Liar game: Round 1

So let us a do a side-by-side comparison, shall we of the Japanese drama vs. the Korean drama? Before I get into the first game in its entirety, I will talk about character introductions.

Japanese Drama:

Toda Erika

Toda Erika as Kanzaki Nao

Our heroine Kanzaki Nao narrates her own story and talks about how stupidly trusting she is. She was always getting tricked and conned—she even got scammed over the telephone by a fake brother when she’s an only sibling! We get to see all of this and hear all of this in her own words. She is what opens the story. We are not introduced to our hero Akiyama Shinichi until after she is already involved in the Liar Game. A police officer she talked to tells her about a legendary swindler who was arrested three years ago and is getting out of prison soon. Nao heads to the library to look up information (in old newspapers!) before heading over to the prison. Akiyama does go out the back and runs into Nao and refuses to listen to the girl, but she stalks him until he promises to listen to her story. He lies that he’s going to drop off his stuff and come back, but he doesn’t and she waits all night to his utter disbelief. After all of this he does eventually listen to her story as a phrase she said reminds him of someone (we don’t learn about his mother’s suicide until episode 5 after the Minority Game) and he agrees to help her for half the winnings and Nao quickly agrees to this.

**Notes on the father: Nao’s father is in the hospital fighting a terminal disease. From what I can see, she isn’t in a huge amount of debt or being hounded, so they are scraping by.**

Korean Drama:

kd-liargame-namdajungWe meet Ha Woo Jin first. He’s giving a lecture about how you should not trust your fellow man and then demonstrates that people tell over 100 lies a day. He tells his students that this is his last words to them as he’s about to be arrested. He turns and puts his hands over his head as the cops stream into his classroom to arrest him for murder of all things! He’s then in prison for one year and then we cut to Nam Da Jung. We don’t get many examples of her trusting idiocy. We just see an old woman ask for help and Da Jung initially refuses but can’t just leave the old woman to struggle. When Da Jung gets unwittingly pulled into the Liar Game, an ex-con loan shark is the one who tells her of Woo Jin’s amazing feats and that he’s getting out of prison soon. Da Jung goes to ask for his help, but Woo Jin is rude and doesn’t wish to help in her problems at all. Since this Liar Game is a nationally televised reality show, Woo Jin already knows of her distress, but won’t commit to help. He also tells the stalking Da Jung he will be back after he uses the restroom to hear her out and abandons her for the rest of the day only to come to her rescue later and agree to help out, like in the jdrama, for half the winnings.

**Notes on the father: Da Jung’s dad made some bad business deals and incurred a huge debt that falls on Da Jung’s shoulders since he ran away to earn money to repay the debt.**

Game 1: 100 million yen

(not technically the name of the game in both dramas, but it really is just named after the amount the players must protect and steal in order to win)

The game is actually quite a bit different between the Japanese and Korean dramas. First, let’s talk about how each girl gets pulled in.

Japanese Drama:

Nao comes home to find a large box wrapped in black. She takes it in to her apartment and opens it. She finds a video tape and a huge pile of money! She counts out the money and is shocked by the large amount. She then puts the tape into her VCR and is greeted by the Liar Game MC Solario…or whatever the masked man’s name is. He congratulates her on agreeing to join the game. Nao then looks down at the box and finally notices a note saying that opening the box is agreeing to join the game. What a bait. For those who are too curious or not paying attention, they are pulled in with no way to forfeit initially. Nao immediately locks up her apartment and closes all the curtains. She’s terrified. She does take the money to the local police post, but is told they can’t do anything since the box was addressed directly to her. They could only act if someone really did take the money. Yep. Nao is stuck.

Korean Drama:

Nam Da Jung is busily scurrying somewhere when she bumps into an old lady who begs for help finding a place she needs to go. Da Jung initially refuses, but just can’t let the woman go since she looks so panicked and lost. Da Jung agrees to help and gets the woman almost to her destination. The woman then says she has to use the restroom and disappears. Da Jung waits for over six hours. Her friend tells her to turn the bag over to the police or just abandon it, but Da Jung can’t. She takes it home. She is very tempted to use the money since she is in a ton of debt, but she decides against it. Her loan shark shows up and she runs out of the house with the money. They get to the police station and a phone rings. Da Jung sees it and it asks if she will join the Liar Game. Her loan shark makes the decision for her and thus she’s entered into the game not of her own volition. She is, of course, given an out if she does not really wish to participate in this drama.

