Gensomaden Saiyuki (Saiyuki RELOAD, Saiyuki RELOAD Gunlock, etc.) is a manga and anime series kinda-sorta inspired by the Chinese classic Journey to the West (which is pronounced Saiyuki in Japan, hence the title).Set in a Schizo Tech universe where demons, mystical powers and nominally Buddhist Powers That Be (see the trope entry below for a better explanation) coexist with guns, credit cards, and a Jeep (which, coincidentally, transforms into a small dragon). In the past, demons and humans coexisted in peace. But recently, the demons have been driven to madness and violence. This was found out to be linked to the resurrection of the demon Gyumao, by forces unknown. In response, the trash-talking monk Genjyo Sanzo is commanded to journey West with his three companions Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, and Cho Hakkai. Sanzo's three companions aren't exactly what they seem, as they are demons who are only kept in check by accessories that also serve to limit their power. However, their history stretches back not only to the recent past, but to hundreds of years before.Saiyuki is a somewhat large franchise, with three TV series, three OVAs, stage plays, drama CDs, and a movie, along with the six manga everything is based on. note Just for reference, the titles for the various series that are used throughout this article: Manga: original Gensomaden Saiyuki, sequels Saiyuki Reload and Saiyuki Reload Blast, prequels Saiyuki Gaiden and Saiyuki Ibun, and Saiyuki Gaiden: Ants of Heaven. Anime: original series Gensomaden Saiyuki, sequels Saiyuki Reload and Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, OVAs Gensomaden Saiyuki: Kibou no Zaika, Saiyuki Gaiden, and Saiyuki Burial, theatrical movie Saiyuki Requiem. One could argue that this series has Multiple Demographic Appeal, with an overwhelmingly Bishōnen cast and multiple opportunities for Ho Yay within the structure of a serially escalatingShōnen action series.Not to be confused with Sayuki (nee Fiona Graham), the first and only white woman to become a geisha.
This series provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: There are very few examples of good parenting in this series, other than in adoptive relationships (like Koumyou and Koryuu), but there are many different flavors of bad parenting.
Li Touten uses his bio-engineered son to gain military and political power. He's also implied to be sexually abusing him.
Gojyo was continuously beaten to a pulp and taught that he was evil and worthless by his abusive stepmother. His older half-brother participated in a sexual relationship with his biological mother in order to distract her from beating Gojyo. Gojyo still loved his stepmother and hoped for her love in return, while his brother (who feels an occasionally crippling sense of shame about both the incest and his inability to prevent the abuse) seems to have hated her outright.
Lirin's mother (and Kougaiji's stepmother), Gyokumen Kousho. She uses her children for science projects, among other things.
Actually, I Am Him: The Warts and All reality of the Sanzo party vs. their widespread reputation as pious monster-slayers leads to a lot of this when they enter a new town for the first time.
Affably Evil: Kougaiji's group of antagonists are so dutiful and polite they sometimes make the main characters look like the bad guys. Kou's only cooperating with Gyokumen to free his mother from imprisonment, Lirin is basically a female Goku and shares his lack of malice, and Yaone and Dokugakuji are Punch Clock Villains purely out of loyalty to Kougaiji.
The Ageless: The gods are immortal but generally take the form of humans in the prime of life — particularly Kanzeon, who hasn't aged a day in 500 years.
Alternate Character Meaning: The written title is a pun on the traditional spelling of "Journey to the West". Instead of the kanji for "west" it uses a character that sounds the same when read aloud but turns the meaning into "Journey to the Max!"
And the Adventure Continues: Every one of the anime and manga series to date ends with the Sanzo-ikkou headed west once again, typically driving off into a blazing sunset.
Angst: Most incarnations of this series are extremely angst heavy. The characters all have tragic back stories and a plethora of psychological problems which are explored in exhaustive detail. Even the "comic relief" character has serious abandonment issues (not surprising given that he spent hundreds of years imprisoned alone without food).
