There Ain’t No Good Guys, They’re All Good Guys

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Apr 172012
 

Y’all probably saw this coming. While most people aren’t digging on Zetman, I’m getting a big kick out of it. It’s hitting those super hero buttons I like so much. But what I’m really liking about it is how no one’s what you’d call a straight-up goodie-goodie type. Everyone’s doing their thing for their own personal, selfish reasons, but at the same time most of them are still good guys.

I especially like the dynamic between Zetman and his best friend/rival/arch-nemesis-to-be. They’re both good kids. The wanna do the right thing. You don’t run into a burning building to save helpless “citizens” if there isn’t some underlying decency inside of you. But these guys come at their decency from different angles.

His buddy is a bit idealistic. He gets his cues from what amounts to Kamen Rider. He has this romanticized view of “the hero” where he can do no wrong and will never fail because that’s what heroes do. Heroes win. At the same time, we see him all too willing to sacrifice a wounded mother in order to save her children. He wants to guarantee the safety of some, even if it means someone else might not make it. He’s not making that call out of callousness, he’s making it out of what he sees as a rational decision. Save who you can so that someone gets saved. He’s enamored with that concept of being a hero, and there’s a willingness in him to make sacrifices if he maintains that ideal.

Then we have Zetman himself. We already know he’s not entirely human, and his sense of justice is just as “alien.” He’s all for bringing down those that harm others, but he also expects something in return. It’s an almost symbiotic relationship. He dispenses justice for society, and in return he expects compensation. Even when he’s protecting his “aunt,” he’s doing it largely because he needs her emotional support. She provides that emotional sustenance and in turn he wants to do everything in his power to protect her. The typical human reaction is to look at justice as a reward in and of itself, and by having him take a stance that’s counter-intuitive to the average viewer, that reinforces Zet’s alien nature.

But what’s stranger is that Zet’s alien logic results in a decision that’s more in line with what we expect out of a hero. He refuses to leave behind the mother in that fire in episode two, but it isn’t because of some base principle of “a hero saves everyone.” He looks at it from a pragmatic angle: Isn’t it better for a family to live or die together? If the mother dies, what will become of the children? They’ll be handicapped socially and emotionally for life. Zet believes they should persevere together or fall together. It’s an attitude we likely can’t relate with, but it results in an action we support far more than his friend’s. The entire family is saved, but for completely different reasons than our own.

That’s what’s making Zetman interesting. Both of the heroes have their own sense of justice, but we as a viewer likely don’t agree with either viewpoint as a whole. Between both characters we get a flawed whole, but individually can we trust either one of them to do the right thing 100% of the time?

It isn’t a wholly innovative or deep dynamic, but I think it’s pretty cool. I like that both of our heroes are flawed but decent. Neither one of them has been presented as the ideal, perfect choice. It isn’t a Vash/Wolfwood scenario, where the writer clearly favors one character’s philosophy and punishes the other for having contradictory views. We’re simply getting two differing views and each character deals with the consequences of their actions.

This dynamic carries over into the other factions in play. We have this nasty corporation that created these “Player” monsters for the amusement of the elite. You don’t make monsters like that if you’re some benevolent charity or whatever. But they’re also actively hunting down these monsters to rid them from the world. Again, if you’re wholly evil you don’t try to clean up a mess that you could easily exploit and try to control for your own agenda. But at the same time, these guys are clearly not doing this clean-up job just for the betterment of society. There’s some ulterior motive, but at the moment they aren’t coming off as glaringly evil as, say, Lexcorp or something like that.

Awhat’s up with Zetman’s “father?” He’s apparently still alive and taunting these guys. It’s as if he’s rooting for them to lose, but this corporation’s actions seem to be working towards something positive. Is Zetman’s father the altruistic force we initially assumed he was? Sure, he saved the kid from being an experiment and wanted him to grow up to be “human,” but does he have his own ulterior motives? I don’t trust this guy either.

Then there’s the Players. Outside of the ones that go out of their way to kill people, they seem to have their own code of secrecy. They’ve blended into human society, and they make sure that their own kind obey their rules. If someone goes on a murder spree, they act and try to stop whoever it is that’s breaking the “masquerade.” So are the Players all bad? Is Zetman being set down a dark path by agreeing to wipe all of them out for this corporation?

Can we really trust anyone in this series? No, not really.

Yeah, this isn’t innovative or anything, but it’s pretty cool.