Two years of blissful normalcy, and then the familiar but much dreaded black envelop reappears.
She enters reluctantly — scanning the premise all the while — half expecting a box full of cash, half hoping it won’t be there.
Then light flickers on and party poppers shower down on her.
“Happy birthday Nao-chan!” her friends cheer in unison. Still stunned by the set up, Nao Kanzaki relaxes. It’s a birthday surprise. The Liar Game invitation isn’t real.
A brief recap ensues to retell Nao’s first encounter with the mysterious organization (LGT) that carried out Liar Game. Real quick: it happened to Nao two years ago when a box consisted of 100 million yen was mailed to her. She was forced to play the Liar Game against her former teacher. The objective of the game was to strip her opponent of his money in the span of 30 days. At the end of the 30-day period, the winner got to keep however much (s)he obtained minus the start up 100 million yen; the loser was left in debt.
Nao’s trusting nature caused her to lose her stake in entirety very early on. Out of desperation, she sought help from Akiyama Shinichi, a genius scam artist, and ended up winning the first round of Liar Game. Too generous to see her former teacher struggle with debt, she gave up her prize to regain his hope in mankind. (Due to unfortunate circumstances, he had ceased to believe in the goodness of people.) This gesture resulted in insufficient fund to withdraw from the second round of Liar Game (to withdraw, one must pay half of what was won). She was sucked in for another round, then another. At the end of the third round, Akiyama met with the man who reportedly created Liar Game.
After that Akiyama and Nao split. Nao returned to her usual life and Akiyama left to travel the world. They both thought Liar Game was over for them.
But today, on Nao’s birthday, a big black box waits at her door. She freezes in mid-step but the fear quickly subsides as she reasons that it must be another surprise present from her friends. She unwraps it and opens the lid. Staring up at her is 100 million yen. There is a long pause, then she pulls the lid over the money. Silently counting to three, she lifts the lid again. The money is still there. “It can’t be!” she exclaims. “It’s true,” Tanimura Mitsuo, the police who later revealed to be part of the LGT in season one, shows up behind Nao and tosses the fateful black envelop onto the pile of money, “You can’t escape it.”
Recovering from the initial shock, Nao conveys her desire to withdraw from the game. Given how round three played out, she is able to surrender half of her winning and walk away with no debt. But Tanimura convinces her otherwise. “Round four is going to be more dangerous. More players will be sacrificed. Can you honestly sit around and allow it to happen? Perhaps you can change Liar Game.”
Meanwhile, two other potential players are handed a game invitation: Akiyama Shinichi, who has returned to Japan after receiving a doctorate in Psychology, and Katsuragi Ryo.
After much debate, Nao finds herself back for a fourth round of Liar Game. On the ride to the first game site, Nao meets Ryo, who’s heading towards a different destination. As Nao hurries off the vehicle, Ryo suggests to her, “Let’s meet again, if we both survive this first game.”
Stepping into the ruinous first game site, Nao feels uneasy by the desolate setting around her. But her fear soon relaxes at the sight of familiar company. Both Fukunaga Yuji (from first season) and Akiyama Shinichi were chosen to participate as her teammates. Like Nao, Akiyama came with a mission; but unlike the compassionate Nao, Akiyama’s goal is more curiosity driven: he wants to meet the real mastermind of Liar Game and uncover its dark secrets.
With the arrival of the last participant, Solario opens the game.
(It seems self-explanatory but lets establish it anyway: the ultimate goal for every game isn’t to win. It’s to find the best strategy so no one loses.)
The six players are split into two teams: The Kingdom of Sun (which consists of Nao, Akiyama, and Fukunaga) and The Kingdom of Moon. Each player is assigned a role in the kingdom (the vanguard, the middle rank, and the general). The game is designed to operate on a one-on-one basis. The vanguard from Kingdom of Sun will compete with the vanguard from Kingdom of Moon; the general from one kingdom will compete with the general from the other kingdom; etc.
Whichever kingdom wins two out of the three games completes the round without punishment.
Rules for the Round
Each player is given 100 game coins, worth on million each, in place of the cash they first received. An additional 50 coins are loaned out to them, resulting in a total of 150 coins or 150 million yen equivalent. At the end of the game, 100 coins will be recollected by the agency. The remaining 50 million yen, if kept intact, will be the player’s reward.
If any player is unable to return the whole of 100 million, whatever unpaid amount will become the team’s debt to the agency. Meaning the average of total asset minus total liability for any given team will equate the players’ net worth at the end of the game.
As the players disperse to discuss the role they want to play, Ryo arrives at her own game site. In her meek yet unfathomable way, she smooths a fellow participant’s agitation and promises a chance to win.
Russian roulette is a game invented by the Russian soldiers to chance death. In the game, a single bullet is randomly placed in a revolver. The cylinder is spun before the participants pull the trigger against their heads.
In this revised version, the revolver houses a total of 24 chambers and is specially made so that when fired it will not harm the player. However, if a gunshot is sounded then the player dies in the game.
Rules for Russian Roulette
The two players are given a total of six bullets. They must each designate three places to insert the bullets by marking them with a pencil (the chambers are numbered 1-24). The revolver is then spun on the table and the direction it stops at indicates player 1. Player 1 starts the game but has the option to pass. If so chooses, he or she must surrender one chip. It is now player 2’s turn. If player 2 also chooses to pass, (s)he must give up two chips (or 1×2). In the case that player 1 should decide to pass again (this counts as the third pass), (s)he will lose four coins (or double the amount the last player paid for passing). There is a total of five possible passes (at which point player 1 would have been penalized for a sum of 16+4+1=21 chips and player 2, 8+2=10 chips). When five passes are up, the hostess will collect all the coins and pull the trigger herself.
