"This is the LIAR GAME... A game about deceiving others. I'm just doing what it takes to win."
Written by Shinobu Kaitani (also the author of One Outs
), Liar Game
is a manga and drama series about the struggles of Nao Kanzaki against a mysterious and nefarious organization
called the Liar Game Tournament Office that places innocent people through psychological games using their debt as bait. All its members wear masks and any participants of the game are free to drop out, assuming they pay their debt which the game forced upon them. With debt that frequently is in the 100 million yen range and quite often more, it's no small deal. Said organization will also collect the debt "any way possible..."
Using the help of recently released conman/genius/Chess Master
Shinichi Akiyama, Nao seeks to rid herself of debt and also save those who are participating in the games. Expect all all kinds of plans and cunning
to apply here, as it is a Battle Royale of wits.
This story has a prequel called Liar Game-Roots Of A
, which has a one-shot chapter that deals with the backstory of Akiyama and contains several other unrelated one-shots.Here is a wiki
for more information. If you wanted to join
a game like it, check out an example that finished here
or join something similar here
. There will be another tournament beginning in April 2015. For more information or to sign up, go here
This series provides examples of:
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Yokoya simply cannot understand why Nao and Akiyama wants to save everyone from the game and pay off their debts.
- Evil Counterpart: Yokoya and Kimura to Akiyama, and Harimoto to Nao.
- Failure Gambit: Players of the Liar Game Tournament are forced to participate and pay an enormous debt if/when they lose. At first, the goal appears to be to win each round and move on to the next round with large amounts of money as winnings. However, the real way to win the game is to deliberately lose and drop out of the game while hauling in a profit. But because it's a zero-sum game (one person winning means another person loses), Nao and Akiyama's goal is to win and move on to the next round while shouldering an enormous debt, using all of their winnings to zero out the debt of their teammates and/or opponents so that they can all safely drop out of the game.
- False Crucible: The ultimate truth behind the Liar Game itself. As Yokoya correctly surmises, the Liar Game was set up exactly like the games in a book. What is revealed in more detail later is that the Game itself was set up to try and determine the outcome the author intended for his third volume, which went unpublished due to his death.
- Nao's bra size certainly has been increasing as time goes on...
- Akiyama shirtless scenes probably counts.
- Fukunaga has the Most Common Superpower; outdoing most other cast members.
- Flashback: Used during explanations to describe any backroom dealings during the game.
- Fiction 500: The LGT office, which has enough cash to loan out 100 million yen simultaneously to hundreds of players. The games' spaces are not cheap, either. Palaces, high technology, islands. Actually, they often admit that places are on rent (or squatted, possibly) and not their own, but still there are tons of cash spent around.
- It was mentioned earlier that the LGT Offices would recover their debts by "any means." Might they be renting these palaces/islands/etc. from defeated players as a means of recovering said debts?
- It is later on revealed that the leader of LGT received a bribe from "The Unknown Government", containing 5 BILLION in Singapore Dollar (Approx 3.75 BILLION in USD ), main reason why LGT can support all those expenses, and also excuse all the debts from the players.
- Flaw Exploitation: Every successful player does this. Even Nao.
- Flunky Boss: Harimoto uses the Undying Loyalty of his followers to ensure that he always has a stable of allies who will support him without question.
- Freudian Excuse: Maybe. The reason of the Liar Game is to make a Live-Action show out of it, to send the author's message to the world.
- Freudian Trio:
- Nao (Superego)
- Akiyama (Ego)
- Fukunaga (Id)
- Fortuneteller: Harimoto used to be a street fortune teller who apparently excels in cold reading before he gained enough followers to actually form his own cult.
- Gambit Pileup: The third game, Contraband due to the moves and expectations made between Yokoya and Akiyama. It gets complex fast.
- This is partially due to two revelations midway through the match: (a), that the optimal outcome of this game is not to win but to lose with more money, and therefore (b) each team should really be trying to channel their money into an ATM to which they don't have direct access...
- The game for the fourth round, Musical Chairs, has three (Harimoto), possibly four (Young Jump) chessmasters vying for power. Young Jump turns out to be serving as a proxy for Akiyama
- Good Is Not Dumb: Nao starts off extremely naive, honest and easily manipulated. As the game continues, however, she grows out from her naivety and becomes a better player in the games while retaining her good heart.
- Gratuitous English: "Liar Game." "Money." "Doubt."
- Graceful Loser: Harimoto. He realizes that he had lost the Bid Poker, but after witnessing how Nao's kindness managed to win the loyalty of all the other players involved in the round, he actually thanked the heavens for his loss, as it allowed him to open his eyes to his own wrongdoings.
- Surprisingly, Yokoya at the end as well.
