Liar Game Review
Liar Game is a manga of trust and deception, it’s a manga about mind games which employed the aforementioned two opposing ends of the spectrum. Liar Game is written and illustrated by Shinobu Kaitani, and was just completed by the beginning of the year.
“Liar Game” is a very self-explanatory title. Liar Game forces participants to join a series of games where the players are required to cheat and swindle his or her opponent’s money as much as possible. Once the game ends, the player who obtained more money is the winner, the loser on the other hand, will end up with a large amount of debt. This all began when Kanzaki Nao received a mail which contained an invitation to the Liar Game by LGT office, together with a total of 100 million yen in cash money. Gullible and honest to a fault, she was swindled almost immediately. Desperate, she enlisted the help of a former criminal and con man, Akiyama Shinichi. While reluctant at first, Akiyama decided to help her in the end, and as they dig deeper into the mystery, they decided to seek the truth behind the LGT office, while at the same time, constantly besting their foes in the Liar Game.
The “psychological survival” subgenre is a recurring one, much like Cage of Eden, Mirai Nikki, and those that came before them. Liar Game gave the theme a slight, different spin-instead of lives, money is used as a motive. While slightly different, the sense of tension and thrill is still captured extremely well, making readers feel the exact same sense of dread when the characters lost a hefty amount of money and were in enormous debts.
If you read the synopsis, Liar Game quite literally involves the characters playing certain games, where the character’s trust with each other is put to test. These “games” are most definitely the main highlight of the manga. Aforementioned, the feeling of tension is captured extremely well even if technically the characters’ lives aren’t in danger.
Liar Game followed a narrative pattern-where the characters get caught up in these consecutive games where they either win and earn large sum of money, or lose and be in enormous debt. Each round, the game is a different one with different rules; from voting to poker to musical chairs-as a result, the setting for each game is always refreshing. While the rules for each of them are meticulously clarified, they are quite multifaceted than they are seemingly explained. These games are based a lot on actual Game Theory, where decisive and strategic decision making is key, and utilizing the rules of the games. What I like best about these is that the narrative forces you to possess a deep comprehension for the games’ rules-it expects you to be the master of each games, so that you can follow the twists when the character outwits his opponents by exploiting the loopholes.
And those “psychological warfare” scenes were intense! It gave the impression that even a single coin flip can get as intense as two warlords fighting for tactical supremacy. Sometimes, even actual psychological and game theories were used and applied practically, including cognitive dissonance, gambler’s fallacy, prisoner’s dilemma, and so on, clearly showing that the author did quite some level of research, at least, to a satisfactory amount for it to be applied in an entertainment medium.
It especially started picking up with the emergence of characters like Yokoya and Harimoto-Akiyama’s foes and peers of mind games. They are all intelligent, and even cunning individuals who all took the main attraction when all the psychological battles are centered on these three, even more so when the games became more team-based during the latter part of the manga. All three of them became effective leaders of their own alliances, and it’s interesting to see how the three of them worked differently as they clash with each other in a battle of wits, tactics and deception; attempting to lead their teams (or not?) to victory.
Outside of the actual games, Liar Game proves it can be thematic when it needs to. The subject of trust is often brought out in the manga, and how it effects the bond with people around you. As Akiyama puts it, you can’t just trust blindly in people, right? This theme also becomes a catalyst for Kanzaki as a character development. I think it’s because her character is one of the few who starts from “zero”, so to speak, so her character development felt the most organic, but on the other hand, extremely slow-it took quite literally more than half of the manga (about 100+ chapters) for her to show signs of change. Seeing numerous repetition of Kanzaki getting lied and crying, and having Akiyama to save her every time for so long can get slightly jarring, admittedly, despite her development.
Unfortunately I’m just not too sold on the ending, I like the idea of facing against the corporation which forced them into these games, but the end felt like a cluster of rushed explanation and conclusion-and the funny thing is, I don’t even think it was axed, which makes it worse. That last few chapters also has some characters suddenly shifting to a more protagonist role, despite being an antagonist for the entirety of the manga, which again, is obviously something I don’t buy into. Overall, the last arc simply felt lackluster compared to the rest of the manga.
During the early chapters, the drawings were very stiff. The perspectives were rough, transitions between frames weren’t flowing naturally and sometimes facial expressions were too over-the-top. But Liar Game is a lengthy manga, and just like any lengthy manga, it’s artwork is something which keeps improving as the volumes progress; the aforementioned issues I mentioned gets better as you read further on. It’s character designs are mostly realistic, which matches the atmosphere of the manga, and despite anything, the visual designs on the main characters themselves are pretty good and detailed.
Another nice thing about this is that the manga sometimes had charts, graphs, maps, diagrams, pictures, bullet points or basically anything to help make the explanations more easier to understand. Additionally, these pictures sometime also help to remind readers the current standing of the players in the game. I know Liar Game has a live-action drama adaption, but I feel this is the one thing which the manga has an advantage over the drama, the visualized information helps a lot in keeping up with the progression of the game, and even more so, since it’s a manga, you can slowly read and understand the explanations without having to pause every seconds.
Despite the rocky ending, Liar Game is a great manga which weaves psychological tension like an intimidating chess master; it’s one of the most mentally engaging manga I had read in a while. I think fans of the “psychological survival game” genre would have a blast reading this.