Alice in Borderland (TV series)

Alice in Borderland (Japanese: 今際の国のアリス, Hepburn: Imawa no Kuni no Arisu) is a Japanese science fiction suspense-thriller drama streaming television series based on the manga of the same name by Haro Aso. Directed by Shinsuke Sato, the series stars Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya as allies trapped in an abandoned Tokyo where they are forced to participate in dangerous games, the type and difficulty of which are determined by playing cards. After surviving their first game, players receive "visas", which are extended the more they participate; if the visas expire, the individuals are executed by red lasers being shot from the sky.

Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland poster.jpg
Promotional release poster
Japanese今際の国のアリス
Genre
Based onThe original graphic novel "Alice in Borderland"
by Haro Aso published by Shogakukan Inc.
Written by
Directed byShinsuke Sato
Starring
ComposerYutaka Yamada
Country of originJapan
Original languageJapanese
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producerKaata Sakamoto
ProducerAkira Morii
CinematographyTaro Kawazu
Editors
  • Tsuyoshi Imai
  • Shoukichi Kaneda
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time41–52 minutes
Production companyRobot Communications Inc.
DistributorNetflix
Release
Original networkNetflix
Picture format4K (Ultra HD)
Audio formatDolby Digital
Original releaseDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
External links
Official website

First announced in July 2019, each episode of the series was written by Sato, Yoshiki Watabe, and Yasuko Kuramitsu. Filming began in August and concluded that same year in December, with locations including various districts of Shibuya, and a green screen studio serving as a replica of the popular Shibuya Crossing, where a large portion of the series takes place. In an international collaboration, Japan's Digital Frontier worked with teams from Singapore, the United States, and India to add post-credit visual effects, with the music featured in the series being composed by Yutaka Yamada, a frequent collaborator with Sato.

Alice in Borderland premiered on Netflix on December 10, 2020, where it was met with positive reviews from viewers and critics for its visuals, cinematography, editing, and use of graphic violence, with some comparing the series to the films Battle Royale (2000) and Cube (1997). Two weeks after the first season was released, Netflix renewed the series for a second season.

Cast and charactersEdit

MainEdit

  • Kento Yamazaki as Ryōhei Arisu:
    A 24-year-old video-game obsessed man who "doesn't fit in with his family".[4][5]
  • Tao Tsuchiya as Yuzuha Usagi:
    A mountain climber who was transported into the empty city of Tokyo shortly after the death of her father, whom she deeply respected. Usagi teams up with Arisu shortly after the deaths of his friends.[4][5]

RecurringEdit

  • Yūki Morinaga as Chōta Segawa:
    A highly-religious IT technician and friend of Arisu and Karube. Chōta severely burns his leg while participating in a game titled "Dead or Alive", and as a result, slows down his friends while recovering. At the start of the series, Chōta's mom, a cult member, can be seen asking him for money.[4][5][6]
  • Keita Machida as Daikichi Karube:
    A bartender and friend of Arisu and Chōta. Before being transported into the empty city, Karube was preparing to propose to a woman he worked with at a bar, who happened to be the lover of his boss.[4][5][6]
  • Nijirō Murakami as Shuntarō Chishiya:
    A mysterious, quiet, and sly player who teams up with Kuina to steal Hatter's deck of cards, the leader and founder of "the Beach", believing that a full deck would transport them out of the empty city. He later becomes interested in Arisu and Usagi after helping them escape a game of "Tag".[5][7]
  • Sho Aoyagi as Aguni Morizono:
    A strong fighter and Hatter's best friend, Aguni is first introduced as an important member of "the Beach." Near the series finale, Aguni forcibly kills Hatter, having seen him develop into a narcissistic and murderous leader.[4][5]
  • Ayaka Miyoshi as Ann Rizuna:
    A member of "the Beach" who attempts to win difficult games through rational thinking. Ann is one of the key players in the final game of the first season.[4][5]
  • Dori Sakurada as Suguru Niragi:
    A young yet dangerous member of "the Beach". Described as being "aggressive due to his complicated past", Niragi goes on a killing spree near the end of the first season.[4][5]
  • Aya Asahina as Hikari Kuina:
    A close friend of Chishiya, whom she helps steal Hatter's deck of cards. A former clothing shop clerk, Kuina is revealed to be transgender in a flashback in episode 7, in which she was disowned by her father.[4][5]
  • Shuntarō Yanagi as Takatora Samura / The Last Boss:
    A strange man and dangerous member of "the Beach", the Last Boss has his face covered in tattoos and carries around a katana on a daily basis. During the final game, he is defeated in a fight by Kuina.[4][5]
  • Nobuaki Kaneko as Takeru Danma / Hatter:
    The leader and founder of "the Beach", a hotel that inhabits dozens of players. His main goal is to collect all the playing cards given to players for winning games.[4][5]
  • Riisa Naka as Mira Kano:
    A mysterious woman with an "elegant presence" who is later revealed to be a "gamemaster".[4][5][6]
  • Ayame Misaki as Saori Shibuki:
    The first person Arisu and his friends encounter while in the deserted city. At first, Shibuki is presented as a smart and skilled player, who helps the group get past their first game. However, she is later revealed to be manipulative to get what she wants.[4]
  • Yutaro Watanabe as Kōdai Tatta:
    A young man who is saved by Arisu during a game and later becomes a member of "the Beach".[4]
  • Mizuki Yoshida as Asahi Kujō:
    A member of "the Beach" and Momoka's best friend, Asahi is killed by the "gamemasters" after she reveals herself to be a "dealer", a player who organizes games to extend their visas.[4]
  • Kina Yazaki as Momoka Inoue:
    A member of "the Beach" and Asahi's best friend, Momoka kills herself at the end of the first season after no longer wanting to be a "dealer".[8]
  • Tsuyoshi Abe as Keiichi Kuzuryū:
    An executive member of "the Beach".[4]

