for each other, Sanzō and Gojyō are just the perfect candidates for a sinful love story.
Sanzō never liked Gojyō, not even for a brief moment in the entire story, and he is always waiting for a chance to shoot him in the head or abandon him somewhere on the road. On the other hand, Gojyō never liked Sanzō, because of his presumed lack of sensitivity and humanity. However, while the quite still immature Sanzō keeps on acting like a spoiled kid who doesn’t need anyone’s help and has interest in no one, Gojyō is far more open to dialogue and searches for ways to approach the stubborn monk any time the latter falls in a sorry state. Many are the moments when Gojyō tries to talk some sense into Sanzō, and more than many are the scenes in which Gojyō watches over Sanzō when he is in critical conditions. Gojyō’s kindness and the way he takes care of Sanzō while Sanzō only wants to be left alone and wishes for Gojyō to die are the reasons why the fandom went crazy on the ship; their love-hate relationship is absolutely worth of at least the #4 position in our Top 5.
3. Kenren Taishou x Tenpou Gensui
If you are looking for evidence of a ship in Saiyūki and you want it to be canon, then you wouldn’t look any further than the General of Western Army First Unit Kenren Taishō and the Field Marshal Tenpō Gensui’s lov… ehm, high loyalty story. Five hundred years before Gensomaden Saiyūki’s events, Hakkai and Gojyō’s names and roles in history were different as they belonged to the pantheon of Chinese deities. Being immortals, Kenren and Tenpō had plenty of time to spend together and to get to know each other, to the point that a great, unbreakable friendship grew between them. Indeed, both in the anime and the manga series, Kenren and Tenpō are always shown together, in particular in Tenpō’s apartment where they spend hours gossiping about acquaintances, the army, and Prince Nataku.
However, this is not the strongest element which makes of Kenren and Tenpō a ship based on canon elements, and fans of the Kenren x Tenpō are certainly smiling right now. Indeed, Kazuya Minekura must love the couple herself since she dedicated not one, but two scenes in which characters mention a presumable… marriage (!!!) between the hot General and the charming Marshal. When? Well, do you remember when Nataku’s father, Li Toten, threatened Tenpō? He also asked the Marshal if he liked Kenren so much because they were married! Or when Kenren put up a fight during the Emperor’s birthday? He himself told Tenpō grudge on him automatically reflected on Tenpō, too! Best wishes to the shippable couple with the strongest element ever in Saiyūki!
2. Sha Gojyo x Cho Hakkai
Of course, even after death, Kenren and Tenpō’s spirits didn’t forget what they have been far in the past. When two people are destined to be together, not even death or time can separate them. Their fate is to find each other again every time they are reborn. That is why Kenren and Tenpō end up meeting each other in the mortal world as the criminal who became a demon after taking one thousand lives Cho Hakkai and the misfit gambler and forbidden child Sha Gojyō. Hakkai was in great danger when Gojyō finds him in a forest near to his house; struck by the pain in Hakkai’s eyes, Gojyō decides to save his life, and takes care of him until his recovery.
Since then and because of the fact that Gojyō saves him a second time when Sanzō and Gokū are ordered to arrest him, Hakkai gets attached to Gojyō and decides to pay him back by living with him and helping him in his daily life. Basically, they move in together with the blessing of Sanzō, the priest with the highest rank in the whole Shangri-La. Although Gojyō and Hakkai’s marriage is never explicitly mentioned in the manga or the anime, it is very clear to the fandom that the two belong together, and also to us that decided to place them at position #2.
1. Genjo Sanzo x Son Goku
In another life, like Gojyō and Hakkai, Sanzō and the stupid monkey Son Gokū have been something very important. Sanzō was Konzen Dōji, a bored deity related to Kanzeon Bosatsu who became the adoptive father of a heretical creature, Seiten Taisei, who took him out the misery Konzen had fallen into and to whom he gave that name, “Gokū”, the child was so affectionate to. Konzen Dōji sacrificed himself to save Gokū from the hypocrisy of the Heaven and his eternal punishment. Before dying, Konzen made his beloved child an important promise: he would have found him wherever he was, one day. Konzen, as the reborn Genjō Sanzō, was able to keep his promise only five hundred years later, and took Gokū with him once again.
Despite the touching father-and-son story Sanzō and Gokū share, the most part of the fandom doesn’t seem satisfied with a pure, innocent relationship between the two. Instead, fans think Sanzō and Gokū are better as lovers than relatives, and this conviction is so strong that the stupid monkey and his handsome guardian could make it to the first position of our Top 5. The reason lays in the special bond which binds them, magisterially shown by Kazuya Minekura in every arc of Saiyūki. Gokū goes crazy and loses control every time Sanzō gets heavily injured, can’t live without him, and wants to become stronger in order to always be by his side. On the other hand, even though Sanzō wants to show himself completely free from Gokū, he is actually the more dependent of the two to the point that he often gets hit in place of Gokū putting his own life in danger to save his young monkey’s. This relationship is based on dependence – more Gokū’s toward Sanzō than vice versa – is what made them worth of the throne!
Did you enjoy our Top 5 or do you think there is some other couple worth of being shipped in Saiyūki? What are your favorite ships and why? Let us know with a comment!