First Impressions: Liar Game (2014)
During 2007 a marvellous Japanese drama shone into darkness, Liar Game, an adaptation of Kaitani Shinobu’s manga. Seven years later, tvN, one of the South Korean brigades in the world of dramas, announced that their channel would be working on their own adaptation of Liar Game. Quite an ambitious attempt since the Japanese adaptation with Toda Erika and Matsuda Shota left its own impact through mystery, suspense and mind tricks. On the 20th of October, 2014, the moment was right for the Korean adaptation of Liar Game to start airing. Since expectations were high i have to be honest, i’m quite impressed with the refreshing and differentiating air it breathes!
Never trust anyone.
People are made to lie.
These are the first words of professor Cha Woo Jin (Lee Sang Yoon) in the psychology department of the university. After a concrete example of the average sum of lies people tell every day he gets arrested, accused of murder. During his prison time, Woo Jin is busy reading and helps detectives by profiling criminals and reveals their crimes due to his sharp mind. This time Liar Game is not a secret organization’s benevolent atrocity in the form of a game that lurks in the shadows with each chapter taking place in dystopian locations forged in such way so as to intrigue the mind and support the arch cause of the game. Liar Game in the Korean adaptation is a grandiose attempt, a TV show like no other that seems groundbreaking in the way it’s being expressed. Rather than being cut from society, it’s an immense part of it with huge screens everywhere on the streets broadcasting Liar Game and with cameras around the participants it receives a massive reality show aura. Kang Do Yong (Shin Sung Rok) is the host of the show and he seems to be an enigmatic figure, needless to say that the role suits him well so far.
Everyone wears a mask.
Good, evil, compassion, conscience, justice.
Names of these masks.
From time to time we mistake those masks to be our real selves.
Nam Da Jung (Kim So Eun) is a young girl having to bear the debts of her father who vanished in order to find a way to pay them back. In the Japanese adaptation her father was disable and hospitalized. She helps an old lady with her luggage and by the time the old lady disappears she finds out while still waiting for her that the suitcase is full of money. Desperate as she is due to not knowing what to do, she rushes back home. That’s the moment one of our Korean series cliché figure appears, the loan shark, Jo Dal Goo (Jo Jae Yoon)! And as predicted, the lender and the victim have this bizarre friend-like relationship in which the loan shark can be around anytime until the deadline of the payback. Da Jung decides to get the money at the nearby police station whereas the loan shark, aware of her intentions, chases her. At a crucial point, Kang Do Yong dressed as a police officer welcomes her at Liar Game. Da Jung despite being naive and gentle, she doesn’t seem ridiculously anime-innocent and kindhearted like Kanzaki Nao in the Japanese adaptation, i like her more realistic approach. At the plateau of the TV show Da Jung is rather shocked ad lost than impressed by the radiant world of media. This show is definitely something too big and unknown for her and when the lights go down she faces Lee Yoon Joo (Cha Soo Yeon), the project director of Liar Game.
-You live your life with a goody two-shoes cosplay. No wonder you live the way you do.
-You have every right to say that to me. You’re young, pretty and capable. Of course, you make a lot more money than i do. But don’t think that it’s because you did your best and i didn’t. The world you live in was just a whole lot kinder to you than my world was to me.
Da Jung would compete against her teacher that starts his plan to deceive her and succeeds in that. Of course the loan shark’s there to introduce a possible solution, she has to find the convict professor Woo Jin who is about to be released from prison. I’m really curious whether the loan shark works for Liar Game or he just cares about Da Jung because he knows her real self, without leaving behind though the debt matter. After all, if she gets the money from Liar Game she can pay the debt of her father and they can be together again without any fear. Of course the Liar Game production would use that matter to achieve higher viewer ranks in their game. So, she meets Woo Jin the day he was released, but being aware of the game when he realizes who she is he doesn’t want to deal with her. Of course she’s following him and falls again for the waiting trick. Hours later Woo Jin passes by the spot he left her and saves her but by the moment she leaves she forgets the contract of Liar Game. Woo Jin picks it up and after reading it he wants to lend her a helping hand, he can’t help but remember his mother when he’s around her. At the right time he saves her once again from people that were demanding their money from the debts of her father and they start watching closely the teacher’s house. Through various tricks and a psychological war Da Jung and Woo Jin are certain that the money he got from Da Jung are in his house. After all these days, the teacher has turned into a paranoid insomniac shadow of himself and with the help of the loan shark they manage to get the money from him during the last hour of the first round of the game.
The game works in a different and hi-tech way from the mysterious vibe of the Japanese adaptation. Instead of letters, voice messages are the way to know the next steps of the game and Woo Jin was aware of that. So he had already managed to steal the original company phone from the teacher with the smoke trick and he had managed to switch Da Jung’s clock one hour ahead so that her awful acting wouldn’t betray his plan, instead her sincere agony played its part and the plan was successful. The game feels more humiliating this way since everyone can see anyone’s desperate reactions and it’s not the same as the silent despair of the lost in the Japanese adaptation, it feels intriguing and in a different vein. It’s the stardom status epitome of one’s debacle and decline.
Truth is, the teacher was in big debt and the loan sharks appear to tear him off in front of the cameras while threatening his family via video call. It’s more than enough for Da Jung to jump in and offer the money she earned in order to save her teacher, even though he ridiculed and fooled her. As blast from the past and revenge matters occur, Woo Jin is no longer sure what he should do, cease playing and save Da Jung or proceed deeper in Liar Game? Da Jung’s not sure either of how she could avoid not participating in the second round since her arch debt remains.
Very promising opening from a pretty much anticipated adaptation since the moment it was announced! And hopefully enough, Liar Game will shine in the next episodes.
People are complex, but that’s why they are such simple animals.