Now that the first round is fired, the location of the subsequent bullets can be approximated to a high degree of accuracy. With prudent choices and appropriate bluffing, success is Fukunaga’s. Except, there is a fundamental flaw with the game.
Recall that each player was awarded an additional 50 million yen, totaling a hefty 300 million yen.
But consider this: when the players know that the next two rounds contain bullets, none of them will take the shots. Therefore, both must pass and pay their respective penalty fees before proceeding. The hostess will take the shot in lieu and collect the 31 million penalty (21 from player 1 plus 10 from player 2).
If the players pass for a total of 10 times collectively (10×31 or 310 million), the two teams will end up owing the agency 10 million. (That’s why you don’t pass and trick the other into taking the shot. I can understand not wanting the chips to go to the agency but frankly I don’t think it’s as bad as Nao puts it. Given the players’ strategy and Fukunaga’s intelligence — which we know we can rely on from the previous season — the game is going in the optimal direction for Kingdom of Sun. That is to say the hostess will have to take the shot and collect the passing penalty for a maximum of five times. In reality it will happen only four times because once the first triplet of bullets are accurately localized, the position of the next three can be determined with confidence. Given Fukunaga’s behavior pattern, he will trick his opponent into firing the first round of the next set of bullets. Then the two will resort to passing the last two rounds, thus ending the game. In short, Kingdom of Sun will only lose 62/150 chips to the agency, excluding the gains (100+) earned from Kingdom of Moon.)
This is the trap Nao realized. True to her nature, she immediately searches for a “perfect” game strategy so that no one loses.
If Fukunaga’s opponent hasn’t quite figured out how the game operates, he’s certainly noticed how Fukunaga is slowly leaching him of his chips. Using the same line of logic, he deduces that Fukunaga will call pass twice and on the fifth pass, fire the round to receive a 10-chip profit. The best time to intercept Fukunaga is on the fourth pass, which will net a gain of five chips extra for the opponent himself.
But to the opponent’s surprise, Fukunaga doesn’t wait till the fifth pass. He fires on the third and takes in three chips.
The reason, as Akiyama explains, is that once we know the bullet-carrying chambers sink to the bottle after the cylinder is rotated, we can safely assume that the weight will be equally distributed between chambers 1-12 and 13-24. In other words, chambers 13-24 will be the mirror reversal of chambers 1-12. Funkunaga of course knows this and by firing early than expected, he’s planning a trap so that his opponent will fire on the 15th round, which, contains a bullet.
Surely, on the 15th round…
The fool fell for the trap and hands over another 50 chips.
But Nao calls time just as Fukunaga is in the middle of another ostentatious show of victory, taking explicit pleasure in tantalizing his victim of deception. The act throws Fukunaga off. He charges back up the headquarter in a fury but a simple “how did you make him fire” brings the giddiness back. He smugly explains that calling the shot earlier than he would’ve usually done was to perk up his opponent’s attention. Once he had the other man’s attention, he was able to throw out a piece of bait. What he did was muttering to himself — loud enough for the man across the table to hear — that his team got off a good start. They will have a 274 million lead by the end of this game. The opponent bought it and started calculating: since the score at the time was 214, the 60-point gap must indicate the number of chips Fukunaga expects to earn from the opponent’s repeated passing. A simple division tells the opponent what rounds are bound to be empty. Encouraged by the false assurance, he decided to take a chance — only to find that he’s fooled again.
Suddenly a loud noise distracts everyone in the headquarters: Kingdom of Moon’s vanguard has just been tossed down the stairs. Nao rushes to help and promises the poor guy that he will not lose this game. Dazed, the man looks up at Nao’s smiling face, not sure what to think.
When Nao returns, she explains her concern over losing money to the agency and begs Fukunaga to take the last two shots. She promises Fukunaga that she and Akiyama will win their rounds (speaking too soon, hon) and suggests that they give up their money to cover Kingdom of Moon’s debt once they win (very Nao-istic). Fukunaga refuses. It’s absurd, why should he give up the money he earned through superior intellect? But as Fukunaga is ready to walk out, Nao sits down and sighs nonchalantly, “What a pity. I had a plan to make more money but if you insist on doing things your way, then I guess I have no use for that plan.” (Ah-hah! Nao has been reading Machiavelli, hasn’t she?)
Her words hit Fukunaga’s soft spot. Aside from vanity, Funkunaga’s one weakness is greed. If there is a method to make more money that he hasn’t thought of, Funkunaga is all ears. Since there is no time left to hear the plan, Fukunaga rejoins the game, taking Nao’s remark on faith.
