The worry-free days ended rather abruptly. Waving goodbye to the patch of blue sky overhead, Nao gets on the LGT army truck and returns to the dismal world of Liar Game semifinal.
For the semifinal, there are 12 players. Let me introduce you to the eight participants outside our four main characters (Nao, Akiyama, Fukunaga, and Katsuragi):
(hover over image to see name; click on image to enlarge)
(If you didn’t get all of them that’s okay. They will be reintroduced whenever necessary.)
As the players take time to acquaint themselves with each other, Katsuragi heads straight to Akiyama. “We’ve finally met again.” she remarks. “Ah, it’s been a long time, Katsuragi.” acknowledges Akiyama. The exchange is swift and callous at best, but it catches Nao’s attention. She may have detected the mutual dislike between the two, but what Nao didn’t know is that Katsuragi, who also studied psychology, is billed as the only person to ever outsmart Akiyama.
As usual, the participants are loaned 100 million yen right off the bat, which must be returned at the end. Being a selective process, the semifinal is divided into two parts. Winners of the first part advance to the second part, then the final survivors proceed to the end game of the tournament.
Without further ado here’s the game for the first round: Angels & Demons (brings the book to mind doesn’t it?)
- Each player is put on a bracelet.
- Of the 12 players, 2 are randomly selected to be Demons; the rest are Angels.
- Players don’t know their own status (Angel or Demon) but can find out by entering the Room of Judgment. (There are four of them.)
- Unless told, no player knows another player’s status.
- Demons can turn Angels into Demons by “connecting” with them (via a clink of the bracelet).
- The aim is to create the holy Cross. How? When an Angel connects with another Angel.
- Any given two players can only connect once. The more connections made, the more Crosses created.
- Crosses can be used to convert Demons into Angels but the Cross carrier loses a Cross and becomes a Demon.
- The Cross carrying Demon cannot turn other Demons into Angels but can self convert at the cost of one Cross.
- The game takes 90 minutes to complete and is divided into three half-hour periods with two breaks in between.
- The winner is any Angel with four or more Crosses at the end of the 90 minutes.
Like every other game, rehearsal takes place after the rules are explained. Unlike every other game however, the top three winners of the practice will be guaranteed to start the actual game as Angels.
(Oy, bad vibe stinking up the roof here.)
So Nao checks on her status in the Room of Judgment and is relieved to find herself an Angel. (Sometimes I wish she’s more devilish…) She walks out the room and gets struck by an idea. Promptly calling everyone’s attention, Nao announces that she has just found the perfect strategy.
Silence in the room. Then, as if on cue, everyone (except the cool ones) swoop in to hear her out.
The reasoning is very simple. You have 10 Angels and two Demons. Have the two Demons tell everyone who they are and let the 10 Angels connect with each other first.
The Angels will each have nine Crosses at the end, more than enough to win. Then, two of the Angels will volunteer to connect with the two Demons. They will convert the Demons into Angels and become Demons themselves. The Demon-turned-Angels can then go connect with the other eight Angels while the Angel-turned-Demons can self convert back to Angels. That way everyone is an Angel, everyone has more than four Crosses, and everyone is happy.
Great plan, really. But there is one inherit problem with this strategy — it requires trust. These people are scared to death about spending the rest of their lives paying off debt if they lose. Most of them aren’t willing to take risks. Unfortunately, placing trust in total strangers is the kind of risk that normal people just aren’t ready for.
Let’s face it, the moment a Demon says he’s a Demon, he loses all powers of mystery and becomes helpless. He can only hope that an Angel will come and save him (after copulating fat, cute Crosses with other Angels, that is). Whereas if he remains hidden, he can instill fear and with careful calculation, he may even turn around and become an Angel (and start copulating Crosses of his own!).
Because of this, many hesitate to jump into Nao’s plan. In the end, it’s with Katsuragi’s convincing that people start to consider it.
