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Saiyuki (Hakkai)
Kate kate_nepveu
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Int'l Saiyuki week: ikkou pairs

Hasty morning thought on Saiyuki, volumes 1-9. No Reload spoilers, please.

So, the Sanko ikkou and the Kougaiji ikkou (and someone please tell me how you actually pronounce those in Japanese, because now I have "ikou ikou inay" stuck in my head). Four each, in opposition, pairs among them carefully set up.

Gojyo and Jien? Brothers.

Hakkai and Yaone? Similar roles and personalities (at least superficially); intertwined backstories.

Goku and Kou? Zen moments of challenge and understanding; once and future prisoners.

Which leaves us with . . . Sanzo and Lirin.

Just comic relief, or something else I'm not seeing?

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Well, you could pair Sanzo and Kou, since they're the leaders, which would leave Goku and Lirin.

You could, and that would make sense in terms of roles, and yet it's not the impression that I get from their interactions.

Hmm. I guess I also see the Sanzo-Kou parallel as being foregrounded more than the Goku-Kou one because of some events in Reload. But I'll just zip my lips for now.

This is nonspoilery, so I'll add that we should be careful not to underestimate the importance of a character's role within his/her group. I think it fits well with the Confucian idea of understanding people by their relationships with each other. We've only seen a few interactions between the groups in vols. 1-9, mostly because of the long digression of the kami-sama arc. But to me, it's not just that Sanzo and Kou are both leaders (though granted, with very different styles). It's how Sanzo relates to Hakkai rather reminds me of how Kou relates to Yaone, and how Sanzo relates to Goku reminds me of how Kou relates to Lirin.

Yeah, I've always drawn parallels between Sanzo and Kou and between Goku and Lirin instead. At first it was just the physical similarities and Lirin and Goku's child/adolescent natures vs. the other six, who are adult. But it's also Sanzo and Kou's sort of uncertainty as to why they're leaders or something. I'm not quite saying it right, but it's that they both seem to be somewhat reluctant leaders or something?

And while I get somewhat annoyed at Lirin's child-like-ness, I think she's got an innocence and a lack of damage that parallels that of Goku's. And she's the one in the group who loves openly and unabashedly.

My impression, at least early, is that Sanzo would rather not be saddled with others while Kou would rather not have to make decisions. At least on the surface.

Lirin & Goku are also once-and-future prisoners. (Possibly everybody in _Saiyuki_ is in a way. Or maybe it's the cold pills talking.)

the Confucian idea of understanding people by their relationships with each other

Is there anything to be expanded on WRT this?

I mean, it reminds me of the way that I love how all four of them have relationshps with each other, it's not just two + two, but my knowledge of Confucianism is limited to Master Li's complaints about it in _Bridge of Birds_ and sequels.

Well, Confucianism emphasizes right relationships. At some level, this manifests itself as an emphasis on what's proper that is mostly foreign to the world of Saiyuki. However, I think that Confucian principle also affects Asian thinking. I'm reminded of yhlee's recent post on The Geography of Thought, where she wrote:
Also studies of whether participants grouped by rules (Western) or relationships (Eastern). Example: Given a chicken, cow, and grass, the Western participants preferred to group the chicken and cow together (common category: animal). The Chinese participants preferred to group the cow and grass together (relationship: cows eat grass).

As an Asian American, I exhibit both stereotypical Western thinking and stereotypical Asian thinking. I very much doubt that I would have paired the cow with grass! But I have noticed a certain amount of this Asian thinking in my writing (see my past post on characters and relationships) and I think it plays heavily into how I read too: I understand characters primarily through how they relate with the other characters around them, whether juniors or seniors or peers.

Minekura's writing certainly encourages us to read Saiyuki this way. In volumes 1-9, we're introduced to the characters, then the backstory, then the obvious pairs, and then the less obvious pairs. But I wonder--is Minekura at some level assuming that we're reading this way even before her mini-arcs start looking at the inter-relationships? That of course her readers would understand Hakkai not in isolation, but as Gojyo's friend, as Sanzo's friend, as Goku's friend?

And to go back to your original query, I've stated a few reasons (or at least alluded to them) why I'm inclined to see the pairs between the Sanzo-ikkou and Kou-tachi as Sanzo-Kou and Goku-Lirin. Certainly there is a connection between Goku and Kou in that fight. But I can't get past the argument made by the pattern of relationships because I'm so inclined to give that particular argument primary--and I think that's because it plays to the Asian aspects of my ways of thinking and reading.

I was interested in Yoon's post because it confirmed that I'm only an Asian-American in terms of ancestry; my thinking is pretty much 100% American. =>

IOW, I happen to see relationships because I love character in art, but the relationships are one aspect of character that may be more or less important depending on the work, not what I automatically look for to understanding character.

