Konnichiwa! Lune Station passengers. Today’s train will go to Japanese lands in a completely alternative universe.
Have you ever heard of “Alice in Borderland“ or “Imawa no Kuni no Arisu”?
Not yet? Well, the train will take me, Sel, and you to this incredible journey today!
I had a completely different post programmed for this week, but I ended up watching to this new series Netflix released and felt an urge to make a review about it, taking in account that saturday we had the review about the Game Awards that Art did so thoughtfully: I’ll leave it here in case you haven’t read it yet – link here.
Alice in Borderland – About the Series
Alice in Borderland ( Imawa no Kuni no Arisu ) is a japanese thriller manga, written and illustrated by Haro Aso. It was serialized on the magazine Shogakukan’s Shōnen Sunday S from November 2010 until March 2015 and later transferred to Weekly Shōnen Sunday in April 2015 being concluded in March 2016.
Alice in Borderland was adapted to an original video animation (OVA: those are movies and series in Japan made specially for domestic video release without prior exhibitions on TV or cinema, although the first part of an OVA might be transmitted for promotional ends) in 2014.
A live-action series was produced by Netflix, directed by Shinsuke Satō, and released in December 2020 – and it’s exactly this crazy story we’re going to talk about.
The plot starts with Arisu, Karube and Chōta, a trio of unoccupied guys, but strongly united by friendship. They are friends since high school and bored with their current lives: Arisu – at least on the live-action – is an unemployed gamer that dropped out of college and with a family with good conditions, on which his brother boasts for having a job and a life of his own, just like his father – who, after Arisu’s mother died, has good eyes only for his eldest son.
I know that in the series, Arisu leaves home on a hot day in Tokyo and celebrates with his friends the day of his “independence”, causing a small turmoil, seeing right after fireworks in the sky. With the turmoil, they run to the Shibuya train station bathroom and right after, the lights go out.
Without a plausible explanation, the trio (Arisu, Karube and Chōta) find themselves in a weird and empty Tokyo. They were transported to a parallel world, or maybe a rift in time that took them to a completely different Tokyo where there wasn’t people nor energy.
Apparently, a post apocalyptic Tokyo where people need to participate in dangerous games to survive. The only sources of energy, up until then, would be from the big screens that indicate the game arenas, the very own arenas and the cell phones indicated on them for each player.
All of this is only explained after they get into a building designated as one of the arenas, on which they find a woman that says they “already entered the game” on the moment they crossed the laser barrier – which stops them from leaving without being killed before finishing the game. After finishing it, she reveals that, in Borderland, they must continue the games in order to obtain “visas” and survive that world somehow.
Stories like the ones from Arisu, Usagi, the Hatter, Aguni, among other characters, makes us very curious with how the plot will unravel and leave us with big question marks with each of its characters – after all, you never know who to trust.
(Trust Usagi, she is one hell of a woman that puts everyone who menaces her to run, a wonderful protagonist! I had to say that)
(And Artemis note while she edits this post: Karube is a wonderful being, king of common sense at the start of it all. He deserves love, that’s it)
The cast is composed by well known names from Japanese cinema, like:
- Kento Yamazaki – Who interprets Arisu, is known for his characters on the live action series of Death Note like L and mainly as Kakeru in Orange;
- Tao Tsuchiya – Who interprets Usagi, also known for her main character, Naho, alongside Kento in Orange and many other movies and dramas – including on her list her participation on the MV Alive by singer Sia. Because of a great attention to the video Sia released specially on Japan, Alive got first place on Billboard Japan Hot 100 in March 2016;
- Ayame Misaki – Who interprets Saori Shibuki, has a long list, once her career started in 2005 – she began with magazine covers, debuting in 2006 on her first TV series;
- Dori Sakurada – Who interprets Niragi, is mostly known for his role in Ryōma Echizen of the third generation Seigaku on the musicals of The Prince of Tennis, also known for his characters in Good Morning Call and Orange – yes, many actors from Orange on the same cast;
- Nijiro Murakami – Who interprets Chishiya, has a more recent career thatn the others, but also very recognized – apart from having equally talented parents in the field – and has many awards that recognized him for his talent on acting – including his narration on Isle of Dogs (2018), a North American movie by Wes Anderson;
- Keita Machida – Who interprets Karube, started out as an actor in 2011, but before that he was a dancer, being selected as a candidate to being a member of GENERATIONS – but, on the same year, he suffered an injury on his right leg and had to pause his career to get better. In February, he left GENERATIONS and got back to Gekidan EXILE to concentrate on his acting career;
- Tsuyoshi Abe – Who interprets Kuzuryū, became very popular for his role as Mimasaka Akira on the live action Hana Yori Dango – my favourite version of this Dorama!
Without spoilers about it, the series has 1 season which was released now, on December 10, with 8 chapters of, roughly, 40/50 minutes each.
I simply saw it all in just one day – it wasn’t tiring: honestly, I couldn’t stop watching it because it got me hooked on the plot.
Each episode takes you to different points on the story, showing not only the games, but also revealing little by little the mistery of what happened to the people or why they ended up there – besides each character story, showing also how there were characters disturbed with their prior reality and that adopted a new personality on the new reality, like the last boss of the militia you’ll get to know by watching the series.
A little bizarre to say that, but we are going through something quite “similar” – once that this year, was a quarentine year and a new “normality” also was settled.
Besides that, seeing other reviews and critiques, many said that yes: the series takes into consideration the theme of the anime, that all characters are well produced by their actors, including also the ambience – I’m still asking myself how they did the scenes of an empty Tokyo – among other characteristics. But, of course, this is up to the one watching it.
The open and suggestive ending takes us to a future second season! – NETFLIX PLEASE RENEW IT! Don’t let me down!
The coolest part during the series is that it intrigues you also with the choices of names and characteristics. The manga/anime and the series are basically a rereading of Alice in Wonderland.
With Arisu as main character (when you speak his name slowly it takes you to the name Alice) and Usagi as the white rabbit character, apart from the ones that already show similarities with the characters in name and personalities – Like the Hatter or even the cards that arise during the games and are very important.
(A special focus on the hearts cards, being those the most treacherous, manipulative and mortal – does that remind you of something in Alice in Wonderland? If you reminded of the Queen of Cups, you’re right!)
The games, in general, put in proof the mental capacity not only of the characters, but also the ones who are watching it – as it left me agonizing when it was about physical games – and, apart from that, it shows the friendship between the characters and their sacrifices.
Even if the level of violence in Alice in Borderland is not recommended for a wide audience, the series gets a lot of the spectator attention – specially those who already follow mangas and animes, or that like Japanese culture in general.
But it isn’t only that: the plot and its points don’t keep a person who knows nothing about it, both the manga, anime or even Japanese culture, to get involved. On the contrary: the fantasy and thriller plot allows a new audience to be reached because of that.
Disclaimer: The series brings a low level of nudity and a little higher level of violence – it isn’t recommended to all ages.
To wrap it up, I’d like to say the series can be found on Netflix and around here on the Sisterhood of the Moon we expect it to be renewed – once that I and Hek already finished watching and Art is on the same way.
If you already watched it because of this recommendation or if you had watched before reading today’s post, tell us what you think about the series! Leave your comment below, we’d love to know your opinion!