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Manga / Alice in Borderland

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I'm tired of trying
Like my name carved on the wall
All the hypocrisy up till now
Has rusted the chronic chain of grief
On my cruising lane.

"In this world, I'm neither a hero nor a sorcerer. Heck, I'm not even a player. I'm just an NPC villager. I just wanted freedom from this meaningless reality. Escapism, delusions, Peter Pan syndrome. It doesn't matter what you called it. Haven't you also wished for similar things in your life?"
The prologue of the OVA from the protagonist, Arisu Ryohei

Alice in Borderland is a manga series created by Haro Aso, which was originally serialized from 2010 to 2016 (starting in Shonen Sunday S, then moving to Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2015).

The story focuses on Arisu Ryohei, better known as the titular "Alice". He is a juvenile delinquent with poor luck in life who's nearly finished highschool. Bored with his current life and his bad luck to the point he avoids thinking about his own future, he mostly hangs around with his friends, Daikichi Karube (a bartender at the bar where Arisu and his friends spend most of their time) and Chota Segawa (a playful person with a huge interest in pretty girls).

Like Arisu, both Chota and Karube are bored to the point where they wish they could leave their current lives behind. During their stay at the station, a firework goes off in front of them and after one blindingly bright explosion, the three are transported to another world which looks like Tokyo but is much more barren and abandoned, looking like something left After the End.

At first, Arisu, Chota, and Karube enjoy their lives in this new world. However, they eventually find another person, named Saori Shibukiu, who also got transported under the same circumstances. After the four discover a seemingly-empty festival, it's revealed that they're trapped in a place known as "The Borderland," and here, people are forced to play a deadly game and given a visa in order to stay in this world. Anyone who loses the game or doesn't play despite the visa reaching its deadline will die no matter what the circumstances are. As a result, Arisu, Chota, Karube, and Saori trie to survive in the harsh environment of the Borderland no matter what it takes, though the game can crush them both physically and mentally.

The manga doesn't have a full anime, but it has a three-episode OVA by SILVER LINK. released in 2014-2015.

Asou Haro has written two successor manga series: an indirect sequel with new characters called Alice on Border Road (2015-2018), and a direct mini-sequel called Alice in Borderland Retry (2020-2021).

The series is licensed by Viz Media, with the first volume being released in English on March 15, 2022.

In December 2020, the first season of the Live-Action Adaptation series was released worldwide on Netflix. For tropes specific to it, see here.

Not to be confused with an Alice in Wonderland/Borderlands crossover fic.

This manga contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Arisu's father, a superintendent in the education department, intensely dislikes Arisu because he considers him a really stupid person and always compares him to his more competent younger brother, who is a honor student. As a result, his father often neglects him. He also meddles with Arisu's life, such as moving the teacher to another school in order to stop Arisu's new hobby even though said teacher influenced him to become an aspiring guitarist.
    • Kuina's father is a strict Dojo master who trained her harshly and beat her, and went as far as to disown her and kick her out of the household when she came out as transgender. Kuina's father also divorced her mother when her mother was sick.
    • Aguni's father is an alcoholic who repeatedly abuses his son and wife when he is returning home carrying another drink, to the point that his mother ran away from home. This resulted in Aguni being motivated to beat his father when he got stronger. However, his father died of alcohol poisoning.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: They may look like a post-apocalypse world, but the Borderlands turn out to be this trope instead.
  • Alice Allusion: The title is a pun of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Arisu is close to the name Alice. The final game of the manga is against the Queen of Hearts in Croquet, where the difficulty is not on the games itself, but the circumstances surrounding it.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Characters like Takeru Danma/Boshiya, Aguni Morizono, Ginji Kyuma and Hikari Kuina look like someone from Caribbean islands or southern parts of Africa rather than a natural Japanese person. This is understandable due to the art style used by the author.
  • Anyone Can Die: In the world where people have to participate Deadly Games before their time is up, deaths are inevitable. Case in point, Arisu's two best friends plus their first new fiend sacrifice themselves for him to live in their second/third game.
