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Series / Alice in Borderland

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Alice in Borderland (今際の国のアリス; Imawa no Kuni no Arisu) is a Netflix science fiction/horror/thriller Japanese television series, based on the Shonen Sunday manga of the same name. Its core premise is that Tokyo has been almost entirely depopulated and those few who remain must play sadistic and violent "games" in order to survive. It stars Kento Yamazaki as Ryōhei Arisu and Tao Tsuchiya as Yuzuha Usagi. The first season was released worldwide on 10 December 2020. A second season was released in December of 2022.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Early Appearance: In the Netflix series, Tatta and Aguni first appear during the Tag game, with Aguni replacing one of the guys who thought of simply beating down the attacker. Unlike the guy in the manga, Aguni succeeds (though it helps that the attacker only had one gun instead of two, instead having a machete as a back up weapon.)
  • Adaptational Heroism: Heroism would be too strong a word, but Arisu's father in the Netflix series seems to be less abusive and more just tired of Arisu's utter lack of motivation to do anything. He still constantly compares Arisu to his more successful younger brother, but unlike the manga where he throws a party for Arisu's brother for getting into college while outright ignoring that Arisu is in the room, he celebrates with dessert that he even offers to Arisu, who silently ignores him. The bit where Arisu's father had a teacher Arisu really liked transferred to another school because he was teaching Arisu to play guitar which his father felt was a waste of time was also removed.
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  • Adaptational Intelligence: Though the Arisu in the manga was hardly unintelligent, we get more immediate examples of the show's Arisu being Brilliant, but Lazy with the variety of math books in his room and how he casually solves a digital 5X5 rubix cube on his phone while walking down the street. And the first game he has to play in the Borderland is much more of a Diamond game than a Club game, but it doesn't stop him from figuring it out rather quickly. He comes across as more of a Diamond expert than a Heart expert with the show's changes.
  • Adaptational Villainy: It makes sense, but Saori Shibuki does not sacrifice herself willingly during the Hide and Seek game like she does in the manga. