I’m kind of a picky reader. I read a variety of eastern comics, but for the most part I enjoy realistic stuff—down-to-earth stories without fantasy elements or exaggerated characters. Luckily, I found a manga called Liar Game.
The art in this series does not admittedly leave a good first impression. But once you power through the flat inking and some occasional instances of improbably anatomy, the plot can keep your eyes glued all the way to the end. It’s one of the few mangas I’ve read that completely redeems any of its artistic inadequacies through the sheer power of storytelling. For a story conceived in a bar by a man obsessed with horse-racing, that’s pretty good.
(It’s also known for subtlety)
So what is this series about? Mostly, the story focuses on Kanzaki Nao, a good-natured college girl caught up in a series of shady games known as the Liar Game Tournament, where contestants vie for enormous prizes by tricking each other out of money. This setup leads to a mountain of deceit and betrayal, with the losers owing millions of dollars to the sponsoring corporation.
(Yay! I put someone in debt!)
Enter Akiyama Shinichi, a “legendary swindler” and the series’ highlight. Here he is being the only character without his face half-dislocated:
(He’s also 30 years old)
The beauty of this series lies in the fact that the author never pushes the characters’ intelligence onto his readers. From the start, characters such as Akiyama and Nao have the tendency to dress plainly and speak simply. Even when revealing a great secret or plotting something large, they do not suddenly gain glowing eyes and perfectly flowing hair. They are solemn and in sync with the serious—and sometimes desperate—nature of their circumstances.
(The villain disagrees)
But the greatest draw of the story still lies with its games. In each plot arc, the author manages to humanize his characters’ actions and make an otherwise straightforward logic game twisted and engrossing. Often this takes place in layers: a seemingly innocuous game, such as musical chairs, is proposed. But as the reader plays along to the obvious solution, the author gradually reveals flaws in the reader’s assumptions before ultimately unveiling the perfect winning method. The suspense built up through this convoluted storytelling process is maddening and addicting in equal measure.
(I can’t believe it’s not butter!)
Ultimately, Liar Game is not a series that be summarized with mere words. In lieu of a conclusion, I present these dramatic scenes from the manga: