Liar Game is a 2007 Japanese TV show based off a manga of the same name while the first season had eleven episodes. I had no experience with the manga so I went into this one fresh. The story is quick to introduce Nao Kanzaki played by Erika Toda who always believes the best in everyone, this has led many people in her life to take advantage of her gullibility. I really enjoyed her character throughout the first season and the acting by Toda was top notch. One day Nao gets a bizarre package addressed to her from an unknown address, inside is 100 million yen and a video tape explaining to her that by opening the box she has joined a game with a collection of others. This is a game for deceivers, the Liar Game, she had one week to steal another player’s money or be stolen from and lose. The tension of the series and the driving force behind a lot of the drama is that loss comes with a price; if you lose you owe the mysterious organization who runs the game a 100 million yen on top of the 100 million they gave you.
Very abruptly in this series Nao loses all of her money after being duped by her target, her favorite teacher from high school. Upset with only a few days left and knowing she’s in over her head Nao enlists the help of a convict recently released from prison “master swindler” Shinichi Akiyama played by Shota Matsuda. Matsuda is great to watch and clearly owns every scene he is in. At first Shinichi is reluctant to go back to his life of lying as he did just get out of prison for single-handedly bankrupting one of the biggest companies in Japan with his swindling. Eventually he takes a liking to Noa and decides to help her win for half of the money. The first season really follows the bonding of these two within the game through each round. I should note each round the winners continue to a new game each with a unique set up that tests the limits of their corruption. My favorite parts came in flashbacks delving into Shinichi’s mysterious past as we slowly learn what put him on his life path of dishonesty and we get details on the shadowy organization.
The show reminds me a great deal of “Battle Royale” and the tension really brings each characters ambition forward. Much like “Battle Royale” it’s a game with huge consequences and each character gets enough screen time to be invested in, in other words there are NO cannon fodder characters to be easily flattened by the main duo. I thought at first Noa’s character would be very boring and her gullibility would be grating but I was sold on her characterization by Toda’s great acting. Honestly this is one of the few shows I was genuinely interested in every character on screen, everyone from the main characters to the villains running the game has a motive and will stop at nothing to succeed, which in turn drives the story brilliantly at least for the most part. Some episodes get bogged down in “expository” scenes where players explain their whole plan, classic rookie mistake to be honest in a game of liars but there you are. This is particularly noticeable in the season 1 finale which clocks in at 182 minutes! All in all the first season is a great blend of drama, action and comedic moments with Shota Matsuda and Erika Toda really stealing the show even when it is slow. It’s worth a watch if you can find it.
Before I get into the breakdown I have to say that the titles for each episode are ridicules, for example this is the title to a random episode lets say 4, “A stunning 4th episode!! X’s true colors are revealed!! The outcome of X vs. Akiyama is!? Making a comeback after turning the tables!!” So yes… Just saying 1-11 is easier. Spoilers:
- Introduction of Noa and Shinichi and the Liar Game introduces the common running theme of deception and trust. Among the best episodes.
- Noa and Shinichi work together on winning her money back, comes to an exciting conclusion where we see Shinici truly is a great read of character and human interaction.
- After winning the first round Noa is thrust back into the game with round two wherein all the winners from round one are forced to play an unpredictable game of “minority vote”. Everyone must cast a vote on a topic either yes or no the side with less votes remains while the majority go home in debt. This continues until only one remains. Shinichi manages to break into the game and devise a fool proof strategy.
- The fool proof strategy works out well until it seems a few others are extremely good judges as well and employing the same strategy. And a new mysterious villain is introduced. Noa loses this round and Shinichi is left alone without an ally in a final round.
- The final round comes to a great conclusion as shinichi manages to figure out who the mystery villain was and deduces how to beat their plan.
- The losers of the second round enter into a double or nothing 3rd “redemption round” Noa is left all alone against the best liars who beat her in round two.
- Is a great episode but doesn’t further plot too much just a continuation of the redemption round
- The redemption round ends. The relationship between Noa and Shinichi is explored and we finally get more details on the organization and their motives. Winners of redemption move on to “contraband” the fourth round.
- Episode 9 begins the 4th round, Noa and Shinichi try and formulate a winning strategy in a constantly changing game, a pretty interesting episode
- A pretty great episode don’t want to spoil too much, but Shinichi shines in this one and Noa finally becomes are great player in the Liar Game.
- The final episode in season 1 seriously its running time is over three hours, it’s the 5th and final round and when its good, it’s really good but when its slow its very slow a pretty epic conclusion that teases a second season which I can’t wait to get into.