Q: I have a question for Kenren. Of all the things that have come up when cleaning Tenpou’s room, what’s surprised you most? (Fukui Prefecture, Tamako-san) A: Kenren: “... Well, rotten bentos and socks that look like dust mops’re common, yeah. And it’s a room filled with weird stuff to begin with... Well, the rubber horse hat looking at me from a corner of a bookcase did scare me. When I asked what it was, he goes, “Ah, I’ve used that already; I don’t need it anymore.” ... But what did he use it for, huh? -- Ah, I just remembered, the thing that surprised me most was that thing. The dove carcass.”

Q: Is Tenpou astigmatic? nearsighted? farsighted? What prescription eyeglasses does he wear? (Saitama Prefecture, AYA-san) A: He’s nearsighted and astigmatic. He’s about 0.03 without glasses, and 1.0 with. But he doesn’t take good care of them, so the lenses aren’t clean.

Q: What kind of sports does Sensei like? (To watch and to play) (Mie Prefecture, NK-san) A: I was on the neighborhood dodgeball team, so I’m only good at dodgeball. Thanks to undergoing special training wherein I was hit from all sides with balls, I have absolutely no fear of things hitting me. When something comes flying, I have a habit of unthinkingly moving my entire body and intercepting that thing with my chest. That habit is a remnant of my dodgeball days, and a very dangerous one at that (...). As for sports I like watching, when I was in school I was in love with (J-league) soccer (I especially liked S-Pulse’s Hasegawa Kenta [長谷川健太]...). I can’t take my eyes of the TV when there’s a soccer match on. I noticed it’s an obstacle to working on manuscripts, so since I became an adult I gave up watching them completely. Now I like watching track and field (because they’re over like that). But I end up watching World Baseball Channel without realizing it. Oh, and if there are “Muscle Rank” type programs on, I always end up watching. I hate moving my body, but I love watching bodies in motion. This has absolutely no connection, but during the Athens Olympics, my younger brother called me to say, “You’re in the softball game right now, pitching.” Takayama Juri [高山樹里]... Um, we really do look alike (sweat drop). So much so that Ashi-san and the others cried out in surprise. I might get mistaken for her, so I’d like her to do well.

IMAGE: Goku Nataku (Tokyo City, KM-san)

Q: Do people living in Heaven get cavities too? (Gifu Prefecture, Sanaru-san) A: I suppose if they’re lazy they’ll get cavities, but instead of doctors I think there are people who fix them with magical powers. I’m jealous. I think Tenpou is too lazy, and doesn’t even undergo that treatment. Tenpou: “Doesn’t showing the inside of your mouth to a complete stranger send shivers down your spine?” Kenren: “... Then brush your teeth properly”

IMAGE: I love Goku ♡ (Aichi Prefecture, KY-san)

Q: Please tell me an episode of Kenren’s that he’s too embarrassed to tell people. (Okuyama Prefecture, SR-san) A: I can’t tell you something here that’s too embarrassing to tell people (laughs)... I don’t know, he probably wouldn’t be all that embarrassed if he were seen by other people, but he’d be all embarrassed if he were by himself. Being embarrassed isn’t cool either, so he wouldn’t show it. But when he gets shy and embarrassed he won’t meet your eyes, and he has a habit of covering his mouth with a hand, so the people in the know, know.

Q: If the characters were animals, what animals would they be? (Shiga Prefecture, MU-san) A: I thought about it, but unity would be lost, so I made them all dogs. Mini Goku = Mame Shiba Inu. They’re round and cute. Konzen = Borzoi (without the agility). They’re quiet and very cautious. Kenren = Doberman. They’re hard to discipline but extremely loyal. Tenpou = Setter. They have a calm face, but are surprisingly fierce hunting dogs. Nataku = Beagle. Somehow... they’re small but cautious hunting dogs. Kannon = Saluki. Because they have the most flexible, elegant image. ... Somehow, it ended up being entirely big dogs...

Q: Of the “Saiyuki Gaiden” characters, who’s the best singer? And is there anyone who’s no good at singing? (Kumamoto Prefecture, Macha-san) A: Kenren frequently hums or whistles, but I think if anyone told him to actually sing, he’d become shy and refuse. I wonder if Konzen’s ever sung before...? He might be good if he tried, but he seems the type to only rarely sing. Even though Sanzo won’t let go of the mic when he’s drunk. Tenpou seems like he’d only know weird Lower World songs. He seems the type to suddenly start humming enka or folk songs. Tenpou: “It’s a famous song, right? “Fish Heaven” [おさかな天国 Osakana Tengoku]? ............ Right. Yeah.

  • Fish Heaven was a promotional song for Japan Fishieries Cooperative. Basically, eat fish and you’ll become beautiful and smart! Ignore the guy edited into the video. He doesn’t really know the dance.