  • Art Evolution: Compare the beginning of the series to even just an arc or two past that. Arisu himself goes from fairly plain-looking yet simple to a much more rough yet realistic design, and the background detail also significantly goes up the further one reads in the series.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: How the Beach "military" appear to take control after Boshiya is found dead.
  • Attempted Rape: One of the members of the Beach, Suguru Niragi, attempts to rape Usagi when she tries to steal one of the Beach's cards and then he attempts to rape her again when he is seemingly losing with his team in a game known as King of Clubs.
  • Bait-and-Switch: 7♠ Boiling Death starts off introducing a boxer as the POV character and when the game actually starts and killing most of them, it proceed to the lone survivor of the game, a seemingly vain Akane Heiya.
  • Battle in the Rain: An absolutely massive storm breaks out during the final arc of the story; the climax of the King of Spades game takes place during the storm. Also, the King of Diamonds game also takes place during said storm, but takes place inside and is more a test of wits than brawn.
  • Beach Episode:
    • The Beach arc could qualify as an abnormally important example.
    • Chapter 4 of Alice on Border Road also has the cast taking a brief stop at a beach.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A large majority of people involved with the Deadly Game are ultimately Killed Off for Real, because the entire Borderland was effectively a Near-Death Experience and the characters were subconsciously fighting to survive the aftermath of a meteor explosion in Tokyo. This includes a large number of good, well-meaning and innocent people wiped out in a complete freak accident. But Arisu and Usagi, along with several other major characters, do manage to complete their final games, and while they forget all about the Borderland, they get to continue living with a new meaning for it, complete with Arisu and Usagi cementing a relationship thanks to their post-Borderland familiarity with each other.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Kimu Ayon breaks a centuries old matchlock out of a museum while trying to hunt Alice.
  • Call-Back: At the end when we see the survivors recovering at the hospital, aside from the named characters, we see some one-off characters who also survived such as the girl from the bus in the tunnel game and the little boy who in the final phase of the game only had one day left.
  • Central Theme: Escaping from reality and having to deal with an unpleasant past. Most of the main characters tend to have a difficult situation or trauma that they were going through before being sent to Borderland, and as they try to survive the games they find themselves in, most of their actions are heavily influenced by their past lives.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Subverted. When the King of Spades opens fire on a crowd of players with an Anzio twenty-millimeter anti-material rifle, the first reaction of most is to try and hide behind cars. Turns out a bullet meant to penetrate armored vehicles doesn't care.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Last Boss kills a tiger in a Single-Stroke Battle with a katana. Aguni goes a step further and kills a tiger with a single punch after shooting it to no effect. By extension, Kuina would be this too since she beat Last Boss.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The fates of a large number of players, whether by other players, the games or other circumstances. One game highlight: players who fail calculations end up getting melted down by acid where they sit, leaving a smoldering corpse too charred to show any details.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: Several characters, such as Rizuna An and Hikari Kuina, wear outfits that expose their midriffs even after the association that they joined, known as the Beach, is disbanded. Several characters from the Beach also qualify as this due to one of the rules being that the members should wear swimsuits or summerwear.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Although Arisu is the main focus of the story, several characters in the manga are also portrayed as the main characters, mainly in the special chapters, to give their point of view about the games that they have to endure. One of the best examples showcases J♥ Solidary Confinement, which focuses on twenty players in a deadly game of solitary confinement. Most of the characters in said chapters have no relationships with Arisu or the other side characters who had been featured in previous chapters.
  • Deadly Game: One of the premises of the manga itself. A lot of people called "the players" who were trapped in Borderland were forced to play a deadly game in order to extend their visa and find some clues in order to get out of the Borderland. Once their visa ends, they will be shot by a laser in the sky. Said games can break some people's psychology, especially when some of their loved ones can die or be pressured by the hard challenges in the game.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life:
    • Despite being a successful entrepreneur, one of the players in Borderland, Yuji Mahiru, desperately looks for the purpose of his own existence by traveling around the world before being sent into Borderland.