- Heroic Sacrifice: During the events of the B block's Bid Poker game, Fukunaga gave up all her money to save Kaneko — at that time the only person who refused to join Yokoya, so that the latter could continue the next round with excess money, while Fukunaga herself was eliminated from the game for her loss.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The bribe intended to silence Miyagi is used by him to fund the second Liar Game.
- I Lied: Gets said countless times in various forms, mostly using the phrase "This is the Liar Game; it's a game where you lie."
- I Never Said It Was Poison: The fact that Fukunaga knew that the stolen money was in the form of a check rather than cash told Akiyama that she was Mr. X.
- Inevitable Mutual Betrayal: Nearly all alliances. This is the reason why the protagonist is so important - with her naive and righteous attitude she can serve as The Heart for her team, because she is the only one in the game anyone can ally with reliably.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Without a doubt the most important trope of the series. That's how Akiyama manipulates others. He uses their knowledge, or lack of it, to his advantage. That's also why everyone feels trapped in the games of the LGT. No one really knows what happens to the people who lose the games, and no one really want to find out.
- Lost Him in a Card Game: Implied; the LGT makes a few vague comments about the money being paid back one way or another, and though this method is not stated outright, the amounts of money being wagered are far too high to be paid off through ordinary means.
- Love Triangle: Apparently, there's one building up now between Nao, Akiyama, and Fukunaga. It's pretty obvious that Akiyama only regards Fukunaga's feelings with awkwardness, but it's unclear how he feels about Nao...
- The Magic Poker Equation: Justified; because of the special seventeen-card decks being used, the weakest possible hand in the entire game is a pair of Jacks, so it's not surprising that the players routinely pull off amazing hands especially once Kikuchi starts watching the shuffling to put the Joker into his hand every time, guaranteeing a three-of-a-kind or better. Then by the ninth hand, Akiyama figures out how to guarantee a four-of-a-kind. The explanation after the game is mind-blowing.
- Malevolent Masked Men: The higher-ranked LGT Officials wears creepy white masks, and continues to wear them even as they are hidden in a separate room to comment on the game's progress.
- Later on revealed they do so to protect their identities, as all the higher-ranked officials are the players from the first Liar Game.
- Man Behind the Man Akiyama does this in the musical chairs round, proving to be the true mastermind behind the Extra Alliance.
- "Artlier-San," is the name of the man behind the corporation (Ch 140). He's in a cloak and mask.
- In the Bid Poker round, it's revealed that Kimura is the real Chessmaster of Harimoto's group. Harimoto is more of a charismatic figurehead.
- Meaningless Villain Victory: In the final game, Yokoya, by his own terms, has won. He's made sure Nao can't save everyone, and Akiyama is in the red. Then the true nature of Liar Game is revealed, making it all moot.
- Moral Dissonance: Nao is tricked, in more than a few occasions, by someone who turns on their heel and highlights just how much of a jerk they are. Immediately. Nao, when she tricks someone, is an angel descending from heaven with the keys to economic freedom in one hand and the great chain in the other. This is perhaps best noted as part of the game's Gray and Gray Morality.
- The difference is; The ones who tricks Nao usually will happily gloat about it to the point of making the listener sick, while Nao, even after tricks people, will always be honest with her ''real'' intention: to save everyone. Oh, and Nao is indeed cute - so it seems that the core of it isn't 'lying is bad' as much as 'don't be a douche.'
- Further, the people that Nao tricks never suffer any ill effects - Nao and Akiyama always pay off all their debts afterward. Unless the subject was greedy and looking to turn a profit, being tricked by Nao gives them exactly what they wanted in the first place.
- The moral is not that tricking people or lying to them is inherently bad. The moral is that acting in a purely selfish manner is a losing strategy in the long run, even if it seems rational in the short run. There's no dissonance given that basically every single game demonstrates that moral. In fact, when the bad guys 'win', it's because they worked as a group (even if due to coercion or effectively, brainwashing). No one wins purely on their own merits.
- Mr. Exposition: Leronira is usually the one to explain Akiyama's plans to his fellow masked officials. Some of the others, like Nearco, would occasionally makes a similar observation, but Leronira is usually the one who makes the concluding statements about the Gambit Pileup when the round ends.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Liar Game Corporation, who regularly lends the participants sums upwards of 100 million yen (about US $1.5 million). Mind you, everyone has to pay it back eventually, but still...
- The final chapter reveals the LGT is actually Benevolent Conspiracy in opposition to the real Nebulous Evil Organization, a powerful government who silenced the author of the Liar Game novels and interrupted the original Liar Game out of fear of the people learning how to trust each other and rebel against them.
- The Nicknamer: In the Round 4 Preliminary, the LGT gives all the players a nickname to make it easier to keep track of them.
- Oh, Crap: Every Unwitting Pawn when they realize it.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Leronira and the other LGT Dealers act like this in their backroom discussions.
