Wishing she would live up to the ideal, Kanzaki Nao's father named her thusly for "honesty." Nao has more than lived up to her father's wishes—even exceeding them and earning the label of "a foolishly honest girl." This makes Nao the least qualified candidate for the high stakes "Liar Game," where winning requires deceiving the opponent out of their money and losing means receiving massive debt; however, that doesn't stop a box containing a hundred million yen in cash and a card informing her of her participation in the game from arriving at her doorstep, nor does it stop her from being promptly tricked out of the entire sum of money. Upon hearing that a genius swindler, responsible for the bankruptcy of a major corporation, is being released from jail, Nao goes to the swindler, Shinichi Akiyama, to enlist his help. With that, the two are drawn into the dark, greed-filled, and deceptive world of the Liar Game.
It's been a couple years since I first discovered Liar Game, and it has all the elements that can draw me to a fictional story : an intelligent plot, a collection of interesting characters, and a truly original premise.
I read a few arcs (which were very good) and decided to put it on hold until the story finishes because I am not that patient a person.
And when I finally decided to take it again .. boy, does it deliver.
The first thing you'll notice is the drawing. It's quirky and veers to the unusual (especially the reactions), but it really sets a tone to the
story's atmosphere. The uncanny realism really suits the manga style and rhythm, and makes every character memorable.
The second thing you'll notice about it is the pacing. It starts off relatively slow, then it picks up speed as it goes, soaring at critical times, making the otherwise peaceful and action-free nature of the games a setup to some intense and thrilling moments without using pulling any cheap tricks.
Be warned since some chapters are long-winded. It feels sometimes novel-ish, even. But again, you'll probably be too drawn in to notice. (I would lighten some long "and heeere is how it was done !" chapters but then again, minor inconvenience).
The games are usually very balanced which leaves the reader on the edge, so much so its reaches sometimes the frequency of 1 turning table/chapter ! (the only thing that seems to be more frequent is how many times Nao gets deceived, fooled or laughed at.)
The games are simply A-mazing. If only for them I would gladly give Liar Game its 10/10. Some of them may seem simpler than others but even the simplest ones are very well-thought. Most of them are really just parallels to real life situations put in a Game format, and they're all brilliant.
The solutions chosen by the smartest players are usually ingenious, but be warned because as you progress through the story you might lose the surprise factor. The endings are usually rewarding, however.
As the games become THE container for the story's final point at the latest stages, some stagings become "too convenient" for said point to be driven home. Some loose endings are swiftly cut, but you can still feel it if you pay enough attention. But then again, minor inconvenience.
What's really neat about all the games is that most -if not all- of them had a way to break-even for all players, or even make a profit just by the act of uniting (which is Nao's naive point), but the manga does it job to hammer in the notion that humans ARE greedy, nasty creatures. (speaking of nasty, as much as I hated Kaiji's nastier parts, I really wanted some of the games to gain some troubling aspect, but the author chose to keep all the games very family-friendly, which is not bad).
But before dismissing most of the characters as evil monsters, just try from time to time to put yourself -really- in some player's shoes and see what actions you would have taken under the same circumstances, you may gain some insight in the process!
The characters are also an important point to mention since they really make the package believable (and by characters I only mean the main characters since the background ones all seem mean and stupid to a fault, and are used, time and time again, as pawns in the Chessmasters games).
It's impossible to talk about the characters without giving out some of the plot, so let's just say that most of them get to have a satisfying development.
And unlike, say, Death Note, Liar Game doesn't try to veil who's Mr. Good and who's Mr. Bad: everything from their design to their every sentence is pretty much white or black, which makes it hard to sympathize with the Evil ones (which make up the majority, according to LG).
However, the nature of their evil is usually brought into the spotlight and their evilness is usually justified (sometimes by need, but mostly by greed to a point that the manga might as well be called Greed Game).