And although it takes a while, two Demons eventually emerge: Norihiko (fur man!) and Marie. The rest of the participants quickly clinked bracelet with one another. When that’s done, Nao cheerfully prepares to convert Demons. She is stopped by Akiyama, who insists that she checks her status first.
The check turns out to be surprisingly revelatory. She was an Angel, now she is a Demon. And she bears no Cross. In fact, all of the Angels are now Demons and none carry any Cross.
Clearly someone lied and infiltrated the Angel clique. But who? After a heated “discussion” in which feet are stomped and damnation uttered, one man stands up for his folly. Wataru (this guy) had feared abandonment and concealed the fact that he is a Demon. (The very act of admitting to his fault shows that he can be trusted.) But that only means there are two liars, one pretending to be an Angel when not, another pretending to be a Demon when not.
Before further conclusion can be reached, the LGT hostess walks in to announce the end of the rehearsal. The final status count shows exactly three Angels and nine Demons.
So what happened? Akiyama uncovers the mystery for us.
Suppose there are two Demons hiding in the group of Angels. For simplification purpose, say each person in the group connects with five other people. That would give us four Demons, two of which are still carrying Crosses and will continue to carry Crosses had they connected with more people. This scenario doesn’t explain the no Cross phenomenon.
But if a Demon connects with more than three Angels first, turning them all into Demons, then the newly converted Demons will go on transforming other Angels into Demons without acknowledging it. If planned right, all eight Angels will end up Cross-less Demons. Therefore, the person whom most people connected with first is the mastermind. That person is Katsuragi.
Following the line of logic, fur man and Marie must have teamed up with Katsuragi from the start. They followed her instruction and claimed to be Demons. Secretly, they kinked with one another and converted Katsuragi into an Angel.
True to Akiyama’s accusation, Katsuragi had made herself a three-people team as soon as she arrived on site. Bluffing that she knows the secrets to all the games, she gained two sidekicks at her disposal. (This woman is something.)
As angry as people are at finding out the truth, there is little they can do. (Actually, Akiyama did everyone a big favor by exposing the three winners. At least, Angels will know which three people are safe to connect with and Demons will know which three to trick. Well, make that a two.)
The real game starts.
As hoped, Nao is an Angel. So is Akiyama. (I’m taking his word for it.) Fukunaga also claims to be an Angel. So when Nao receives the good news that all three of them are Angels, she doesn’t hesitate to connect with Fukunaga. But Akiyama stops her. He turns to Fukunaga slowly and cocks his head, “Fukunaga, are you really an Angel?” Fukunaga brushes the doubt away, “What are you talking about?”, he says, “Of course I’m an Angel!” “If you deceive us, we will all become Demons and lose. But if you tell us the truth, we may be able to save you.”
Fukunaga says nothing.
“Last chance. Fukunaga, are you really an Angel?”
Fukunaga holds Akiyama’s gaze for a pregnant beat. At length, he slumps down and admits grudgingly, “I’m sorry. I am a Demon.”
Best episode since the season premiere! Or so I think. Pity there’s very little readership for this drama because I have so much fun watching and writing. What can I say, they are missing out!
As I said, I really enjoyed this episode. Because…
- Obviously, Angels and Demons is far more interesting a game than 17 Poker (lame) or Russian Roulette (boring) or Roulette of No Rotation (yawn). There is plenty of room for possibilities to occur. For instance, a lot can happen between one trip to the Room of Judgment and the next. Similarly, Demons can always become Angels if done right.
- Are you kidding me, Fukunaga being the underdog! There is nothing more exciting than watching someone overturning an unfavorable situation and make what goes against him work for him. Had Nao been the Demon, I would recoil in weariness. Fukunaga is a different matter entirely.
- Katsuragi is a catching opponent. She’s the intellectual equivalent of Akiyama but also the moral opposite. It will be fun to watch her undermine Akiyama. But it will be more fun to see him strike back.