EpisodesEdit

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Episode 1"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
In Tokyo, video-game obsessed Arisu hangs out with his friends Chōta and Karube. While dancing in the streets of Shibuya Crossing, the trio causes an altercation which results in them being chased by the police. Hiding in a bathroom in the station, the group reemerge to find the city completely empty. At night, the group notices a billboard leading them to a "game arena". Inside, the trio finds a stack of phones, which show them the game's difficulty level, illustrated by a playing card. The group is also joined by a highschool girl and another woman named Shibuki who informs them that once a player enters an arena they can't leave, as a laser would shoot them dead if they tried. In their first game, a "Three of Clubs" difficulty-level titled "Dead or Alive", the group is forced to pick between two doors under a certain time-limit, one containing an entrance to another room with the same choice, and the other, certain death. In the end, only the original trio and Shibuki make it out alive, with Chōta leaving with an injured leg. Outside, the group is given individual "visas", which are extended the more they play and result in execution once expired.
2"Episode 2"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
Stranded without electricity, internet, or a way to escape the abandoned city, Arisu and Karube decide to participate in another game to extend their visas, leaving Shibuki to tend to an injured Chōta. At another game arena located in an apartment complex, the pair meet a large group of players, including a mysterious woman named Usagi, a strong man named Aguni, and a sly, quiet player named Chishiya. Before beginning, Arisu learns the meaning of each card; Spades correlate to games of strength, Clubs are team battles, Diamonds are a battle of wits, and Hearts correlate to games of betrayal. The current game, a "Five of Spades" difficulty-level titled "Tag", follows the players hiding in the complex from a pair of brutal killers, as they try to find a room that contains a pair of buttons that will stop a bomb from exploding. In the end, most of the players manage to escape after Arisu, Chishiya, and Usagi work together to find the room, though Arisu later feels guilty when he witnesses the execution of one of the killers. In the process of leaving with Arisu, Karube finds a radio telling him to "Return to the Beach".
3"Episode 3"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
The following morning, Karube shows the rest of the group the radio he found during the game and the message he heard from it. Realizing that Shibuki and Chōta only have until the end of the day to extend their visas, the entire group visits a botanical garden to attend their next game. The only participants, the group finds out that they have entered a "Seven of Hearts" difficulty-level titled "Hide-and-seek", in which only one player will manage to leave the garden alive. At the start of the game, the players are given facial recognition headsets and are assigned animals, with three of them being "sheep", and the fourth being a "wolf." To play, a player switches animals every time they lock eyes with another player, with the wolf at the end winning the game. After a brawl, Arisu manages to become the wolf, and he hides from the rest of the group, who fail to find him. Using the headsets given to them at the start of the game, the group decide to spend their last minutes together chatting about their friendship. In the end, only Arisu makes it out alive.
4"Episode 4"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
While searching for food, Usagi runs into Arisu, who is filled with grief over the deaths of his friends. Deciding to work together, the pair visit their next game arena inside a bus, located within an underpass. With three other players, the pair find out that they have entered a "Four of Clubs" difficulty-level titled "Distance", in which they are told to "reach the goal". Deciding that the goal might be found at the end of the tunnel, Arisu, Usagi, and two other players decide to run to it, leaving behind a player with a sprained leg. Halfway through their run, a large panther is released, killing one of the group. Near the end of the tunnel, Arisu decides to return for the player who was left behind, only to find out that the bus had the word "GOAL" written on it, and that the rest of the group was running in the wrong direction. Using diesel he found in a motorcycle, Arisu uses the bus to rescue the rest of the group, but only manages to save Usagi, along with the player with the sprained leg, who leaves after the game ends.