Each time a player dies in the game, (s)he loses 50 coins. The game is over when all six of the rounds are fired.
However, if player 2 decides to fire the shot after player 1 has chosen to pass, there are two possible outcomes. If player 2 dies from the shot, (s)he loses 50 coins to player 1 and player 1 gets however many chips the two players were charged for passing (see Illustration1). If player 2 survives the shot, (s)he gains all the penalty chips on the table (see Illustration 2).
A practice round follows to ensure good understanding of the game. While Nao participates, Fukunaga, who’s the designated player for this game, observes.
First is to decide where to place the bullets. Akiyama leans in and mutters three numbers — 18, 20, and 24 — to Nao. She obediently bubbles them in. When all the bullets are placed and the gun spun, Nao is set to go first. Without hesitating, she passes. Her opponent assesses the situation and decides to try his luck. (Of course he will, there is a 75% chance that he’ll survive.) There is no bullet in the chamber, he wins one million worth of token from Nao.
Thinking that there is still a 17/23 survival rate, Nao takes the chance. Unfortunately, she dies and loses another 50 coins. When the practice ends, the Kingdom of Sun is deeply in debt. (Good thing it’s practice huh?)
After a mini break, the real game starts.
As Nao watches worriedly, Akiyama comforts her that the mock game didn’t go to waste. For instance if at least one player placed all three bullets in consecutive order, then when the first round goes off, there is a 50% chance that the next round will also go off. If indeed, the second round went off, then the third round must contain a bullet. This piece of knowledge can play into a participant’s decision making process and potentially benefit him. Besides, there is one more trick to the game…
Before Akiyama can divulge the extra piece of information, the game starts.
The revolver is spun and the order decided. Fukunaga goes first.
He picks up the revolver and studies it carefully… Then, “Ohh!” he exclaims, as if noticing something. He puts down the gun, whips out a chip, and says, “Pass.” — all done in a decisive and fluid manner. (Ah-hah! He’s bluffing already!) The gun is placed in front of Fukunaga’s opponent, who picks it up dubiously and studies it.
“Why did he say ‘oh’ when he looked at it?” doubt sets in. (He’s bluffing, dummy!) When no answer can be extracted from turning over the revolver, the opponent hesitantly reaches for two chips to pass. “Pass!” Fukunaga tosses in four more before his opponent even sets his two down. Naturally, his decisiveness throws his opponent off, who in turn loses more chips out of self-doubt.
When the turn comes back to Fukunaga, he takes the shot annnnd… safe!
His opponent wails in anger, he’s deceived! (Yes buddy, that’s why it’s called Liar Game.) Fukunaga breaks into a wide grin.
The game is just starting and the opponent’s confidence is already in shambles. He buries his head in his hands to contemplate his option but Fukunaga’s hysterical laughter breaks his concentration. He looks up slowly to face Fukunaga’s uncontrollable mirth. “You bought it!” Fukunaga scorns, “I’ll let you in on a secret.” He pauses for dramatic effect, “I can see… I CAN SEE WHERE THE BULLETS ARE!” Sweating profusely the opponent tries to persuade himself that Fukunaga is only lying. No one can see it.
Reinforcing his control, Fukunaga jumps onto his seat and repeats, “I. Can. See. The. Bullets.” His opponent drops the revolver and decidedly gives up a chip to pass. Fukunaga picks up the gun, fiddles with it, and says pleasantly, “Ah-hah, I’ll pass this one as well.” Distrusting his better judgment (or the law of probability), the opponent passes another opportunity. When the revolver returns in Fukunaga’s hands, he presses the trigger and earns another five shiny coins.
For the next six shots, Fukunaga dominates the game.
His confidence is fueled by a basic understanding of physics. When a bullet is inserted into the chamber, it disrupts the weight distribution in the cylinder and creates an imbalance. Once spun, the heavier chambers (with the added weight of bullets) are pulled to the bottom of the cylinder by the force of gravity.
Unbeknownest to Nao, Akiyama has conveniently “leaked” the tip that placing the bullets in consecutive order will make prediction more feasible. Given the monotonic nature of greed, the Kingdom of Moon will most likely follow his advice. This ensures that all of the bullets will fall to the bottom of the cylinder.
In the meantime, Fukunaga has taken eight shots and is no longer in the safe zone, his next step is to coax his opponent into taking the ninth shot.
Suddenly, Fukunaga’s opponent starts to cackle. Quiet at first, the eerie laughter picks up in both loudness and intensity. The opponent reaches for the gun and pulls the trigger. Boom. The sound smothers the laughter, the opponent collapses face first onto the table.
This shot further decapitates the opponent team’s morale. Slumping on the table, Fukunaga’s opponent silently endures as Fukunaga flaunts his success by singsonging a request for cream soda. Kingdom of Moon calls for a break.
How did Fukunaga trick his opponent into firing when the latter has been passing his turns all these time? He used lead from the pencil that was given to him at the start of the game and marked six places on the revolver (which is a stretch for me since it would be difficult to find time to do so without being discovered). Under extreme stress, his opponent mistook the markings as indicators of the bullets’ position. The mistake cost him 50 coins.
Kingdom of Sun seems to be taking a lead but somehow there is something wrong with the picture…
Yes, they’ve made a grave mistake and it may cost them their victory.
I apologize for the manner in which the rules are explained. For precision purposes, certain details call for dense writing. I hope I’ve made the gaming rules clear at the very least.
And now, about this episode.
I enjoyed it. As dark (in theme and color scheme) as this drama is, there is a morbid injection of humor that adds variation to the intensity of the plot. It’s engaging, stimulating, and all together my type of drama. I haven’t had that much satisfaction writing a recap in a pretty long time and I hope this drama sustains the same level of interest for me throughout its broadcasting period.