Gojyo qualifies by youkai standards. While Hakkai and Goku can remove their limiters for a power boost, Gojyo's only got as much skill as he can master with the shakujo and Let's Get Dangerous on his side. At least until they get to Tibet, where the Minus Wave is far stronger. Gojyo begins developing youkai marks and for the first time it's Hakkai who is worried about his battle partner losing control.
Hakkai was an apparently ordinary human when he carried out the murder spree that transformed him into a youkai: killing all the humans in his village plus a thousand youkai, armed only with a paring knife. This was before he could shift forms or use ki attacks. Think for a moment about what he's capable of now. Then crawl under the bed and whimper a little.
Bald of Evil: Rikkudo. In Sanzo's memories, he has a scruffy ponytail but he's clearly gotten more devout in proportion with his Ax-Crazy and when he appears as a villain he's got the proper monk's tonsure.
Barrier Warrior: Hakkai very quickly developed the ability to generate shields with his chi after realizing that he'd need it for the times somebody needed to be protected from any sort of projectile fire and/or incidental fragments.
Sharak Sanzou's sutra is implied to have some sort of barrier-like power as well, and she keeps watch over several human villages, also making her a Barrier Maiden.
Big Brother Instinct: Sibling relationships are usually a lot healthier than parental relationships.
Kougaiji is deeply protective of his half-sister Lirin (not that way).
Gojyo's half-brother. Even though the two are now on opposite sides, older brother Dokugakuji obviously still cares deeply about Gojuo, and still carries guilt about his inability to protect Gojyo from his step-mother's abuse. It's implied that he slept withhis mother and eventually killed her in order to keep Gojyo safe. He is, notably, a lot more broken up over the abuse than about the incest.
Dokugakuji's extreme protectiveness over Kougaiji, who reminds him of his long-lost little brother, is motivated largely by his guilt at not being able to keep his brother safe, and he sees it as a way to gain redemption for that failure. His breakdown in the manga when he thinks he cannot keep Kougaiji safe reflects this.
In Saiyuki Ibun, Houmei (the future Koumyou Sanzo) develops this towards Tenkai, the youngest apprentice monk.
The three older members of the Sanzo party all treat Goku like an annoying little brother they need to protect; Gojyo and Goku's big brother/little brother dynamic is particularly obvious. Right down to the teasing, it's very similar to the relationship between Gojyo and his elder brother (sans the insane stepmom). Sanzo and Goku's relationship is particularly heartwarming, because despite all Sanzo's insults and abuse, he clearly puts a lot of effort into raising Goku semi-responsibly.
Bishōnen: There is a lot of male eyecandy in this series, and some (although not all) of it is in the classic "delicate, slightly femme" bishie mold. Sanzo/Konzen and Hakkai/Tenpou are particularly noted for attracting attention from both genders.
Brother-Sister Incest: Kanan and Gonou/Hakkai didn't realize they were long-lost siblings until after they fell in love, apparently. The anime toned it down it so that Kanan was only like an older sister to Hakkai, instead of actually being his older sister.
Broken Bird: The show has lots of male examples. Sanzo, Gojyo and Hakkai are all deeply psychologically scarred, cynical, physically attractive, snarky (except for Hakkai) and hypercompetent at their job... that is to say, killing things. A lot of the villains would also count.
Brainwashed and Crazy: "Barcode" Kougaiji. Goku learns this a little too late, and takes a serious beating.
Dr. Nii Jienyi carries around a rabbit plushie (and baby-talks to it), wears bunny slippers around the lab, does not seem to feel the need to bathe on a regular basis, and is a walking sexual harassment lawsuit. He's also the only person on Earth capable of using the Tenchi Kaigen sutras to revive Gyuumaoh, had a doctorate by the age of 17, and is the keeper of the Muten sutra, the second youngest Sanzo ever. He keeps it hidden inside the bunny..
