Domination and Trust - A Yokoya x Nao (Liar Game) Ship Manifesto.
Fandom: Liar Game
Pairing: Yokoya x Nao
Spoilers: Most of the J-Drama and the first movie
Notes: - Mainly focuses on the drama version, as there's more to work with.
- Don't destroy me for making this! *hides behind Chuck Norris*
*Glossary: Manga = Japanese Comic Book
J-Drama = Japanese Drama
LG = Abbreviation of Liar Game
LGT =Abbreviation of Liar Game Tournament
Face-heel Turn = Refer to TvTropes
TFS: Abbreviation for LG movie, The Final Stage
-san = Japanese honorific, stands for Mr. or Ms., used after a person’s last name as a sign of respect
Liar Game Summary: Liar Game is a Drama, Mystery, Psychological, Seinen manga series by Shinobu Kaitani. Its chapters are published weekly in Young Jump, and it has recently gotten off its hiatus in Nov. 2011. It follows the story of a honest college student named Nao Kanzaki who receives a package containing 100 million yen (about 1 million dollars) and a note that she is now a contestant in the Liar Game Tournament. In the LGT, contestants are encouraged to cheat, lie and deceive to obtain large sums of money; those who lose will have to pay off a large debt to the LG company. Our heroine enlists the help of Akiyama Shin’ichi, a genius con-man/swindler. It’s a extremely good, but sadly under-rated fandom. It’s evident that the author puts a lot of thought into the story, and its characters. LG has been adapted into a live-action series, composed of two seasons and a movie. A sequel for the movie will be released on March 3, 2011 called Liar Game: Reborn. The manga is currently ongoing.
Now both the manga and drama have their own appeal. Personally, I like the manga more than the drama overall. As far as romance goes, I wouldn’t want it in the manga at all, unless of course it’s in an epilogue or in the ending. On the flip-side, I’m willing to support romance in the J-Drama. Not that there aren’t hints to romance in the manga (ex. Fukunaga’s implied crush on Akiyama). Akiyama either chooses to ignore love, or is completely oblivious to it. This essay however, is not about Akiyama or Fukunaga.
Liar Game Drama Timeline: Episode Zero, Season 1, Season 2, Phantom Ep. X, TFS, Reborn
Alright, onward to introducing the main subjects of this manifesto! I will be explaining both their manga and drama versions.
“Is being honest really such a bad thing?”
Nao Kanzaki (Manga): Meet our main heroine, a (18 year old) college student with a hospitalized and terminally ill father. She’s referred to as ‘naïve’ or ‘foolishly honest’ Nao because she is exactly that. In the beginning of LG, she trusts what ANYONE says, even if they’re blatantly lying in her face. And what does she do when she finds 100 yen? She gives it to the ‘lost and found’ at the police station. After becoming involved in the Liar Game Tournament, her character develops in a natural and almost amazing way. Thanks to the experiences in LG and Akiyama’s guidance, she is now able to doubt and lie. Even better, is that she still retains what makes her Nao, her empathy and compassion towards others. Ultimately, her resolve to ‘save’ the contestants she meets in Liar Game is strengthened. She believes Liar Game is about trust, and that everyone could win if they put aside selfishness, and worked together.
Nao Kanzaki (Portrayed by Toda Erika): This version of Nao is the same as her counterpart, however unlike Manga!Nao, she only receives a small amount of character development (if any at all). In the live-action, she might as well be trust incarnate. That being said, she still manages to influence other contestants with just her unconditional, good-hearted will, and even making them have a change of heart. Akiyama usually has to bail her out of dire situations, and sometimes she was just double face-palm worthy. Granted, you can’t fit in every important detail when each episode is only an hour long, so of course the characters were pretty underdeveloped. Although, who’s to say she didn’t become less naïve, and mentally stronger after The Final Stage? Nao’s actress is also quite pretty in my opinion.
“I’m a psychic. Hehehe… I can do all sorts of things. But my greatest skill…is clairvoyance.”
