When we talk about the art of negotiation, I’m familiar with two branches. One is the stuff police do, hostage negotiations, which is art of pacifying a hostile and defusing volatile situations. The other is diplomatic negotiations, where there are two or more sides, they all have their interests, and they must hammer out some kind of broadly acceptable deal. And in terms of anime, there’s on recent one that I would like to talk about: Joker Game. I mention it not (just) because I’m obligated to plug it at least once a season, but because it raised a very relevant point about negotiations that Seikai Suru Kado also briefly alluded to: the issue of imbalances.
Yes, Joker Game is first and foremost about a fictional WWII espionage operation, which seems a distant subject matter to Kado. But the reason why the spy agency in Joker Game was established in the first place was to enhance Japanese diplomacy, because it had a huge information deficit. To borrow Joker Game‘s metaphor, diplomacy is like a poker game where all the rules are decided in secret.. Forget not knowing each player’s hand, without information you don’t even know who is helping/sabotaging whom, what each player is betting, or what the win condition is. Going in blind is akin to not even playing the right game.
In Kado, one of the players has all the information, and the other doesn’t. Hint: it’s the omnipotent, extra-dimensional alien. For one, there’s the power imbalance. His super cube that he’s left parked in Japan is for all intents and purposes invincible. He can fabricate whatever he wants at will. He still holds 250 passengers hostage. On humanity’s side, they have, at most, sticks and harsh language. They have absolutely no leverage over Za. They can only sit and nod while Za displays his wonders.
And then there’s the information disparity. Za claimed to have wanted to alleviate that with his little public tea party, but even after explaining who he is, where he’s from, and what he is offering, how much do we actually know about him? Why did he choose Japan, and not some Scandanavian socialist democracy? Heck, why Earth? If we can only understand him and his motivations at 51% accuracy, what chance to we have in any negotiation? How are we supposed to play this hand of poker?
Also, in our metaphor, it doesn’t help if you have a poor poker face.
Mainly, we still don’t know what Za wants. If he doesn’t want anything, doesn’t expect any quid pro quo for his offer of infinite energy, then what are we supposed to make of it? Do we take his word for it? Accept that he is God, showering down gifts from on high? One does not negotiate with God, though. If Za is God, then this is no negotiation. This is a test.