The most noteworthy character is definitely Nao (what, not Akiyama ?) since she gets to have the most character development and is the personification of Good, clumsiness and all, but she's not cheesy (if this was your typical shounen when she says something like "loyalty is the key to victory !", everyone would seem deeply moved and invigorated.. well it suffices to say this ain't your typical shounen).
The manga also handles comedy very well. Although most of it comes naturally from the unfortunate shenanigans Nao puts herself into (like, whenever she says "I have a plan!", you just knows she's gonna make some huge plan that is completely impractical, and grin as she suggests it with immense confidence).
The later religious touch was also a very subtle take on both religion and the good/evil question (without judgement nor glorification, which is nice). Same goes for the overall political stand of the manga.
So, in summary :
- Is it worth reading? YES.
- Is it perfect ? No.
- Why does it get a 10/10 score ? for many reasons, including :
1. The Games. The Games. The Gaaaaayyymmmmezzz.
2. Some characters are just very admirable, especially in the story's world.
3. Some twists are really unpredictable, I mean REALLY.
4. The expression when someone you can't help to hate loses miserably.
5. Did I mention the games? Right.
6. The Overall message.
7. The ending was .. you need to see it to judge for yourself (genius, lazy or both?)
This is an epic story that I have been following for years now, and I can't believe it has finally ended. *cries*
The story is a very VERY intense chess match that isn't filled with cheesy stuff like the power of friendship, but is more on actual logic. It's really unique, and it feels like every move, action, and reaction of the characters has been researched beforehand to make everything that more realistic. The games are probably the best part, and it's probably because of them that I finished this manga.
The art is not that pretty, and the reactions seem very exaggerated, but the story definitely
makes up for it. Don't give up on this manga just because you can't stand the art.
The characters are very diverse, with each and every character having a reason for being there. Even the minor characters feel important enough to take note of, which is quite a feat for a manga that has A LOT of minor characters. The character development is also very well done, especially in the main character, Kanzaki Nao. She is very annoying at the beginning, but just bare with her for a while. She gets better as the story progresses. The other main character, Akiyama Shinichi, is somehow the opposite. As Kanzaki improves herself, Akiyama starts to step back from the spotlight to let her get in on the action. They balance each other out, not overshadowing one another.
Now for a *spoiler* that isn't really a spoiler. (Just skip this paragraph if you want to go in completely in the black):
The ending is very rushed, making it quite disappointing. It leaves too many loose ends for me to completely accept it. I personally suggest reading only up to the second to the last game, unless this manga comes with a sequel or an epilogue. I honestly changed my rating from 9 to 8 just because of the ending. Again, that is just my opinion, but consider yourself warned.
-end of pseudo spoiler-
Overall, this manga is an amazing read, and I don't regret rereading it while I was waiting for updates. Very enjoyable read that makes you want to jump in and join in the games (if it wasn't for the incredible risks you would have to take).
"People SHOULD be doubted. Many people misunderstand this concept. Doubting people is just a part of getting to know them. What many people call 'trust' is really just giving up on trying to understand others, and that very act is far worse than doubting. It is actually 'apathy.'" – Akiyama Shinichi
It is common knowledge that the world is for the most part controlled by money. It is what all humans need to be successful in life, and thus why we spend such a large portion of our lives doing slave work in order to acquire as much of it as possible. Money is the source
of almost all greed and desire in this world... and thus also the most vicious means of unlocking the darkest secrets of the human heart.
Imagine that one day, a letter was delivered to your doorstep. A letter telling you how you could win an astronomical sum of money for yourself by merely playing a little game with a few other people. By accepting, you would however also have to risk losing an equally vast sum of money of your own to the other players. In that scenario, would you do it? Would you be willing to put such a fortune, effectively your life on the line for the sake of perhaps getting to live the rest of your life in luxury? And perhaps most important of all... would you be able to live with yourself knowing that in order to win that fortune, you'd have to get it from another player... and thus essentially ruin their life in the process? These are some of the matters you have to come to terms with if you seek to participate in the Liar Game.