- Opt Out: The LGT relies on people doing this to make their profits. We think. Nao hopes.
- Kikuchi in the second revival round. He was very confident that his keen eyesight could help him win the poker game, but Akiyama overcame his disadvantage in vision by a far superior analytical skill.
- In the third round, Akiyama can seem this way. Even though he thinks he's won, the final result of his three-volume battle with Yokoya was that he and Nao were each put into four hundred million yen of debt, while Yokoya walked away with a massive profit - a complete and total loss, if you were keeping score with currency. As the later manga indicates, though, Akiyama's keeping score with debt, trying to make it economically unfeasible for the LGT to continue, by being one person holding several trillion yen in debt. Yokoya met a conventional winning condition for that game - walking away with a lot of money in his pocket - but Akiyama and Nao achieved their objective too - to advance in the game. Not that it's not a grudge-builder.
- The Plan: Every game involves this trope, in some form.
- Ping-Pong Na´vetÚ: Nao. She gets better, and even gets a Crowning Moment or two.
- Prequel: The manga short Roots of A looks at Akiyama during his senior year of college.
- Power of Trust: Main reason why the "Unknown Government" goes to such lengths to prevent the novel (and subsequently, the Liar Game show) from getting out. They want its citizens to remain divided.
- Restored My Faith in Humanity:
- Part of the Defeat Means Friendship package, such as Nao's victory over Fujisawa Kazuo in the first round.
- Apparently, also Harimoto.
- Retcon: In the first ten episodes of the Drama's first season, the LGT Office is vague and mysterious, just like in the Manga, with no leader in sight. The eleventh episode plugs a man named Hasegawa into the role at every turn, rewriting the reason why Nao and Akiyama were even thrown into the Liar Game. And THEN, the second season reveals that Hasegawa wasn't even the creator of it; he just invested a lot of money, despite the first season stating specifically that he was, with Leronira coming to him for instructions.
- The Reveal: The Liar Game is a social experiment / Enforced Method Acting documentary based on a famous in-universe book series under the same name. The original writer was assassinated by his government since his trilogy was meant to instill an uprising, but the two books that were now in the public domain could be used as a model to recreate the events in the story, revealing the core theme that was supposed to inspire the masses into a revolution. Unfortunately, the production was halted 18 years prior to the story since said government started terrorizing / assassinating the people involved. After 18 years in hiding and 5 billion Singapore dollars in "compensation now shut up" from said government, the film director decided to try again, using the bribe as his budget for the entire series. Nao and Akiyama ended up solving the mystery of the book series by creating their own uprising: it's not about human will, it's about human trust.
- The manga usually needs an entire chapter for Akiyama to explain how he managed to do something amazing such as how to get four-of-a-kind guarenteed in every hand during the second revival game - and to do so with the kind of information presented as available is awesome.
- Revenge Before Reason: Mizuki Kaneko goes this route instead of quitting the game, to avenge Fukunaga. Or at least she pretends to as part of a scheme to eliminate herself and the other two.
- Russian Roulette: The second Revival Round has a (harmless) variant of this.
- Series Continuity Error: Near the end of the Minority Rule game, Akiyama's nameplate, which he had given to player 15, reappears on Akiyama for one panel before he gets it back.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Yokoya for Kikuzawa (and, indeed, Kikuzawa's entire school).
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Nao and Akiyama run on this, constantly giving back their large winnings and incurring massive debts of their own to save the opponents they just defeated.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Yokoya's last trick up his sleeve in the Pandemic game. It backfires spectacularly.
- Sequel Hook: At the end of the series the Liar Game ends after being revealed to be a False Crucible, the events are put up on the internet to be viewed by all, only to be removed within hours. At this, Akiyama states that the darkness of the world runs far deeper than they can imagine.
- Ship Tease: "Basically, I'm just another one of Kanzaki Nao's belongings."
- Not to mention this little scene where Akiyama takes Nao's hand to demonstrate something. "Will you do the honours?" She does mention that she felt shy when he took her hand.
- Right when it seemed all hope was lost for Nao in the first revival round, Akiyama came to her rescue and let her cry into his shirt.
- There is the panel where Nao looks concerned and wonders whether Akiyama went to sleep from exhaustion during the fourth round's night break.
- The fact that especially in the beginning, he would always come to her rescue and help her out with little to no personal profit.
- Shout-Out: In the first Revival Round, one player talks about the Lycaons, a fictional baseball team from One Outs, another manga by Kaitani.
- The protester in chapter 201 looks a lot like "Tank Man".
- Shown Their Work: It's obvious the author looks very deeply at each game.
