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Not Okay

Updated: Mar 14

Not Okay

After waiting a couple of weeks for Ateez to post a "Making Of Not Okay" video, I realized today that they don't typically post making of videos for Japanese releases (or at least they don't do it the same way they do for their Korean releases). SO that means I can go ahead and work on putting my thoughts down for Not Okay. Since this IS a Japanese release, I am adding links to my past posts on Ateez's Japanese releases: The World Ep. Paradigm and Limitless in case you want to read them in depth to see where my mind is on Japanese releases.

If you don't want to go back and read them, here is a quick summary of my hypotheses:

  • Japanese releases do not further the storyline but rather expands upon it by expressing the inner monologues of Ateez.

  • The prism/dichroic cube (as seen in Illusion, Thanxx, Dreamers, and Paradigm) is telling us where to insert the Japanese releases into the Korean storyline. Also, as is the case with Limitless, Ateez's flag/logo could also tell us where to place a Japanese release.

So do these hypotheses stand true for Not Okay? YES!! We get the cube again in The World Ep. Fin: Will Outro and this time its red! So we know that a Japanese song will be connected to either what is happening in Crazy Form or whatever comes right after that (the unit songs). If you haven't read my post on the unit songs and the outro, The World Ep.Fin: Will Part 2, I think the cube is red because of the blood moon found at the end of Crazy Form. I actually talk about the cube a lot in that post so I am not going to repeat much here.

In the unit songs, we get the different members' emotional responses to what they have just been through in Universe Z/Strictland. Not Okay expands on those emotional responses by really diving into the trauma they experienced and how they are trying to deal with it.

They even start their music video by giving us the definition of trauma that you would get if you Googled the word. By the way, the reason it says "medicine" there is misleading; it's meant to mean the "medical definition of the word trauma".

We also see with what looks to me like a Rorschach inkblot which goes right in line with a possible way to deal with their trauma because lets hope one or all of them would have gone to some therapy after getting back from Universe Z. defines the Rorschach inkblot test as a type of projective assessment (which just means that it is a test intended to uncover feelings, desires, and conflicts that are hidden from someone's conscious awareness) in which subjects (people, why are we labeled as subjects I ask?) look at 10 ambiguous inkblot images and describe what they see in each one. The therapist then interprets the person's answers as a way of revealing a person’s unconscious thoughts, motives, or desires.

If I were to describe the inkblot I see here, I would say it is two people facing away from each other. What do y'all see?

We also get scenes that for some reason remind me of pop culture's depiction of psychiatrists' offices/psych wards but like the creepy versions.

We will get more into this when I talk about individual traumas.


We start with our captain, Hongjoong, who is dealing with isolation but more so his scenes are a commentary on the harmful effects social media can play in our lives. Anyone who has been on Twitter (ugh, X) has seen the effects social media, and the actual media, have on Kpop idols, fandoms, and people in general. Can we just talk about how one specifically placed comment can lead to days of fan wars that even carefully curating who you follow won't completely shield you from? Sorry, I'm stepping off of my soapbox and getting back to Hongjoong. He wanted to be "a bright star that can be seen from everywhere" so his family would notice him. He didn't want to be forgotten as if he never existed. Isn't that what so many people want from social media and what all idols want?

For those of you who did not watch his scene frame by frame, his phone reads, "Alone, mother, loneliness, behind, missing, alone, family, alone, behind, family, alone, missing, alone, afraid, missing, behind, missing, alone". This gives us: alone x6, missing x4, behind x3, family x2, and mother, loneliness, and afraid x1. Even with a reliance on his phone to "connect" him and make him famous, he is alone, left behind, missing his family and mother, afraid, and lonely and his inability to disconnect becomes what is hurting him most.

Seonghwa and Yeosang

Seonghwa and Yeosang, who start out as the most controlled members (Yeosang by his parents and Seonghwa to his task lists), are dealing with the trauma of feeling trapped and controlled. We see them being forced to play Go while people are videoing them (creepy). We get a flash of Yeosang once again feeling like a trapped bird and poor Seonghwa even has to withstand a possible blinding torture trope. We also see a clock on the ceiling indicating control of their time and their watches continue to remind them of what is controlling them. I tried to get clear pictures of the words on their watches but this was difficult. The words I could make out clearly were, "money, obey, and do work". There were some other words, but I was unable to distinguish them.

