First Impressions: Liar Game

Another classic manga which was previously turned into a Japanese drama gets a Korean drama. We have the romantic comedy Nodame’s Cantabile (called Tomorrow’s Cantabile aka Nae Il’s Cantabile for the Korean remake) and we have the psychological drama Liar’s Game. Now, I’m not quite certain just how popular the Japanese drama LIAR GAME was, but I’m fairly certain it had to be quite popular to garner two seasons, two SPs, and two movies.Lee Sang Yoon, Kim So Eun, Shin Sung Rok

Since I do talk about the Korean version vs. the Japanese version, you may not want to read ahead as I do talk about certain players and plot points that may or may not be spoilers depending on how everything is played out.

The premise of the plot follows the trustingly naïve young woman protagonist as she is unwittingly pulled into the craziness of a game which involves tons of money and to win is to deceive everyone else—the complete opposite of her personality. After she is easily swindled in the first round of the game, she enlists the help of a just-released-from-prison psychology specialist. And thus their journey into the game begins.

The original drama starred Matsuda Shota as Akiyama Shinichi—the genius at reading people and Toda Erika as the easily duped Kanzaki Nao. The Korean drama stars Lee Sang Yoon as Ha Woo Jin, the youngest psychology professor of Seoul University’s history, and Kim So Eun as Nam Da Jung—our hapless heroine.

From the get go the Korean drama is quite different. This drama has an air of…being slightly more realistic somehow an the sets seem a lot more extravagant than the Japanese version and there is less hyperbole in the acting of our characters. Nam Da Jung doesn’t seem quite as bad as Kanzaki Nao, but at the same time, from the beginning of the Japanese drama we had several examples of just how trusting and naïve Nao was, whereas we didn’t get that with the Korean drama.

The storyline has also changed quite a bit. Kanzaki Nao was caring for her ill…I can’t remember if it was her father or grandfather…while Da Jung’s dad fell into great debt and ran away. I know that Akiyama studied psychology, but I can’t remember if he was actually a professor at the time of his arrest and I don’t remember any controversy about him being accused of murder when the CEO of the umbrella corporation he busted killed himself. Also, gone is the cop that was constantly interacting with Nao. Instead he’s been replaced by a loan shark collecting Da Jung’s debt—Jo Dal Goo (Jo Jae Yoon). He’s taking on a very fatherly and brotherly role, so it really makes me wonder if he’s in fact supposed to be the cop character from the Japanese version or not. Also…instead of a private competition watched by wealthy businessmen betting on the outcomes (I think that’s what happened in the Japanese drama—it’s been awhile), the Liar Game has become a reality TV show broadcast around Korea. The mushroomed hair Fukunaga—the original icon of betrayal—has been transformed into a woman. Also very different is that the MC is NOT wearing a mask and is in the spotlight using his real name.

I am enjoying the Korean remake, although I cannot help but compare what is going on in this version versus the original. One thing is certain, the plot is sure to be just as convoluted and twisted. I am wondering, since we have a character like Kang Do Young, if we’ll get the addition of a very integral player in the Korean version—Norihiko Yokoya. This infamous white-haired antagonist appeared by the third round or something like that. In the Japanese version, multiple Liar Games were going on across the country and towards the end, all of the others were brought together for the Russian Roulette game and the Smuggling game. Don’t know if that will happen here or not.

Okay, so enough of the comparisons, ne?

The acting, as I said, is not has hyperbolic as was found in the Japanese drama and probably the manga itself. Korean dramas—particularly comedies do have the same type of hyperbolic acting, but they took more of the comedic elements out of this drama that were found in the Japanese. I think they heighten things more and are doing a great job. Lee Sang Yoon, in particular, does the role of Ha Woo Jin Well. He seems very dark, detached, and very smart, but he has his soft spots especially in regards to Nam Da Jung who does remind him much of his deceased mother. His desire to save this woman where he could not save his mother while getting to the bottom of the Liar Game to uncover the truth behind his mother’s death is already being seen. I can’t wait until he starts to crack as the game goes on. I’m also eager to see how Da Jung develops from the damsel in distress who has to rely solely on Woo Jin to a “somewhat” equal who makes her own plans and carries them out.

I liked the evolution of our characters in the Japanese version and hope we get to see the evolutions as well in this version. Will Da Jung change like Nao and become stronger as she manages to stay true to her values and save her fellow players from the huge debt they will face upon exit? Will Woo Jin completely lose himself in his quest for revenge that Da Jung is forced to return once safe in order to save him from himself? I’m curious as to how it will all play out. I’m particularly wondering if Do Young targeted Da Jung for the same reasons Nao was targeted in the drama. I think a dying CEO saw her brightness and optimism and threw her to the wolves in the Liar Game in hopes of tarnishing her…but that doesn’t happen and she shows him that there is good in humanity yet and you can persevere without losing who you really are.

I haven’t seen any of Shin Sun Rok’s dramas or movies, though I have heard people talk about his excellent acting as a bad guy in You Who Came from the Stars. And…he’s awesome in his role. You know that he’s got some giant hidden agenda and that Da Jung’s and Ha Woo Jin’s entrance into the game is not as happenstance as he would have others believe. He’s very cunning and as Woo Jin tells them upon their first interview—Do Young’s a different sort of person whose mask that covers his real visage is very natural. There will definitely be a master battle of wits in this game of psychological warfare and I can’t wait to see it’s outcome. With the revival match ahead, I’m wondering if Woo Jin will become Da Jung’s personal belonging like Akiyama became in the Japanese drama? That was a hilarious turn of events.

There’s so much going on and as long as everything is well-paced and well thought out, I think this will be a very good drama. It’s difficult to say if it will stay the course or not as they have introduced a bunch of plots that were not in the original (drama, can’t say about the manga) and that could leave loose ends. I wonder if tvN will try to get multiple seasons or try to conclude things in only one. Ah, and how funny that the TV company in the drama is called jvN, lol.

Previews for episode 5 are showing some interesting plot points that again seem to really be deviating from the manga and the original drama. I’m really wondering what Do Young is doing having a private dinner with Da Jung while Woo Jin’s life hangs, literally, in the balance as he’s tied to a chair hanging out of a window. They really do know how to keep you anticipating for the next episodes.

There’s enough differences where I don’t think you’ll hate this drama if you’re a fan, like me, of the original. If you’re new to the series and like a drama with some social commentary, it’s definitely a must watch. And now…I’m going to go back and rewatch all of the Japanese series. I really am itching to watch Akiyama and Nao once more thanks to this drama.


  • I’m really enjoying the storyline, pace & intensity thus far. I hope to ser DJ become someone who evolves into someone who can be an equal (or as equal partner) to WJ. Since I didn’t see the original I look forward to seeing the reveal about the events & ppl that lead to WJ’s mother’s death. In addition to finding what DY true motivations are. Even as other storylines are introduced I tope that the focus is not taken away the central 3 characters because they are the ones I’m tuning un for (how are they connected? How will their relationships change? How can outwit the game? Etc)

    • Anxiously awaiting more episodes! I’m planning on doing a new series of posts between Jdrama vs. Kdrama. I’ve been rewatching and I’m really intrigued by all the differences and how it really changes the perspective of the story overall. I can’t wait to learn even more about this complicated plot and all the interconnections.

  • I think that’s great! As much as I’m enjoying the drama I do find it a bit difficult to keep track of the rules of the game & as you said all the interconnections.
    With the games it just might be the fact that anytime my brain things numbers are in play, it wants to shutdow. Lol

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