Main Cast: Kento Yamazaki, Tao Tsuchiya, Asahina Aya, Nijirô Murakami, Ayaka Miyoshi
Alice in Borderland is a science-fiction Japanese thriller TV series following the story of Arisu (played by Kento Yamazaki). Despite being highly intelligent and a member of a wealthy family, Arisu has little to no ambition for a career and spends majority of his time gaming. However, when he isn’t in front of a computer, he spends his time with his childhood friends, Chota and Karube, and getting into trouble. One day while in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, they accidentally cause a car accident and hide in the local subway station’s bathroom. However, as they are running away they notice fireworks. Inside the subway station’s bathroom they experience a sudden black-out and upon exiting the bathroom, they realize they have been transported into a parallel, abandoned Tokyo.
Upon entering this dystopian Tokyo, Arisu, Chota, and Karube are redirected to an abandoned hotel and forced to compete in a dangerous game with their lives on the line. Although, Arisu and his friends barely survive the game due to Arisu’s quick thinking, they realize that they are trapped in this alternate universe and must continue to play the dangerous games to extend their “visas”. They also learn that the difficulty of each game and the length of their visa extension is represented by a playing card. The higher the number, the more difficult the game will be. Each suit represents a different type of game: club cards are team battles, diamond cards utilize games that require intelligence and strategy, spade games include physical battles and require endurance and strength, while heart games are psychological games and require players to trust and betray one another to survive. The moment that a player’s visa expires, they are instantly killed with a laser beam from the sky.
Arisu and his friends meet many players as they continue to play games to survive in the parallel universe. One day Arisu befriends Usagi (played by Tao Tsuchiya), a former mountain climber, and forms an alliance with her as they attempt to survive and understand their new world. After a team battle, Arisu overhears a radio message that “the answer is at the Beach” and enlists Usagi’s help in his search for “the Beach” and the answer to their questions.
The duo eventually learn that “the Beach” is a secret society in the dystopian world that offers protection and an opportunity to return to their original world. The founders of “the Beach” realized that they can return once they have collected all of the playing cards and each member of the society must hand over the cards that they earn in each game. Everything seems perfect at “the Beach”, however the only catch is that the leaders theorize that a full deck of cards can only return 1 person to the original world.
Although Season 1 of Alice in Borderland was released in 2020, the newest season to the hit show recently dropped in December 2022. Season 2 picks up with Arisu, Usagi, and “the Beach” members surviving and collecting all of the regular cards. However, they must now face the stiffest and most dangerous games yet as they compete for the face cards.
I originally though that Season 1 of Alice in Borderland was a phenomenal show with a unique story-line and well executed plot. Although it is similar to the Korean hit series Squid Games, in the sense that it is a thriller within the survival genre, Alice in Borderland distinguishes itself by focusing more on the general depravity of man rather than the inequality of wealth and burdening nature of exorbitant debt. Although Alice in Borderland definitely illustrates that people are willing to do anything and betray anyone for their own survival, it also shows that there will always be upstanding people who will stick to their morals and ideals to allow kindness to exist even in the most desperate times, especially in Season 2.
Season 2 of Alice in Borderland definitely exceeded my expectations due to the thorough character development and additional details provided about each character’s backstory. The series also dives deeper into exploring the characters’ relationships with one another. Additionally, the face card games have greater purpose and allows for each character to grow as they continue to face more and more difficult situations.
I also thought that the ending of the last episode was well executed and included a crazy twist. The final episode is filled with emotional tension and I was confused, yet on edge the entire time as I was trying to wrap my head around what was happening. I couldn’t tell if the Queen of Hearts was actually telling the truth or if it was another part of the twisted games. By the end of the episode, my jaw was left hanging as I finally understood the premise of the games and the alternate universe. Although some may say that the last few seconds of the final episode were a bit cliche, it was interesting to see how show connected all of the dots and various characters’ stories together. I was genuinely surprised by the ending and never would have considered the series to end that way.
Overall, I would definitely recommend watching Season 2 of Alice in Borderland, especially if you were a fan of Season 1 or enjoy thriller and dystopian shows similar to Squid Games. However, fair warning it definitely is violent and graphic, so take that with a word of caution. In my opinion, Season 2 of Alice in Borderland definitely delivered!