The story of this manga primarily follows a college student named Kanzaki Nao who one day gets invited to just this type of game. She's given a box filled with 100 million yen and is told that her former homeroom teacher has been given the same amount. The two of them have 30 days to try to overcome any money they can from the other person. After the time has expired they must pay back the 100 million yen they were provided, but any excess money they were able to acquire from each other they're allowed to keep... but the person who in that case lost the money will instead go into heavy debt.
Unfortunately for Nao however, she is an honest-to-god idiot. She is a person who wholeheartedly believes in the righteousness of human honesty, and thinks that it's a bad thing for people to lie to each other. She wants everyone to get along, trust each other and cooperate. Now this might be a noble mindset for sure, but in these circumstances it only results in her getting tricked, swindled, and completely outsmarted at every given turn. On top of that, she's mentally weak. Whenever she gets to a hard part, instead of fighting back she'll start crying, get down on her knees and beg for mercy. In other words she's the absolute least suitable kind of person imaginable for someone participating in the Liar Game.
But luckily for Nao, she manages to make contact with someone who's willing to help her in the form of an ex-convict and genius swindler named Akiyama Shinichi. And I would just like to say that if every male lead character were as good as Akiyama is, there'd be so much less malice in this world. In my mind, he is one of the absolute best male characters I have ever seen and he's absolutely thrilling to witness. Following in the footsteps of famous characters such as Light and L from Death Note for example, Akiyama is one of those guys that will keep blowing your mind with just how far ahead he's thinking and the insane ideas he comes up with in order to get himself and Nao out of each and every possible situation. On top of being smart and charismatic however, he's also very friendly and loyal to those he cares about. Akiyama is the true driving force behind the Liar Game manga and the main reason you will want to keep reading. He is the type of character that is extremely cool and unpredictable, but at the same time has a very likable personality, and thus someone you really want to cheer for as a reader.
The manga takes place over many smaller arcs, each spanning a different game session. The shorter games only cover a single volume, whereas the longer ones span around three or four. The Liar Game itself is designed as a single large tournament bracket where every round contains a new game. In addition there are also consolation rounds for the losers of every game, where they have a chance to redeem themselves in order to be allowed to continue playing in the competition. The number of players participating in a game varies drastically, sometimes only having a couple people and sometimes being in the mid-twenties. The games themselves are all very different from each other as well; there are games of teamwork, unity, trust, conquest, deceit, domination and many other sorts. The common factor of course being that they're all psychological mind games to some degree, and they all require a respectable amount of strategy, planning and intelligence in order to master. All the games are also some sort of simulation; they come with a setting and a backstory in order to represent something in real life. It can be about smuggling goods to a bank in a foreign country, or about the Japanese wars back in the Sengoku era, or maybe about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. These games are far from mindless, and everything happens for a reason. This is also clearly used by the author in order to make certain points as real-life references and to send certain messages to the readers.
Liar Game is one of the most thrilling and captivating manga I have ever read. Once you start it, there's basically no stopping it, and I personally did pretty much exactly that, namely to read it from start to finish in about 20 hours straight. The games are incredibly well researched, written and presented, all in one smooth package. It has this feeling of excitement where it keeps trying to one-up itself with endless layers of lies upon lies and game-changing moves taking place back and forth in a never-ending upwards spiral of tension. At the same time it also keeps the overarching story going slowly but surely and thus it never feels like any of the arcs are non-essential in the long-run.
Of course there is no such thing as a perfectly flawless work of art and this is no exception. In Liar Game's case the main problem is actually quite blatantly obvious... and it goes under the name of Kanzaki Nao. As I mentioned before, at the start of the manga she's both an idiot and a weakling. Over time as the story goes on, she gradually becomes stronger and stronger mentally, and develops into a person you can wholeheartedly respect and look up to. However the fact that she's a dimwitted moron never changes at any point. Now it's not like you can really blame someone for being stupid, I mean it's not like she can help it. But when the same girl keeps falling for the exact same tricks time after time after time when literally everyone else can see just how blatantly obvious it is that she's getting cheated, it reeeaaaally starts to get on your nerves awfully quickly. As someone said, "If Nao lost 1 yen for every time she got tricked, she'd have lost 100 million yen by now." Like can the girl at least learn from her mistakes or what people try to tell her just once? Please?
