Alice in Borderland

Netflix has been putting more effort into making their own original content in countries outside of the US, and Japan is no exception. This effort has lead to some mixed results, with some major successes and some stinkers (Japan Sinks 2020 says hello, check out my review on that). Alice in Borderland is more the former than the latter, although it’s not without fault.

The series revolves around Arisu, an avid gamer and a bit of a loser, who gets transported to an alternative Tokyo where people must play sadistic games to survive another day. Arisu’s experience with video games will help him and his friends overcome the challenges ahead.

The premise is not particularly new and has been done before in movies like Saw or Battle Royale, though the plot is interesting enough to keep you going, and you can watch the eight episodes of season one in a few days. The series is based on the eponymous manga, itself loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland — hence the title.

As you might have been able to tell, Arisu plays the role of Alice. There are several other characters with names similar to those found in the Lewis Carroll book: Usagi is the white rabbit, Chishiya is Chesire Cat, and so on. The parallels between the old and the new characters seem to stop there, though. By the end of the season I was fully expecting Kuina to be the queen (i.e. the mastermind behind the game), but this doesn’t seem to be the case. This is probably for the best though, as the names would then become major plot spoilers.

Aside the wacky premise, the series starts out fairly grounded, with a group of friends that are as confused by the events that transpire as the audience. By the middle of the first season, though, it becomes clear that it is pure, unadulterated Japanese anime levels of crazy, with its flashbacks, melodrama, overacting, overly long exposition, and oddly dressed and behaved characters.

Strangely, what at first seems to be the series’ main cast quickly disappears in favor of new a new one, and Arisu’s knack for games doesn’t come into play that much. The series moves along at a pretty brisk pace, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish there was more time to develop some of the early characters. Some of the plot points are absolutely nonsensical though, and had me scratching my head. The solution to a couple of the games was also so obvious that it had me yelling at the screen, including the very last one.

The series is fairly short, and once you realize that you’re here for the wackiness and not the plot, you’ll likely enjoy its breezy pace and cartoony characters. Netflix has confirmed there’s a second season coming, but until then I do recommend you give this series a try if you’re in for some light-hearted, gory fun with anime melodrama peppered in.

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” “, by all means contact me about anything!



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