Field Marshall Tenpou in Gaiden can't for the life of him keep his office cleaner than "trainwreck", wears shower sandals to work on a regular basis, and is voluntarily an adjutant to a less senior officer because it deflects some of the attention and paperwork. When he's in a battle, however...every soldier wants to be under him because his troops come home in one piece. In the escape to the Lower World, Tenpou takes off in the opposite direction to draw attention away from the gate and clear the way for Goku and Konzen. Barefoot and armed with only a regular katana, he takes out at least a dozen defenders before being fatally struck.
The entire sanzo priesthood is basically an order of Bunny-Ears Preachers. The order's purpose is protecting the sutras above all else and its members are not bound by the usual Buddhist monastic precepts. None of them shave their heads (as would normally be required) and they freely indulge in tobacco and alcohol. Genjyo and Ukoku aren't even necessarily professing Buddhists. Yet one would still be GREATLY ill-advised to challenge any sanzo at Buddhist magic or martial arts if one were not suicidal.
Canon Foreigner: Homura, Zenon and Shien from the GensoumadenFiller arc have only a tiny cameo in the actual manga prequel.
Cast Full of Pretty Boys: 4 semi-recurring, 100% female characters; 2 sympathetic, all antagonists. At least until we get to Reload BLAST.
Character Development: Goku's development is most obvious, since he's slowly going from child to adult over the course of the series. Probably clearest at the end of Gensoumadenwhen he gives the other three a mahjong Reason You Suck Speech to get them back into action and towards the end of Reloadwhen he has his first crush and resolves to continue the journey West for his own reasons, not simply because Sanzo is going.
Celestial Bureaucracy: Heaven in this series is the synchretized Tang Buddhist pantheon, which includes a divine reflection of the Chinese monarchy and civil service system.
Cherry Blossoms: A major motif of Gaiden. Heaven is in eternal sakura season, as it's considered the most beautiful time of year. After Goku goes mad, all of the cherry trees drop their blossoms and it takes many years before buds appear on them again... it's implied to be when the ikkou are reincarnated on Earth.
Chekhov's Gun: Dr. Nii's bunny plushie. 'Where's the fifth sutra?' You ask? Look no further.
Color-Coded Characters: Purple = Sanzo, Yellow/Gold = Goku, Red = Gojyo, Green = Hakkai. These are their eye colors, and in Goku and Gojyo's cases, there are important plot points attached. Purple/yellow and red/green are also opposites/complementary on the color wheel. Weirdly, the Reload anime used blue as Sanzo's color in the openings and changed Hakkai's eyes to blue or gray.
Combat Tentacles: Some youkai have these or something like it especially Hakkai in youkai form, with his vines.
Creepy Child: Hakkai was an extremely cold, isolated child. Other kids stayed away from him because he never smiled.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Koumyou Sanzo is either this or Obfuscating Stupidity, though he appears to be genuinely ditzy. While we really only see his abilities in Ibun, there is the matter of setting the record for youngest sanzo (since broken by Ukoku and Genjyo) and having been so powerful that he was entrusted with two sutras.
Cue the Sun: Happens over and over in the manga, usually in reference to Sanzo and sometimes the whole group. Invoking this image is also part of a symbolic bet between Koumyou Sanzo and Ukoku Sanzo.
Curtains Match the Window: Gojyo's eyes and hair are "blood red," proof of his human-demon hybrid nature. The actual color used to indicate "blood red" varies from darkish pink to a weird orange, depending.
As Goku helpfully informs us after having seen Gojyo in the bath, the carpet does not match the drapes. It's black.
Distressed Damsel: Kanan when she is kidnapped by Hyakugan Maoh and thus becoming a Disposable Woman. Lirin when she is taken off by her mother for scientific experimentation only to be saved by Kougaiji, Yaone and Doukugakuji. And somewhat Yaone when she failed her mission and was saved by Kougaiji when she attempted to kill herself.
