Another one from Netflix’s international productions, Alice in Borderland, is an adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name and throws viewers into a world of deadly consequences. The show is visually striking and is fortunate to have a compelling lead in Kento Yamazaki, but sometimes relies too heavily on the action and not enough on the characters. Nevertheless, Alice in Borderland is a recommended watch, one that will guarantee to hook you from the start.
What’s It About?
Our lead, Arisu, is a man that shows little interest in anything beyond games and running amuck with his childhood friends, Karube and Chota. Though, despite his lazy, unmotivated tendencies, he has a sharp mind for strategy and problem-solving. When Arisu, Karube, and Chota find themselves hiding from the police, the world they return to is far from their mundane life. In its place is a deserted Tokyo, and a series of deadly games sees these friends fighting for the chance at another day of life. Friendships will be tested, and sacrifices are made, and the more they play, the closer they get to unravelling the truth behind this deadly game.
A Game of Strategy and Chance
What Alice In Borderland does so well is ramp up the tension at every turn. The games are a combination of strategy and chance, and the uncertainty of success and unpredictability of these games will have you at the edge of your seats. Arisu proves to be a valuable asset with his quick thinking but is weighed by the emotional and mental toll of the games. Karube’s physical presence and Chota’s soft heart are the perfect balance to Arisu’s intelligence. However, as much as these games are about strategy, they’re also about finding that sheer will to survive, no matter the cost. No one is safe, and the unpredictability surrounding the nature of the games and the mechanisms of this new world is intriguing and addictive.
A Game of Hearts
These games are not just a test of will but also forces our characters into situations that test the bonds of the heart. With the stakes rising and characters desperate to return to the life they knew, we see them confront their buried regrets and their hopes. To survive this deadly game, they need to show a willingness to do whatever it takes. The devastating consequences of such will expose the cracks beneath the surface of Arisu, Karube, and Chota’s friendship, but also a moving understanding of the unity between three guys that the world so often ignored. It’s this friendship that carries the heart of the show, giving strength to Arisu as he’s further entangled in this game of hearts.
However, it’s not just Arisu and company that are caught in this tangled web. Throughout the series, we meet characters that openly manipulate players for their benefit, relishing in the violence, the glory, and freedom from the confines of their world. It’s fascinating to see how desperation leads to betrayal. It will be interesting to see which path characters like Usagi and Chishiya take, but if there’s one thing to be sure of, you can’t trust anyone.
Room for Improvement
Alice in Borderland was, overall, a highly entertaining first season, but there’s still room for improvement. The third episode was the most emotionally investing of the season because it had those layers of depth that seems to be missing from the rest of the season. Throughout the season, viewers are privy to small moments of insight from characters that would become key players, but not enough to build that solid foundation and history that makes the friendship between Arisu, Karube, and Chota so compelling.
With a second season already given the go-ahead, Alice in Borderland promises to up the stakes at every turn, and, hopefully, we can take the time to explore the intimate moments that gives weight to the choices made by Arisu and company.
The final episode sheds some light on those working behind the scenes of these games. However, there are still many questions lingering about the identity and motivation of those in charge. There’s also the question of where the rest of the population disappeared too? Hopefully, they’ll explore these elements next season and treat us to an insight into the characters.