By Madilyn Loper
Warning: Extreme spoilers ahead
During quarantine in 2020, Squid Game became extremely popular. Social media has played a large part in advertisement, getting spread through Tik Tok and Youtube challenges. The plot was pretty simple: win the game or you die. One year before Squid Game was released, on December 10, 2020, Alice in Borderland premiered. The main concept is roughly the same: win the game or die -- except there’s no known enemy throughout the first season. There’s no kidnappers with guns or large room the characters are trapped in; instead it’s quite the opposite -- there is no one there.
Alice in Borderland is based on the manga written by Haro Aso, and the show is produced by Akira Mori. It follows a main character named Arisu (played by Kento Yamazaki) and his two friends Karube and Chota. They’re all down on their luck, either kicked out of their houses, fired from their jobs, or out of money. After causing a minor car crash, they run into a bathroom stall in the subway to hide from police. The lights flicker and everything goes silent. Confused, they open the door and go outside to find themselves trapped in an abandoned Tokyo, where they are forced to compete in dangerous games, the type and difficulty determined by playing cards. With each game, they earn a “visa” that numbers the days they have left to live; the more games they compete in, the more days they are awarded. Arisu quickly adapts to the games, but when put in a game where only one person can survive, his friends sacrificed themselves for him, leaving him mortified and depressed.
He finds a new ally named Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) and they quickly are taken into an organization called “The Beach.” Despite the laid-back energy, there is an underlying hierarchy where “traitors’’ are put to death. One of the antagonists, Niragi (Dori Sakurada), is part of a group called the militants. They enforce the rules and carry out executions, but he is actually crazy. He devises a plan to overthrow the beach, and in the season finale, he is given his chance. While multiple people die, the creator of the game is revealed: her name is Mira and she was one of the higher-ups at The Beach.
The show is a sci-fi thriller and deals with serious topics such as murder, assault, suicide, and severe psychological trauma. The show was produced very well, and despite most of the actors’ history of acting being in romance, their performances were very convincing. Dori Sakurada’s role as Niragi was very surprising, since he acts in shows such as Coffee and Vanilla and Good Morning Call -- both of which are romance, and the characters he plays are nothing like Niragi, an insane, violent militant. Kento Yamazaki’s role as Arisu is as good as we’d expect from someone who is referenced to left and right in Japanese media -- amazing.
Overall, the storyline is entertaining and well-thought-out. Every episode is around 50 minutes long, so there is a lot of action packed into them. There is hardly ever a dull moment, and it is filled with plot twists. The season concluded with a cliffhanger, so many fans are awaiting the release of Season 2-which dropped December 22nd, 2022. It’s definitely a show worth watching.