5"Episode 5"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
Searching for "the Beach", Arisu and Usagi follow a group of players wearing similar tags on their wrists. After finding a large hotel building containing dozens of players, the pair are kidnapped and brought to the place's leader, Hatter, who confirms that they have indeed found the Beach. Additionally, Hatter explains that their main mission is to collect all the playing cards (excluding face cards) given to players after winning a game, believing that once a player collects all the cards, they will be allowed to leave the abandoned city. Allowed to stay at the Beach, Arisu and Usagi begin to join teams of players in various attempts to collect the few remaining cards. After a long night, Hatter reveals to a group of "executive members", including Arisu, who participated in a game as a "test" from Ann, that the only remaining card to collect is the "Ten of Hearts".
6"Episode 6"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
Having to extend his visa, Hatter goes off to participate in a game, but his henchmen bring him back to the Beach dead, stating that he was shot in the chest while participating in a game. After learning about his death, Aguni is voted in as the new leader of the Beach, and is given Hatter's deck of cards. Meanwhile, Arisu teams up with Chishiya and Kuina to steal the deck, unaware that he has been set up by the pair, who were trying to find the deck themselves. As Arisu is tied-up in a room knowing that his visa expires at midnight, Chishiya and Kuina prepare to leave with the stolen deck, only for a wall of lasers to appear and stop them from doing so. Realizing that the Beach is, in fact, a game arena, everyone there runs to the hotel lobby, where they find they are about to participate in a game titled "Witch Hunt", with a difficulty-level illustrated by the "Ten of Hearts".
7"Episode 7"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
After finding a dead body on the ground, the players are told the rules; all of them have to work together to find the hidden "witch", throwing the suspect into a bonfire to win. With only two hours to search for the killer, Aguni and his militants decide to throw everyone into the fire to collect the final card. As dozens of people are murdered, Usagi teams up with a group of players to search for Arisu. After the building is lit on fire, Usagi finds and rescues Arisu. In the process, Kuina kills a dangerous militant known as the Last Boss, and Chishiya injures Niragi. After thinking about the logistics of the game, Arisu tells the group that he knows the identity of the hidden witch. Throughout the episode, Ann figures out that Hatter was murdered, and later searches for fingerprints on the witch's victim (identified as Momoka). After finding the real culprit, Ann is knocked unconscious.
8"Episode 8"Shinsuke SatoYoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, & Shinsuke SatoDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
In a flashback, Momoka wanders through the empty city with her friend Asahi, recording videos with a working phone. In the present, Arisu confronts Aguni, who tells the rest of the group that he is "the witch", but that his victim was not Momoka, but Hatter, who is revealed to have been his best friend, who he shot in self-defense. Arisu concludes that Aguni is not actually the witch, but that it is Momoka, who had killed herself at the start of the game. As Aguni attempts to kill Niragi,[6] the remaining players throw Momoka into the bonfire, winning the game. As everyone leaves the burning hotel, Chishiya collects the final card. The next day, Arisu and Usagi watch several videos recorded by Asahi, who had died during the game. In them, Asahi and Momoka reveal that they are "dealers", players who organize games to extend their visas.[8] In one video, the pair visit an underground lair filled with "gamemasters". Arisu and Usagi manage to locate the lair, only finding a pile of executed "gamemasters", and Chishiya and Kuina, who reveal that the "gamemasters" were actually players. A woman named Mira appears, who introduces a new set of games to collect face cards.