- Smug Snake: Yokoya. Although he likes to think of himself as The Chessmaster or a Magnificent Bastard at the very least, his gross overconfidence and condescending attitude towards his enemies quite often keep him from succeding. This can be seen in the Pandemic Game as well as the Liar Game finale.
- The Smurfette Principle: Considering all the Second Round women are just pawns eliminated immediately, Nao is the sole girl who only encounters one developed female over the course of three Rounds, plus two Revival Rounds. Compared to twenty-nine men over the same five games. Then there's the eight new men brought in at the Fourth Round Qualifier. Fukunaga is revealed to be a MtF transsexual but is still treated as male by most of the characters.
- Lampshaded when Nao's nickname in the Fourth Round Qualifier is "The Only Woman."
- The main Fourth Round (including Fukunaga's qualifiers) has some women. Shady-looking women. Women that are, for all intents and purposes, mindless puppets of the new antagonist introduced in that round. Though one of them does get some development and another is later proven to be the true mastermind of the team.
- The Social Darwinist: Yokoya`s father is the first type. He is a Self-Made Man who built his fortune from scratch and believes that people are divided into those who rule and those who are being ruled - a philosophy he has instilled into Yokoya as well.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The first round's major opponent is Nao's middle school teacher who's about as clever as a normal person. The second round and revival round has Fukunaga, while the third round's is Yokoya. After a short break for the second revival round, the opponent is Yokoya and finally the Big Bad Duumvirate of Yokoya and Harimoto.
- Spanner in the Works: Akiyama sees Nao as this in regards to the Liar Game's objective to make money.
- The "Extra Alliance" in the Musical Chairs game throws a major wrench into the until-then three-way battle with Harimoto, Yokoyo, and Akiyama.
- The Thirty-Six Stratagems: Akiyama uses #21 quite a bit. But instead of faking the dead as this stratagem usually involves, he convinces his opponents that his loss is guaranteed. His opponents then get careless and don't realize what he's really planning.
- Took A Level In Planning: Nao. Fukunaga comments on this in the fourth round break.
- "...Is this really the same Kanzaki Nao who easily got duped by me just a while ago?"
- And then Yokoya, of all people. He went from scarily competent to accurately predicting the game of the third revival round, right down to the exact name and workings.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth - Akiyama's mother was a very kind and honest person, just like Nao. Despite not having lots of money, she worked day and night to pay for her son's education until she fell ill and an old friend of hers deceptively pulled her into an MLM. Despite honestly working hard, she finally realized that she was never paid and her debt remained the same. When she tried to get out of it, the company required a huge sum of money to do so which she would never have been able to pay off. So she took her life in order to save Akiyama's education.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Partially averted. Often times the plans are explained in advance, and they usually even work to a greater or lesser degree. However, the final move of each game that clinches the win always stays hidden until the last moment.
- Unwitting Pawn: Pretty much anyone who isn't Akiyama, Yokoya, and Harimoto is this at all times. Nao and Fukunaga begin to grow out of this after the third round, but they promptly gain some new allies to take their place. As of the fourth round, this trope now includes Yokoya andHarimoto.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: A plausible alternate title for the series would be Game Theory: The Manga... Although many concepts are well explained, it seriously helps to have a good understanding of the Prisoner's Dilemma, social psychology, cold reading, and imperfect competition in microeconomics. (Nash equilibria haven't come up... yet.)
- Nash equilibrium is now officially there.
- Villainous Breakdown: Yokoya loses his cool when he finally gets a Pyrrhic Victory: he's going to win billions of yen no matter what happens but now he has two equally rich archrivals who are absolutely annoying.
- And he definitely broke down at the Season 1 finale of the J-Drama.
- As of Chapter 164, Kimura is looking to have one based on her reaction on the last page.
- Walls of Text: It's a dialogue-driven story which touches on areas of game theory, individual psychology, sales practices, economic theory and sociology.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: As chapter 197 revealed, Yokoya`s dad seems to be this to Yokoya.
- Wham Line: "The true leader of Harimoto's group is not Harimoto-san but Kimura-san."
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Nao.
- Subverted by the fact that Nao's idealism usually wins over the cynicism of the other players. Which is not actually unlikely; as con artists say "you can never con an honest person". Almost all forms of con require the mark to be willing to be greedy or dishonest.
- The Worf Effect: How are we made immediately aware of the potential danger Harimoto poses? He utterly wiped the floor with Fukunaga.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Numerous times, perhaps best demonstrated by the endgame of Musical Chairs, though.
- You Can Always Tell A Liar: In the second revival round. Fukunaga apparently betrays Team Akiyama by telling Nao's opponent that she has a tell: she blinks twice whenever she lies. Nao's opponent uses this information to wipe the floor with her...but it's all a ruse, one planned by Nao herself, and as soon as her opponent is feeling overconfident, Nao lures her into a trap that instantly reverses the situation.