You’d think that Psychological game manga would be a very niche area, but there is a multitude of manga centred around characters literally ‘playing for their lives’. For whatever reason I’ve really taken to ‘survival of the fittest’ style manga, and so below I’ve listed out my top 5 (in no particular order) favourite psychological game manga. Let me know what you think of them – or if you have any suggestions 🙂
Doubt (completed) – Yoshiki Tonogai
This series was actually one of the first manga series I ever read when I was in High School, so I might be a tad bias when reviewing it – it’s just so nostalgic!
The series focuses around a mobile game called ‘Rabbit Doubt’ where participants must find the wolf amongst them, before they are all devoured. 5 participants of the game ( plus 1 random friend) meet up in real life – it is then that they are transported to an abandoned warehouse and have to work out who the wolf is among them – before they suffer the same fate as the rabbits in their game.
Reading this series a second time around I actually really enjoyed it despite knowing all the twists and turns. Like most of the manga series that I’ve listed, there’s not much time for character development: which is a real shame, but what it misses in that area, it more than makes up for in the story’s tension and twists. I think this series is a great introduction to this seemingly niche genre of manga.
Liar Game (completed) – Shinobu Kaitani
I was first introduced to Liar Game via the Japanese Drama of it – I became absolutely hooked and once it ended, knew I had to seek out the manga to continue the story.
Meet Kanzaki Nao, the walking definition of naivety. One day she receives a package containing 100 million yen and an invitation to the Liar Game Tournament – to win the game she must make sure that none of her money is stolen, and if she wants, can steal the money of the other participants. This event leads Nao to spiral into a nefarious game of lies and tricks as she tries to remain true to herself and those around her. With the help of Akiyama Shinichi, a master con man, she aims to help other participants in the Liar Game and ultimately free everyone.
Out of all the manga that I’ve listed I’ve found the games in this one to be the most thought-provoking. You never know how Kanzaki and Akiyama are going to succeed – let alone IF they are going to. The comic also provided an interesting look at how people may react when pushed into a conner, the little tidbits of psychology scattered throughout were definitely interesting to read. Probably my own criticism is that the character of Kanzaki sometimes was frustratingly naive – but the dynamic between the honest Kanzaki and the reformed con man Akiyama was certainly an interesting one.
Overall this is definitely one to read
Life is Money (completed) – Asanniji Teru
To win part of 50 million yen all you have to do is survive in a prison for 10 days with 10 other people – sounds easy enough right?
Fukurokouji Meguru desperate to get the money for his younger sister’s heart transplant joins this insane game. The aim of the game is ‘survival’ – while physical acts of violence are not allowed, psychological pressure which can cause an ‘over’ (death) definitely is. At the beginning of each day a die is roll – which can deprive the roller of one of their five senses, this combined with the psychological warfare waged amongst contestants all adds to the pressure – who can make it through the 10 days?
What really drew me to this series was the concept: it was so unique and interesting. Survival relied not only on luck but also your own ability to control your emotions. The art style originally appeared to be quite stereotypical but later it became…psychedelic to say the least. One of my main problems with this series is that it started off with so much potential but towards the end it was so rushed – we didn’t get a chance to flesh out the characters and really understand them, which was a real shame. I mainly like this series because the concept it so interesting, but it is frustrating that it didn’t meet its full potential.
Kami-sama no Iutoori (completed) – Fujimura Akeji
It’s a normal day at school for Takahata Shun, that is until his homeroom teacher’s head explodes and he and his classmates are forced into a game of Daruma ga Koronda (kind of like red light/green light). Takahata and other students must then literally ‘play for their lives’ as they go through a number of childhood games with a dangerous twist.
Whenever I talk about this series with friends I always refer to it as the ‘Game of Thrones’ of manga, as characters are introduced only to be brutally killed in the next panel. It’s a series that keeps you on your toes, you never know what will happen next. I really enjoyed this series – I found all the characters really likeable – and I learnt a lot about childhood games and Japanese culture through it. My main concern for the series is that the protagonist and anti-hero in the sequel, Kami-sama no Iutoori ni (which is ongoing), have literally the exact same characterisation as that of the ones in this original series. The main character is one that everyone relies on and ‘wants to save everyone’ and the anti-hero is obsessed with the hero and has super-human abilities. It would’ve been nice if the sequel had given the characters a different dimension rather than just copying them straight off.
Real Account (ongoing) – Watanabe Shizumu
‘Real Account’ is your one stop virtual account for all your social networking platforms that has taken Japan by storm. You can message and connect with followers, post photos and videos and now it holds your life in its hands. Thousands of individuals with a large follower base are transported into a separate dimension, and must survive a number of games with a twist. There’s just a couple of rules:
- If you die your followers die
- If you’re follower count drops to 0 you die
- Your followers can unfollow you at any time
This is one of the ‘newer’ manga series in my top 5 – it started in 2014 – and it’s definitely one of the more sophisticated. I really enjoyed it as a critique on the superficiality of social media forums. The characters are kinda of mediocre – but compared to the other couple of series which see literally no character development – I guess there’s not much to complain about. The art style is pretty standard as well – as mentioned before, what really makes this series stand out is the way it conceptualises social media and the idea of what true friendships are. One thing to consider when reading it is that it does split off into another story line which can throw people off.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my top 5 – let me know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions – I’m always keen to get started on another series.