What it’s about: 100,000 people across Japan receive a mysterious package containing ¥100M ($1,000,000) and a note. The note informs them that they’re now entered into the “Liar Game Tournament” and provides the identity of one other person who received the same package. The only rule of the first round of this tournament is that, in 30 days, each person has to return their starting sum. If you can steal any cash from the other person, you can keep it. Of course, the other person will still owe ¥100M…
Why you should read it: Liar Game is a dramatised exploration of psychology and game theory. Throughout the tournament, the anonymous organisers introduce increasingly complex scenarios for the “contestants” to act out. The solutions are all discoverable if you want to think them through for yourself (though the optimal strategy is, after the first one or two, often incredibly non-obvious or counter-intuitive at first glance). Or you can just sit back and enjoy the protagonists solving it themselves. There’s days’ worth of content already published, even if you binge through the volumes non-stop.
Caveats: The art is a little bit shaky in the first volume. It takes a good long while for the protagonist to see any actual character development, since she’s more or less an audience stand-in.
Themes: Greed. Application of game theory and psychology.
Similar works: One Outs, Kaiji and Akagi are easily the closest in feel to the manga.