Also that one episode where once again Yaone failed her mission and gets kidnapped by another demon, and when Hakkai heard that, he requests the team to save her, leading to an Enemy Mine situation with Kougaiji & co.
Driven to Suicide: Kanan waited until Gonou (Hakkai) arrived to rescue her, told him that she was now pregnant with the demon who kidnapped and raped her, and then killed herself.
Yaone was stopped from killing herself by Kougaiji when she failed her first mission.
Dysfunction Junction: The four main characters all have their tragic pasts. Sanzo has to deal with the death of his Mentor, who died to protect him; Gojyo has to deal with his half-demon nature, as well as guilt over the death of his step-mother; Hakkai has to deal with his past as an orphan who had inadvertent Brother-Sister Incest, as well as the manner by which he became a demon; finally, Goku is Really 700 Years Old, although he spent most of that time being caged on top of a mountain. Whew!
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: 'Sanzo' is technically a rank, not a personal name. His Buddhist dynastic name is Genjyo but it's rarely used except in his full title or to distinguish him from other members of the Sanzo priesthood like Koumyou and Ukoku. Goku seized on the "Sanzo" part of that long-ass formal title when they first met and used it like a personal name. Hakki and Gojyo later picked up this habit from Goku. We're reminded of this in the aftermath of the first fight with Kami-sama, when the-priest-formerly-known-Koryuu screams at his companions to stop calling him "Sanzo": without the sutra, he can't lay claim to that rank anymore. It also comes up in Blast when Sharak is introduced, meaning that there are two sanzo priests present. The rest of the ikkou muse on how if they called him "Genjyo" it would feel like they were talking about a stranger.
Expy: Homura's clothes, appearance, goals and means of death are suspiciously similar to those of Sensui Shinobu. Both series were animated by Studio Pierrot, and Homura is a Canon Foreigner who made a brief cameo as a Canon Tourist.
Chin Yisou, too. He's in permanent niko-niko mode, and much like Xellos, is one of those characters whom you really don't want to open his eyes, because it usually means he's about to do something really...uh...bad.
Hakkai puts his own eye out, and wears a glass replacement. The anime toned it down so that the actual eye didn't, y'know, come out.
Minekura specifies that it isn't glass in a Q&A session of an artbook. It's actually bio-mechanical (there's your Schizo Tech again) and he can see through it.
At the end of the Reload manga, this is the presumptive outcome of the climatic battle with Ukoku. It looks like Ukoku has lost sight in at least one eye, if not both. He may have intentionally worsened the damage in order to achieve "true darkness"... because he's a nutcase.
Fan Nickname: "Pippi," after Pippi Longstocking, for the girl the guys live with in the youkai village.
"Sanzo-ikkou," for Sanzo's group (Sanzo, Goku, Hakkai, Gojyo, & Jeep) and in turn "Kougajiji-ikkou" for his group (Kougaiji, Doku, Yaone, & Lirin). "-ikkou" is used to denote a group, particularly of Buddhist pilgrims. A/k/a the "Kougaiji-tachi" or "Kou-tachi" ("Kou's gang/people/posse").
Fanservice: For everybody! Lirin, Yaone and several incidental girls are incredibly busty, and the four protagonists are kind enough to remove their shirts on occasion. Especially on Hakkai and Goku.
The shower/bath house scenes. Sanzo gets one; Gojyo gets two in the various series AND one in the movie; and of course there's a Hot Spring Episode.
Justified, though, since she never claimed to be a fighter and is referred to as an alchemist/apothecary.
Filler: Tons. The filler in the first anime series, Gensoumaden Saiyuki, is generally considered superior to the filler in Saiyuki RELOAD and Saiyuki RELOAD Gunlock. All three series liked to rehash the old familiar sob stories, but the Gensoumaden writers applied them to new situations and even animated chapters of Gaiden, while RELOAD/Gunlock tended towards endless flashbacks or Pokemon-esque character-of-the-day side stories.