Wikipedia explains, "Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players in which the aim is to capture more territory than the opponent by fencing off empty space. The game was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day." I find it interesting that they chose to show Seonghwa capturing Yeosang's white stone (playing piece) which would allow him to take that stone as a prisoner in this scene since they are feeling like captured prisoners themselves.

We also see a Newton's Cradle next to the Go board. In pop culture, these are often seen on the desks of villains, CEOs, professors, etc. and as a relaxing diversion on the desk of lead intelligent/anxious/sensitive characters. Newton's Cradle is also an item in Animal Crossing where it is referred to as "executive toy" which I LOVE since we all know Seonghwa's devotion to Animal Crossing.

Wikipedia explains how this works based on several laws of physics but in essence "one sphere at the end is lifted and released, it strikes the stationary spheres, compressing them and thereby transmitting a pressure wave through the stationary spheres, which creates a force that pushes the last sphere upward. The last sphere swings back and strikes the stationary spheres, repeating the effect in the opposite direction." Erhan Uzun gave us a way to apply these laws of physics to our own lives in his article, "Newton's Cradle - Motivational".

  • Newton's 1st Law, Inertia: Even the smallest object you see in the world does not want to change its position. It doesn't want to move; inaction. It is not easy to take action. Taking the first step is always difficult. But once you take that step, things get easier. You gain momentum and then start to maintain this momentum.

  • Newton's 2nd Law, Acceleration: The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the force applied on it and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. If we want to accelerate, we will either decrease our mass (we will weaken), or increase our strength. Just doing something is not enough to get rid of inaction. To accelerate, we need a direction; a focused force.

  • Newton's 3rd Law, Action-Reaction: All forces interact with each other, so there is no such thing as a unidirectional force. When we direct all our strength and willpower towards a certain goal, unfortunately, the work does not end. There are obstacles before us. Reactions to the effect we have begun to create are beginning to emerge so strengthen your will to withstand these expected reactions.

What a great message for Seonghwa and Yeosang. Even in their trauma of being controlled, the Newton's Cradle is there to show them that they must take their first step to get out of that control. That they need to focus their force by finding a direction and withstand the expected obstacles they will face on their path to taking back their own control. We know they have both broken free of their control, they now need to break free from the memories of them being controlled in their pasts.


Yunho is dealing with the trauma of losing his brother tragically, twice. We see echos of his brother always around him and then it flashes to the actual car driving towards him, what his brother would have seen before his accident. As someone who has lost a parent, the death of a close family member is hard to get over. The feelings of grief may subside with time, but they are always there, lurking under the surface waiting to be triggered. They way they portray Yunho's trauma hits in a real way.

We also get this shot of Yuhno picking up his brother's shirt and bugs scattering out from under it.

I'm not going to tell you how much time I spent looking up bugs to try to figure out exactly what were crawling out from his brother's shirt. Really any time looking at bugs, for me, is too much time. I landed on ticks but I'm still not 100% certain. Sorry in advance to the grossness of this subject. Dreaming about bugs and insects suggests you are mentally exhausted and stressed in life or have worries about something crawling through your unconscious mind. These dreams are symbolic of your fears and anxieties. Specially, ticks are a symbol of your subconscious working through your fears. They’re also a sign of something you’re trying to protect your loved ones from. So not only is Yuhno dealing with his grief trauma, he is also mentally exhausted, stressed, and fearing for the safety of those he loves, which would make sense with how he lost his brother.

UPDATE: One of my readers, Meahsii, contacted me to tell me the bugs are actually Japanese beetles!! [I was going to add a picture, but I just can't. Here is a link to see what they look like.] These can symbolize beauty, protection, or renewal in your life. I specifically related Yuhno to "a need for protecting something valuable in your life like a relationship or personal goal and the start of a new phase or fresh beginning." Meahsii thinks the beetles could mean "the trauma of Yunho not being able to protect or save his brother since they were scattering out from underneath his brother's clothes." It could also mean Yunho has a desire to protect those he loves (as in his remaining family or Ateez), but also protect the new goal of singing that he has, and gives us some hope that he, and the rest of the boys, are about to start their new phase. I like it!


