Saiyuki: Gojyo and The Cult Of Loneliness


The third member of the Sanzo party we are going to look at, Sha Gojyo, is quite possibly the most heartbreaking character to analyze. This is because he is a Cassanova who does not believe in love. At least that’s what he tells himself. He is the type of character that feels it is far safer to keep his distance from other people. While he is not as angry as Sanzo, he is not open like Hakkai either, a fact which makes it difficult to understand what exactly is going on under the surface.

As with his companions, the best way to understand Gojyo is to look at his past. He is a half-demon, a taboo child hated by everyone. His stepmother, whom he loves as a mother, tries to kill him because he is a reminder of the woman his father had an affair with. His half-brother has to go as far as killing her to save him. A past like that is going to leave a few scars.

What is love, anyway? Not that I want it.

This bitter statement reflects the hollow death inside Gojyo. On the outside, he is a confident, sarcastic, lacivious playboy. He is a man who does whatever he feels like, and consequences be damned. But all the cigarettes and beer and gambling and women in the world cannot fill the hole inside him that yearns for love and a strong bond with another human being. So he keeps trying to fill it, and he keeps failing.

Why? Because, he doesn’t realize that he already has what he’s looking for.

As with Sanzo’s obsession with “embracing nothing,” Gojyo’s bitterness and fear of lonliness are acts of contradiction. The very fact that he has three close friends (and one particularly close one, I might add) proves that he is not nearly as empty and alone as he thinks. He’s so stuck on the guilt and the sadness of his past that he cannot fully give himself to the people around him.

But that does not stop them from loving him. And towards the end of the series, he seems to finally figure that out.

My response to Gojyo is simple:

You already know what love is.

Just look at the people who haven’t abandoned you or given up on you.

Calm, quiet patience and simple sacrifice for the sake of the loved one.

That’s what love is.

The Anime Philosopher

Next time, we will discuss Homura and Obsessive Love


Saiyuki: Hakkai and Conversion

Of all the characters in Saiyuki, Cho Hakkai is easily the most familiar to the Catholic worldview I come from. While he is filtered through the lens of an Eastern misunderstanding of Catholicism, Hakkai is still recognizable as a Catholic. He wears a cross under his shirt (in the manga at least) and was raised by nuns. But the part of Hakkai’s character that is the most deeply Catholic is the way in which he relates to sin.

Hakkai is, if nothing else, a major sinner. When he was known as Cho Gonou, he married his sister, slaughtered at least a thousand youkai and several hundred humans, and describes himself as vain and prideful. When Gojyo finds him disemboweled in the rain, Gonou seems to want nothing else than to die. When he regains consciousness in Gojyo’s bed, he asks one question:

Am I in hell?

It is obvious that Gonou thinks that he belongs in hell. After all, the things he has done seem unforgivable. Heaven’s doors aren’t likely to open for a incestuous mass-murderer. Admitting that fact to himself seems to be his first step towards becoming a good person again.

He certainly doesn’t act like a monster as he lives under Gojyo’s roof. He is extremely polite, to the point that Gojyo can’t believe he is a fugitive when Sanzo shows up to bring him to justice. But he is driven to accomplish one thing, before he can let Sanzo capture him: he has to bring his sister-wife’s body to a proper burial. Until then, he cannot die peacefully.

It turns out that the way Gonou clings to sin is the same way in which all humans do: we would repent, except that there is one thing which we need to do, one little barrier that stops us from becoming saints. We make excuses and delay our destinies because we are caught up in ending whatever brought us to sin. That is how the devil traps us, in little bits, and in one final quest that must be finished.

But Sanzo offers Gonou a way out. He agrees to let him go to the castle she died in, and in fact goes with him to chant sutras for Kanan (even though Sanzo doesn’t believe in them), thus placing Gonou in his custody. Then he brings him before the heavenly court, where he is purged of his sin and given a new name: Cho Hakkai.

In a sense, Hakkai is purified by taking on his new name. He becomes a new person, separate from his evil past (almost literally, as Sanzo tells Gojyo “Cho Gonou is dead”). And while he still carries the memories of that sin with him, it no longer is tearing at his soul. He is now free to do good, and to (by the grace of God) enter Heaven some day.

In answer to Hakkai’s question, I respond:

This is not Hell. This is Purgatory. Here, your evil will be burned away.

-The Anime Philosopher

In the next post, we will visit Sha Gojyo: the Loveless Cowboy.

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