With tremendous effort, Funkunaga musters the determination to take in the last bullets and ties the game. When he returns to ask Nao about the plan, she tells him with a winning smirk, “Oh that. I lied. After all, this is liar game.” (LOL! I had a real kick out of that one.)
Although Fukunaga isn’t exactly thrilled, it’s too late to do anything.
Soon, the next round of game starts. This time, it’s 17 poker.
Different from conventional poker, 17 cards are used in this game (J-K plus Aces and one Joker, as illustrated below).
The hand ranking hierarchy are as follows, in order of biggest (#1) to smallest (#8):
The cards are shuffled twice (Hindu shuffle and Riffle shuffle, if you’re interested). The players must bet a minimum of five chips and a maximum of 15 chips as their startup bet. Once the cards are dealt, the players have three choices: 1) Raise (increase the bet) 2) Call (follow the opponent’s bet by tossing in the same amount of chips) or 3) Fold (give up the hand; both players lose the startup bet and player 2 takes in player 1’s bet).
After both players make their decisions (raise, call, or fold), they have the option to change hands. After changing hands, the two players can increase the bet by a maximum of 30 chips. The players then show their cards. The winner takes all the chips on the table.
Like the first game, the practice round proceeds the actual game. Nao participated and is brutally slaughtered.
The outcome of the game relies on the joker. Since the joker acts as a wild card, the lowest hand a person will get with the joker is Three Cards. In addition, there are seven cards in the stack before the players change hands. After changing hands, there is only one left in the pile. In most cases, one of the two players will have the joker after changing hands. In plain English: if you don’t have it (the joker), your opponent probably has it.
Then there is the problem of creating false impressions. If player A starts off with a strong hand, he wouldn’t want to convey that information to player B, whether through the amount A is willing to bet (bigger bet typically means more confidence) or subtle facial expressions, because player A can lose the opportunity to win if B decides to fold. Even if A tricks B into calling or raising in the first round, if A doesn’t request for a change of hand, B might still suspect a strong hand and decide to fold in round two. However, if A does decide to chance luck, he may end up with a weaker hand than started — but it doesn’t matter because whoever has the joker is in control and will always win. All in all, it’s a game of deception and there is much to consider.
After the practice, the real game starts. Although Akiyama established himself as the invincible strategist through three rounds of Liar Game, the background of his opponent indicates an equal match. In fact, Akiyama may be in danger of being defeated for the first time; his opponent, in fact, has already figured out a way to win.
The game starts. Akiyama gets a hand of Straight. He bets 10 chips. His opponent calls. The next round, Akiyama breaks up his Straight and changes cards. He still bets 10 chips. His opponent calls again. As the final cards are revealed, Akiyama has a hand of 3 Cards (the lowest possible combination with the joker) and his opponent, 2 Pairs. Akiyama wins.
The next round ends in Akiyama’s victory as well. Encouraged by the ostensible lead, Nao and Fukunaga cheer happily. Little do they know, this is all part of the opponent’s plan.
First of all, it would make an interesting case if Akiyama were to lose, which is improbably but not impossible. If Kanzaki Nao represents morality then Akiyama Shinichi is the brain of the show. Imagine how intriguing it would be for the brain to stumbles and have learn to regain balance? No doubt, it would intensify the competition by giving Nao a tremendous amount of pressure so that she must win for the game to consider a draw. More importantly, it would add depth to the character so that the story isn’t predominately plot-driven.
I always think Nao is too far removed from reality, consequently it’s nice to see her tricking someone instead of being tricked. The change speaks of growth, that Nao is shedding some of her naivety while retaining her innocence. It makes her seem more human.
Fukunaga as a person would never be my choice of friend. Him as a character, however, gains my affection. He is flawed. Calculating, greedy, morally ambiguous… You name it, he has it. But I find him the most versatile (props to the actor). He can be so god damn smug one minute that you just want to slap him. Then the next minute, he’s contained and cool. I think the mental struggle where Fukunaga battles between pulling the trigger or passing the turn is especially well played. You can see his face darken and all the passion draining from his eyes.
He can’t have believed Nao completely when she said she knew a way to profit more. Instead, the hidden goodness in him is slowly uncovering and greed is just Fukunaga’s excuse to disguise the softness in him. The same way he betrayed Yokoya at the critical last minute of round three’s game.
One complain I have with this episode is that many times hints that the opponent comes from a past that makes him well matched for Akiyama. However, the background is never revealed (though one can guess). On the one hand viewers’ interest might be piqued by the suspense, on the other, I have not been given a solid reason to anticipate the face-off.