Jdrama Review: Liar Game Season 1

Toda Erika, Matsuda Shota ライアーゲーム
LIAR GAME

Broadcast network: Fuji TV
Broadcast period: 14 April – 23 June 2007
Episodes: 11
Starring: Matsuda Shota, Toda Erika, Suzuki Kazuma
Based on: Manga ライアーゲーム (Raiā Gēmu) by Kaitani Shinobu serialized in Weekly Young Jump in Japan.

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Toda ErikaAll I have to say is this is the drama that made me fall for Matsuda Shota. He was great in the Japanese version of HanDan, but I love him best as Akiyama Shinichi in this dramatization of the manga LIAR GAME.

This drama follows Kanzaki Nao (played by Toda Erika) an innocent, naive, and trusting young woman who gets caught up in the Liar Game – a game where one must lie in order to win. Obviously Nao is at an extreme disadvantage because she believes that people need to have faith in each other and not lie. After Nao is tricked out of her hundred million yen, she goes to the local police station where officer Tanimura lets her know about the release of swindler Akiyama Shinichi. She enlists the aid of Akiyama to help her get back the money that was taken and thus their entanglement with each other and the Liar Game begins.

The game is broken up into 3 stages:

Stage 1: 2 people are chosen to go up against one another. Each receive the amount of 100,000,000 yen. The player with the most money at the end of the game keeps their hundred million, plus whatever they managed to steal from their opponent. The loser (the one with the least amount of money) has to pay back the hundred million from the beginning immediately, thus causing them to go into a horrible debt. If the winner chooses to, they can return their own hundred million to withdraw from the next stage of the game.

Stage 2: Minority Rules. Instead of the majority gaining victory in this game, it’s the minority. For each round of the game, one player must choose a yes or no question that the other players then must answer. Whichever answer gets the most votes becomes the majority and those people in the majority are kicked out of the game (and of course they have to pay back their money). The people in the minority then continue on until there is either only one person left standing or an indefinite tie.

Stage 3: Contraband Game. Now the players must work as team to smuggle money across the border. For each round, there is a smuggler from either Fire or Water country and an inspector from the opposing team. This game is a little more complicated. The smuggler can either carry money and try to trick the inspector into letting them pass or they can choose to carry an empty case and trick the inspector into calling their bluff. If the inspector calls “doubt,” they must state the amount they think the smuggler is carrying. If the inspector is right, then the smuggler loses the money. If the inspector is wrong, then the inspector must pay a fine to the smuggler.

Matsuda Shota

Of course, nothing is simple in the Liar Game. Players make hidden deals, lie, cheat, and back-stab to try to get their way to the top and become the final winner (who gets an obscene amount of money). Nao does not like how the Liar Game treats people. She decides that she is going to do her best in the game to make sure that no one is left behind. While others play for riches, Nao plays for salvation. She honestly wishes to save the people and take on the Liar Game itself. Akiyama agrees to help Nao, especially when he finds out the Liar Game might have a link to the company that defrauded his mother leading her to kill herself.

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this drama. I thought at first that I might not like it, but I finally gave in to sampling it as it did star Matsuda Shota and I had seen him previously in Hana Yori Dango. I am glad that I gave this drama a chance.

The actors did a great job in playing their parts. Toda did a good job in playing the hapless, easily fooled Nao and Matsuda did a masterful job at the brooding psychology-student-turned-swindler Akiyama. You never really knew what was going through Akiyama’s head, he always appeared detached and calm (except towards the end when he was facing off against Yokoya). This goes to show how good an actor Matsuda is. From spoiled rich boy and tea ceremony elitist to the quirky, silly detective in the meta-drama Meitantei no Okite, Matuda shows many different sides. Props go to Suzuki Kazuma for his role as the evil Yokoya who was part of the pyramid scheme that Akiyama’s character takes down to avenge his mother’s death. He did a great job of playing the mastermind and later the victim in need of Nao’s and Akiyama’s salvation. Another shout out to great acting has to go to Suzuki Kosuke for his role as the perpetual back-stabber Fukunaga.

Besides great acting and a great psychological plot and case-study of human greed, this drama had a few pitfalls. One of the biggest being Nao’s gullibility. you get that she wants to believe in everyone so she doubts no one and is easily tricked, but there is a limit to stupidity. Is anyone actually that naive? She is especially bad when it comes to Fukunaga. He betrays her so many times its pathetic and yet she was always fooled by him. I am not saying that her outlook is bad, it is a good outlook, you would just think that after all the tricks and stuff that has been played on her that she would learn to be just a scosh more cautious, but alas, she does not. Also, as much as I love the hard-to-get Akiyama, I do wish we could be clued in a little more on what’s going on in his head – but not knowing what he’s thinking or plotting does add to the suspense of every episode, which isn’t a bad thing.

Suzuki Kazuma

I liked how each episode kept you on your toes wanting to know if Akiyama’s plans would work and if Nao’s idea of salvation would play out and would she really be able to save everyone. I also liked how all the characters evolved. Akiyama did open up more at the end of the drama (he has more than just concern for Nao because she’s like his mother – you’re pretty sure he likes her as a girl) and he becomes a little less cold and more human. I think the biggest evolution that I liked was with Fukunaga’s character who eventually turns over a “somewhat” new leaf and begins trusting in Nao. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a schemer and back-stabber, but he becomes a little less heartless – even if he’ll eventually look after only himself.

This drama is unique in that it can be used as a good case study to show the problems with trust and greed societies all over the world have. In this drama, you see the worst of the worst and the best of the best. Watching this drama can make a person think of the lies (big or small) they tell people and the deeds done to obtain something at all costs. It’s not a nice picture to imagine, but it helps you realize you have to put more faith in people (not the total crazy trust of Nao, but more like a cautious, optimistic trust) and to realize that money isn’t everything.

A must-see for those who love psychological games and being able to see the little guy (in this case the Liar Game players) triumph over the man (in this case LG head quarters).

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