So what are the rules of our first game? They are the same for both rounds essentially. The biggest difference is the time frame given. In the Japanese drama you have one month to steal your opponents money. Since this is all part of a game, there is no need to worry about getting arrested for stealing. In the Korean drama, you have one week and one week only. The do add on the caveat that the serial numbers on the bills need to be the exact same or no dice. This was never mentioned in the Japanese drama.

Round 1 Japanese Drama:

Matsuda Shota

Matsuda Shota as Akiyama Shinichi

The Liar Game in this drama is private and for the entertainment of select few very wealthy individuals. Thus, everything being done is on the down low. The Liar Game Secretariat contacts the members via mail and videotape for this round alone. Getting the mail becomes a nightmare for Nao. It is via mail that she is introduced to her opponent—a former high school teacher. I can’t remember right now who approached who first, but the teacher is quick to put Nao at ease saying they just have to sit out the round and not do anything. He tells her the real thieves are the LGS, but since opponents don’t know each other, they think it will be who their opponent who is taking the money when it isn’t. The teacher convinces Nao to hand over her money to put in a bank and she readily agrees.

Nao is all happy thinking that she is saved when she gets the notice that she is currently losing. She rushes to her teacher who puts her at is and she feels badly for having doubted him. She goes to his house with a dessert and overhears him talking about how he’ll soon have money since he tricked his dumb student. Nao is crushed and doesn’t know what to do. She talks to the police officer she always visits and he advises her to seek out a legendary swindler. She rushes to the library and looks up old newspaper clippings of Akiyama’s infamous swindling. She goes to the jail to beg him for help but he blows on past her. I’ve already said how it was that they agreed to work together, etc., so I won’t repeat that.

Akiyama’s plan is very simple. Nao does confront her sensei and he talks about how you can’t trust anyone as all humans lie, etc. He does still insist that he hasn’t taken the money. Akiyama comes in and gets the sensei riled enough that he does spill that it’s not considered stealing as it’s all part of the game (they threatened to turn him in for stealing the money). Akiyama smirks at this and the two leave. He then tells Nao that she must now do two things. Firstly she needs to make a declaration to her sensei that she won’t give up and will play the game in earnest. Secondly, she must put the man under 24 hour surveillance. Akiyama then does a follow-up that rattles the sensei.

The goal is to put the man in a state of constant stress. The first round ends on a weekend, so he must make a move to get the money before then. With them watching him 24/7, he’s too frightened to make a move. Nao is worrying since they aren’t acting at all. Akiyama then says it’s strange that sensei never ventures out of his door, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you want to reassure yourself your money is okay? Nao thinks about it. So that means…the money is in the house?

Using firecrackers in a bucket and a hand fan to blow some smoke into sensei’s house, the two trick the man to revealing his hiding place. Sensei’s house was potentially on fire, but he hesitated in calling the police in such a dangerous situation. Sensei doesn’t care that they know and reveals an older model safe. Try getting the money out of there! Akiyama coolly smirks and says getting the money out of the safe is no problem at all. This freaks sensei out even more and he boards up windows, doors, and puts padlocks around the safe. He is stressed out even more so thinking that Akiyama has some grand plan.

The month is finally over and the two have done nothing to retrieve the money. Nao makes a run for it when there is only 10 minutes left crying and begging for sensei to save her. Sensei just holds out until 5 rolls around. At that time, a man from LGS comes to verify the money. Sensei leaves him to do his job while Nao sits outside in a state of depression. Akiyama then finally makes a move from the apartment he rented for them to spy on sensei.

