TV Show Reviews

Alice in Borderland – Down the Rabbit Hole

I will preface everything I’m about to say with the fact that I read, like, way too much manga… like, more than I really should given all the responsibilities I have. One of my favorite genres of manga to read is… well, I don’t actually know what to call it specifically. It involves one or more people being pulled into a series of deadly challenges. Basically, they need to survive by following a set of rules set forth by some unknown and mysterious force.

Or, you know, a cancer patient with too much time on his hands…

I usually find these manga by searching for Psychological Horror, so I guess that’s what I’ll go with. 

Imawa no Kuni no Alice is just such a manga. It’s about a group of friends who find themselves in another version of reality where overcomplicated, but absolutely deadly, games are played. 

Alice in Borderland is the live-action adaptation of that manga.

Now, after watching the live-action adaptations of Bleach, Attack on Titan, and FullMetal Alchemist, which ranged from “okay” to “please take my eyes .I don’t need them anymore” I was skeptical, to say the least. 

That being said, I basically watched the entirety of the show in two sittings, so that probably gives you an idea of how it went. But just in case, I’ll lay out some of the more pertinent information so you can make an informed decision. 

A Very Important Date

Ryouhei Arisu, or just Arisu (which sounds similar to Alice if you were to say Alice with a Japanese accent) is a nobody. He doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere, and is basically just a lay-about who plays video games all day. He has two close friends, Chouta Segawa and Daikichi Karube, who are only slightly more productive members of society than he is. The three of them have been friends forever, and are bonded by a mutual commiseration of how terrible their lives are. 

They’re planning to grow up to be these guys

One day, while celebrating Arisu’s independence (he was kicked out of his house), he and his friends cause a minor car accident and draw the attention of some nearby police officers. While they are hiding from the fuzz in a restroom stall, the power suddenly goes out. When they emerge from the stall, they find that everyone in the city has vanished. 

At first the trio are ecstatic: they no longer have to follow any rules and there is no one left to disappoint.  However, as night falls things, take a sharp turn toward crazy town.

A jumbotron-sized screen in the middle of Shibuya comes to life and informs them that they need to head to the nearest game area. Not really knowing what else to do, they follow the sign. Upon arriving at the designated location, they meet a woman who gives them a couple of warnings. 

  1. If they try to leave the game area they will die
  2. If they fail the game they will die.

This, of course, causes the trio to freak the fuck out. But stories being what they are, they end up participating in the games anyway. 

Fifty-Two Pick Up

The games in Alice in Borderland are broken up into four categories: Club, Diamond, Spade, and Heart. Each category represents a different type of challenge. Club games require teamwork (or at least cooperation); Spade games are physical in nature; Diamond games are more logic based; and Heart games… well, they’re games of betrayal. 

Seen here: the original game of betrayal. AKA – why I don’t trust my parents any more.

Adding to this already oddly-specific system of challenges is the number based difficulty. It’s very self explanatory: a three of clubs challenge is going to be far easier than a ten of clubs challenge. If you manage to survive the game, you are awarded a playing card based on the number and suite of the designated challenge.

Within the world of the show, it is posited that one could leave the mysterious borderland if they can gather at least one of every card. With that goal in mind, each player–or group of players–is trying to survive long enough to make a full deck. 

Papers Please

Now, you might be wondering, “why would anyone willingly play these games if losing means death?” Sure, if you get enough cards you could eventually go home, but why risk death for that? Well oddly enough, everyone plays the games specifically to extend their stay in the borderlands. 

You see, you only have a limited amount of time to live in the borderland before a laser from space kills you.

Time’s up

The only way to extend your lifespan (or “visa” as it’s called) is to play the games. Most of the characters in the show are only playing to stay alive. Of course, there are the odd ducks who just want to watch people die, and even those who play the games for funzies.

 Through the Looking Glass

Overall, Alice in Borderland is an extremely competent adaptation of the source material. They may have changed some of the details, but I would submit that the changes are an improvement on the manga. Now, that doesn’t mean all the changes are good–a couple actually made things a little less clear–but all in all good decisions were made. 

While it might not be for everyone (there’s a fair amount of blood and death), this live action adaptation is smart, thrilling, and always leaves you wanting more. 

I’m giving Alice in Borderland an 8 of clubs / 10 of Diamonds, mostly because I need those cards to finish my deck.

Seriously… I need them.

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