Our poor San is ALWAYS running and he doesn't even know why! Seriously, someone actually asked him and he didn't know.

I'm not sure if @etherealsanie was the one who actually asked him, but they were the one who gave us this cute exchange where San answered the age old question of why he is always running. Here is his response if you want to hear it straight from him.

For San, who was constantly being moved around as a child and having to continuously establish new routines in a new place with new people and friend groups, finding the members of Ateez was a blessing. Then going through everything they went through in Universe Z, San is dealing with the trauma of being afraid of losing the people he has come to rely on. He has always been the one willing to sacrifice himself for the group because of this. San is consistently trying to get away from the forces who are running after him and trying to capture him but he may in reality be leading those forces away from the others. Now that they have returned to Universe A, the immediate danger Ateez were in is gone, but the memories and trauma those memories created remains.

Mingi and Wooyoung

Although Mingi and Wooyoung are featured in the same place with the same people around them, the way they are interacting with the people in this space shows us the very different traumas Mingi and Wooyoung are facing. The people are on the stage with Wooyoung, surrounding him, and encroaching into his space portraying his stage fright; while they are off of the stage and facing away from Mingi portraying how he used to never get close to anyone and his propensity of pushing people away from him when he is all up in his feels. We also see the differences in how the green waves are produced from their performances. Wooyoung's waves are the zoomed in sound waves with formants that are created through spoken word or singing while Mingi's waves are the what you would see from a zoomed out musical sound. These once again show us how Wooyoung's trauma is related to people watching him closely while Mingi's is related to people being far away from him.


We have now come to Jongho who's trauma of being injured and unable to follow his dream is not only in the lore, but we have had to watch it play out in real life when he had to go on hiatus for his knee injury, surgery, and recovery. We see Jongho regulated to a bed forced to watch people and animals running while he is unable to. The television in front of him moves in the direction of his feet when he moves them, and continues to get closer and closer to him, bringing him face to face with his desire that is actually out of reach. We see "wake up" in his eye, hopefully meaning that the situation he is in is just a dream of the injury from his past and he is in fact healed. But there is alway the worry, he could be re-injured and he could lose his new dream of being an idol. The screen morphs to show Jongho reaching out to a mirror image of himself above him indicating how this trauma is impacting his mind and how he views himself.

The television he was being tortured with cracks and ants begin to crawl on it while he screams in agony. Ants could mean being overwhelmed by persistent thoughts, worries, or unresolved issues in your mind but could also mean the importance of persistence, hard work, and diligence in your waking life. It could indicate that you need to stay focused on your goals and tasks, and work diligently to achieve them. So Jongho needs to work to overcome his worries about being re-injured and stay focused on his new goals so he can work diligently to achieve them.

Not Okay Music Video

We have now arrived at the music video where eight boys dealing with their different traumas that occurred both before they left for Universe Z and while they were there, trying to overcome them. We know they have become anarchists while in Strictland so I feel like they can do it. They just need some time, and little bit of therapy.

"This place, where right and left are unclear (Make some noise); Feels like a maze (Make some noise). Try again no matter how many times (Make some noise); Nobody can stop us (Make some noise; Don't stop, nobody). Louder, roar that I'm not okay. Raise your voice and scream more. Louder, roar that I'm not okay. Raise your voice and scream some more."

They may not be okay right now, but I have faith that they will be. They even give us an anarchy symbol to show us they still have a little bit of anarchist inside them. For those of you who didn't see that in the video, I leave you with a tweet of @NotBonkyP pointing it out.

[Click the image to access @NotBonkyP's post and see Seonghwa making the anarchist symbol]

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sofia k
sofia k

it's a good day when we get a blog post!

i'm super obsessed with this release, more than i was with limitless or paradigm, and obviously it's very very lore heavy. the trauma ateez went through on Z as well as the trials they've had to face as artists shown in this song is truly gut wrenching and makes me want to tuck them all into a blanket somewhere safe and far away from cruel people. and i didn't even catch seonghwa's rebel "A" symbol! probably bc i was too busy having an emo teen moment lol, but nonetheless.

honestly, the whole song and MV was giving me MCR/pop punk/punk vibes, almost kind of like Dune or Django did. the…

sofia k
sofia k

i joined the right fandom

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