A trio of women from LGS show up then. The man is confused why there are more, but invites them in. The head woman, Eri, explains they are the only officials sent. It turns out the man was a hired actor and thanks to that, Akiyama got the money out of his hands and into Nao’s. Sensei is incensed, how can they steal the money when the game is over already? He digs for his card and Akiyama pulls it out as Eri says they did come to collect the money at the promised time. The man shows off the card that Akiyama gave him and it shows the game ending at 6, not 5. Say what? Akiyama then reveals that he knew the man only checked his mail about once a week since they put him under surveillance, so it was child’s play to create a fake card with the wrong time. This lulled sensei into relief that it was over and thus he is ruined and must take on a huge amount of debt.

**Side not on sensei: He was fired from his job when he wanted a commission. After that his wife divorced him so he was doing this to spite everyone, not to save his family and provide them with a better life.**

Nao does scold Akiyama for not telling her and turning the apartment clock ahead one hour. Akiyama explains she is too innocent and cannot act. He needed her desperation to be real to convince sensei he’d won. Nao gives him his half of the money and he takes off while Nao runs back. The prize for the first round is not the total amount, but rather only what you managed to take from your opponent. The loser is left in debt for the amount that is stolen. Not wanting sensei to be buried in debt, she gives him her half and tells him its on the condition he never says something as sad as people are all liars and can’t be trusted. The man bawls in gratitude and makes the promise.

Nao goes back outside where she runs into Akiyama. He hands over the suitcase of money. He was to get half of her winnings, but she doesn’t have any, does she? Thus half of zero is…zero. Nao happily goes and delivers the suitcase to her sensei so he can now pay off his debt in full.

She takes Akiyama back to her place to celebrate the end of the ordeal and thank him for everything only to find a new note from the Liar Game. There is another round! The only way to forfeit is to fork over half the prize winnings from the first round, which Nao no longer has. What’s a girl to do?

Round 1 Korean Drama:

So we all know how Da Jung got pulled into the Liar Game. The interesting thing about this that this game is publically televised for all of Korea to see. Nothing is truly done in secret and thus we get a lot of real world drama which we don’t see at all in the Japanese drama. The only thing the Japanese drama focuses on is the game and Nao and Akiyama’s growing friendship/never actualized romance. The Korean drama focuses not solely on the game, but the life outside, in particularly the TV station that also puts on the game.

Da Jung does have a chance to forfeit if she gives the money back I believe, but that doesn’t happen as she’s convinced to stay to try to save her father and reach out to him via the telecast. With the Japanese drama there is no contract or clauses or anything like that. In this drama each player gets a contract. Whether or not any of them actually read it or are given time to read it is up in the air, but essentially you do have to pay back winnings and it is also half the prize money to withdraw from the game.

Da Jung doesn’t pay attention to the match-up at first and then her former teacher approaches her and says they are in luck. He feeds her the same story, they can easily win this game and keep half of their current money by agreeing to work together since the game has no idea that they are former teacher and student. We do get to see a scene where Da Jung was accused of stealing money and the teacher knew she didn’t do it. He then tells the class he found the money and her own fees for the class trip near the gym so it was all a big misunderstanding. We know this is the teacher’s own money because we see that another student stole it to bully Da Jung.

Once the game officially starts, the two wait until night and the crew has fallen asleep to make a break for it. They take their money to a bank. They can’t deposit it since the serial numbers on the bills must be the same. Thus they put it in a safety deposit box of sorts and Da Jung is given the key to prove that the teacher is not scamming her. Da Jung does get the notice on the specially provided phone that she is losing. She goes to the bank to confirm the money is still there and can’t access the box since she’s not the account holder. Clever plan. Da Jung essentially gives up in this case after confronting her teacher and having him tell her he was fired for embezzlement and how he needs money to reunite with his family who are abroad. Her loan shark doesn’t want this to happen and urges her to meet with the brilliant Ha Woo Jin.

kd-liargame-hawoojinI already told you how they met. I did not tell you that Woo Jin had a condition for helping Da Jung. Not only does he get half the money, she must promise to withdraw from the game. Da Jung easily makes that promise, but we all know she won’t be able to keep it, don’t we? Woo Jin doesn’t really agree to help either until after he sees her participant contract. He goes to her house where she is swarmed by people wanting her to share whatever winnings she gets from the show. He saves her from having her thumbprint forcibly taken and the two make a run for it.