    • Arisu's ultimate conflict comes down to this. He spends most of the story searching for the reason the Borderland exists, a reason that his friends all had to die. The final game, the Queen of Hearts, preys on his all encompassing need to have meaning to it all. She deduces that his desperation to find meaning in the Borderland, even at the risk of losing the final game, comes from a deeper desire to find the meaning of his own life, which so far has been meandering and pointless. It is only in giving up his search for some grand meaning and simply living his life to the fullest he can that Arisu is able to come to terms with everything in the story and clear the final game.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In one of the side stories (and in the series, with a few alterations), a group comes across a Club game called Run Away. They find themselves trapped in a very long tunnel, with timers counting down next to gates that almost certainly contain things that are no good for the group. To top it off, one of them gets his leg injured almost immediately. Considering the name of the game, they all begin to run down the tunnel, but the man and the girl helping him along are clearly lagging behind until they reach a bus. Upon finding the bus doesn't run, most of the group continues running, but the girl and injured man stay behind. Shortly after, the runners are forced to deal with, in succession, cheetahs, a flood of water that contains alligators, extreme cold, and finally an unavoidable explosion. The final runner, abandoning everyone else, reaches a dead end. He then realizes that if they had all just stayed on the bus at the start, they would have been able to survive everything. On the bus was a dictionary that was marked so that they could see that another meaning of "run away" is an effortless victory, like a "runaway success". Ultimately, only the girl and the injured man survive the test, though the man is revealed to be one of the people running the tests after the girl leaves to go find him first aid.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Multiple secondary characters are introduced in side stories that were released long before they meet the main cast in the main story.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Two of them. The first is when Arisu, Karube and Chouta, alongside another survivor in Shibuki, get thrown into the first of the Borderland's games, with it coming down to the wire to not suffer a Cruel and Unusual Death. This establishes the life-or-death nature of the Borderland rather well, and that Arisu is a Brilliant, but Lazy guy that may not have much in life but has a knack for Spotting the Thread. The second is when everyone but Arisu is killed off in their third game after seeming like they'd persist through thick or thin, traumatizing Arisu for the rest of the series and firmly establishing exactly the sort of tone of the rest of the manga will go for. It also firmly establishes that Heart Games seemingly exist to be Unwinnable by Design.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Shibuki, Karube and even Chouta were driven to some extent of survival in the level 7 Heart game of a visual game of Tag, and Arisu was the same. Then he realizes he's trying to get his True Companions killed, and just outright gives up in a point where he'd want anyone else but himself to live. They're all so heartbroken by the realization of what they've been doing that said companions promptly evade Arisu when he's "it" until the timer runs out — killing them to spare the one willing to sacrifice himself in the first place.
  • Explosive Leash: Several games require the players to put on a collar that explodes upon game over, if other factors have not killed them yet.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In each game, there is usually at least one losing character who takes their imminent death with grace.
  • Fair-Play Villain: The games designed by survivors from the previous set of games in the Borderlands run the gamut of fair vs unfair. Some of them are completely straight forward in what is expected of the player, such as the game on the train with deadly gas. Others are "fair" but deliberately misleading (such as the "marathon" game in the tunnel with the bus, the way its set up makes the players think they need to reach the end of the tunnel before time runs out, but in reality they just have to bunker up in the bus that's right at the start). Others are downright sadistic and unfair (such as the "game" at the baseball stadium in which a geyser explodes right next to most of the players without warning, the only survivor just happened to be in a far away bathroom; her game at that point was to escape the stadium alive).
    • During the final arc, how fair each face card citizen varies. The King of Diamonds and King of Clubs both play their games fair and square, on even ground with any opponents who face them. The Jack of Hearts on the other hand cheats by having a prosthetic eye that tells him exactly the information he needs to know, that other players have to rely on each other to get. How you feel about the King of Spades (a soldier who can be sent any weapon he needs by his blimp when all his targets have to survive on whatever they can scavenge) and the Queen of Hearts (puts a chemical compound in the tea she serves Arisu to mentally break him) may vary, as what they did isn't explicitly against the rules of their games, but it isn't exactly fair.
