Tokyo residents find themselves trapped in a post-apocalyptic parallel world called Borderland, where they must compete in deadly games to survive.
Enlarge / Tokyo residents discover themselves trapped in a post-apocalyptic parallel world known as Borderland, the place they have to compete in lethal video games to outlive.

Netflix

Within the carefree, pre-pandemic Earlier than Occasions, escape rooms had been all the trend as enjoyable group actions, the place individuals needed to remedy a puzzle or thriller, or full a collection of duties, in an effort to escape. Alice in Borderland, a vastly entertaining new Netflix collection from Japan, takes that idea to an entire new stage, reworking Tokyo into an alternate dimension known as “Borderland.” These trapped therein should compete in lethal video games to outlive, and escape is under no circumstances assured. That is an emotionally intense, addictive collection you may positively wish to binge.

(Some spoilers beneath, however no main reveals.)

As beforehand reported, the collection relies on the Japanese manga by Haro Aso. It has parts of  Alice in Wonderland and Prepared Participant One, with a splash of Lord of the Flies and the 1997 sci-fi horror movie, Dice, thrown in for good measure, but it surely’s very a lot an authentic imaginative and prescient. The TV adaptation is directed by Shinsuke Sato, finest identified for 2001’s The Princess Blade and final yr’s Kingdom, and co-written by Haro Aso and Yasuko Kuramitsu. The manga tells the story of Ryōhei Arisu (Arisu could be translated as “Alice”), a bored excessive schooler who longs for a extra thrilling life. Arisu’s want is granted throughout a fireworks celebration: he and his two finest mates discover themselves in a post-apocalyptic parallel world referred to as Borderland, the place they have to play a collection of harmful video games to outlive.

The Netflix adaptation follows the identical primary premise, with just a few minor tweaks—most notably, the central characters are younger adults quite than excessive schoolers. Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) is “a listless, jobless and video-game-obsessed younger man.” Karube (Keita Machida) is a bartender who has simply been fired for sleeping with the boss’s girlfriend, and Chota (Yûki Morinaga) is a bored, mild-mannered workplace labored. After a mysterious energy outage, they instantly discover themselves in an eerie, emptied-out model of Tokyo.

As night time falls, neon indicators direct them to what seems to be a gaming “area.” As soon as they enter the world, they’re issued smartphones that ship directions for the sport at hand—on this case, a locked room puzzle by which they have to repeatedly guess the proper door to move from room to room in a constructing. Guess mistaken, and the room will engulf them in flames. They need to win the sport (i.e., survive) in an effort to exit, and so they achieve this, because of Arisu’s fast pondering. However they’re nonetheless trapped on this unusual world, together with many others, and should maintain taking part in video games to outlive. They do discover different allies alongside the way in which, most notably a younger girl named Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), a mountain climber with glorious survival expertise.

Video games are held each night time after sunset. Every recreation comes with a specific taking part in card. Win the sport, and the participant is issued a “visa”—a move whereby they do not should compete for a sure variety of days, akin to the variety of the cardboard. The 4 fits are particular classes of video games.

Spades are video games that require bodily power (Usagi and Karube excel at them), diamonds are video games of wit and intelligence (Asiru’s specialty), golf equipment are video games the place teamwork is required (Chota’s forte), and hearts—properly, hearts are the cruelest video games of all, since they’re psychological video games that contain emotional manipulation and betrayal. You’ll be able to win a recreation of hearts, however that victory will come at an incredible value, and it would simply break you totally.

The locked-room recreation, as an illustration, corresponds to the three of Golf equipment, so once they win, Asiru and his friends have three days’ respite earlier than they should compete in one other lethal recreation. The penalty for not taking part in is being zapped into oblivion by a lethal laser beam capturing down from the sky, so let’s simply say the unwilling individuals are extremely motivated to conform. There are additionally “sellers” charged with infiltrating the video games for the specific objective of sabotaging them, in alternate for visas.

A lot of the pleasure and dramatic pressure of Alice in Borderland arises from the sheer sadistic ingenuity of the video games. As an illustration, a twisted recreation of tag (5 of Spades) provides all of the gamers 20 minutes to discover a protected base someplace inside an deserted residence constructing, whereas avoiding the individual designated “It”—whose job is to gun down any participant she or he encounters. After 20 minutes, the whole constructing is rigged to blow up.  As for Cover and Search (7 of Hearts), all of the gamers don a particular digital collar; one individual is the “wolf,” the others are “sheep.” Lock eyes with the wolf and also you commerce designations. The one who is the wolf after quarter-hour wins the sport; the sheeps’ heads explode. (Sure, the physique rely for this collection is substantial.)

One other power: the various completely different colourful characters, every with their very own compelling again tales—the higher to interrupt the viewers’ hearts ought to one in every of them ultimately lose a recreation. There’s a model of the Mad Hatter, identified merely because the Hatter (Nobuaki Kaneko), who units up a collective of survivors dubbed “the Seaside,” with the intention of cooperating to play sufficient video games to gather all of the playing cards within the deck. (There’s an unconfirmed rumor that that is the one method to escape Borderland.)  A mysterious determine referred to as Chishiya (Nijirô Murakami), aka “Cheshire,” kinds an alliance with Kuina (Aya Asahina), a former clerk in a clothes retailer with martial arts coaching, who in flip has a bikini-clad showdown with a katana-wielding tattooed psycho referred to as the Final Boss (Shuntaro Yanagi). And so forth.

The pacing is relentless, chock-full of sudden twists and WTF scenes, plus just a few well-placed moments of downtime to provide viewers an opportunity to catch their breath at times. The stakes rise quick, and due to the professional plotting, the stakes maintain rising during to the finale, which—in time-honored Netflix trend—wraps up a bunch narrative threads whereas organising a doable second season. The remaining gamers “stage up” to the following stage, however we nonetheless do not know of the identification of the grasp(s) behind the video games.

There is no official phrase but on the present’s renewal. S1 roughly lined occasions within the first 31 chapters of the manga; a second season might simply embody the remaining 33 chapters. This is hoping Alice in Borderland escapes the streaming large’s brutal, pandemic-driven funds axe, and we get the possibility to lose ourselves down this deliciously bonkers rabbit gap as soon as once more.

Alice in Borderland is now streaming on Netflix.

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