Femme Fatalons: Queen Gyokumen Koushu spends a lot of time lacquering her long nails - or, more precisely, having some luckless youkai slave lacquer them for her. She has them comb her hair, too.
First Love: Hakkai's sister wasn't only his first romantic partner, she was also probably his first close friend, ever.
Foregone Conclusion: In Gaiden. Konzen, Kenren and Tenpou have to die for the main plot to be possible.
Also, Saiyuki Ibun. We already know that Houmei (Koumyou Sanzo) and Toudai (Goudai Sanzo) will receive the Seiten and Muten Kyoumon respectively. Their youkai friend Tenkai will receive the Maten Kyoumou but he will die and Koumyou will inherit it. Likewise, in the present timeline, we know that Toudai will die at the hands of student Ni Jianyi.
Sanzo-ikkou: Sanzo is choleric, Goku is sanguine, Gojyo is phlegmatic and Hakkai is melancholic.
Kougaiji-ikkou: Kougaiji is choleric, Lirin is sanguine, and Dokugaku and Yaone switch off between who is currently phlegmatic and who is melancholic.
Konzen-ikkou: Goku is sanguine, Tenpou is phlegmatic, Kenren is melancholic, and Konzen is choleric.
Can also be interpreted as Western-style Four Element Ensembles (instead of the 5 element system usually found in Chinese settings). Earth: Goku (literally born from a stone) / Lirin. Water: Gojyo / Dokugakuji (both sons of a kappa, a water demon). Air: Hakkai (from zephyr to hurricane) / Yaone. Fire: Sanzo (blazing sun) / Kougaiji (literally shoots fireballs out of his palms). A tear-out poster from the end of Gaiden shows the Konzen-ikkou in this configuration.
Friend to All Living Things: Counter to everything one might expect...in one of Sanzo's earliest flashback sequences (to his history with Shuuei), Kouryuu talks an angry bear into leaving the monastery grounds by promising they will not disturb its territory. This is clearly intended to make a contrast with trigger-happy present day Sanzo, but the monks witnessing this are also clearly a bit creeped out at Kouryuu's force of personality and lack of fear.
This aspect of his personality actually carries on even if he hides it better. Gojyo and Hakkai often tease that one of the reasons he and Goku get along so well, and the reason he was able to so easily capture/befriend Lirin, is that he is 'good with small animals.' In his character book it is also stated that Jeep adores and admires him as well. This is carried over from the original Journey to the West, in which Sanzo was a more typical 'wouldn't hurt a fly' example. He still doesn't quite qualify for this trope though, because humans and demons are living things.
Gag Dub: The ADV Films dub of the first season comes quite close to this, due to heavily re-written dialogue and added swearing. After Geneon took over for Reload, the dubs were much more faithful.
Probably because the anime is extremely censored. ADV looked at the translation and felt that it didn't hold up to the manga. So they went with the manga versions of the characters (this is actually stated in the cast commentary). Better to be faithful to the source material than watered down versions in later dubs.
I Am Not Left-Handed: Goku and Hakkai, being demons, have immensely greater powers without their Restraining Bolt accessories. However, this comes with a loss of control and most rational thought, and as such is only left for the most dire of situations.
Implausible Hair Color: Yaone's is purple; Gojyo's, though it isn't often shown correctly n the anime, is supposed to be not humanly red but true crimson.
Improbable Age: Sanzo attained the highest possible priestly rank at age 13. Justified as his predecessor was murdered half an hour after naming him successor. Sharak comments on this in BLAST, saying that she'd wondered what kind of idiot let the Seiten sutra slip through his hands but that Genjyo's done pretty well considering he was a child at the time. Also, the previous record holder, Dr. Nii aka Ukoku Sanzou, achieved a Ph.D and the same rank at age 17, except he killed his master instead.
I Need You Stronger: Saiyuki: Journey to the West - The Benevolent Goddess claims she sent the Sanzo party over land to help them become stronger as a team. Then again, she also said she likes jerking their chains.
