Alice in Borderland
Genre fantasy, action
Created by Shinsuke Sato
Cast: Kento Yamazaki (Ryohei Arisu), Tao Tsuchiya (Yuzuha Usagi), Yuki Morinaga (Chota Segawa), Keita Machida (Daikichi Karube), Nijiro Murakami (Shuntaro Tishiya), Sho Aoyagi (Morizono Aguni), Nobuaki Kaneko (Boshiya Hatter) and etc.
Release year 2020
Stories about powerful forces, be it gods, aliens or omnipotent corporations, interfering in the lives of ordinary mortals, transferring them to another world or another place, and putting them in extreme conditions in which they must show their best qualities, are far from new. It is on this plot that most of the epics of the peoples of the world are built, and if we talk about examples closer to our time, then we can recall at least Philip Farmer’s World of the River, at least the Strugatsky brothers’ Doomed City, at least the recent not very successful film trilogy The Maze Runner. The manga Alice in Borderland and its serial adaptation have a similar plot.
Three young friends – a loser gamer who does not want to study or look for a job; a bartender who lost his job due to an affair with an employee; and a petty office clerk, suffering because of a mother who has gone into some strange sect – running away from the police, they hide in a toilet cubicle at Shibuya station, and when they leave it, they find themselves in Tokyo, in which almost all the inhabitants have disappeared. Some powerful force either removed all the Tokyo residents, or transferred only a small part of them to a parallel reality, where they must take part in deadly games in order to survive. If you refuse to play, you will die very quickly. Agree – most likely you will also die, but after a while.
The games are constantly changing, their difficulty and themes are indicated by playing cards that survivors receive, along with additional days of life, upon completion of the challenges. The most terrible games are with “worms”, in which invisible organizers play with the “hearts” of their victims, forcing them to oppose their own friends and commit unimaginable cruelties and meanness. Our friends are forced to take part in the games, and at the same time they are trying to figure out who is behind all these inhuman fun and how to stop them. In the end, they learn that somewhere in the Tokyo area there is a “Beach” community, whose members may know the answers to some of the questions.
Filming of Alice in Borderland was directed by Japanese director Shinsuke Sato, who ate a dog just in the live screenings of the manga. He made a film based on the zombie manga I Am a Hero, the Japanese version of Death Note: Light Up the New World, Bleach fantasy, films Inuyashiki and Kingdom, and is currently working on Kingdom 2. Interestingly, Sato is also involved in the gaming industry, he helped design Tekken 4 characters and was involved in Red Ninja: End of Honor.
By and large, Alice in Borderland is a mix of Saw, Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale. No, not games, but the 2000 film that gave life and name to the gaming genre. And, as in the original Battle Royale, don’t rush to get attached to the characters, the mortality rate in the series is not lower than in any Game of Thrones. However, some of the characters will live to see the finale of the first season, which, unfortunately, is a bit predictable. Did anyone think that getting to the exit would be so easy?
Perhaps one of the most impressive things in Alice in Borderland is not even cruel puzzles that the main characters must “solve” at the cost of others and their lives, but completely empty Tokyo, in which the series takes place. Incredibly, the authors managed to temporarily remove all passers-by from one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world – the diagonal Shibuya Crossing. Not without green screens and CGI, but it looks really cool. Yes, we are well aware that many shots of the series were filmed in the early morning or not at all in Tokyo (part of the filming locations were in Yokohama and Kobo), but still, the empty capital of Japan just blows your mind.
As for other special effects, the budget of Alice in Borderland, of course, cannot be compared with the budgets of Marvel films, so here, as they say, it is empty, but clean. Wild animals appearing in several frames, of course, spoil the overall picture, but not too much.
Despite the general simplicity of the idea, the predictability of the finale and some increased emotionality of the characters, typical for Asian series, Alice in Borderland looks very good. The series, of course, falls short of the original Battle Royale, but in general, this is really the best adaptation of a manga with live actors to date. In late 2020, Netflix renewed the series for a second season.
Probably the first live-action manga adaptation I’ve ever seen that’s really fun to watch.