I have a certain attraction to villainous characters (as this site attests to), but Zen stands apart from the rest for two important reasons. One, he is a well-crafted villain protagonist, and two, he is that and a static character. While many protagonists grow and change over the course of their stories, Zen remains the same. I find this interesting because the story is so strongly focused around him and uncovering his past, and yet he ends it as the same person as when it began.
So why doesn't Zen significantly change throughout the work? In my opinion, it's because despite what the story of Zen's journey to find his identity reveals, the actual answer does not ultimately affect him. It's the release of control he seeks above all else, so that he can live in total freedom. And that sentiment is the same as he's felt all along.
It's important to note that while Zen does undergo a very significant change in his character when he escapes the military, it does not affect his progression as a character in the plot. Furthermore, the shift Zen makes from black ops soldier to criminal is permanent. Once he decides on his path, he never strays from it — he uses Zendo to channel his violent tendencies for a time, then goes up against the world at large. It's this Zen that we see in Blank Slate — Zero is simply a memory and the answer to the questions about his identity, not who he is.
Finally, as chaotic of a force Zen is on the world around him, he is more affected by incidents around him than causing them himself. As Zero, he only escapes the military because Hakka hypnotizes him to destroy the black ops unit. Left alone, he simply would have perished if the military decided he had outlived his usefulness, or if Gia had managed to set him free — and neither of those are options Zero would have had any active role in. Later on, Zen only kidnaps Rian because the opportunity arises, not due to any elaborate plan. There's a certain parallel between this and Zen's very existence: being controlled by an outside force, despite whatever actions he makes. It also ties in to Zen's philosophy of simply following his violent instincts, not caring where the path leads him.
At the end of Blank Slate, Zen is given the chance to start anew and become the person that has always been kept from him. There's a chance for a new world that doesn't need his violence, and he's free to take it. But Zen's story is that the truth of his past justifies the path he has already chosen for himself. He does not need to change — he already has.
Blank Slate © Aya Kanno. No infringement intended.
uncontrol © Larissa, 2011-2021.