Intelligence Equals Isolation: this seems to be one of the main reasons that Hakkai had trouble relating to the other orphans and the holy sisters. It's remarked that if he'd wanted further schooling he could have had his choice of scholarships.
Jerkass Fašade: Sanzo. Acts like a Jerkass, except it's very clear why others follow him and put up with his behavior, nor is he oblivious to his bad image. Plus he has stated (in his thoughts) that his own traumatic past has made him prefer people he doesn't have to protect, which implies he's this caustic as a defense mechanism.
Jerkass Gods: Even the Merciful Goddess comes off as manipulative and self-centered.
Hazel at the very end of the Reload manga also qualifies for this.
Light is Good/Dark Is Evil: Genjyo Sanzo is heir to both the Seiten (heavenly/yang energy) and Maten (infernal/yin energy) sutras (although the Seiten has been MIA since his ascension), making his role to balance the sacred and the profane. There is a more conventional light/dark dichotomy between goodguy!Genjyo (deeply associated with imagery of the sun and daybreak) and badguy!Ukoku (deeply associated with moonless nights and carrion crows).
Lover and Beloved: Characters gossip about potential relationships of this kind. In ancient Chinese Buddhist monasteries, sexual relationships between older monks and young acolytes were common and well-known. Koumyou and Koryuu, and later Sanzo and Goku, provoke spiteful speculation because of their unusual lack of formality.
The Medic: Yaone in Kougaiji's group, Hakkai in the Sanzo-ikkou.
Medium Awareness: Jiroshin can't prove that Kanzeon really is a hermaphrodite, cause the rating isn't high enough. Also extremely prevalent in the drama CDs in which the boys comment on how they do the gag where they order a lot of food and the waitress has to repeat it all back a lot.
Mentor Occupational Hazard: Genjyo Sanzo's entire adult life is built around seeking to avenge his murdered foster father, Koumyou Sanzo, and recover the sutra stolen from him. Koumyou chose to protect Genjyo with his own body, leading to Genjyo's distaste for self-sacrifice...because he knows the toll it takes on the survivor. At the very end of the Reload manga, Ukoku points out that Koumyou was more than powerful enough to have fought off the attackers and therefore must have intended to die (and Ukoku would know, considering that Koumyou nearly broke his wrist without any obvious exertion the first time they met). The implication being that Koumyou knew what effect his death would have on Genjyo and purposely set him on that path...
Also played with with Goku, who at the beginning of the manga is only going on this journey because Sanzo is, and he'd follow him anywhere. By the middle of Reload he has come to the conclusion that he will continue west for his own reasons, not just for Sanzo. It should be noted that Sanzo would prefer he do the latter anyway.
Myth Arc: The revelation of what's really at stake in the Minus Wave conflict is very slow and complex. For the entire first series, we know only that the Gyuumaoh revival is causing madness in youkai and must be stopped. It isn't until the final chapters of Gensomaden that the real Big Bad(Ni Jienyi / Ukoku Sanzo) is revealed...the Sanzo party doesn't even realize such a person exists or that his motives involve some sort of bet with Sanzo's late mentor until the end of Reload. And it isn't until BLAST that we find out this also has something to do with Nataku's catatonia from the end of Gaiden and Genkai's prophecy from Ibun.
No Body Left Behind: In the anime episodes and Requiem OVA, slain youkai crumble to dust immediately. The manga is considerably more gory throughout and the recent Gaiden and Burial OVAs show blood and bodies as well. One exception is a JustifiedTrope: Konzen is caught in the closing Dimensional Gate and his body is destroyed in the void between dimensions.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Pretty much every other main character is stronger than Gojyo in one way or another, whether by kyouryouku or sutra or being-seiten-taisei. But in his favor, he is usually the last one still standing at the end of the battle, which corresponds to the source material, where Wujing was weak compared to Wukong and Baijie, but had incredible stamina. The Kami-sama arc also proves that Gojyo is necessary to keep the group dynamic from going completely nuclear. Without him, Sanzo and Hakkai both get wound too tight and Goku alone can't keep them from driving each other craz(ier than they already are).