That being said, Nao's role is actually very intentional for the sake of the overall story and the quite drastic effect she has on the other characters. I'd like to call her a necessary evil... or maybe necessary good would be a better phrasing as her mindboggling softness has a quite significant impact on how the other characters think and act. Nao functions sort of like the moral compass of Liar Game; like a holy saint willing to take on the sins of others in order to try to save their souls. She doesn't worry about herself, all she wants is for no one else to fall into heavy debt, and instead proclaims that it is the company responsible for the whole Liar Game that is the real enemy, not the other players.
In the same way, if Nao is the heart of the story then Akiyama is the brain. While Nao takes care of the humanitarian issues, Akiyama is the one who's actually resolving all the practical problems and the one coming up with the plans for how to win the games to begin with. Of course no genius protagonist could ever truly show off his skills if he didn't have any sufficiently competent opposition, and this manga naturally has one as well. The main rival of the story is a rich, sneaky bastard named Yokoya who is willing to go to pretty much any lengths in order to prove his superiority. I say any lengths, but it should be noted that all forms of violence is completely forbidden in the Liar Game. There are no darker elements like people being forced to bet their limbs or anything crazy like that in this story; money is the only thing on the line in here. Anyway, Yokoya is really the only one capable of facing off against Akiyama head-to-head, and the battle of wits between them never fail to utterly amaze you with how far they go. Since I mentioned them earlier, think of it as Light vs L again, though with a bit different motives of course. Regardless, every time they play against each other it's absolutely thrilling to witness.
As far as the artwork goes, it's definitely not displeasing for the eyes but it's nothing amazing either. However because of the type of manga that Liar Game is, it really doesn't feel like it matters very much. Essentially all the quality is in the text, and that's what really matters. You'll be fully absorbed trying to take every word into account in order to properly grasp the current situation to the best of your ability. Trying to objectively criticize the artwork will be the last thing on your mind while you're reading it. For the same reason, many of the images in Liar Game do not actually portray characters or backgrounds themselves, but rather consist of tactical displays and graphs in order to try to help the reader get a better understanding of the game itself, and what the players are thinking and planning. It has maps, game boards, cards, arrows and other helpful things along those lines, all in order to make it easier to follow along the crazy train of thoughts that the manga ever so often presents to you.
For the same reason, Liar Game is probably not really a manga for kids (hence the Seinen tag) as it takes a considerable amount of focus and attention in order to really keep up with the plot. However if you can appreciate complicated stories packed to the brim with crazy twists and turns then Liar Game is about as good as it gets. While some arcs are undoubtedly better than others, I still loved all of them and without a shadow of a doubt I consider this as one of the absolute best manga I have ever read. Reading Liar Game brought back emotions from me that I haven't felt from a manga in the last 2.5 years, that's how long it's been since I could effortlessly keep reading the same manga hour after hour completely undistracted and fully absorbed in it, and had the series been any longer I'm sure I would have kept up that same pacing for the rest of it as well. It's just that addictive. It's just that good. And therefore I wholeheartedly encourage you to try it out as well if you like psychological stories, and I can only hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
This manga has reminded me to not put too much stock into MAL's rankings for popularity + scoring. Perhaps I walked in with expectations that were just too high, but this didn't even live up to its premise all that well. While the characterization and artwork were competent enough to keep me coming back, the story itself is pretty shoddy. Let's dig in and see just why I feel this way!
[Story - 4]
The basic premise is that an overly honest girl gets a pro conman to help her out in an underground tournament of games revolving around deception. This is all fine and dandy, since
it's a fairly intriguing premise and it does deliver initially, but there are some things I take issue with.