Norihiko Yokoya (Manga): The picture I used may not be that scary, but I swear, he is one of the creepiest characters in existence. His looks however, are no longer a problem to me and I’m quite used to them. Yokoya is the primary antagonist of Liar Game first introduced during the Contraband game. He is the son of an up-and-coming finance company and is filthy rich, living off of his parent’s money. What Yokoya does is jump around to different schools, gains complete control, and leaves, throwing it into chaos due to everyone wanting to fill in the role of the ruler. He enters Liar Game just for kicks, and has enough money to drop out whenever the heck he wants. What’s keeping him in the LGT is his drive for revenge against Akiyama and Nao which starts from the end of the Contraband game onward. His intellect rivals that of Akiyama’s, or at least, is extremely close to it. He also keeps two mice with him. He cares about no one but himself, and has absolutely no conscience or morals (....or eyebrows).
Norihiko Yokoya (Portrayed by Suzuki Kazuma): In the J-Drama, Yokoya is depicted as a flamboyant man with bed-headish white hair (which isn’t as messy in TFS), and clothes to match. Instead of mice he has an odd habit of smelling…beauty products? Anyways, he remains mostly the same as his manga counterpart for most of the Contraband arc (key word, MOST of it). He’s revealed to have made a face-heel turn by the time of Liar Game: The Final Stage (which I’ll come back to later). In the live-action he managed a MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) Corporation, which was the same one responsible for the death of Akiyama’s mom. Akiyama gets revenge on the MLM Company by causing it to go bankrupt, and Yokoya had no choice but to join LG. He gets a member of the LG staff, Tanimura, to get Akiyama involved in LG so he can get revenge (which ends up unsuccessful). In all honesty, Drama!Yokoya is rather pathetic compared to Manga!Yokoya in terms of being truly antagonistic. Yokoya in the drama is more human and thus, exhibits more human emotions.
Yokoya: “So tell me, what do YOU think the object of Liar Game is?”
Nao: “…I believe that this game is the exact opposite of what it calls itself. It’s a game that tests a person’s honesty.”
-Liar Game Chapter 35: Confrontation
The Contraband Round (Manga)
Ah yes, the Contraband Game Arc. This is the first time we see Yokoya, however, we aren’t formerly introduced to him until chapter 33. Now let’s go to the part where our subjects meet for the first time. I’d suggest finding the manga online and reading the rules for the Contraband game, or some of the words I’m going to use won’t make sense.
In The Manga: Due to me not wanting to have to write down what they say word for word, I shall just show you which parts of the manga stood out for me and talk about them.
So what’s the point of showing this besides how much of a creep Yokoya is? It’s the way he acts while having a conversation with Nao. He appears to pay a lot more attention to her after she confronts him with not being a psychic. This of course being because he was caught off-guard that someone would call him out on it. He wants to figure out exactly how she arrived to that conclusion. They talk for a bit about what Liar Game is about, and it’s revealed that the brief case was not empty, but had a teddy bear. I know you’re asking, “So? How does it contribute anything?” Well, it doesn’t. But the way he looks when thinking about what just happened, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe that he might now have somewhat of an interest in Nao due to the fact that someone like her is involved in the LGT. Because she’s unique compared to everyone he has met up to that point.
I’d also like to point out that when Fukunaga was the ‘smuggler’ he didn’t have that much of an interest in him/her (Fukunaga is of the male variety but chooses female as a gender). Yes the contestants of Liar Game have worse things to worry about then attraction to the opposite gender, but let’s face it, Manga!Fukunaga is…well, look for yourself.
To him, s/he was just another LG contestant, nothing he hasn’t seen before. I might also point out that after the Contraband game he’s focused on getting revenge on Akiyama and Nao. Of course, if Fukunaga gets in his way he’ll try to get rid of him/her as soon as possible.
From here on out I will be talking about the live-action series, as I find it far more viable.
Yokoya: “People naturally betray, hate, and deceive each other.”
- Yokoya, Episode 10
The Contraband Round (J-Drama)
The game plays out the same way as the manga, albeit with less people and a change in team names. Also, contestants are able to watch the rounds through TV’s, whereas the manga just had it so people were able to listen whether the ‘inspector’ called “doubt” or “pass”.
