Analysis + Semi-Theory: Zen's relationships with other people (including the RFA)
Yo, so this has been on my mind for a while and I just had to share my thoughts with you, because you made a post before about Rika that had some similar points and I wanted to add on to that.
You know how Rika made had a “connection” with each RFA member (aside from Jaehee) that made them agree to join the RFA and caused them to be so torn up about her “death” and just generally really affected by her in every way?
Logically speaking, Zen should have been just as impacted by her as Yoosung, Jumin, and Saeyoung and really emotionally distraught and traumatized by her “death” as a result. She sought him out, she was his earliest fan when no one else was, she attempted to made him successful and give him a “family” with the RFA.
But he always kind of avoided her. He sidestepped and rejected her help and friendship most of the time. He even declined to join the RFA at first, as I recall someone saying in one of the chat rooms. He only joined once V saved his life. Even when the game starts and also throughout the game, Zen always keeps the rest of the RFA at an arms distance, save for V, who he allowed to get up to his elbow, so to speak, because he saved Zen’s life and gained some of his trust. He doesn’t seem to act like his true self at all around most of the RFA. No one really knew anything about his past until MC shows up.
It’s just really interesting and weird to me. People always brush Zen off as being “less important” than the other RFA members, and that just makes me roll my eyes. Honestly, him deliberately keeping himself somewhat disconnected from Rika made me like him more. Because while some people really liked the bigger overarching plot, it wasn’t what I signed up for when I decided to play an otome game. (I prefer the universe theories about the game itself and Zen knowing he’s in a game and Seven and V and the wizards and etc.) I wanted to learn and fall in love with the individual characters themselves and not groan and roll my eyes every time the convoluted plot got in the way and took up time and then boom you and the character you’re pursuing magically decide to share deep feelings for each other with little to no buildup or progression of said feelings. At least that’s how it is during the excessively plot-smothered Deep Routes, which just felt like a hot mess tbh.
I got off on a slight tangent there. But I always think of Zen as someone who was able to see through Rika’s bullshit at least somewhat and didn’t become so overly attached and emotionally invested in her. (That’s one reason why the secret ends felt so OOC to me. Zen would have never just settled for being kept in the dark by Jumin, Seven, and Jaehee, and while he’s impulsive, he’s too detached from Rika to want to send her away. Although that might be the “white knight” in him who always feels like he has to speak out and protect the oppressed. Idk.) Zen was always the one who, while emotional and hotheaded, actually reacted like a sane person should in some of the extreme situations - the bomb, Jumin keeping MC in his apartment, V keeping secrets, forcing a stranger to jump into a dead girl’s job without thinking of how she feels, etc. The rest of the RFA is so blinded by Rika that they ignore logic most of the time and do things that don’t make sense because “it’s what Rika would have wanted”. They’re so caught up in this dead girl’s charity organization that has itself basically become super shady and conspiratorial, ignoring a lot of things that are so obviously sketchy and borderline illegal. And yes, I’m including Jumin, Mr. “I’m so logical”, who threatens the MC if she doesn’t agree to join the RFA and also declares she’s useless and obsolete if she doesn’t fulfill Rika’s duties. Like, jeez, mob boss much? He basically is one in every way except for official title.
So back to my main point. I think people tend to overlook how emotionally isolated Zen is from the rest of the RFA, something that he probably did deliberately. He doesn’t really like anyone in the RFA, except for V, and he mentions that a lot. He never believes that any concern or help that the RFA gives him is genuine. He doesn’t believe Jaehee is actually his fan, he doesn’t think Seven was actually trying to help him out (he thinks Seven was just being goofy and his weird trolling self), and the whole debacle with Jumin which everyone knows about so I’m not gonna go into (and tbh I still question Jumin’s sincerity and motive other than personal and financial gain bc Zen would owe him, so I don’t blame Zen for thinking the same way). He doesn’t believe anyone could actually care about him. He only knocks down some of his walls and lets V in a little bit because V fucking saved his life. But other than that, Zen has isolated himself so much emotionally that he hasn’t formed real relationships with any of the RFA members except V, nor does he really trust them, like them, or consider them friends. He doesn’t open up to them, and he keeps on the same mask that he shows to everyone else. He can’t afford to let anyone in, because they’ll just reject and betray him like his family.
