Humans, in general, feel uneasy when there’s dissonance between them and their external environment. And so, to cancel that uneasiness they try to synchronize (or make peace) with that environment. – Shinichi Akiyama
Do you lie?
(I don’t mean on the bed. Duh.)
Of course you do. At some point of our life, we all do; unless of course you are Shakira’s hips. Lel.
Anyway, lying is basically a part of our daily life. Now think about this; what if you could earn by lying? What if there was a game, where you could get the enjoyment of deceiving people, and get paid for it? Sounds great, right?
Only it isn’t.
Because the world isn’t a happy place, as we normally take it to be.
Welcome to Liar Game (read Reality).
Although I made it clear that everybody lies, there must be some exceptions, right? One of such is Nao Kanzaki, who is literally honest to a fault. One day she receives 100 million yen and a note that she is now a contestant in the ‘Liar Game Tournament’, or LGT. As it’s clear from the name, in this tournament, you have to deceive others, or get deceived. If you win it big, someone’s going to lose hard.
Nao’s first opponent turns out to be a former teacher of her. It really takes no effort for him to cheat the money out of her. Faced with the impending massive debt, she looks out for help, as it’s clear to her that she can’t do anything alone. When she comes across the recently released from prison conman named Shinichi Akiyama, she somehow manages to pique his interest; he joins her, helps her get back the money, and then the two of them enter the LGT, to face the dark, deceptive world of Liar Game, where every human is driven by greed, and they’ll go as low as they can, just for the sake of money.
The heart of the manga is obviously Kanzaki Nao. She is the embodiment of hope, which the mangaka portrays brilliantly in the dark, filth-filled world of Liar Game. Even a top-tier manipulator like Akiyama can’t help but admire her. You can like her, or you can hate her for being so naïve, but you can’t ignore her importance. But after this praise, I can’t help but share my (personal) opinion that she is the most flawed character in the manga. I mean come on, is it possible for someone to be that foolish? She works great as a breath of fresh air, and she is an important ‘team member’ for Akiyama as well, but actually she is the biggest lie that we encounter in Liar Game. Again, personal opinion; no hate please. ;-;
Now, you can’t help but be astonished by the sheer brilliant mind games of Akiyama, as he surpasses situations which sometimes seem impossible; yet, there’s no deus ex machina involved. He is a psychology student, which I don’t think was necessary; reading people effortlessly like a book, manipulate them to the extent where they become your puppets, and even when it seems to be the opposite, to be always one step ahead than them; you can’t be like that by just studying psychology. I understand he must seem like too OP a character, but just like every other character, he is extremely well fleshed; he is definitely not a ‘superhuman’. His reason for participating was just for money at first; but later he carried on Liar Game only to meet the masterminds behind the game, and stop them.
Speaking of other characters, there are only two, who are capable of matching wits with Akiyama; i.e. the antagonists. One of them is Norihiko Yokoya, the calm dictator, and the other is Takashi Harimoto, old but bold. Both of them work amidst their ‘followers’, unlike Akiyama. Their clashes are the most cherishable moments of the manga. There’s also Yuji Fukunaga, who initially tries to trick Nao and Akiyama, but later becomes their ally. The mangaka Shinobu Kaitani depicts the psychological buildings of each character with great clarity.
At times, Liar Game is simply breathtaking, due to the well-paced games. Even though the manga is dialogue-driven and very dialogue-heavy, it doesn’t hurt the pacing, and the minimalist art style keeps the attention always to the plot. You will often find yourself on the edge of the seat, dying to know the outcome of the games, which are promptly given in a satisfying manner that will make you hit your head, thinking ‘Dammit, I’ll definitely guess the next one.’
(Spoiler: you can’t. :D)
Full of twists and turns, intriguing survival games and originality, Liar Game is a great psychological manga series that’s really hard to put down, once you get the story. The ending’s a bit abrupt, but it’s nothing you need to worry about now.
Just like you may not like our overly honest protagonist, you may not like the art, as it’s nothing over-the-top; even poor, sometimes. But it hardly matters, at least to me, as it’s not a manga driven by visuals, but by the plot. The mangaka captures the emotions of different peoples in difficult situations ingeniously. What else do you need? Eyebrows?
A major difference between other manga and Liar Game is that you can’t help but feel disturbed; which is a great achievement. Despite being a work of fiction, it depicts our world all too well; and all those dark corners that we normally choose to avoid. It promptly holds our vision, and turns it towards that direction. Thematically the closest work that comes to mind would be Kaiji, by another genius mangaka, Nobuyuki Fukumoto.
This manga already has both a Japanese and a Korean television series, which follow the plot of the manga thoroughly. If you can’t help getting your mind blown, check out another work of the same mangaka, One Outs, which also has an anime.
Did I miss anything? Oh, if you’re looking for lolis, look elsewhere; not a single character is underage. 🙁
Sheer brilliance captured by mediocre art.