Things start to go in a different direction in episode 10. This is when Yokoya reveals to everyone that the business company Akiyama destroyed seven years ago was his, and that he was responsible for Akiyama’s mother committing suicide. It is also revealed like I mentioned earlier, that he used Nao to drag Akiyama into LG, knowing he can’t refuse someone who reminds him so much of his mother (via. Tanimura).
Why did I tell you this? Because he got Tanimura to tell Nao about Akiyama, he is responsible for the two meeting. It’s important because if that didn’t happen, Nao and Akiyama wouldn’t have met. Besides the fact there’d be no Akiyama x Nao moments, let me remind you that Akiyama helped Nao develop, even if it was just a bit. So in a sense, Yokoya is responsible for Nao growing as a person, and facing the harsh realities of the world. Nao also learned through LG, that even the worst of people are capable of redemption and can have a change of heart. She was shown both aspects of the human nature. Of course, this only applies to the J-Drama.
If you don’t want to bother watching the entire first season, just watch episode 11, which basically recaps the whole thing (and adds in a few things not mentioned in the individual episodes).
Nao: “Mr.Yokoya, please apologize to Mr.Akiyama”
Quite possibly what got me sort of hooked to this pairing was the scene in episode 11 between them, where Nao tried to convince Yokoya to apologize to Akiyama. She goes off about how no one is ‘bad to the bone’, and says that revenge will get him nowhere. Followed by Nao telling him she not only wants to save Akiyama, but him as well. He apologizes, but it turns out he was lying, and didn’t mean anything he says during and after the apology.
However his initial expression makes me think that for a brief moment or two, he actually believed Nao. Soon after he realized he could take advantage of the current situation, and pretends to apologize to Akiyama and what-not. But I think that Yokoya, even if it was only for a short time, took Nao’s words into account. For a few seconds, he might have actually wanted to trust her, to be saved. Of course, the thought is quickly pushed to the side in favor of exacting revenge on Akiyama and turn the Contraband game around in his favor. If you watch the whole scene from the beginning (and a bit before that), Yokoya doesn’t care, and had no clue what Nao was up to until then.
The main point here is that after season one, Nao had influenced Yokoya more than he thought (which I shall explain next).
Liar Game: The Final Stage (J-Drama)
The Final Stage is a direct sequel to the television series and takes place a few months after season two ends. This was the turning point that made me support the live-action versions of Yokoya and Nao as a couple.
Quick Summary of TFS: Akiyama and Nao get passes to go to the final round of Liar Game (Nao got her pass when Yokoya dropped declined the offer at the end of season two). The game played is called the Garden of Eden. Early in the game, it is revealed that a contestant (Player X) is sabotaging the game to make sure they win. Sometime during the game, a lady (Yukina) claiming to be X (which ends up being false) eliminates Akiyama which forces him to drop out with a debt exceeding the 5 million yen limit to stay in the round. He is escorted by LGT official Eri to a private room. In the room, much to Akiyama’s surprise, is Yokoya. He offers to pay off Akiyama’s debt, but in return Akiyama has to go back to the Garden of Eden, win, and give him the prize money. If Akiyama loses, he has to pay Yokoya 50 million yen. But hold on, how did he get here? Only contestants know the coordinates! Well, it shows in a flashback that Eri had emailed Yokoya earlier (probably with directions to their location) to come to the island.
This is all revealed by Tanimura when he’s talking to Yokoya. Tanimura also tells him a…intersting conclusion he came up with. They appear to be talking in a more lit room, with a TV showing multiple camera views of the game.
Tanimura: She [Eri] called you here.
Yokoya: *smirks* What do you mean?
Tanimura: Akiyama can’t pay back 50 million if he loses. Unless, uou’re here to save him…because Nao saved you.
Yokoya:*stares at screen* …Interesting observation….
A picture I left out is not only Yokoya looking at the screen as a whole, but him looking specifically at the camera zoomed in on Nao. Tanimura brings up a good point. Let’s think about it for a second, why on earth would Yokoya agree with Eri to help Akiyama? He should hate his guts even more after losing to him in the Contraband game. Well my theory, is exactly as Tanimura said. He saved Akiyama Nao made him have a change of heart, and influenced his decision. Plus, he is aware that Nao wouldn’t have even gotten this far without Akiyama’s help, and that she cares about Akiyama a lot (to the point where she probably developed romantic feelings for him). He didn’t help for the money, or even himself…he did it for Nao and out of his own will.