So, from this point on, Woo Jin is an official helper. I don’t know if our unmasked host Do Young was hoping for Woo Jin to join or not. Hard to say. These two are verbally sparring right off the bat. The only way Do Young can manipulate the station to allow Woo Jin to help is to expose his past about his mother getting conned and Woo Jin manipulating stock prices out of revenge. So we do learn Woo Jin’s whole story a lot earlier in this drama.

They do the same thing as the first drama. They put the man under constant surveillance and Woo Jin goes with Da Jung to say they will be getting the money back. Woo Jin also uses a literal smoke trick to get the teacher to reveal the money is in the house and not the bank any more. The teacher does crack under the stress as well and locks things up in chains, too.

We do see that close proximity to Woo Jin gets Da Jung all worked up, so they are playing up the potential romance quite early. In the Japanese drama hints abound, but nothing solid ever happens. More’s the pity in that department. But anywho, Da Jung really shows her doubt of Woo Jin when the day is nearly nigh and he tells her she picked the wrong time and wrong person to finally start mistrusting someone. Very true. Like in the first game,  time runs out and Da Jung runs screaming and pleading. Two men come to collected the money, only they are Woo Jin’s helpers and they get the money back in Da Jung’s hands by the time the game is over, thus she wins. Woo Jin reveals that he switched out the phones that players are contacted with and thus he altered the text that gave the final ending time. He also set Da Jung’s watch ahead an hour when he told her it was behind by a few minutes, thus he set a very believable stage for the teacher to get tricked.

Woo Jin quickly takes his half and skedaddles. His goal is to give Da Jung his half of the winnings once she pays off the Liar Game to leave the show, thus her own debt will be paid off and she can live a normal life. Unfortunately he’s waylaid by Do Young who we are led to believe sent gangsters in to collect the teacher’s debt since they show up right after Da Jung has successfully won. The show’s team are evil in that they don’t call for help and film the whole scene with the man’s family getting threatened and him getting beaten. Da Jung can’t stand it anymore and asks how much he owes. Of course it’s the equivalent of her winnings. So Da Jung pays the debt for the teacher to save him and is thus screwed. Meaning she can’t buy her safety out of the game.

Woo Jin watches this all happen in Do Young’s van. Do Young then gives our former psychology professor a choice—pay the fee for Da Jung to leave the game or use the fee to join the game himself and seek out the whole truth behind his mother’s death. Which option do you think Woo Jin will choose?

kd-liargame-doyoungAnd that’s it. The whole of round one. It’s not really a very interesting round and each drama portrays it a little differently. The Japanese drama had tons of comedic elements and also lots of hyperbole in the acting department—particularly with Nao and her opponent whereas you have to love Matsuda’s calm and cold attitude and his knowing little smirk. His acting is not as over the top as other’s. The Japanese drama focuses solely on the game while the Korean drama explores the lives of our players…mainly just Woo Jin and Da Jung and also reveals more about the man behind the game which we don’t see at all in the Japanese drama until the very end. Oh, sure we do get some shots along the way, but nothing compared to the Korean drama.

The games in the Japanese drama are very low-tech in comparison. I mean, VHS players, non-smart phones, snail mail, newspaper clippings. The Korean drama is all about the latest gadgetry and it steps everything up a notch by showing people’s reactions as a public to the game since they made it an honest to goodness reality show.

I’ll be looking at Round 2 next—Minority Rule. Stay tuned.


  • As someone who has not seen the original version, I have been curious about how both shows differ (or what similarities) they have. I think I will def check out the japenese version once the kdrama ende. VHS, snail mail, non smart phones…times have changed for sure.

    • They really have. The original has its charm, it really does and is so old school compared to the Korean version. Once you watch it, you’ll have to let me know your thoughts. It’s a two season series with SPs and movies. Though the episodes are just a little over half an hour, making them a very quick watch. Or…you could cheat and just watch the SP which recaps everything before showing the end of the first season’s game.

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