  • False Utopia: The Beach guild is seemingly the only joyful place in the sadistic death world of Borderland. Rule #3 of the Beach: Death to Traitors. Anyone found guilty (or suspected guilty) of hoarding their cards or desertion is either murdered on the spot or betrayed in a Game. The Beach's leader, Takeru Danma The Boshiyanote , runs the Beach as a cult of personality and has undergone severe sanity slippage. It was even worse in the early stages, since it was an anarchic dystopia. As suicide, drug abuse, violence and sexual assault became more common on the Beach Boshiya gave the residents false hope through an obsession with card collecting, while stepping up security with heavily armed psychos. When Takeru is murdered and a game comes crashing through the Beach itself, the whole guild breaks down completely.
  • Family of Choice: A topic that comes up during the King of Spades battle royal event. Three people - a boy, a man and a woman - meet by chance, all because the King - who has been depicted as a unstoppable force capable of slaughtering a entire squad of players - had been chasing the boy into the woods due to a chance wind making him miss his mark. They bond while under fire from the King, and in the middle of a typhoon they challenge him to one last showdown together. The family unit wins.
  • Fanservice: The chapters involving the association called the Beach have a lot of people wearing their swimsuits. However, it soon becomes Fan Disservice due to the dark secrets that the Beach has, such as the corpses scattered in the secret part of the beach. Said corpses are the people who failed to get the cards for their leader, Takeru Danma.
  • Fantastic Drug: One of the strategies that Mira has to defeat Arisu. In the final battle, Mira gives Arisu tea laced with a drug that causes depression and makes the victim easy to manipulate. Fortunately, Usagi is there and alert enough to not drink the tea and successfully save Arisu from quitting.
  • Foreshadowing: While Kuina is acting as a lookout for Chishiya, Last Boss walks past her before turning back to stare at her in apparent suspicion. After a tense moment, she winks at him, and he continues on his way. They later have a more violent confrontation within 10♥ Witch Hunt.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted with Arisu's friends from the real world. They die rather early on in the story, but their deaths haunt him throughout the story.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: In the Netflix series, these enforce game boundaries as well as kill off those who fail the game or act against the game master's wishes.
  • Gainax Ending: In the last chapters of the manga, before Arisu and the rest of the surviving players are sent into the real world where they belong, Arisu meets with a god-like being. It is revealed that the players who make it back to the real world were the survivors of a meteor that has struck Japan, while people who died in Borderland were the people who died from said meteor. Arisu is one of the people who survive the near-death experience.
  • Genre-Busting: The manga could be considered as a darker version of Isekai. Despite being an Isekai, it's not a fantasy manga and is more of a survival psychological thriller with a mix of drama and tragedy, considering the games in the Borderland that could mentally break the minds of the players.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: During the entire story, we only see one child who is younger than highschool age, with another character noting that he needs to play a game since he only has 1 day left. At the end of the story, we see that he survived to the end and reunited with his mother at the hospital.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Queen of Hearts uses it sometimes in the games she makes, in her own game of Croquet, and sometimes just to mess with the players at random. She makes Arisu jump though psychological hoops by manipulating his expectations of what an answer will be.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Aside from getting severely burned, Niragi ultimately survives the Borderland and does seem to come out the other side as a better person. Even the burn injuries don't seem to bother him too much.
    • The two winners of the Jack of Hearts game, a death row inmate and a sociopathic executive, both survive their final game without any real hardship. They spend the rest of the series relaxing in a penthouse, and choose to stay in the Borderland to inflict suffering on whoever is taken there in the next iteration.
  • Killed Off for Real: Arisu's friends, Chota and Karube, are truly killed off for real after playing the game of Seven Hearts. They also won't be coming back to the real world, considering they are among the victims of the meteor that strikes Japan. The fate of Chota and Karube is shared by those who don't survive the harsh environment of Borderland.