Does the theme of taboo have much to do with Confucianism, do you think, or is it a more general idea?

Does the theme of taboo have much to do with Confucianism, do you think, or is it a more general idea?

Gosh, I really don't know enough to say.

The wiki does have some interesting thoughts on ritualism versus legalism--namely that ritualistic societies (Eastern) emphasizes the internalization of what is right while legalistic societies (Western) depend more on external enforcement. It's the shame vs. guilt split. I wonder if taboos have greater weight in the shame context, but that's just a wild guess.

Oops, can't type-- meant "inclined to give that particularly argument primacy."

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Yes, that's sensible, thank you. And also Kou doesn't know that Goku's apparent carefree nature is more complicated than it looks, at least not at the giant crab stage (I think he gets the idea in vol. 6).

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Perhaps we should consider Goku's fighting for yourself lesson in light of the mahjong in volume 9. In both cases (first with Kou; later with the other three members of the Sanzo-ikkou, but especially Sanzo), Goku is trying to find a way to explain something that he understands instinctively. As a pair, Goku and Kou are complementary more than parallel, I think. And complementarity can be the basis for an interesting fight as much as likeness can.

Goku is so Zen. The mahjong lesson is similar to when he draws a life-line on Hakkai's hand in volume 4: it's a metaphoric action whose nature as a metaphor points out that the problem it solves also resides in the mind rather than in some insoluble problem or destiny.

Apparently the "kun" (Japanese reading) of the "go" in "Goku" is "satori--" enlightenment.

Ditto-ing kintail on the Japanese comments! "Ikkou" is written with the kanji for one (i with a small tsu that makes the double k) and line/path/journey/go (many meanings, this one in particular probably meaning journey/go) (kou). The "i" in Japanese is always pronounced "ee," and there's a short glottal stop for the double consonant. Er, or at least, that's what Yoon calls it. The "ou" is pronounced as a long "oooo" (as in boat, not boot).

Tachi means group. But I get things mixed up and say the Konzen-ikkou or the Kou-tachi or whatnot.

On a side note, oooo, I totally missed the imagery of Lirin with a giant vat of liquid and wires! (relates to another post of mine)

So you'd say it "eek-koo"? Where do you stress it?

Man, I took a class in college on cyborgs. Not that Saiyuki was available then, but still, it would've been so much fun to write on it.

Ummm, sort of like "eek(small pause where you sort of swallow the "k" sound after the ee so it's not a hard k)KOU." Sorry =(. It's really hard to describe how the double consonant stop should sound without... um... sound.

Oh, that'll do well enough for now. Thanks!

Are stresses something you can deduce from the spelling, or is it something that needs to be memorized on a word by word basis?

Before my trip to Japan, a Japanese friend of mine taught me a few words and phrases. But she warned me to try to speak in a monotone, with no stresses. She stresses were hard, and if I tried, I'd just sound wacky/strange.

A forget accents. I pretty much don't notice different Japanese accents. I showed a friend an episode or two of Abenobashi, and he turned to me laughing in disbelief, "Why are they talking like that!?" Huh? I intelligently responded.

Actually, it's not really a stress, per se. Japanese isn't really stressed on syllables, or so my teachers said. It's also not tonal. But there was an up or down quality to each syllable, and that's where I got lost in class and didn't quite figure out how that was different from stresses.

Unfortunately, you can't really tell with spelling, but in general, I've found that three-syllable words tend to be accented or stressed or whatnot on the first syllable instead of the second, as in English. Ex. SA-ku-ra instead of sa-KU-ra, YA-ku-za instead of ya-KU-za.

In the My Neighbor Totoro theme song, they sing "TO-to-ro, to-TO-ro," shifting the stress to fit the song, which sounds so strange to English-speaking ears!

Hmmm, your comment about shifting to make short-term points is well taken, and makes me wonder to myself whether shifting in the other two pairs took place without my noticing it (I should look at Yaone yelling at Doku again) or might do so.

It's true, it's hard to see why Sanzo and Lirin are paired beyond the comedy value of her sitting on his shoulders eating meatbuns, and someone has already mentioned that they are both blonds, so...

But beyond those obvious pairs I love how there are so many other ways to view them in light of their other relationships:

Gojyo and Kougaiji - linked by their physical similarity and relationships with Doku.

Sanzo and Kougaiji - one openly adored as a leader and one decidely *not* openly adored, and yet they somehow inspire the same amounts of loyalty.

Hakkai and Kougaji - one able to save a victim from Hykaougan Maoh, the other not.

Hakkai and Doku - through their relationship with Gojyo, as Hakkai in effect becomes Gojyo's family.