One thing I'll harp on right now is PACING. God, the pacing is so abysmal. The first 3 or 4 volumes have great pacing, but following this, it just gets progressively slower and slower until the final 'game' is over 3 or so volumes yet takes place in the timespan of several hours or so. For a title that is supposed to feel pretty 'high stakes' and tense at all times, it just got extremely dull for me after a while.
To lead into my next gripe: It would have been one thing if the story was paced like this to slow burn towards an explosive climax. However, this title does quite the opposite. It goes out with something that can be said to be less than a whimper - a tidy, clean ending that comes and goes in about......3 to 5 chapters or so. I don't necessarily mind this 'happy' ending, but the final few panels really grind my gears since there was no previous build-up or indication it would turn out like that. It just comes out of nowhere for shock value, and that's especially insulting considering how intellectual this title presents itself to be.
It isn't ALL bad, however: Some of the 'games' are actually pretty intriguing, and can have great twists (first one that comes to mind is that musical chairs one, along with the contraband game). The themes of trust and doubt (+ how they go hand in hand), the human condition, and psychological complexes dovetail well with the story and can be rather poignant at times. Just a shame that they didn't get a better writer to handle them.
(Side note - you know those two extra chapters? They're just the original last chapter split into two. Totally worthless to read them.)
[Art - 5]
Okay, I'm not gonna beat around the bush on this - the art is so hit-or-miss that I don't blame anyone for being turned off by the first 2 volumes alone. The expressions of each character can get rather goofy, the settings can be either too moody or bare-bones, and most of the character design isn't really all that notable.
On the flip side, however, the rest of said design can get good; I'd say that Akiyama's consistent stoicisms, matched with his cunning personality and bland fashion taste, suits him well (and totally reminds me of Light Yagami). Kanzaki's wardrobe and expressions just ooze 'woobie', Fukunaga's an absolute treat to see, and Nokoya's very face is just pure mischief.
[Character - 6]
This is probably the strongest element of the title in my opinion, even if that wasn't what it was aiming for. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the investment in some of these people's fates are what really kept me going after the story started to drag its feet.
Shinichi Akiyama is a bit of a Gary Stu, sure, but he's just too much fun to read. Something about how wildly sharp and on-the-nose he can be is just addicting, even if it takes AGES to get to the true payoff of his reveal. His backstory is adequately angsty, and he's got the temperament to match! It rubs up perfectly against Kanzaki's overbearing warmth.
Speaking of Kanzaki, let's move onto her. I have more mixed feelings about her than I do about her male counterpart, but she's fine for the most part. I know that some people don't enjoy naive kindness in characters, and it remains until the end here, but seeing her develop was interesting. It wasn't much, unfortunately, but you can totally tell that she has a shift in mindset over time and is able to adapt to the situation accordingly. Again, something about her compassion is just too palpable, and it just rubs off on you.
This leaves two other characters to discuss since the rest are admittedly bland and/or forgettable. To sum it up: Fukunaga's a delight to read between her comparable wit and her overall vicious personality. She serves as yet another foil to both Akiyama and Kanzaki, and it's genuinely great to see her develop over the course of the title. It's a damn shame that she got shafted HARD during the last arc, because the payoff in her arc was just....splendid. As for Nokoya, he's totally just another Rich Brat Who Loves Being Mean, but he presents as a perfect match for these three. While he doesn't get royally screwed over in the end, the few comeuppances he received were wonderful. He does have some form of an arc, but it plays second fiddle to seeing him ham it up as a 'primary' antagonist.
[Enjoyment/Overall - 5]
As you can see, this title has left me feeling unsatisfied despite its good elements being enough to keep me around until the very end. I'm sorry to say it, but I can't really recommend this one to anyone save for those who want to see psychological game shenanigans get drawn out way too long. The real liar game at play here was most of MAL giving this a 9 or 10.