Adaptations of manga and/or anime with live actors rarely go beyond Japan – this product turns out to be very specific, not finding a proper response from Western audiences. But it looks like Netflix managed to find a key to this genre – the first season of the series based on the manga Alice in Borderland turned out to be quite good.
Genre: fantasy, action
Creator: Shinsuke Sato
Cast: Kento Yamazaki (Ryohei Arisu), Tao Tsuchiya (Yuzuha Usagi), Yuki Morinaga (Chota Segawa), Keita Machida (Daikichi Karube), Nijiro Murakami (Shuntaro Tishiya), Sho Aoyagi (Morizono Aguniata) (Nobuya) and dr. …
Year of issue: 2020
Stories about powerful forces, whether they be gods, aliens, or all-powerful corporations, interfering in the lives of ordinary mortals, transporting them to another world or another place, and placing them in extreme conditions in which they must show their best qualities, are far from new. It is on this plot that most of the epics of the peoples of the world are built. If we talk about examples closer to our time, then we can recall at least “The World of the River” by Philip Farmer, at least “The Doomed City” by the Strugatsky brothers, at least the recent not very successful film trilogy The Maze Runner. A similar plot and in the manga Alice in Borderland and its serial adaptation.
Three young friends – a loser gamer who does not want to study or look for work; a bartender who lost his job due to an affair with an employee; and a small office clerk suffering from a mother who has gone to some strange sect – fleeing from the police, they hide in a toilet stall at Shibuya station. When they leave it, they find themselves in Tokyo, in which almost all the inhabitants have disappeared. Some powerful force either removed all the Tokyo people or transferred only a small part of them to a parallel reality, where, to survive, they must take part in deadly games. If you refuse to play, you will die very quickly. Agree – most likely, you will die too, but after a while.
Games are constantly changing. Their complexity and theme are indicated by playing cards, which the survivors, along with extra days of life, receive at the end of the tests. The most terrible games are with “worms,” in which invisible organizers play with the “hearts” of their victims, forcing them to oppose their own friends and commit unthinkable cruelties and meanness. Our friends are forced to take part in the games, and at the same time, they are trying to find out who is behind all this inhuman fun and how to stop them. As a result, they learn that there is a “Beach” community somewhere in the Tokyo area, whose members can know the answers to some of the questions.
Alice’s filming in Borderland was directed by Japanese director Shinsuke Sato, who ate the dog on live adaptations of the manga. He directed the zombie manga film I Am a Hero, the Japanese version of Death Note: Light Up the New World, the fantasy Bleach, the Inuyashiki, and Kingdom films, and is now working on Kingdom 2. Interestingly, Sato is also related to the gaming industry. He helped create the characters for Tekken 4 and took part in Red Ninja: End of Honor.
By and large, Alice in Borderland is a mix of “Saw,” “Lord of the Flies,” and Battle Royale… No, not games, but the 2000 film that gave life and name to the game genre. As in the original Battle Royale, don’t rush to get attached to the characters. The mortality rate in the series is no lower than in any Game of Thrones. However, some of the heroes will live to see the finale of the first season, which is, unfortunately, a little predictable. Did anyone really think that getting to the exit would be that easy?
Perhaps one of Alice’s most impressive things in Borderland is not even cruel puzzles that the main characters have to “solve” at the cost of others and their lives, but an empty Tokyo, in which the series takes place. Incredibly, the authors managed to temporarily remove all passers-by from one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world – the diagonal Shibuya crossing… Not without green screens and CGI, but it looks really cool. Yes, we perfectly understand that many of the series’s shots were filmed early in the morning or not at all in Tokyo (some of the filming locations were in Yokohama and Kobo). However, still, the empty capital of Japan blows your mind.
As for other special effects, Alice’s budget in Borderland, of course, does not compare with the budgets of Marvel films, so here, as they say, empty, but neat. Wild beasts that appear in several frames, of course, spoil the overall picture, but not too much.
Despite the general simplicity of the idea, the predictability of the ending, and some heightened emotionality of the characters, typical for Asian TV series, Alice in Borderland looks very good. The series certainly falls short of the original Battle Royale, but overall it is truly the best live-action manga adaptation to date. In late 2020, Netflix renewed the series for a second season.