Comparing the Japanese and Korean Versions of “Liar Game”
Before we get to the discussion, a little background on “Liar Game“: Nao Kanzaki (Nam Da-Jung in the Korean version) is a student who’s honest and trusting to the point of naivete. “It’s better to be a nice person,” she believes, preferring to believe that most people have the best intentions, for better or for worse. So what does a nice, trusting girl do when she’s given a ridiculous amount of money and mysteriously enrolled in a ruthless “Liar Game” requiring her to cheat, deceive, and backstab her way to victory… or else?
First, some introductions–for the readers who aren’t as familiar with Crunchyroll News or Soompi News, could you please tell us who you are and what you do?
N: Hey everybody! My name is Nate Ming, and I’m the Features and Reviews Editor for Crunchyroll News. I have a weekly column titled Fanart Friday that’s been going for just over three years, and I’ve written over a hundred video game reviews for Crunchyroll. This is my first time collaborating with the Soompi crew! I tend to go for more comedy-oriented shows, but I’m flexible and will happily check out any recommendation from any genre.
R: Hi, I’m Rain R. (aka Sylphid), one of the US Editors for Soompi. I usually cover new music releases in the K-Pop world along with a lot of other fun articles and K-Pop concerts in California. I watched a lot of J-Dramas a few years ago, including Liar Game (both seasons and the first movie), but I only remember the main plot points and the games they played. I’m very selective in watching K-Dramas and will usually only watch one show per season. With that said, I was very excited when I heard a Korean version of “Liar Game” was announced. The show aired its final two episodes this last week.
Could you explain some of the differences between the Japanese version of “Liar Game“ compared to the Korean version?
N: From what I’ve seen, the Japanese version tends to follow the manga’s visual style more closely, including Akiyama’s hilarious hair and Nao’s crazy-long bangs. While I have some personal gripes with Japanese dramas’ production values not being as high as those of Korean shows, “Liar Game” is shot well and maintains the tension of the manga, with an unsettling soundtrack and some rough twists. Also, obviously, the names of the characters are kept as-is, so fans of the manga won’t have to do any name-juggling if they check out the Japanese version.
R: While the Japanese version had the “Liar Game” played out as a secret underground event for the enjoyment of an unknown audience, the Korean iteration went with it as being a full blown reality show broadcasted on TV. (The overly dramatic lighting effects and smoke machines used in the early rounds were hilariously overused.) You can also expect to see corrupt producers/directors and company bigwigs trying to tamper with the games.
Instead of a random masked person as the host, we have Kang Do Young (Shin Sung Rok) who plays a major role in the story. K-Drama fans might remember his intensely evil glare from the hit drama “My Love From The Stars” earlier this year. While they play many of the same games, the final round in the Korean version was very different. I was completely caught off guard from the twists at the end.
“Liar Game” is a pretty suspenseful series, but do you think the series handles the twists and turns well?
N: One thing I really appreciate about “Liar Game” is that the stakes are high, but it never really loses its sense of fun. This is based off a manga, so there are bits of overacting and overdramatization (and Akiyama’s freakin’ hair), but it never really gets in the way when the show is trying to be serious. Also, it’s able to give us twists and cliffhangers without going into M. Night Shyamalan territory–that’s gotta count for something.
R: The rounds are are intense with the momentum continuously shifting due to a game-breaking strategy or betrayal… or both. In the K-drama there is also the added mystery of Kang Do Young’s past and his motives. As expected, things start to get crazier as the truth unravels.
How do you feel the actors carried their roles? Compared to other manga (or manhwa) adaptations, how does “Liar Game” stack up?
N: My all-time favorite Japanese live-action adaptation is the original GTO drama with Takashi Sorimachi, and my all-time favorite Korean live-action adaptation is the insanely badass Holyland, so that should give you an idea of the kind of stuff I like and how a live-action series can really carry the feel of its source material. “Liar Game” reminds me of the manga without trying to be the manga, so Erika Toda and Shota Matsuda feel like people stuck in a crazy situation instead of characters acting out parts. Even with some of the more showy, outlandish moments, it all feels right.
R: I didnt read the manga, so I will compare the dramas.
Our heroine Nam Da Jung (Kim So Eun) definitely had the innocent-trusting-gullible look down and reminded me of Erika Toda. The genius swindler Ha Woo Jin (Lee Sang Yoon) was smart but did not seem as infallible as Akiyama in the Japanese version. As he is currently 33, Lee Sang Yoon definitely looked older than Shota Matsuda, who was 22 when he first took on the role in 2007. I think Matsuda had the better “I’ve already won” troll face grin.
I was hoping for someone silly and flamboyant like Fukunaga in the Japanese version, but instead we had Jamie as a femme fatale type.
A lot can be said about the male lead for each series–a calculating con man who takes on impossible odds to help the overly honest heroine. So with that said, Akiyama vs. Woo Jin–GO!
N: I think with the overall tone of the Japanese version, Akiyama’s almost superhuman skills at manipulation and deception work. I’ve only seen a little of the Korean version, but Woo Jin feels more like a very smart person instead of his larger-than-life counterpart.
R: Akiyama seemed like he always had all the answers. Woo Jin was extremely good at reading people and was known as the human lie detector. In addition to that, he also had various supporters (reporter, detective, hacker) as backup in-between games. I would give “game sense” to Akiyama, but direct lying (via face reading skills) to Woo Jin.
Finally, do you have any other Crunchyroll or Soompi shows you want to recommend?
N: If you’re in the mood for something like “Liar Game”, Crunchyroll has you covered with the ruthless “Akagi“ (about mahjong games against the mafia) and the twisty, turny “Kaiji“ (about an underworld gambling ring run by a sadistic slaving organization). As for other shows, though–guys, for real, watch the new “GTO“ dramas on Crunchyroll–Akira captures both the ferocity and warm-heartedness of everybody’s favorite legendary delinquent/great teacher, and everybody could do with some heavy-handed lessons of life, love, and growing up.
R: Liar Game is really a unique experience since many of the mainstream K-Dramas are romantic comedies. If you want to see Shin Sung Rok in a similar evil mastermind role, you can watch “My Love From The Stars,” in which he has to plot against an alien with supernatural powers. As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t watch too many dramas, so I don’t have another psychological thriller in mind.
Overall, I think that the Korean version of Liar Game was written with viewers of the Japanese drama in mind, as there were many new story elements added. I would recommend it to anyone that was a fan of the J-Drama version since it feels the same with the games and lying, but is a whole new adventure.
And that wraps up our tag-team look at Liar Game! You’ve heard our thoughts, but what about you? Which version do you prefer… or are you a superfan who likes both? Is anyone still holding out hope for an anime adaptation? Sound off in the comments and let us know how you feel about Liar Game!