Wataru Makizono, confirmed an Angel, quickly connects with Nao. Fukunaga joins the circle to acquire a fifth Cross for safety — though the act originated from self-interest, it nonetheless gave Wataru a nice shove on the road to success. One more Cross and Wataru too, will be saved.
Things certainly are going well for Katsuragi. Instead of rushing to the finish line, she decides to take the cautious approach and wait for the official announcement of Demon count before making the next move.
During this time, Nao is busy pestering Momoko and Kawai to connect with Wataru. The two winners point out that Nao stands to no gain from the negotiation and refuse to endanger their already secured victory. But Nao pursuits relentlessly with the determination to save as much as she can.
When news confirming the presence of only one remaining Demon arrives, Katsuragi makes the move. She orders her team to cross connect and confirm their subsequent status one by one. However, problem surfaces.
Given the number of teammates available, most members will complete the round with five Crosses, save for the unlucky Angel who connected with the Demon — Wataru’s last minute decision really threw Katsuragi off the course. The said individual will be left with three Crosses, not enough to win. There is an easy solution to the problem, that is, connect with an Angel outside the team. To this, Katsuragi poses no objection other than that no one should make contact with Nao. If anyone were to lose, it should be Nao.
When the third period starts, Katsuragi sends Yasukawa to check his status. He staggers back with no results since all of the Rooms of Judgments are occupied.
Under the presupposition that Nao and Wataru partake the room occupancy scheme, Katsuragi deems it an inutile stall and instructs her teammates to remain calm. These people will eventually come out if they don’t want to lose. She is mildly amused however, when Nao and Wataru emerge from the back room, assuring Katsuragi that they are in fact, free to clink bracelets.
As it turns out, Nao — or rather, Akiyama, who came up with the scheme — exploited reciprocity. He encouraged Nao to pester Momoko and Kawai, knowing that their rejection will only rack up guilt. After a series of adamant pleads, the two grew exhaustive of Nao’s entreaty. So when Nao changed her approach and asked them to occupy the rooms instead, they agreed eagerly in order to clear their conscience.
When Nao hears the underlying theory behind the exploitation, she blinks innocently and says, ” it’s nothing complicated like that. They accepted because I plead from the bottom of my heart.” (Gotta love her sometimes.)
Katsuragi responds by laughing it off. She’s got a more realistic plan up her sleeve.
Money, she argues, is the universal motivation that drives behavior. With money, she can do anything. That, includes emptying out the rooms. She proves it with a little experiment.
By slipping a blank check into each room, Katsuragi offers monetary incentive to buy the occupants’ royalty. To expedite the process, only the first to respond will receive the money. The auction — if you will — starts at the price of 100 million. When no one budges, Katsuragi doubles it. At last, the crispy sound of money becomes too melodious to resist, Fukunaga takes the offer.
After the deal is validated, Momoko and Kawai rush out of their respective rooms to chastise Fukunaga of his unprincipled ways. This creates an opening for three empty rooms. Seizing the opportunity, Katsuragi, Marie, and fur man step in to check their status.
When they step out, Akiyama asks, “So, who’s the demon?” Without thinking, fur man blurts out, “That would be me, mister.” Akiyama cocks his head and beams, “You heard the man.” As if on cue, the remaining players start to make connections with Nao and Wataru.
Off Katsuragi’s puzzled look, Akiyama explains that he had expected Katsuragi to resort to money once she finds the rooms filled. Knowing Fukunaga’s natural proclivity (that is, a weakness for more money) and calculating that the other two participants will be incensed and henceforth burst out when Fukunaga betrays them for personal gain, it’s clear that the three rooms will clear out at once, thus prompting Katsuragi and her sidekicks to check status simultaneously. This gave Akiyama a small window to talk to the rest of the players sans Katsuragi et sidekicks. During which, he catered the idea of winning via connecting with Nao and Wataru. When fur man replied that he’s the demon, an absolute certainty is reached and the remaining people connected freely.
Hearing the explanation, Katsuragi’s two sidekicks crumble in despair. Now that everyone else has made sufficient Crosses to win, no one will help them, especially after their stuck-up demeanor earlier.
But they are wrong on two accounts.
1. Nao is willing to save them, despite their cynicism and brash treatment. and 2. Katsuragi will not allow herself to fail and will therefore, secure their success one way or another. And, surely enough, Katsuragi has bound the rest of her team with a contract of 20 million worth of penalty in order to secure herself of the chance to win.
Looks like Akiyama will have to settle his score with Katsuragi in the second half of the semifinal.
Let’s fixate on the outcome of the game and talk about perspectives.
- Perspective #1: rule-based. According to the rules, when all of the players bear four Crosses by the end of the game, no one loses. Do all of the players have four or more Crosses? No. Will they eventually? Yes. So did anyone lose? The answer is no.
- Perspective #2: goal-oriented. If you ask what Katsuragi wants out of Liar Game, I would say, why, she wants to meet Akiyama-kun again. If you press harder, I would reply that she wants to prove herself by undermining Akiyama — suppose the first time when she outperformed him, it wasn’t satisfying. If you ask me how she’s going to do that, I would tell you that all she needs to do is to keep Nao from winning. To quote the great Katsuragi herself, “If anyone were to lose, that would be Nao.” And you’d point out that try as she did, she was not successful. I would agree and we would concede that with respect to reaching the goal, Katsuragi failed utterly and is therefore a loser to herself. Plainly put, Katsuragi lost.
- Perspective #3: reality-grounded. Let’s look at how events played out under Akiyama’s craft. He threw Katsuragi off guard with the scheme to occupy all the rooms (that was brilliant), he predicted people’s reactions and subsequent behaviors correctly (that was somewhat of a stretch, like a twist for twists’ sake), then he convinced the remaining participants to jump ship. And they did.
Now, if I were Nao, I’d be appalled by the betrayal. But Katsuragi would only nod her stoic head and say, “See, I told you. Human actions are driven by self-interest and it’s only natural that they would do whatever benefits them the most.”
So who’s right? In terms of holding a more accurate world view? I’d say Katsuragi wins this round.
It’s this kind of nested layering that makes this drama so mind-boggling, and yet so appealing.