“Anything with physical form will one day break”
There have been plenty of anime deaths to make me cry; Rosette Christopher (Chrno Crusade), Twelve (Zankyou no Terror), and every death in the Massacre Arc of Higurashi. However, when I think of saddest death(s) in an anime or manga…I immediately return to Saiyuki Gaiden.
Saiyuki itself starts as a comedic adventure series revolving around four travelers: Son Goku – the monkey king, Genjyo Sanzo — the immoral priest, Cho Hakkai — the calming, human-turned-demon, and Sha Gojyo — the half-breed. Saiyuki Gaiden, on the other hand, is a story of the past, or rather, the past lives of everyone except Goku, seeing as Goku is immortal.
This particular story takes place 500 years in the past in the Heavens. Goku’s only true friend, Nataku, was supposed ordered to kill Goku; however, he kills himself instead, driving Goku into madness. Goku’s power limiters break and his full form, which he cannot control, is released, causing him to kill plenty of people. The only three willing to protect Goku from all of Heaven are Konzen (past life Sanzo), Marshall Tenpou (past life Hakkai), and General Kenren (post life Gojyo).
Before their attempted escape to the ‘lower world’ (human realm), Goku expresses that he doesn’t ever want to lose anyone else and that he will go anywhere with his three companions. he makes them promise him that they will never leave him. Tenpou says “We will always be with you.” And even Konzen says that even if they are separated, they will meet again in the lower world.
And of course, the party is separated. The party attempts to make an escape by infiltrating the Imperial Castle — the only connection to the Lower World is through the bottom floor of the castle. Danger awaits the party at every level of the castle and they must fight their way through. Unfortunately, as expected, each of these men loses their life. First Kenren…then Tenpou – both of which put their life on the line for Goku.
This leaves only Konzen and Goku to access the Warp Gate. However, by the time they get there, the password to the gate has already been changed. Despite my extreme sadness over Tenpou and Kenren, what hurt the most for me was Konzen’s death. After forcing Nataku’s father to enter the password and open the gate, he stabs Konzen. At the last moment, the man has enough strength to force the gate closed right as Goku and Konzen are passing through. Konzen gets trapped in the door as it is closing and gets crushed to death. In his final moments, he promises that next time, he will be the one to reach out to Goku (the way we see Genjyo Sanzo do in Saiyuki).
I can remember crying so hard over this scene in the manga. Why? Because there is something about a story where the characters try so hard and end up dying that really hurts me. And Saiyuki Gaiden was an extreme amount of pain. I watched the hope in the group slowly fade as, despite their efforts, they were brutally killed one-by-one. And for me, the worst part is that Goku lived on in solitude for 500 years after the Merciful Goddess erased all of his memories except the name that Konzen gave him.