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Lima Syndrome
"Now, more than ever before, my dear hostages need me!"

Lima Syndrome is the phenomenon in which abductors develop sympathy for their captives, named after the abduction of the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Lima, Peru in 1996 by members of a terrorist group. Within a few days, the hostage takers set free most of the captives, including the most valuable ones, due to sympathy; and the ones who were supposed to kill the hostages in the event of an assault could not bring themselves to do it. It is essentially a mirror image of Stockholm Syndrome.

There are a number of reasons why this would happen. Maybe one or more of the kidnappers don't agree with the plan, or they just don't feel up to hurting innocents. Maybe the villain has decided that he doesn't have the heart to keep his prisoner locked up. Or maybe he's just doing what's necessary, and generally feels bad about it.

This person is also likely to be the one in charge of tending to the captives, bringing them food or healing their wounds, and thus has a greater chance of developing an attachment and growing to actually care about their well-being. Alternatively, the captor could simply be a Minion with an F in Evil.

Or it may be that one of the prisoners is particularly prone to inspiring sympathy. See Pregnant Hostage for a specific example of this type of character.

In many stories, this type of behavior will often foreshadow a Heel-Face Turn. A captive trying to artificially induce this might use a Kirk Summation.

See Stockholm Syndrome for the reverse situation. The two may often go hand in hand if the feelings are mutual between the abductor and their captive. Any plot featuring The Svengali (for whom Lima Syndrome is effectively an occupational hazard) tends to have some of both.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Piccolo from Dragon Ball eventually came to care for Gohan (the kid he abducted and put through Training from Hell to prepare for an alien invasion), leading up to his Heel-Face Turn, which was more surprising because "Redemption Through Helpfulness" hadn't become the signature trope of the series yet. All the more notable given that Piccolo's role in the previous story arc was roughly analogous to Satan.
    • While he doesn't really understand that he is really keeping Hercule prisoner (though Hercule is trying to kill him and volunterred to be his servant to get that chance) and is a threat to all life Buu becomes genuinely attached to Hercule and sees him as his friend, and later comes to care for all life thanks to Hercule's help.
  • Natasha from Mobile Fighter G Gundam, towards Argo Gulskii.
  • Transformers: Robots In Disguise: Sky-Byte accidentally takes a tower full of humans hostage, and goes to great lengths to protect them. "My hostages need me!"
  • GUN×SWORD: After Michael Garret develops a Stockholm Syndrome to The Claw, he is assigned on training observed by his second-in-command Fasalina. She was an ex-prostitute, but eventually she genuinely fell in love with Michael and even had sex with him.
  • Sweden from Axis Powers Hetalia has this for his "partner" Finland. He might have started thinking of Finland as a mere companion for his journey, then became genuinely fond and protective of him. He'll do almost anything for his "wife". To parallel, Finland may have a case of Stockholm Syndrome, though not to the same degree.
  • In Ai no Kusabi, Iason Mink's What Is This Thing You Call Love? thoughts make him develop this towards his "pet" Riki.
  • In Project ARMS, Keith Green falls in love with Katsumi and eventually tries to rescue her from the Egrigori, dying in the process. Possibly justified, in that she was the first human he really got to know, along with the fact that she was genuinely kind to him (seeing him as a rescuer and not a jailer).
  • Quite possibly Ulquiorra's gradual softening up towards humanity thanks to his interactions with the captive Orihime, who might have also had Stockholm Syndrome.
  • Koga from InuYasha kidnaps Kagome for her ability to see the Shikon jewel shards, but ends up falling in love with her because of her kindness and loyalty. Kagome also develops very slight Stockholm Syndrome (or at least that's what it looks like to Inuyasha).
  • Lampshaded in Fruits Basket when the reformed Akito develops strong feelings for Shigure, Yuki, Kyo, and Kureno (arguably) Akito's prisoners
    • Doesn't quite count in Shigure's case, Akito had very strong feelings for all of the Zodiac since birth, but she obviously was in love with Shigure as a child before she got twisted by her mother and went evil.
  • Averted in D.Gray-Man in the twisted obsession that Road has with Allen.
  • In Code Geass, it was this trope that helped make Ougi fall in love with Villetta.
  • In Naruto, the eponymous character is the person that the resident Evil Sealed in a Person-Shaped Can resides in. He sympathizes with said evil, leading to it doing a Heel-Face Turn.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files: The man who kidnapped Reika Hayami developed empathy for her and raised her as his own.
  • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, Rosso and Viola develop a bond with their captive Prince Rudolph, which he reciprocates to the point of considering them his "parents".
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, YAMI kidnaps Shigure Kosaka to force her to use her blacksmith skills to make them weapons. Eventually, several of YAMI's researchers become her apprentices, even working on the forge while the restrained Shigure gives instructions, and agreeing with her views that a weapon should not be used as a tool for bloodshed. The head researcher realizes what is going on and complains about his men being corrupted.
  • The off-kilter Hanji Zoe from Attack on Titan becomes super attached to two captive Titans she dubs "Sawney" and "Bean". Even breaking into bizarre hysterics when testing to see if they could feel pain.

