Synopsis: In the realm of K-dramas, we have another manga adaptation in our midst! Rather than a shady underground competition, the Korean version presents Liar Game as a reality show in which 10 billion won—and then some!—is offered up as prize money. In a game where contestants lie and cheat to come out as victor, who can be trusted? And at what cost will the game be won? Based on Shinobu Kaitani’s popular manga, the drama follows innocent Nam Da-Jung and her ally—former psych prof and (acquitted) ex-con—Cha Woo-Jin as they try to survive.
Thoughts: The K-adaptation has taken off with some key differences that set it apart from not just the manga, but the rest of the franchise—and whether these decisions prove smart or detrimental bears mixed reactions. I personally find myself in-between. The manga remains untouched by me, but I can’t forget what makes the J-drama addicting. It made my heart pound, I adore the on-screen chemistry between Erika and Shota, and Akiyama’s character stole the show. It’s by no means perfect, but it holds an enticing appeal that kept me watching from beginning to end without pause (literally). But now there’s the K-drama, and with a number of changes made, it’s understandable why some feel ruffled.
The biggest revision in Liar Game is the switch between suspicious, hush-hush organization to widely public, albeit controversial, reality show. I’m equally torn here. On one hand, a reality show feels plausible and more grounded in real life than the show’s content source. But, at the same time, it serves as an unwelcome reminder that what I’m watching is, essentially, a show about a show. From the audience’s viewpoint, it turns awkward very quickly and more often than I’d like. One moment I’m watching Da-Jung from the perspective that she’s nothing more than an an average person living life, and the camera pans out to show a camera-free environment. And then in an instant, in that very same moment, I also see her from the reality show’s perspective—and I see her at angles that I know weren’t possible for a crew to film at, given what I’d seen seconds prior. It’s difficult to tell whose lens the story is watched through. Is it mine? Da-Jung’s? The game’s? What’s going on? Okay, I’m excessively technical. I can live with that. But is consistency too much to ask for?
What this adaptation does have going for it, however, is Nam Da-Jung. She’s innocent and gullible, but to an extent. Bless this show, Da-Jung has a brain. I can’t compare to the original work, but if the J-drama’s Nao is as similar to her manga self as I believe her to be, Da-Jung’s ‘humanization’ is well received. Nao possess a trusting kindness that stays no matter how many times she’s trampled over. She is so strictly pure that it’s unbelievable. Rather than childishly naive, Da-Jung comes across as someone who tries to make the best of a tough situation. She’s trusting and kind, but Kim So-Eun portrays Da-Jung in a relatable way where I understand and sympathize with her character. I see flashes of momentary greed, but also someone who is strongly rooted in moral principle. It’s not that she refuses to acknowledge deceit in the world, because I think she knows it. She’s experienced it. But rather than choosing to suspect everyone and everything, she pushes to looks toward a brighter side. If she didn’t, she could very well break down. (Or, I don’t know, maybe I’m poking into depths that don’t exist.)
Ah, and Cha Woo-Jin. I can’t forget him. Shota Matsuda’s performance is easily my favorite, but what works for this adaptation is how Cha Woo-Jin can stand on his own with or without comparisons. Perhaps too Sherlockian for my taste, and certainly more emotionally distanced than Akiyama, but he’s as sharp as ever. Where the drama presses too hard, in terms of Woo-Jin’s and Da-Jung’s relationship, lies in the romance department. The attention it gets feels niggling and unnecessary when the ship sails itself. Add in hand-grabs and stares that last five seconds too long, and the romance turns forced and obvious rather than a natural blossoming. Tsk, tsk. On the up side, I love that Woo-Jin shares his observations with Da-Jung as opposed to leaving her in the dark as Akiyama does with Nao.
Synopsis: Known as a piano prodigy, Kousei Arima dominated the world of classical music competitions. At eleven years old, however, Kousei suffers a mental breakdown in the midst of a recital after his mentor—his mother—passes away. Two years later, Kousei still find himself unable to play, claiming that he can no longer hear the sound of his own music. It’s not until carefree violinist Kaori Miyazono enters his life that, for the first time in two years, Kousei’s monotone world lightens back up.
Thoughts: I liken Your Lie in April to Nodame Cantabile, if only for the focus on music and the characters’ inner turmoils. While Nodame Cantabile does have a certain delightful charm that Your Lie in April doesn’t, the latter holds its own—and quite well, too. I won’t say much, as I’ve barely read into chapter five and I intend to read ahead of the show (and I’m one episode behind as a result), but what I find interesting is the concept’s familiarity. Not everyone can relate to Kousei’s specific predicament, but I’m sure many know what it’s like have something you love turn into a weight that bears nothing but pressure. Although Kaori comes across as someone stuck in her own world with little thought for others, I feel there’s more depth to her character than what she lets on. And upon saying that, her free spirit and pushy personality is what Kousei needs right now. Piano is Kousei’s gift, but given his background, it’s no wonder why the mere thought of playing twists his heart into knots of pain and yearning. He only needs to loosen that grip on the idea of perfection, and it’s through Kaori that he can accomplish this and grow.
Death Note: L, Change the World (Days 272, 23, 19 – 18)
Synopsis: In an alternate setting from that of the original series, the name of genius detective “L” has been written down in a Death Note. It’s race against time: in twenty-three days, L will die. But within that time frame, L must bring down a terrorist group before they unleash a deadly virus by killing most of humanity.
Thoughts: I reached the settling-in spot but still have little to go on. The novel starts 272 days before L’s supposed death—and whatever these events have to do with what lies ahead (if at all), I don’t know—before it jumps to twenty-three days. It’s not spoiler-y to say that here is where readers learn of Kira’s death, and: aww nooo… Light Yagami makes a fantastic vigilante madman to oppose any protagonist, so, yeah, I’m a little bummed that I won’t be seeing him, and I wonder to what extent the book will touch on the series’ supernatural elements. (But on the flip side, the novel gives me L, which would be great if I didn’t expect him to die on me. Again. But I’ll take what I can get.) What I pray I can bank on is a mind-twister that will strap me into a thrill ride, but it’s a tad too early to feel sure of anything.