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

On July 16, 2019, Netflix announced that they were creating a live-action adaptation of the manga Alice in Borderland, with Yoshiki Watabe, Yasuko Kuramitsu, and Shinsuke Sato writing the scripts for each episode, and Sato directing in an attempt of making the show appear as "one very, very long film".[1][9][10] A few months later, on August 4, Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya were cast as the main characters of the series, with the pair appearing as Ryōhei Arisu and Yuzuha Usagi, respectively.[11]

FilmingEdit

 
Keita Machida, Yûki Morinaga, and Kento Yamazaki at the Ashikaga Scramble City Studio, a large replica of the popular Shibuya Crossing.

Filming for the series began as early as August 2019, when Yamazaki was spotted during filming in Dōgenzaka, a district of Shibuya on August 8.[12] The following day, crew members were spotted near a store in Fukutomi-cho, located in the city of Yokohama.[12] From September 17, to September 20, Yamazaki and Tsuchiya were seen filming in an apartment complex in front of Kita-Suzurandai Station, on the Shintetsu Arima Line, in the city of Kobe.[12] According to the production company Robot Communications, the show's script was revised to "match the building layout."[5] A scene from the premiere episode featuring Yamazaki's character, Arisu, meeting his friends Chōta and Karube near Tokyo's busy Shibuya Crossing, was originally supposed to be filmed inside a Starbucks. However, due to the complexity of a glass-covered set, the scene took place in front of a sign outside Shibuya Station.[13] Furthermore, a scene taking place inside the Shibuya Station, in which the main characters enter a bathroom and reemerge to an empty Tokyo, was shot in a four-minute continuous take.[13][14] Extras were recruited for the series from August 9, to December 11, in various cities.[12][15][16] The creator of the original manga the series is based on, Haro Aso, was also allowed to visit various sets.[17] Filming took place in several cities and concluded in December 2019.[12]

Visual effectsEdit

During filming, scenes focusing on the empty city of Tokyo were primarily shot using special effects and extensive uses of green screens, with Sato explaining that with the help of his assistant director, he would run into the middle of the intersection of Shibuya Crossing with a small camera "to figure out which parts to actually build and which parts to CGI."[10][18] Using the Ashikaga Scramble City Studio,[18] a large set 100 kilometers from Tokyo constructed for the series and the film Detective Chinatown 3 (which was filmed during the same period),[19][20] scenes featuring Shibuya Crossing were filmed using mainly green screens, with "everything but the road and the ticket gate at the east entrance [being] produced with computer graphics".[5][21] To keep the scenes "authentic", visual effects director Atsushi Doi recreated the shadows of the Tokyu Building where they would normally fall.[14] A scene in episode 4, which showed an underpass being flooded with water, was created with the help of previsualizations, which allowed the show's crew to "experiment with different elements before the actual shoot."[5] The panther that appears in that same episode was created using visual effects developed after the crew visited multiple zoos.[18] Additionally, Academy Award winner Erik-Jan de Boer supervised the production of the tiger featured in episode 5, which was created by Anibrain, an animation studio in India.[13] Post-credit visual effects were added in with the help of Japan's Digital Frontier, who worked alongside teams from Singapore, the United States, and India in an international collaboration.[22]

MusicEdit

Alice in Borderland
 
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedDecember 10, 2020 (2020-12-10)
StudioCzech TV Music
Length181:15
LabelNetflix
ProducerKohei Chida
Yutaka Yamada chronology
Great Pretender
(2020)
Alice in Borderland
(2020)
Night Head 2041
(2021)

The score for Alice in Borderland was composed entirely by Yutaka Yamada, who had previously worked with Sato on Bleach (2018) and Kingdom (2019). Produced by Kohei Chida, the music was performed by the FILMharmonic Orchestra of Prague. The song "Good Times" by Jan Erik Nilsson, was featured various times throughout the show.[5]