  • Living Prop: Starting from when Arisu and Usagi enter the Beach, there are many unnamed characters that are recurring.
  • LOL, 69: In one of the rounds of K♦ (Keynesian) Beauty Contest, this is subtly implied to be the reason why Shuntarō knows that 69 isn't among the range of numbers randomly picked by Hinako.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: In 5♠ Tag, the "it" wear masks to hunt down the players.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Borderland by its logic can't exist in the real world with its Kill Sat and the bounds of seemingly-replenishing and shifting resources, but all physics and injuries are absolutely realistic and no one can tell if it's reality or some sort of dream. Even when the ending implies it all to be a Near-Death Experience of a comatose Dying Dream, elements of the character's memories and their meetings with each other remain in their minds, which is an integral plot point in a sequel story that its respective protagonist has to use to stop a bomb from going off. A separate short-story after this series of Arisu ending up in the Borderlands again also restores his memories of it and removes them upon leaving it, implying the Borderland to be some sort of recurring "second chance" zone for fatally-wounded that isn't shy to draw in repeat players, even if for far shorter game sessions overall.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Arisu's name means Alice and Usagi's name means bunny. This makes sense in context, as the manga takes cues from Alice in Wonderland. There's also Boshiya (Hatter, the leader of the Beach), Chisiya (Chesire), and Doudou (Dodo).
    • It is also revealed in the manga that Borderland means the realm between life and death. This was intentional by the author, as it is also revealed that Arisu and the rest of the surviving Borderland players were deeply unconscious after a meteor hit Japan.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Even if the Beach was disbanded, Hikari Kuina is one of the people who show a lot of skin even in regular clothing. Rizuna An comes close to Kuina due to her regular outfit exposing her midriff and showing her legs.
  • Near-Death Experience: More than a few players, especially Arisu, end up in some sort of Heroic BSoD from their close brushes with death or the deaths of those around them. The reality is actually much more on-the-nose: the entirety of the Borderland seems to be a social subconscious version of this trope, as every newcomer there aside from the Dealers seems to be someone caught up in a meteor explosion in central Tokyo. Whether any of it was real or not is beside the question, as the entire adventure is ultimately managing to survive an ongoing near-death experience, or failing and dying from it.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: While players can die if their visa runs out during a game they can reasonably be expected to clear in a short period of time (such as the game on the train with the poisoned compartments), if a player is in a game that can take days at a time, they will not be killed once their visa runs out.
  • Official Couple: Despite everyone losing their memories of the Borderland, meaning Arisu and Usagi forgot all of their time together there, due to a chance meeting in the hospital, they start dating anyway.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: During the final phase of the games, there are twelve final games to be played, a Jack, Queen, and King game for each card suit. By the time only one of them remains, J♣, J♠, Q♣, Q♠, Q♦ and K♥ get cleared offscreen: J♠ by Hikari, Q♣ by Yūji Mahiru, Q♦ by Rizuna An, and other presumably by other players that we don't even know.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Inverted. In the manga, some of the characters wonder how they ended up in a strange world that requires them to play deadly games to keep living. One character, a forensic scientist, muses about different supernatural and spiritual reasons they might be there. Another character asks how a scientist could still believe such things, and she replies that science has only been able to take humanity so far, and at some point there are big things that even science hasn't yet been able to tell them.
  • Random Power Ranking: The difficulty of the challenges are determined by the number (Ace being the weakest and King being the strongest) and the type of challenges are separated by suits:
    • Club is balanced in brain & brawn, but the actual requirement is for the contestants to work together in order to survive together... Usually, at least - it can throw curveballs at you. Is often followed by much nastier Spade or even a Hearts event, since in Club events it's absolutely 100% necessary to have strong team bonds.
    • Spade focuses on physical activity - Which often devolves into meatgrinder deathtraps disguised as physical activity, like having a heavily armed gunman chase you around trying to kill you. It has a reputation for being nasty for a good reason.
