Lima Syndrome

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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

According to the article on That Other Wiki, 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 militant movement. 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.

In fiction, 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. Usually, the one to develop sympathy for a captive will be the woman, because it's generally assumed that women are much more in touch with their emotions and so more likely to empathize with others. Well, fair enough. If it's a man, expect his captive to be female - unless somebody's going for something good and slashy.

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. It may also be that one of the prisoners is particularly prone to inspiring sympathy - see Pregnant Hostage for a specific example of this type of character - or else the self-proclaimed authorities and rescuers ends up being a worse bunch than the hostage-takers; this usually results in the hostages teaming up with their captors to defeat the worse of the two evils.

In many stories, this type of behavior will often foreshadow a Heel Face Turn. People trying to artificially induce this might use a Hannibal Lecture of some sort. See Stockholm Syndrome for the reverse situation, though 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 of Lima Syndrome include:

Anime and Manga

  • Piccolo from Dragonball Z eventually came to care for Gohan, 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.
  • Natasha from 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 X 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.
  • Considering how their relationship is shown in the comics, some speculate that if Tino/Finland from Axis Powers Hetalia has Stockholm Syndrome, then his "partner" Berwald/Sweden parallely has Lima Syndrome. He might have started thinking of Finland as a mere companion for his journey, then fell in love with him became genuinely fond and protective of him.
  • 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).
  • Bleach quite possibly has this with 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 (argueably Akito's prisoners).
  • 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.

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.

Fan Works


  • The World Is Not Enough combines this with Stockholm Syndrome in the case of Electra King.
  • Happened in Ruthless People
  • 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.
  • Also happens in Ransom, where one of the kidnappers (the one played by Donnie Wahlberg) is a Punch Clock Villain who feels sorry for their 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.
  • Happens in the movie The Big Hit with the kidnapper played by Mark Wahlberg. Must run in the family.
  • The first part of The Crying Game is all about Fergus developing sympathies towards the hostage he's supposed to be guarding.
  • The Rock had this... when at the end General Hummel reveals he never intended to launch the missiles and that he had been bluffing: "There is no fucking money. The mission's over."
  • Basically the plot of Suicide Kings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 hostager to calm down and empathize with the hostages, including and especially himself.
  • In the fifth film of the Police Academy series, the diamond thief started to feel sorry for commandant Lassard.
  • While Belle's relation to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast is occasionally referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, actually watching the movie makes one realize it's far more this Trope.


  • 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, JRR 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.
  • A major plot element in Christopher Brookmyre's The Sacred Art of Stealing.
  • 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.
  • A Simple Survey features a possible example of this. An interrogator, after talking to his captive, confronts his colleague and claims that the colleague lied to him about the situation. The colleague claims that the interrogator has fallen victim to this trope, but the story ends before revealing the truth.

Live Action Television

  • 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.
  • 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.


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

Video Games

  • 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: Cursed Memories, 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.
  • Metal Gear series:
    • 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 facility's personnel their hostages.
    • Snake towards Quiet Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Quiet is initially an enemy who is taken prisoner, and Snake - through the player - decides whether she lives or dies; since letting her live is the canon choice, and she joins Snake's side if he does, one can assume this Trope applies. Probably Stockholm Syndrome too, as she clearly doesn't voice any objections.
  • A horrific example of this in Resident Evil: Village - Lady Dimitrescu's three "daughters" are in fact kidnapped victims who were subjected to experiments with the Cadou parasite. They're far from the only ones, but Dimitrescu took a liking to these three. Whether that makes them better off than the others is debatable.

Western Animation

  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn's origin is Lima Syndrome turned Mad Love.
  • Though it is quickly forgotten, Belle of Beauty and the Beast is actually supposed to be the Beast's prisoner in exchange for letting her father go. He eventually lets her go too. The two falling in love is a case of Lima and Stockholm Syndrome.
  • The Adventure Time episode "What Have You Done?" may count as an example - 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 Amphibia, Sasha's experience after being captured by Captain Grime was... well, maybe Sasha herself can summarize it better. While this may seem to overlap with Stockholm Syndrome, by the way, it does not; Sasha actually cares nothing for Grime or his troops, and would turn against them in an instant if it meant finding a way back home.
  • In one episode of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Shredder captures a Ridiculously Cute Critter from Dimension-X called a Grybyx, planning to use its untapped energy to power the Technodrome. He unwisely tells Rocksteady and Bebop to guard it; Rocksteady feels sorry for the Grybyx, and decides to give it his hamburger. Which turns out to be a terrible mistake, because as the Turtles have already discovered, eating human food causes the Grybyx to use that untapped energy and go One-Winged Angel, turning into a ferocious beast.