    Comic Books 
  • Carl Barks realized to his horror that he'd implied this accidentally in Back to the Klondike: "Scrooge picked her up and carried her out to his claim and made her go to work. It didn't look like kidnapping, yet it was. He was taking the law into his own hands and that is not lawful. And what did he do with her at night?" Don Rosa intentionally milked this for all it was worth in The Prisoner Of White Agony Creek.
  • In Grendel, Susan Veraghen falls in love with Crystal Kennedy while acting as her main guard. However, this was in such a Gilded Cage that Susan herself may not have realised that she was meant to be keeping Crystal a prisoner rather than acting as her bodyguard.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Happens in Ransom, where one of the kidnappers (the one played by Donnie Wahlberg) is a mere Punch Clock Villain who feels sorry for their little captive (Mel Gibson's character's son) and even tells his brother and fellow criminal that he wants the kid to be free as soon as they have the ransom. He's shot to death by a sniper, though.
  • This is most of the entire plot of Cadillac Man. A car salesman played by Robin Williams gets caught into a hostage situation and uses his knowledge of how people work to get the hostage taker to calm down and empathize with the hostages, including and especially himself.
  • The first part of The Crying Game is all about Fergus developing sympathy towards the hostage he's supposed to be guarding (this later extends to him looking up the hostage's girlfriend, at his request).
  • More a case of the captor being a pretty much decent guy, but in Dog Day Afternoon the hostages are treated incredibly well and probably weren't even in any real danger. One of the main character's associates lets one of the hostages hold his gun (though he had unloaded it at the time) during a memorable look inside.
  • Faked by Hans Gruber in Die Hard: He takes the time to listen to Holly when she acts as liaison for the rest of the hostages, and tries to make most of them as comfortable as possible, providing a sofa for a pregnant woman and so forth. Since he's planning on blowing them all up, this is apparently just an attempt to keep them quiet and obedient, and maybe trigger some Stockholm Syndrome, if possible.
  • In the fifth film of the Police Academy series, the diamond thief started to feel sorry for commandant Lassard. (Lassard thinks that the whole kidnapping is being staged, and plays along with it, being nice to the man and telling him stories about his past that the kidnapper can't help but find entertaining. He's even nice to the guy when he finds out it's real, even before he punches him out. Then again, Lassard is a pretty nice guy overall.)
  • The main plot thread of The Town is about Ben Affleck's character developing feelings for a hostage and then trying to conceal that ensuing relationship from his buddies in crime.
  • The World Is Not Enough combines this with Stockholm Syndrome in the case of Electra King, and then in reality the hostage was a Manipulative Bastard and seduced their captor, then allied with them to plan and carry out their schemes of revenge and nuclear terrorism. It stands out from most other examples because the Lima Syndrome doesn't make the captor more sympathetic, it reveals the captive was evil and the hostage taker ends up getting enrolled in even more evil stuff (though, as the captor was already a psychopathic terrorist, that's not really saying much).
  • Bronek Korchinsky from Tiger Bay kidnaps the 11-year-old who witnesses him killing his former lover, and quickly discovers that he can't bring himself to harm her. He ends up letting her go, and at the end of the film he saves her life, despite knowing this will allow the police to catch him.
  • In The Negotiator, Danny honestly cares about the people he's taken hostage. When it's coming to the end of their captivity, he apologizes for everything he had to put them through to prove his innocence.
  • In Panic Room, a pair of housebreakers accidentally end up taking hostages when the supposedly empty house was occupied earlier than expected, and then find themselves locked in the panic room with a girl about to slip into a diabetic coma. One of them is an Ax-Crazy murderer who talks about needing to kill her since she's seen his face, but the other one does everything he can to prevent her getting hurt. In the end, he gives up his opportunity to escape with the loot so that he can pull a Big Damn Heroes and rescue the girl and her mother (who had come pretty close to killing him a couple of times) from his deranged accomplice.
  • In Pain and Gain, Paul shows fairly early on that he's less bad than Daniel and Adrian due to his interactions with their victim Victor. While Daniel and Adrian proceed to torture the guy during their guard shifts to extort him, Paul instead gives him stuff to eat, reads to him and tries to convert him to Christianity in a misguided attempt to "help" the half-Jewish Victor. When Victor tries to make a break for it Paul beats him to the ground however, as he has no delusions that it's not a genuine kidnapping.

