Liar Game is a psychological and mystery manga serialliezed between 2005 and 2015 at Young Jump. It is written, illustrated and created by Shinobu Kitani, who also created the baseball/gambling fusion manga One Outs.
Nao Nazaki is a naive and gullible woman who is forced to play in a competition called Liar Game. The first match is a game of robbery against her middle school teacher and, after losing all of her money, Nao is already in debt in day one. However, she manages to recruit the once-convicted mastermind Shinichi Akiyama. They create an alliance and start cooperating for the duration of the Liar Game.
Liar Game‘s focus and strongest point are the games the participants are forced to play in order to advance in the Liar Game. These games are more well-thought and intense variants of regular games, for example, musical chairs, one of my favorite games of the series.
At first, Akiyama is an undisputed genius who always comes up with brilliant plans that match Nao’s insanely good-hearted ideals. While this is entertaining to read at firs, it quickly loses its edge until the introduction of Yokoya, a mastermind on pair with Akiyama’s genius, but who follows opposite ideals. The games then become incredible battles of wits with a solid logical foundation, a fair amount of betrayals and carefully built plans.
Each game raises the stakes a bit more and offers different opportunities to create plans and alliances, while not leaving openings for ties. This building up continues strongly until the last game, which breaks the pattern by being lackluster and relatively simple. It is nowhere near as interesting or complex and doesn’t leave a lot of space for plans when compared to previous games by having set-in-stone rules that greatly limit all of that.
Spoilers for the ending!As a matter of fact, the whole last arc feels off. The last chapter, specially, makes a poor attempt at trying to make a political criticsm, a commentary on human’s morality and a meaningful ending at the same time. The political commentary is barely touched upon, the morality point is cheesy, or at least poorly presented, and the conclusion itself is the worst “we fight on” endings I have ever seen. End of Spoilers!
Nao is the type of idealistic girl who quickly becomes tiring to read, almost to the point of becoming downright infuriating. Akiyama tries to compensate for that by being much more intelligent and mysterious. Yokoya is plain evil and in his first appearance makes a strong impression, but he loses that novelty almost as quickly as he gained it. All of the three are developed, but in rushed (Yokoya) or predictable ways (Nao, Akiyama).
To make manners worse, the supporting cast is also infuriating. While they are explored, receiving at least a motive, they are insanely dumb. They have trouble keeping up with incredibly detailed explanations of the plans just for the audience to receive a bit of exposition.
The art is a little weird at first, everything just seems off, but as time goes on it is apparent that it is a perfect fit for the story the author is trying to tell. It is dark and moody, but without seeming exaggerated and depressive. The reactions are particularly well drawn. The character design should be applauded too.
Despite the very weak finish, I enjoyed Liar Game immensely. I love a good battle of wits in which everyone, except Nao, is trying to outwit each other and come up on top. The plans were exciting to be followed and it felt incredible to analyze every step taken be each side. This also means that the series can be very dialogue intensive, which may annoy some.
If you are looking for a great battle of wits manga and can handle a lot of talking and exposition, Liar Game made for you. But if you want a meaningful ending on tp of that, there should exist better options.
Thank you for reading!