    • Diamond focuses on mental ability - They're often based on games of chance like Blackjack and Mahjong, but it's all about calculations and knowing what your opponent is thinking. However, note Diamond's mental ability events are NOT in the same league as Hearts - These are games of mental fortitude, logic and skill, Hearts is, well...
    • Hearts focuses in psychology and considered to be the cruelest of the 4 due to it being the most effective at breaking humans. Almost all the Heart events have ridiculous death counts from paranoia or the event being custom-made to screw over as many people possible. Heart events excel in manipulation and messing with your head and/or your expectations.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We never do learn what exactly the Borderland is. Mira initially tells Arisu and Usagi that the whole world is a simulation to entertain people living in a time where there is no suffering or conflict. However, after letting this soak in, she quickly reveals that she is lying, before coming up with multiple other stories, all of which are also lies. Ultimately, not even she knows.
    • The story even teases at it, with two chapters following a man who has a camera. He eventually comes across a band of people who say they have someone who knows what the world is, as due to complications of a surgery she had as a child, she managed to be awake for the entire transition to the Borderlands. She promptly gets shot by the King of Spades moments before she is able to say anything.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The Seven of Spades game. The only reason Akane even survived at the start is because she chose NOT to go anywhere near the hole in the centre, which of course was positioned right next to the usual instructions to the game to get all the players to gather around the hole to begin with. Yeah, Spade games are kinda like that.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Oddly enough, considering the large amount of games that actively turn the players against each other, the theme for the Seven of Hearts assumes that three of four players will sacrifice their lives so the fourth will live. And in the end, that's exactly what happens.
  • Serious Business: Usagi's father was a mountain climber who vowed to climb Mount Everest alone without an oxygen tank. When it turns out he secretly did bring a tank with him, he got publicly shamed, with him getting kicked out of his mountain climbing club, newspapers reporting on what he did, people vandalizing his house, and ending with him killing himself. All because he lied about taking an oxygen tank with him while mountain climbing. It Makes Sense in Context when you consider shame culture (see Persona 5) plays a massive role in Japanese culture.
  • Shared Dream: The Borderland is collectively dreamed by dying people as well as those close to death. Maybe.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Heart Games have almost always given SOMEONE this treatment - The infamous Seven of Hearts game gives Arisu massive story-spanning issues, The Ten of Hearts game has Agni haunted by Hatter's ghost for what he did, and the King of Spades has traditional PTSD and is killing people only because for him, all the Borderlands Citizens are soldiers suffering in perpetual, unending agony, and he HAS to shoot them so they don't suffer anymore.
  • Shoot Everything That Moves: Spade games almost always involve guns in someway, because running away from someone who's much, much better armed than you counts as "physical activity". The King of Spades also follows this rule, except his gamefield is THE ENTIRE BORDERLANDS instead of some small enclosed space. The King also has the best kind of military equipment available for hunting other players, including his own blimp just in case you try hiding and fortifying in some high-altitude space.
  • Sniper Duel: Genya Moro and Kimu Ayon face off in one.
  • Stripperific:
    • After the Beach is disbanded, Hikaru Kuina wears an outfit that consists of a black bra and white trousers as her normal outfit.
    • Rizuna An wears a shirt that exposes her midriff and very short pants that expose her legs.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Of all the face cards that we see, the Jack of Hearts is clearly the most psychotic and sadistic that we see. While they all have their reasons for choosing to stay in the Borderland as a citizen, of what we see, they tend to be for "understandable" reasons. For thrill seeking, to find self improvement, to understand the value of a human life. The Jack of Hearts is just a sadist who enjoys watching people turn on each other and fall into despair. And while other face cards don't necessarily give completely fair playing fields (the King of Spades for instance has a full armory of weapons and a blimp to get around without much issue while everyone else has to scrounge for weapons and get around on foot/whatever vehicle they can get working), they don't compare to the Jack of Hearts who outright cheats (having a device that tells him the info he needs to survive each round that the other players have to work together to get, meaning he can only really lose if he deliberately chooses to lose). He's the one face card that readers will definitely be happy dies.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In 5♠ Tag, one woman is too slow to react to Usagi's warning and is shot down before she even gets to turn and look at the gunner.
