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The Summer 2023 Anime Preview Guide
Liar Liar

How would you rate episode 1 of
Liar Liar ?
Community score: 3.2

How would you rate episode 2 of
Liar Liar ?
Community score: 3.4

What is this?


The Academy: a school the size of an island where students compete for ranks. Not only did Hiroto Shinohara pass the most rigorous exam in the country with top marks to transfer there, but he defeated last year's reigning champ on his very first day, catapulting him to the highest rank in record time. Except…he didn't. The truth is, he screwed up big time, and now he must maintain his position at the Academy no matter what. It's a liar's world, after all!

Liar Liar is based on Haruki Kuō's Liar, Liar light novel series. It streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

This is a weird one, folks. The script and animation are full of internal inconsistencies, and I am genuinely unsure if they're intentional or not. Characters will contradict themselves multiple times in the space of five minutes. Our potato-kun of the moment, Hiroto Shinohara, ended up pulled into a staring contest game where he was supposed to lose if he visibly emoted—and then proceeded to make goofy shocked expressions. Was that intentional foreshadowing for the game being rigged? Or bad writing? I feel like if someone had held up a blue pen and called it black, I couldn't say for certain whether it was on purpose or an animation error.

Part of this comes, no doubt, from the lackluster direction. I feel like with a more assured hand could set a tone using visual and musical elements to draw attention to these inconsistencies and create a sense of foreboding and ambiguity—or a sinister, untrustworthy atmosphere. Something—anything—more than making us pause and go, “Wait, didn't she just say the issue was something different?” “You can separate your emotions from your facial expressions,” one character tells the man who has worn a perplexed expression from the moment he set foot on the island. It's messy in a way that could be nth-dimensional chess—or could be old-fashioned incompetent writing. The standards for these light novel adaptations are low, so I really have no faith in their intentionality.

Plus, I don't really care to stick around long enough to find out. Hiroto is a true dumbass of the highest order, declining to do the tutorial for the app will literally rule his life. Sarasa must be a true morosexual, because the moment he tells her he has no idea what she's doing she begins flirting with him outrageously. She may, in fact, be the world's first deretsundere, because she turns pretty quickly the moment there's the slightest cause to jump to suspicion. Stories where characters are trying to outwit one another hinge pretty strongly on a likable, or at least interesting cast; otherwise we're just watching stupid assholes pretend to be smarter than one another—and if I wanted to do that I'd just go read slapfights between Twitter Blue subscribers. The world feels purposely mean-spirited as well. What is the purpose of Academy Island? What is being gained by sticking these teenagers in a school where everything is gamified via smartphone-powered augmented reality? Will the results be worth the social-emotional toll of making these children live in a state of constant paranoia at a sensitive age? How long does it take to do up all the buttons holding the panels on the female uniform in place? Are Hiroto and “Sarasa” supposed to be dumb assholes or is the real dumb asshole the writer?

Or maybe the true dumb asshole here is me for trying to make sense of things. The only winning move here is to frantically hit the back button before the second episode starts playing and then never speak of Liar Liar again.

Rebecca Silverman

There's a line in the old Dragon Half anime that calls something a “stunning sequence of stupidity.” That pretty much sums up the events of Hiroto's new life on Academy Island. No sooner has he decided to “skip the tutorial” than he asks the wrong girl for help, gets sucked into one of the weird games students are expected to engage in, and finds himself spinning an intricate (yet dumb) web of lies alongside said girl, who naturally isn't who he thought she was. It's all amazingly contrived while desperately trying to be funny or at least entertaining. Unfortunately, that whiff of desperation works against it in that department.

Liar Liar is a story you may want to leave your brain at the door for. That's not necessarily bad, but it doesn't do much to distinguish it from the myriad of magic school – or at least academic autonomous island – anime that came before it. Hiroto is there looking for a mysterious someone, students are more invested in games than academics, and thus far, there isn't a single female character with more than one defining trait. Okay, I'm being unfair with that one because Sarasa's admission at the tail end of the episode implies that there's more going on with her and that a lot of her desperation comes from one very specific source. But the textbook semi-evil headmistress and the blank-faced maid still didn't do this many favors.

The glimmer in the darkness is that the episode seems tangentially aware that it's at least a little ridiculous. While that doesn't entirely work in its favor here, it could further down the line. Both Sarasa and Hiroto are pawns in someone else's game, and given the emphasis on games, that could be important or at least interesting. And it would be a relief that a story where “super hard turn-based staring contest” is a viable game option might know better than to take itself too seriously, even if some of the other moments, like Sarasa freaking out over her wet clothes being seen by others, are a bit too much.

I can't quite get a read on this episode. The source light novels began publication in 2019, but the plot feels much older than that, at least in pop culture terms; it's reminiscent of titles from 2012 right down to the character designs and colors. It seems torn between sticking with the tried and true and maybe lampooning it, and the result is an episode that doesn't commit to either and feels unbalanced. But it also feels like we've seen this before, which is either very good or very bad news, depending on your fondness for the genre.