Think about it too - Zen doesn’t really have any friends outside of the RFA either, like at all, save for a few people from his biker gang days, who I doubt he was his complete and true self around either. He’s super independent and relies only on himself, because that’s the only person he has. But he’s so desperate for affection and validation, which is why he seems desperate for a girlfriend yet simultaneously rejects so many people who are interested in him under the guise of focusing on work. When in reality, and he’s said this and there’s proof from VN flashbacks and in game events, that no one has actually treated Zen like a real person, or tried to understand him enough to warrant him opening up to them, except for V and the MC. That’s why he falls for the MC so fast, because she treats him unlike anyone else has before, like a person, and actually cares about what he wants. (Remember, V lies and keeps a lot of things from Zen, but Zen’s less torn up about it because while he trusts V more than the rest of the RFA, he hadn’t completely opened up to him, so he saves himself from some amount of emotional hurt.) The RFA may mean well, but they ultimately grossly misunderstand Zen, try to force what they think he should do on him, and treat him either like he’s an object on a pedestal or just too dumb to fully grasp or contribute meaningfully to a situation.
Basically, people don’t give Zen enough credit, and they brush him off as a background character with a shallow personality. There’s so many obvious things Cheritz has given us to showcase more of Zen’s character and personality, but the fans either make fun of him for it or call him annoying because of it. He’s super intuitive and guarded and I can definitely understand why he never completely bonded with the RFA. I love them, but quite frankly, they consistently fail to treat Zen like a person and don’t care about what he ultimately wants, but rather what they want from him. He protects himself from getting hurt by never getting completely emotionally invested in these people and reminding himself that they’ll probably all let him down someday. Which they do. No one actually sees Hyun Ryu, instead of ZEN, save for V and the MC.
This is really good analysis and oh my goodness way more than I could ever do. I never really thought about it this way.
While I mostly agree, I think some points should be open to discussion.
I personally feel like the RFA members treated him like a real friend, family, but the connection wasn’t there because of Zen. They were open to him, but he wasn’t open to them. That contributed to all the misunderstandings they had, so in that sense I don’t feel like I could ever blame them for how they treated him at times.
I also don’t recall Jumin ever threatening MC or saying those things to her, but maybe that’s just my bad memory. There’s many more I can say about that, but I think those who know his character better can explain it more substantially than me. I wouldn’t want to spout inaccurate information about him.
As for the fact that we don’t give Zen enough credit, I must agree. Although, since the April Fools DLC, more and more people have grown fond of him. I’ve been receiving messages from people saying how they’ve grown to appreciate Zen more after they realised this and that from my theories. So it’s definitely getting better, I’d say. I think overall, it’s really up to people’s types. Even before I had realised all this, I already liked Zen because I liked how romantic and caring he was. Others like Yoosung because of how cute and innocent he is. It’s the same for the other characters. And people see Zen as annoying because well, letms admit it he can be at times!
As I have said previously, all of the characters are complex. I chose to closely analyse Zen, and so have you, and that’s why we really love him. On the surface, he seems like just a romantic, narcissistic guy. I can’t blame anyone for not liking him. Same goes for the other characters. If I analysed their character more, I’d probably end up falling for them too, and that’s what others did, and that’s why they like who they like.
Thank you so much for submitting this. You wrote so much and you had a lot of valid points. Though this is as deep as I can go with my opinions because I’m currently rushing through a lot of work, I hope that you guys can also give your two cents on this. Reblog/Reply! Let’s start a discussion :D