    Jokes and Parodies 
  • The rescued hostages of the Lima embassy siege are being interviewed, or in some versions the captors are being interrogated. In the latter case the police are asking the captured hostage-takers why they gave up. Looking haggard and with his hands visibly shaking, one man moans:
    Oh, God, it was terrible. Terrible. The Ambassador was such a nice guy, so concerned for my welfare. But if I ever have to eat another fucking Ferraro Rocher again, in my life. There's only so many of those sickly god-Awful chocolates a man can stand! note 

    Literature 
  • In The Confessions of Arsène Lupin, Lupin is captured by a mother-and-son team seeking revenge. The son, who was tending his wounds, ends up setting him free, because he was actually a woman in disguise, and had fallen in love with Lupin.
  • Red Fox by Gerald Seymour. A hard-headed British businessman is kidnapped by a teenage terrorist, and after his initial attempts to escape fail, starts putting into practice the methods he'd been taught in a hostage seminar (which he'd walked out of thinking it was all rubbish). He's therefore able to postpone his death until the authorities find him, and is quite distraught when the terrorist is shot by a sniper.
  • In The Silmarillion, Maedhros and Maglor take captive Elrond and Elros, who are only children, but Maglor (or Maedhros in some versions) ends up fostering them. Maedhros and Maglor are reluctant villains and (Maedhros in particular) deeply regret the murder of the boys' uncles when they too were children.
    "...Maglor took pity upon Elros and Elrond, and he cherished them, and love grew after between them, as little might be thought." The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien.
  • Some of the terrorists in Bel Canto develop this, most notably Carmen. In fact, the plot of the book is based on the real life incident that named this trope.
  • In the book series Kidnapped, 11-year-old Meg tries to invoke this in one of her captors, partly in the hopes of eventually turning him against the other two captors. It works.
  • In the Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality novel And Eternity, the 3 main characters have to save a spaceship full of people, by building the start of true love between a hostage and one of her captors, invoking this trope.
  • In Stephen King's Blaze, a mentally challenged con man kidnaps a millionaire's infant for ransom but eventually finds himself bonding with the child.
  • Implied to have happened along with Stockholm Syndrome in the backstory to A Brother's Price. The Whistlers didn't let Prince Alannon go-since the rest of his family was executed and he was reported missing, he decided to be philosophical about it-but they did "run themselves ragged" doing what they could to make him happy.
  • The Kommandant's Mistress, the Kommandant of Auschwitz takes an inmate as his mistress barely the second after she's off the train. When she publishes poetry and memoirs describing her experiences, he fumes that he protected her and gave her food and shelter.
  • In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo and his family genuinely come to love the village's hostage Ikemefuna who lives under their roof. Ikemefuna in turn calls Okonkwo "father". Then the village leaders decide Ikemefuna has outlived his usefulness. The proud Okonkwo joins the group that will kill Ikemefuna because he doesn't want to appear weak, even after one of his friends warns him that killing someone who was like a son to him would damn him. When the other warriors start attacking Ikemefuna, he runs to Okonkwo for help. Okonkwo panics and cuts him down to avoid looking weak. Okonkwo spends most of the next few days drunk. It's implied that this murder caused the bad luck that eventually dooms Okonkwo, just as his friend said it would.
  • In The Thief Lord, the street children keep Victor Getz, a private detective searching for Prosper and Bo, as their prisoner. Initially they are very hostile to him as they believe he will drive them out of their home, but they quickly warm to him as he proves to be both useful and empathetic to their plight. Eventually he becomes something of a Team Dad as the book goes on.
  • Lampshaded and averted in Wild Justice by Wilbur Smith. When the first deadline passes without their demands being met, the terrorists baulk at shooting their first hostage, and suggest waiting to see if the authorities will blink first. Their leader points out that the longer they put it off, the more difficult it will be to shoot the hostages as they will know more about them.
  • In "Beauty and the Beast" Belle comes to befriend the Beast, then falls in love with him thanks to a little Lima Syndrome on his part. This is true in ALL versions of the story, right back to the original 1740 story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The First Doctor to his (kidnapped) schoolteacher companions Ian and Barbara early in Doctor Who. It becomes apparent at the end of The Edge of Destruction, when he apologizes to Barbara for how he treated her and Ian: "As we learn about each other, so we learn a bit about ourselves." By the time they part ways with him in The Chase, he's genuinely sad to see them go.
  • Combined with Stockholm Syndrome in an episode of New Tricks: Hannah Taylor was kidnapped by a young man with a grudge against her mother, a then-alcoholic doctor who he blamed for his mother's death. After Paul talked with Hannah for a while, he came to his senses and decided to release her and go on the run, not even bothering to collect the ransom he'd asked for. But Hannah, who hated her mother as much as Paul did, chose to come with him. 13 years later they're Happily Married with a child.
  • In True Blood, Jason begins to feel sorry for a vampire that he and Amy have kidnapped for the purpose of harvesting his blood, and begins sneaking him bottles of synthetic blood to keep him alive. Unfortunately, it doesn't end well.
  • In Farscape, Wild Card Crais steals Talyn (a newborn Living Sapient Ship) simply as a means of getting away from two different groups of people who want to do painful things to him. However, after he forms a technopathic connection with Talyn, he soon comes to genuinely care for him.