Q: If Sensei were to switch bodies with someone for one day, who would you chose? Please tell us why, too! (Aomori Prefecture, Tendaa-san) A: I’d like to be Tenpou. If I became Tenpou, I’d spend my days inside, so it wouldn’t be much different from the norm, but if Kenren were bustling about taking care of me, definitely. ... Definitely. (I said it twice)

IMAGE: If you pray... (Kanagawa Prefecture, SR-san)

IMAGE: jug: sake Thanks for your hard work finishing serialization of Saiyuki Gaiden. The ending was all scenes that made me cry, truly painful... ... No matter what, I will never forget the way they desperately lived. (Aichi Prefecture, Yohta-san)

Q: Do Konzen, Kenren, and Tenpou like sweets? (I figure Goku likes them!) (Yohko-san) A: I don’t think Konzen particularly cares for sweets. Though he does seem likely to eat hard sweets made of Japanese sugar, or suama mochi... Kenren doesn’t care to eat sweets either. I guess it’s because he’s a man made of sake. Tenpou likes sweets; he’s a man who can drink sake with sweet things. He’s moved by the sight of parfaits and sweets (laughs), saying, “This is a form of art.” He’s a horrible boss who asks for this and that, and little by little pushes what he can’t finish onto Kenren and his subordinates.

Q: This didn’t come up in the manga, but what did Goku call the Bosatsu-sama? (YA-san) A: At first he called her ‘Aunty’ -> Kannon tickled him so much he had difficulty breathing -> that became a small trauma of Goku’s, and ever after he would run away from Kannon.

Q: What were Konzen, Kenren, and Tenpou’s first loves like? (Okayama Prefecture, SR-san) A: If Konzen did fall in love, I don’t think it would be like that... Kenren’s first love, well, I’ll leave that to your imagination, but I think his love affairs up until now have been more ‘sentiment’ than ‘love.’ And, when he realized that somewhere along the way, he’d break up because he felt bad that it wasn’t love... I think. That’s kind of, “What’s with that...,” if you look at it from the girl’s perspective, but they can’t get upset about it. Tenpou... I think his would definitely have to be a ‘second dimensional person’ ......... (ow ow ow).

Q: Does Kenren have fishing buddies? (Gifu Prefecture, Shouto-san) A: He has dragged along a few of his 1st platoon subordinates, but surprisingly, it looks like he enjoys his time alone, silently casting his fishing line. There are fish in Heaven too, but it’s a catch-and-release policy, so he fishes mainly in the Lower World. He exchanges brief greetings with the fishermen along the same shore, but because deep contact between Heavenly people and Lower World people is forbidden, Kenren doesn’t have what you could call a buddy relationship with them.

Q: There was a scene with Tenpou in the bath, but what do Konzen, Kenren and Goku do for baths? (SN-san) A: Konzen’s rooms, like Tenpou’s, comes with a bath/toilet, so Konzen and Goku use that. I think they bathe together like father and child. As stated earlier, Kenren uses the public baths, or perhaps the simple shower room in the dorms. After a bout of heavy drinking he’ll sober himself up with a midnight shower, when no one’s around.

IMAGE: Saiyuki Gaiden (Hyogo Prefecture, TT-san)

Q: Goku uses the nicknames Ten-chan and Ken-niichan for Tenpou and Kenren, but does he not all Konzen by a nickname? If Konzen were to chose a nickname for himself, what would it be? (Kyatoru-san) A: He isn’t such an amicable man to go by a nickname... (pained smile). I digress, but during a staff meeting my current manager mixed up Ten-chan and Konzen, and ended up calling him ‘Kon-chan’, so lately I’ve been calling him ‘Kon-chan’ too.

Q: How can I draw plants as well as Minekura Sensei? (Saitama Prefecture, Yukka-san) A: ... I really don’t think I draw them well, but I love drawing plants (or rather, nature). It’s far more relaxing than drawing people (laughs). First, you have to like plants... I think. Of course you have to see the beauty in the shape itself, but looking at how the petals and leaves and materials themselves are flexible yet have a unique tension, it would be good if you could think, “Ah, it really is alive.”

IMAGE: (Kouchi Prefecture, KM-san)

IMAGE: book: A{}pan Man (Aichi Prefecture, MM-san)

Q: When do you think of characters and plots? (Chiba Prefecture, SK-san) A: For the characters, first as I draw the image (main visual), I always give them one by one the ‘outer skin’ (the official character type) and the ‘inner nucleus’, and I slowly solidify their insides. At the same time, I begin thinking of conversations between the character and their comrades and those associated with them. I spread out from the character’s fundamental speech patterns, because the individual characters naturally come together as I create their relations. I think, “When you talk to this character, it’s this kind of atmosphere, and he talks like this, and sometimes he calls you this,” or “He’s got this kind of standing among the group.” And when I make them fight and get along in my head, it leads to episodes too. As for the story... I create the story using as themes the things I’ve thought during the day, or after seeing or reading the news, or the things I just wanted to draw. Since the tale starts on its own when I drop the characters in (laughs), continually giving the characters sign posts or items to head them toward the final goal (the theme) becomes my job after that. However, a lot of the time the characters’ personalities give me the run around, and they don’t make it to the goal very easily...