Papa Wolf: Konzen. Made all the more satisfying because he, unlike Sanzo, has had some damn fine character development and is willing to perform all kinds of death defying thrills for his adopted son, Goku.
Sanzo's furious response (subverted Unstoppable Rage, since he has no outlet) following a brief Heroic BSOD to Goku's near-death in volume 6 of Reload fits this trope, although the smaller age difference may make this more like Big Brother Instinct.
Paper Fan of Doom: Owned by Sanzo, usually used on Goku when he's being annoying (though Gojyo's not immune).
Goku zig zags this trope, since part of his many issues is that his True Companions died though they had promised not to, and though he has no conscious memory of this the mere sight of Sanzou being grievously injured was enough to trigger Goku's Superpowered Evil Side. However, what he doesn't know (that the reader does) is that all of said companions managed to reincarnate and gather by his side once again.
Parental Favoritism: Gojyo's mother hated him (because he was the product of an adulterous relationship)
Parental Incest: Part of Dokugakuji's back story: after his and Gojyo's father died, he would sleep with his mother to calm her down and keep her from hurting Gojyo.
The Power of Friendship: Although the main characters rarely, if ever, accept this. Even the villains are not immune from this trope.
Powers That Be: The pantheon presented is essentially the synchretized version of Buddhism that dominated Tang China, which contains Taoist and Confucian elements not found in Indian Buddhism, such as a heavenly bureaucracy ruled by an emperor. Kwan Yin (Kanzeon) being a hermaphrodite is Minekura's invention, but the Goddess of Compassion is an important Chinese deity.
Considering Kwan Yin/Avalokiteshvara's gender varies from tradition to tradition, Minekura's depiction of hir as a hermaphrodite isn't totally out of the blue.
Reason You Suck Speech: Many of them. This is pretty much the only kind of preaching Sanzo actually does...and he's quite good at taking an opponent apart verbally.
Red-Headed Stepchild: Not only does Gojyo have red hair, but it's a sign of his mixed heritage, which is in turn one of the key reasons his stepmother beats him so much. Once, he brought her red flowers, and she brutally beat him specifically because they reminded her of his hair color. Given that it's a Japanese franchise, the whole story is surprisingly similar to the Italian/Irish stepfamily situation which purportedly started the expression in the first place.
Lirin as well - her hair colour ranges in art from orange to strawberry blonde, but boy howdy thanks to her mom does she ever count.
Reincarnation: Sanzo, Gojyo and Hakkai are the reincarnations of three gods who apparently died trying to save Goku from being persecuted or turned into a second Nataku.
Senseless Sacrifice: In Saiyuki Requiem the girl introduced in the story sacrifices her life in order to destroy the big bad in the movie for good, so that she can die knowing her life was worth something. Too bad that accomplished absolutely nothing and the Big Bad is completely unaffected.
Kougaji's view of seending mooks out to kill the Sanzo party is this, and he's pretty much right on the money.
Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Goku and Hakkai being the gentler and more polite (hardly in Goku's case) Sensitive Guy to Gojyo's cruder, rougher Manly Man.
Ship Tease: Early episodes, and even The Movie provides quite a bunch of Hakkai-Yaone teases, even moreso since Yaone has a striking resemblance to Hakkai's deceased lover, and acts almost like the same. Later episodes completely drop this, but there's still some tease for Kougaiji-Yaone and even Dokugaku-Yaone. Then again, this is a Ho Yay series.
Shooting Superman: Generic Youkai going after the Sanzo party is pretty much this, but Gyokumen Koushu keeps sending them out anyway, since she wants her henchmen to always be doing something - even if it's trooping off to be mowed down week after week.