    Music 
  • There's an implication of this in the lyrics of the Nirvana song Polly.

    Videogames 
  • In Suikoden V, Lucretia Merces is locked away for political reasons. By the time the hero gets to her, the guards outside her cell have all become fanatically loyal to her (and in the case of the woman guard, more than loyal), and no longer have any loyalty at all to their actual employer.
  • TEC the computer developing feelings for Princess Peach—whom he's technically supposed to be guarding—in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • In Disgaea 2, Adell's mother accidentally summons Overlord Zenon's daughter Rozalin, and the summoning forces her to follow him "until Adell meets the real Overlord Zenon". Adell promises to take her back to her father, because he needs to defeat Zenon. A mutual Stockhom/Lima Syndrome ensues, followed by lots and lots of Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Sniper Wolf's affection towards Otacon in Metal Gear Solid was specifically stated to be Lima Syndrome by Word of God, though they had already become friends before Foxhound took over and made the facilities personnel their hostages.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, Trevor ends up falling for Patricia Madrazo, the 56-year old wife of the local head of the cartel that he kidnapped. In the end, he's forced to return her to her husband, but not before ensuring that her husband will treat her right by cutting off his ear.
  • The players should develop a lesser form of this in both PAYDAY: The Heist and Payday 2. Killing civilians gains the group nothing, costs a large amount of money, and causes the police to hold you longer if you get captured (no civilian kills means the police will trade you after 5 seconds, just one civilian kill makes them hold you for 30 seconds more). Some fans have already developed sympathy for "Bobblehead Bob", the civilian in the Big Bank trailer who falls off the roof trying to catch a stack of money Dallas throws him.
    • Of course for those doing pure stealth runs, sparing civilians can still leave the possibility of them raising the alarm, so that's pretty much thrown out the window.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn's origin is Lima Syndrome/ Florence Nightingale Effect turned Mad Love.
  • In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Belle agrees to be the Beast's prisoner in exchange for letting her father go. When he puts her happiness ahead of his own, he eventually lets her go too. She returns to him later to help him, but this is because HE has made the greater improvement in his attitude towards her. By the film's own admission it was he who first fell in love with her, and Lima Syndrome is more prevalent than the Stockholm Syndrome some believe is at work. It is worth noting that the movie takes place over several months.
  • The Adventure Time episode "What Have You Done?" may count as an example, because Finn and Jake let the captured Ice King go and go into his prison themselves. The Ice King had been truthfully claiming not to have committed any crimes recently, but Finn and Jake thinking that they deserve the imprisonment more than he does is a little drastic.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, former Separatist lieutenant-turned-bounty hunter Asajj Ventress develops sympathy for a young female captive she is transporting to an awaiting licentious warlord, and subsequently has a Heel-Face Turn and releases her, though not before exchanging the girl for Boba Fett to trick the warlord and get paid.
    • Later on, part of what compels Ventress to help her bounty and long-time enemy Ahsoka is the similarity of their situations...
  • In The Venture Bros. episode "Dia de los Dangerous," the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend develop this towards the captive Hank and Dean after Dr. Venture doesn't respond to their (numerous) ransom demands.
    • Happens again during a flashback in the episode "Spanakopita!," where a young Rusty Venture is accidentally kidnapped by Greek pirates. When his father, Jonas Venture Sr., doesn't respond to their ransom demands, the pirates throw the distraught Rusty (who they felt bad for due to his neglectful father) a festival complete with games.
  • In The Simpsons episode with Homer being kidnapped in Brazil, Homer's captors develop a friendly rapport with Homer while lampshading Homer's Stockholm Syndrome. They even follow his suggestion for the location of the ransom exchange.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Iroh is imprisoned, the female guard Ming shows sympathy towards him, even sneaking in his favorite tea for him. It even has its own ship! And when Iroh escapes, he tells Ming to not be there, and Ming clearly understands why, but says nothing and isn't present when he breaks out.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Ikki is captured by two Earth Empire soldiers, who originally plan to find her siblings and deliver all three to Kuvira. However, Ikki is both sneaky and legitimately friendly enough that, as she talks to them more, they seem to forget their previous idea and actually give her information that helps her on her mission to find Korra.


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