Track listing
Disc 1
No.TitleLength
1."Alice in Borderland"11:15
2."Doldrums"5:37
3."Mirror Maze"6:01
4."Obstruction"4:11
5."Peripherals"2:57
6."Rainfall"5:46
7."Beyond The Mist"5:19
8."Soulbound"4:46
9."Gargoyles"10:21
10."Nerve"7:18
11."Retrospect"4:40
12."The Looking Glass"5:56
13."Ashes"1:31
Total length:75:38
Disc 2
No.TitleLength
1."Portal"4:31
2."Iron Fist"4:07
3."Paranoia"4:16
4."Unearthed"6:44
5."Sun Rays"1:57
6."Accidents of Chaos"5:50
7."The Abyss"10:57
8."Armour"5:12
9."Hidden Card"3:29
10."Eternity of Reality"4:25
11."Delirium"3:43
12."Ace of Spades"2:50
13."Lune"2:58
14."Film of Time (Alt. Ver.)"5:29
15."Gamemaster"1:38
16."Good Times [Jan Erik Nilsson (a.k.a Eartraxx)]"5:03
Total length:73:09
Disc 3
No.TitleLength
1."Hype"1:21
2."Vantage Point"3:03
3."Trickster"1:46
4."Frenzy"1:38
5."Your Smile"2:25
6."Uncharted"8:48
7."No Exit"6:33
8."Moonbow"4:03
9."Film of Time"2:51
Total length:32:28

Marketing and releaseEdit

On September 18, 2020, Netflix released a teaser video revealing that Alice in Borderland would debut in 190 countries on the platform on December 10, 2020.[23] On October 24, 2020, six set images were released to promote the series.[24] Four days later, an official trailer was released, along with a poster and a list of the main cast.[4] According to various critics, the first season of Alice in Borderland covered 31 chapters of the original manga, leaving 33 untouched.[7][25] The first season was released on December 10,[19] and in its first few weeks, the series "ranked in the top ten most-watched shows" on the platform in nearly 40 territories, including in Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.[19] In Canada, the show managed to reach 7th in its top-ten list.[25] Overall, the series did better in countries located in Asia and Europe, rather than in countries located in North America.[19] On December 24, 2020, Netflix renewed the series for a second season, two weeks after the first season had been released.[19][26]

On October 7, 2020, Haro Aso, the creator of the original manga the series is based on, announced plans to "celebrate" and promote the Netflix series by introducing a new manga titled Alice in Borderland Retry on Weekly Shōnen Sunday.[27] Launched on October 14, the first volume of the manga was shipped out on December 11, one day after Alice in Borderland premiered. In January 2021, Aso announced that the eighth issue of the second volume, later released on February 18, would be the last.[28][29]

ReceptionEdit

Audience viewershipEdit

On January 19, 2021, one month after the first season of Alice in Borderland had been released, Variety revealed that the series had been viewed by "18 million member households", behind the viewership gained by Sweet Home at 22 million.[30]

Critical responseEdit

Following its release, Alice in Borderland received mostly positive reviews from critics, who applauded the visuals, cinematography, editing, the performances of Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya, and its use of graphic violence,[31][32] but left mixed opinions on its advancement without special focus on character development, and its story in general, particularly in the second half.[33][34] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the first season of Alice in Borderland holds an approval rating of 83% based on 6 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10.[35]

From The Japan Times, James Hadfield gave the series a star rating of two stars and a half out of five, praising Shinsuke Sato's directing, but criticizing the characters, stating that "few of the cast leave much impression, though Tsuchiya makes for an effective action heroine, and Nijirô Murakami has some fun as a smirking loner."[33] Writing for Ready Steady Cut, Jonathon Wilson gave the show a rating of four stars out of five, lauding the series for skipping over "exposition and careful backstory-building", and "just getting straight to it." Wilson also compared the series positively to the Japanese film Battle Royale, and the American horror film Saw.[36] Ars Technica journalist Jennifer Ouellette called the show "emotionally intense", and compared the show's games to those found in the books Ready Player One and Lord of the Flies, and in the 1997 film Cube.[7] Salon's Melanie McFarland compared the series to the CBS All Access miniseries The Stand, stating that Alice in Borderland "handles the mechanics of introducing its characters more effectively and it doesn't throw off the audience by leaning heavily on flashbacks [...] but unlike "The Stand," the "before" profiles aren't extensive to the point of dragging on the story's progress."[2] From Yahoo! News, Lim Yian Lu highly praised the series for its "suspenseful plot", stating that it "will keep you entertained and yearning for more despite its grisly and gory scenes."[37] Writing for the Anime News Network, Theron Martin gave Alice in Borderland an overall grade rating of a C+, giving mixed feedback to the show's production, score, general storyline and acting, but stating that it gives a "modest amount of entertainment" for its runtime.[34] After watching the first episode of the series, and praising it for its tone, soundtrack, and its ability to "shift gears so fast", the crew at Decider recommended viewers to stream the show.[38]

ReferencesEdit

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