One day, Kanzaki Nao is thrown into the Liar Game when she opens a package with 100 million dollars and video instructions. The rules are simple. Another person (an old, respected teacher she knows) has also been handed $100 million dollars. At the end of the game, the original $100 must be returned and any amount won from the opponent may be kept, any deficit becomes debt that must be repayed. Almost immediately, Nao is “tricked” into handing the entire sum over to her teacher. Desperate, she seeks the help of the number one swindler in town (Akiyama Shinichi), who just so happens to be released from jail that week. For personal reasons as well as financial ones, Akiyama agrees to help her. With that, Round 1 of the Liar Game begins. There are multiple rounds with varying numbers of players. For different reasons- debt, greed, curiosity, and kindness, the players find themselves unable to leave the game.
Matsuda Shota’s Akiyama Shinichi mainly needed to look cool and act cool, which he did effortlessly. A good portion of the credit must go to his very pretty hair. I don’t think he’s the best actor in Japan or anywhere near that, but he’s likeable and has good screen presence. He sneers well and looks soft when he needs to. He delivers his lines well. His crying scenes though could use a little work.
Toda Erika plays the main character in this series. I’m going to separate my review of the actress from that of the character. Kanzaki Nao is probably one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever had the misfortunate of watching on tv. The first time she did something stupid (5 min into episode 1) I told myself she’s just naïve and soft-hearted and she’ll learn next time. After the 100th time she destroyed the team’s plans because she believed that “everyone is good”, I wanted to reach into my tv and strangle her. I don’t care how many times everyone reiterated that she’s “pure” and “innocent”. You get tricked 20 times the same way by the same people, that is plain stupid and useless. The worst part is that it wasn’t just her money and future she was throwing on the table, but everyone else’s as well. How is that in any way praise-worthy?
As for the actress, she almost single-handedly ruined this series for me. Not since Fukada Kyoko in Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake have I wanted so badly to cover my eyes and my ears. Even for a good actress, it is difficult to play a pure-natured, kind-hearted, goody-two-shoes. Toda Erika should have realized she’s NOT a good actress and left the role for a more skilled actress to play. She started off tolerable in the first 1-2 eps, but then got progressively worse, as her wide-eyed pout of innocence became more and more pronounced. There was a close-up shot of her reaction to Mushroom-head (asking if she’s really that innocent and stupid near the end) that I rewound three times because it was so bad I couldn’t believe that it actually made it to my tv screen. The more her acting (if you could even call it such) deteriorated, the more I found myself noticing things like her buck teeth, chubby cheeks, and bow-leggedness. It got to the point where I actually had to look away and just read the subtitles when she was onscreen.
Minus my issues with Toda Erika/Kanzaki Nao as noted in the above rant, I really enjoyed this series. The plot was interesting, script was mostly very good, and the pacing was excellent. The rest of the cast, particularly Mushroom Head were all right for their roles. The major let-down was the platinum-wigged guy who was supposed to go head to head with Akiyama. His lack of ability to emote made all his scenes weak. Didn’t help that he looked ridiculous too. The other disappointment was the wrap-up. I thought the motivation behind the Liar Game as well as the final painting (don’t want to spoil) were cheesy. Also, Akiyama’s reason for helping Kanzaki Nao was also a bit of a stretch as I think it’s an insult to compare what happened to his mother (once) to Kanzaki Nao’s endless stupidity.
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