Nicholas Dupree

There's something to be said for a good, solid comedic premise. While the execution for this premiere is on shaky legs, the elevator pitch is fantastic. Take an average guy with no special skills or intellect, and make it so he has to bluff his way through a gauntlet of challenges on Anime Villain Island, armed only with the dumbest of luck and an inconvenient poker face. So instead of Yumeko Jabami systematically taking down the gambling school/island's elites, Mr. Bean bluff-checks his way to the top of the mountain. Brilliant, start printing it immediately!

This premiere can carry that energy through about half its runtime and, during that time, is at least reasonably funny, though not nearly as ridiculous as it could be. It's genuinely fun watching Hiroto fail upwards as random chance and misunderstandings cause his enemy to hoist herself with her own petard. As a proof of concept, it's a solid start and establishes our everyman protagonist as lost among the hyper-competitive weirdos of the island. I even laughed at the dumb-as-rocks bit where Sarasa's blouse gets soaked through and showed her underwear, mainly because it's only possible thanks to her stupidly designed uniform blazer having a boob window. It was brainless and cheap but energetic enough to make the trashy delivery and funny premise work.

After that, the energy stalls pretty hard. The headmistress of the academy explaining the whole situation to Hiroto goes on way too long, getting bogged down in their back-and-forth while reiterating points that were funnier the first time. It drags things down, and we only recover once it turns out Sarasa had her big lie going that she unwittingly reveals to our hero, realizing just how hard she's played herself. That's a good punchline to end the premiere, but it's a shame it had to follow such a significant drop in energy.

The animation and designs are also pretty bland. You could stick any of these kids in Classroom of the Elite or any of those other light novel series about special high schools, and they would look like secondary villains at best. The comedic timing is solid, but with the show already starting on shaky ground and Geektoys' history of underwhelming-at-best productions, it's clear that this show will start looking extra rough sooner rather than later. That gives me further reason to doubt this show can deliver on its premise, but fittingly enough, it's also stumbled into a very weak season and may manage to stick around despite itself.

Richard Eisenbeis

Okay. I admit it. That cold opening and subsequent explanation of the island got me. For a moment there, I thought we had entered into the most blatant ripoff of Classroom of the Elite imaginable—and I was not even slightly excited. But then came the first big twist. Hiroto isn't some guy in the 99th percentile; he is (by his estimation) way down in the 10th. His win against Sarasa and subsequent climb to the top of the island hierarchy is a mixture of dumb luck and an attempt to escape the consequences of his victory.

Yet, even better than the first twist is the second one—that he never needed to pretend to be a Seven Star in the first place. Setting himself up as the top dog of the school was done not to upset Sarasa's grandfather—to make it seem like she lost to a genius rather than a nobody. However, since the Sarasa we meet is just a body double, it seems like her “grandfather” wouldn't care about the loss. Unfortunately, Hiroto is in too deep to quit now. At least he has “Sarasa” as a confidant and partner in crime. After all, the only way to survive on the island is to keep and protect each other's secrets.

Another fun touch is that, while Hiroto may think he has no special skills, he does have one—perhaps the most overpowered skill possible on an island where games are everything: the ultimate poker face. The opening scene and the hard-mode staring contest are meant to show us this. Regardless of his situation and thoughts going through his head, he can keep his genuine emotions hidden.

Of course, this also leads to the glaring problem of the episode: the staring contest scene itself. The story and dialogue act as if he is showing no outward emotion in this scene—after all if he did, he would lose. However, the animation shows various reactions—including a giant, dumbfounded expression on his face when “Sarasa” is hit by the sprinklers a second time. This is a huge, not to mention confusing directorial error.

Despite this, I enjoyed this episode far more than I expected. I love the idea of a normal guy in a school of geniuses trying to succeed through bluff and bluster alone. A series like this could be a crazy ride if done right. I don't know if this show will work in the long run, but I will give it another episode or two.

James Beckett

You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Liar Liar is, in fact, not an adaptation of the classic late-90s Jim Carrey comedy about a rascally deadbeat lawyer who is magically inhibited from lying thanks to his son's birthday wish. Instead, it's another one of those shows about preposterous “elite" schools where students have to do battle using silly, technologically enhanced versions of familiar schoolyard games, such as staring contests, so they can earn points and move their way up the rankings of their society's labyrinthine hierarchical leaderboards for…reasons. Then again, it's also not another dreadful adaptation of an isekai light novel. I guess I ought to count my blessings.

There is nothing offensively terrible about Liar Liar in this premiere episode; it just isn't very good, either. The direction tries to spice things up with some odd camera angles and visual filters, but it isn't enough to hide the fact that all of the dialogue being exchanged in these scenes consists primarily of lazy exposition and other world-building jargon that doesn't mean much of anything since we don't give a damn about the characters or story, yet. It's a problem that many of these gimmicky, game-based anime suffer from, and sadly, Liar Liar doesn't do anything to make itself stand out from the crowd.

Granted, there is the faintest spark of potential to be found in the final moments of the episode, where we learn that the feisty redhead Sarasa is harboring a secret that puts her in just as precarious a position as hero-guy Hiroto, but it is too little, too late. Liar Liar is far from the worst thing I've had to watch this summer, but I'll doubtless forget about its existence entirely once I move on to the next premiere that this season has to throw at us.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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