The three bad guys. Top, the Japanese TV original.
Middle, The Genius version. Bottom, the Korean drama version.
So I watched the first two episodes, and it was interesting to see what had changed. Clearly, since The Genius took the faceless leader, emotionless dealers, and techno soundtrack from the Japanese Liar Game, the Korean version had to rethink things a bit.
This time, the battle of wits does not happen in a strange industrial wasteland but is played out as part of a reality TV show. Also, the bad guy is not hidden behind a mask behind a TV screen, but is a real person who interacts with the other players.
In that sense, at least, I think it’s an improvement. And with each episode of the Korean version being almost half as long as the Japanese one, there’s more time to explain the games and explore the consequences. It also explains more about the lives of the people involved, which is nice.
In another sense, though, this is much like a lot of other Korean TV dramas. A ditzy but good-natured woman falls in love with a cold, distant man. Strings play in the background, people throw things when they argue, and there are hardly any crash zooms like there were in the Japanese original (every five minutes, as I recall).
It’s too soon how things will progress, and it’ll be interesting to see how they fill up 20 or so hour-long episodes. I assume they’ll be using games from the manga which weren’t in the Japanese drama, or maybe they’ll remake series one and two together. Otherwise, it's going to be awfully slow. [EDIT: Actually, it looks like there'll be only half that. That's a bit of a relief.]
The Japanese version was one of the first J-dramas I watched and it was an early favourite. But, on balance, I think the Korean version might actually be slightly better. At least for the first two episodes.