    • During J♥ Solidary Confinement, the girl Urumi puts together a group that are all supposed to work together. But she begins manipulating the group into turning on each other for no particular reason, leading to deaths within the group. When the others catch on to the pointlessness of it all, she is quickly killed and removed from play.
  • Trapped in Another World: One of the main premises of the manga. The players are sent into the Borderland via fireworks that are fired into the sky. In Borderland, they are forced to play some deadly games that could psychologically break them. It is also revealed that some of the people who were trapped in Borderland were players burdened with their dark pasts to the point that some of them wanted to escape from the harsh world that they live in.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Invoked profusely by Heart Games (and occasionally in other suits) by making them Near-Unwinnable and then tricking players into doing the insanity part. The whole point of a Heart game is to screw with the players and toy with their emotions until they make a horrible mistake, driving them to madness through regret and betrayal; the emotional scars go deep if the players are tricked by a Batman Gambit into panicking or going insane, and making the game unwinnable themselves by their short-sighted (and often murderous) actions.
    • We're introduced to how Heart games work with the Train Game (2♥) - which basically psychs the players out by having the poison they were told to be worried about actually be in the last possible car so they waste all their given resources being paranoid about nothing.
    • 4♣ Runaway is actually a strange pseudo-mix between a spade game and a heart game. The players have a 'distance' meter on their phones and the goal is to reach the appropriate distance, with traps and feral animals along the path. The catch is, they don't have to go through any of that. Some research on the strange graffiti and the dictionary at the game's starting point would reveal that the starting point is the finish line with a distance of 0, which ensures those who are stuck automatically win, while those who run diligently end up in the jaws of deathtraps.
    • In retrospect, 7♥ Hide and Seek where Arisu lost his friends to Saw-themed exploding collars, of which only the one with the 'wolf' tag would be spared, never said anything about surgically removing the collars themselves...
    • 4♥ Survey just started asking questions that only someone who picked up the hotel's pamphlet at the bottom floor at the very start before the game began could know about.
    • Another game gives the players the option of having weapons, but doesn't specify why they would be needed - and they aren't. But now all the players are armed and ready to attack each other just in case the game says they should, or doesn't say anything in the rules about not doing so.
    • 10♥ Witch Hunt was a literal guild-breaker, as it was intentionally hosted the moment the Beach guild underwent its first major crisis (the guildmaster dying) in the middle of an occupied hotel, something that caught everyone off guard. The kicker is that the game was a murder mystery, with the killer confirmed to be inside the building. With tensions finally past the breaking point, Beach's security went postal and slaughtered most of the residents to target the killer by process of elimination. By the time they realize that the killer doesn't have to be a living person - or that they could have waited for their science division to identify the killer through forensics - most of the guild is slaughtered and the building is on fire. The survivors are left sobbing at a ruin of their own making.
    • Q♥ Croquet: The rules are so vague that it's within the rules of the game to just kill her, but there is no rule saying you win if you do that. As figured out in time, Arisu would have lost the game if he took revenge then and there, because the only way to win was by 'playing a full match of Croquet with the Queen'; if she died, then she couldn't win - but she also couldn't lose, which meant that the meta-game (win or lose, just play the game) would be unbeatable. Even worse, the game would go on indefinitely and all Borderlands players would be unable to clear the final Face game.
  • Wham Line: After the players clears the Ten of Hearts game and discovers the dead bodies of all the Dealers, Mira makes a public announcement confirming what everyone already suspected.
    There will be new games! Let's all play, and this time with all the face cards!
  • Your Days Are Numbered: After completing your first game in the Borderland, a surviving contestant receives a Visa card that tells them they have however many days they won from the respective game. Then as Arisu and co find out when they stumble across a player who was desperately looking for a game to fill their time, running out gets you murdered via laser beam from above by what seems to be a Kill Sat. Winning games is a necessity to survive, because every player's days are literally numbered.