In this day and age, where internet censorship is prevalent, one show decided it can go past the turbulent walls of social justice and give us a show that likes to relish in the violence, inhumanity and the totality of it all. Such a series that when I was done watching it, I wanted to know more.
Alice In Borderlands is based on a popular manga by Haro Aso. The series is a psychological thriller, but mostly plays as a suspense thriller with deeply rooted psychological themes and subplots. As you dwelve further into the narrative, it opens up with a lot of revelations about how cryptic life can be at times and not even god can help you figure it out. You have to do whatever you have in you to survive.
While it retains main story aspects, this is a modernization of the 2010 Manga. Instead of the main character just being a Joe who got bored. He is shown to be a genius and obsessed with video games, often some that revolve around difficult puzzles or requires you to be precise with analog skills.
Plot Synopsis And Critique
The story begins in Tokyo, where we see 3 people, Arisu, Chota, and Daikichi. Close friends from childhood, meet up. They are bored with life, and often what else they should do with their miserable lives. At one point they started jerking around and having fun on the streets while being a nuisance in public. Before they quickly tried to evade the police by hiding in the public latrine. But later, the lights go off, all the noise dies. Soon as they come out, they see the streets empty, everybody gone. Except them.
Right after that, a few days go by and then they see a flashing light on the sky. They have no idea what it alluded to, but soon as they entered the building, they saw a woman coming towards them. Explaining to them that this is a game of life and death. That once you've entered, you cannot leave or you'll be killed for forfeiting. And thus, conflict ensues.
While I did like how they managed to summarize most of the story from this series around in 8 episodes. Of which each is about 43-50 minutes long, I have quite spotted a few numerous issues. First, I assumed that the series might have fasttracked itself and skipped a few important story beats when it came to dealing with character deaths. But I've later realized how well condensed the first few episodes are, showing their backgrounds and how they knew each other, and such.
I was disappointed to see that the successful way of doing this was not repeated when it came to another character's death in latter half of the series. In fact, that particular character's death left open many plotholes and pretty much left the me at unease, feeling as if whatever's fed to anyone will work itself out. So to fill in the blanks, it used the whole exposition thing to explain so many stuff and that kind of ruined the momentum a bit.
At first, it seemed like a like that required a person to have good reflexes, environmental awareness, intelligence and knowledge of basic high school science. But it goes a heck of a lot further than that. The game's intention was never to be fair, people who even tries playing it right will still die. If you have an angel on your shoulder or you count your blessings well enough to save yourselves, you'll do a better job of surviving. But even then, you can't accomplish everything having people around. Especially friends.
The game in it's entirely is made based on pure spectacle and I guess, bloodlust. The emptied out world of Tokyo is basically a giant collossium for survival of the fittest. Or it's the gamemasters playing god and dictate whatever goes and comes.
There are no fair shakes to the game, everything that is set up by the gamemasters as to create a spectacle out of lambs for slaughters. Meanwhile, the worst kinds out there, people who'll die whatever it takes to survive refusing to follow any moral code or ones who savor the chaotic environment to embrace their inner demons.
Sometimes in order to survive, people at the top of the food chain have to bring order and stability, so that they could lead the rest. But the gamemasters even have the power to break that, and bring anarchy upon an established order just to suit them and the games they create.
Here in between all the calamities, come Arisu. With his brilliant deductions, and power of plot armor and deus ex machinas (around when they need it the most), Arisu comes to realize how really serious the game is when he goes through a tragic and traumatic that shapes him to become somewhat of a savior in the entire game. While people are figuring out how to survive and rule over others, Arisu is trying to piece clues and puzzles to find out who the gamemasters are and what they want. Despite the tragic turnout, he finds solace and hope with Usaki. As her and Arisu both find the humanity and strength within them that most people have lost or given up.
Make no mistake assuming this show can stay consistent with its violence and tone all of the time, it can go really overboard and will shock you for the disaster that will occur later on in the series. And that's how brilliant Alice In Borderlands is, the premise is a playground where anybody could die in any random circumstances and despite this game having rules, it's how much deception is involved that plays a lot with expectations.
Wrapping This Up
I really did like this show, it was enjoyable as a suspense thriller and a well written TV series. Netflix did a good job, not just following the manga 1:1 entirely, but putting a more modern touch to it and breathing a better sense of realism. The main character and maybe a few others had to be changed for the sake of the modern adaptation.
A season 2 was teased at the end, and the showrunners later confirmed that season 2 has entered production, although with no official date announced. Much of what was expanded about the game and the masters behind it will be explored further in the next season. Honestly, I can't wait.