Shotacon: A lot of fans seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of Goku in any kind of romantic or sexual relationship, given his childish nature and appearance, despite the fact that he's physically 18 andReally 700 Years Old. This is especially bad for those who have only seen the anime—while it showed the very beginning of his Character Development in the Kami-sama arc, it quickly Overtook the Manga and tended to treat Goku like a standard stupidShōnen protagonist.
Faceless bystanders tend to spread rumors of this nature about the relationships between Koumyou and Kouyruu and Konzen and Goku.
Shoulders of Doom: Included with the standard uniform for members of the Celestial Army.
Smoking Is Cool: Gojyo and Sanzo. And Tenpou and Kenren in Gaiden. They even have their own preferred brands. Sanzo smokes Marlboros, Gojyo and Kenren prefer Hi-Lites, and Tenpou likes Ark Royal.
Stalker with a Crush: Chin Yisou, at Hakkai. If anyone personifies refined bad-touch... His friggin' arm's off and he still doesn't drop the honourifics! Also Dougan, from the Requiem movie. The lengths that boy goes to in order to get Sanzo's attention are... something else. Sanzo even calls him "demented stalker bastard" to his face.
Stepford Smiler: Hakkai. He generally plays the role of a cheery pseudo-mom/housewife of the group, but he used to be a Creepy Child who eventually ended up in a loving romantic and sexual relationship with his older sister, murdered 1,000 demons and an entire village because she was kidnapped, and can calmly pluck out his own eye.
Like Hakkai, Gojyo smiles a lot but has a lot of emotional pain he hasn't dealt with at all. He's still fairly messed up from a horrifically abusive childhood at the hands of his stepmother (who he loved, though she despised him); this, in addition to the stigma associated with being a mixed breed ("taboo child" in series parlance), has left him with absolutely no self-worth.
Superpowered Evil Side: All youkai have a berserker-esque side that is unleashed when they are violently angry (or mind-controlled), but arguably Goku's is the most terrifying.
Sure, Why Not?: As a joke, Kazuya Minekura once listed on Hakkai's bio (prior to the animated series being made) that he was "voiced by Akira Ishida". The anime production house picked the man himself to do Hakkai.
Team Mom: Hakkai. Gojyo even calls him out on it once or twice.
Technicolor Eyes: Hakkai has a gold eye and a green one when he takes off his limiter. (Proving to many fans that his right eye was indeed artificial.)
The Three Faces of Eve: In an unusual male example, Son Goku is the Child, being youthful looking, cheerful and more than a bit clueless, Cho Hakkai fits the Wife archetype by being intelligent, sensible and even tempered, then we have Sha Gojyo, who happens to be flirty and physical, particularly where women are concerned, making him the Seductress. These examples are basically in terms of personality rather than gender.
Tyke Bomb: Nataku, despite being a kid, is used by the celestial army as a living weapon.
Also Goku, in his younger years.
Arguably Kami-sama as well, in his younger years, considering what a pain in the ass he becomes when he's older.
Unusual Chapter Numbers: The main-story series have chapters grouped into numbered "acts"—roughly equivalent to plot arcs. Omake chapters are given fractional act numbers. Full-chapter flashbacks are numbered "act.xx".
Villainous Breakdown: Kami-sama, while not exactly sane, was spookily calm as he was beating Sanzo and co. half to death, but once they start working together and gain the upper hand, he degenerates into a childish tantrum.
Wicked Stepmother: Gyokumen. Big time towards Kougaiji. Made even worse when it's revealed she doesn't even like her own daughter.
With Friends Like These...: pretty much the dynamic of the Sanzo party. Don't make the mistake of thinking they're friends. Sanzo constantly is shooting at the others, Hakkai once smilingly broke Gojyo's arm when the latter abandoned them (okay, it was a mirage, but Hakkai was happily pretending it was the real thing), Goku... well Goku and Gojyo're actually too nice to do more than call people names, but they certainly complain about the others (and each other) enough.