The foundation of story-making is, (I’m often told it’s strange, but) first, I pick a tag line. I decide on the main theme, or an explosive phrase. It’s something like a good luck spell to make sure that the image I want to draw doesn’t waver. In the case of Gaiden, that image was the misappropriation of Chinese poems.

IMAGE: Saiyuki Gaiden Minekura Sensei, good work! (Tokyo City, Zabuton Usagi-san)

Q: If Kenren has a preferred type or brand of alcohol, please tell us. (Tokyo City, KY-san) A: He’ll drink any kind of alcohol, but it looks like he prefers Japanese sake. He has shouchuu bottles lined up in his room. There are only a few, but he does save Western alcohol bottles too. He’s a flexible man who recognizes that various alcohols have their own good points. ... Oh, he doesn’t really drink wine. It’s not that he doesn’t like it, but it seems that he thinks it ill-matched for him, as a heavy smoker, to enjoy the delicate flavor of wine. He’s the type to worry about strangeness at strange times.

Q: The scene where Kenren is in the punishment cell is unforgettable. What sort of punishment did he receive in there? (Tokyo City, Atsuki-san) A: In most cases when someone enters the punishment cells, he becomes the object of the guards’ so-called ‘discipline’ - he is used and abused for the guards’ relief. In Kenren’s case, he had many enemies, so the punishment must have been brutal. He seems the type to unnecessarily provoke that subservient lot, after all.

IMAGE: Tenpou Gensui ・Habit of picking things up ・Glasses ・Cigarette ・Hunched back ・Lab coat ・Bad at cleaning up ・Droopy necktie ・Tail of hair when tied back ・Toilet slippers ・Military uniform ・Gloves I like all these points and others (Tokyo City, Kazano-san)

IMAGE: I’m grateful I got to meet you (Saitama Prefecture, Koneko-san)

Q: Are there people you modeled the individual characters after? (Shizuoka Prefecture, Shinno-san) A: Well, you know, the fundamental models for their visuals were the Sanzo Ikkou... (laughs). I left their personalities and bases to them, and they gradually changed. In interpreting Konzen, I began from ‘raised in a greenhouse’, so I asked CV’s Seki Toshihiko-shi, “Could you use a voice that has way less abdominal muscle than Sanzo...” By the way, Hirata-shi asked “So, how should I read Kenren?” and when I told him, “Way cooler than Gojyo!”, he sulked, “But I’m reading Gojyo to be cool too!” (laughs)

  • ‘-shi’ is a more polite form of ‘-san’, but used exclusively for males.

Q: What would it take to make Konzen split his sides laughing? (Fukushima Prefecture, MM-san) A: He doesn’t seem like he would ‘split his sides laughing’, does he... He isn’t the type to get comedic jokes or gags, and it seems like he would normally admire well-done short, funny stories. Probably, only something like the “Funny Home Videos” that connect the whole world would be able to touch his humor chords... Stubborn old men surprisingly like that kind of stuff, right? He resembles Sanzo on that point. It would be like, when you think he’s silently watching TV, all of a sudden he bursts out laughing and the person sitting next to him thinks, “What?! So he thinks this kind of stuff is funny...! (amazed)”.

Q: Since “there’s a bat and ball in the shed” (from Gaiden’s Gaiden), does everyone in Heaven play baseball comparatively often? Is there a baseball competition or something? (Miyazaki Prefecture, Tomatoko-san, others) A: Everyone in Heaven has a lot of free time. Even the military, when they have free time, they really have free time. Thus, they bring up various ‘games’ from the Lower World, including table top games (Kannon and Jiroushin often play shogi and such), but the military men especially play sports so their bodies don’t get soft. Because the 1st Platoon has to do training without warning, depending on Tenpou’s whim (even though he hardly trains himself), the platoon members are familiar with all kinds of sports. But it looks like they don’t have baseball games, since baseball requires quite a few members.

Q: Sensei, please send messages to each of the characters as they head to the final turn! (Hiroshima Prefecture, Kazuhiro-san) A: To Konzen: You did your best. You life was not in vain. It’s all right, that memory lives on in Goku, and continues to breathe in the following story. To Kenren: Just as with Tenpou, drawing you was such a joy. This may sound strange, but thank you... But I still haven’t drawn you enough, so I may ask you to accompany me for a while more (laughs). To Tenpou: I think of all my characters, you might be the most freely greedy. I’m relieved that you lived at your own pace until the end. Also, I’m sorry I passed down my bad treatment of books to you. (I’m the type to dog-ear the pages, write all over them, and peel off the covers because they get in the way when I read...) To Goku: ...I guess this is aimed at the Goku living now. I love drawing you as you grow. This time, please support all the memories that have supported you.

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