This is proven even more by what happens near the end of the movie. The outcome of the Garden of Eden was everyone voting red, which meant that everyone won. It shows the contestants celebrating, soon after, it goes to the room Yokoya had been watching the game. Tanimura once again walks in (he was watching the game in another room with Eri). Their conversation goes like this.
*Closes up on Yokoya smiling*
Tanimura: Seems you win. *hands him check for 54 mill.* (Akiyama’s 4 mill. + the 50 mill. prize money). What about Sendou’s debt?
Yokoya: I see no reason not to pay it. A meager one million. *hands him his check* Here. *starts to walk out*
Tanimura: Tell me, why the smile? You were glad to see them all vote red.
Yokoya: I’m smiling because of the money. What about you?
Tanimura: I’m disappointed, I wanted to see Nao lose.
Yokoya: *turns his head slighty* You’re such a liar. *exits*
Tanimura: *looks at the check and smiles* Look who’s talking. *camera shows the check being 54 mill., not one mill. *
Yokoya technically gave the money back, thus, he did not gain a profit from what he did at all. Which means Tanimura was right about Yokoya’s motivation (if anything, he lost money).
Why I ‘Ship’ Them
I ship the manga versions more or less. Like I mentioned before, I would prefer not having any romance in the manga. What I really support are the J-Drama versions together, and at any point after TFS. I initially liked Akiyama x Nao, but watching the series again to prepare for the second movie made me think otherwise.
Yes I am aware of all the moments shared by Akiyama and Nao, and I am pretty sure that Nao had developed a crush on Akiyama after all they’ve been through. Akiyama on the other hand, might not reciprocate those feelings back. The reason Akiyama acts the way he does towards her (ex. Being protective, comforting, helping her, etc.) is because Nao reminds him of his deceased mom. Nao’s personality is like his mom in every way possible, it’s even stated by Yokyoa himself. As such Akiyama doesn’t want to see Nao end up like his mother, dead. I think that he cares a great deal for her, but is unable to feel the same way she feels towards him. I believe he views her more like a sister. I can see them going out for a bit, but ending up as close friends or family due to the fact that Akiyama might feel uncomfortable dating his mom’s personality (then again, one of Freud’s theories suggests that men and woman are attracted to those that remind them of their mom or dad). In the long run, I cannot see their relationship lasting too long as far as romance goes. (I'm all for Manga!Akiyama x Manga!Nao though, as long as it's after the series).
On the other hand, since Yokoya has pretty much shown a personality change ( or at least towards Nao and possibly Akiyama), I can see him eventually starting to start having feelings for Nao. Like I said in (J-Drama) Nao’s biography, she’s the epitome of trust and good-will, and has an endless capacity of compassion and empathy (just seeing Akiyama having a breakdown in season one made her shed tears as well). Above all, she is willing to forgive even the worst of people. Because of this I believe that she can (and maybe already has after figuring out that Yokoya saved Akiyama and gave them 54 mill.) put their past behind her and forgive him. They also had/have a opposites attract sort of thing going for them. Nao’s belief in the world and LG is like communism, good in theory but impossible on a large scale because of human nature. Yokoya’s beliefs were more fascist. As we all know from history, communism and fascism have always been at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both end up as totalitarianism if pushed too far, but that’s beside the point. All in all, given time, they could end up falling for each other.
I didn’t write this to try and convert anyone, I merely wrote it to give my view on a pairing I happen to like and how it could work. If you don’t like the couple, that’s completely ok with me = P.
Alas, there isn’t any fanfiction or art (at least that I know of) of Yokoya x Nao except for one picture I drew and posted on DeviantArt. If you’re interested in reading or watching Liar Game however I can offer some sites so you can do so.
Read the Manga: http://www.mangafox.com/manga/liar_game/
Watch the Live-Action: http://www.dramacrazy.net/
DeviantArt Club: http://liargame.deviantart.com/
A Neat Website: http://liargame.wordpress.com/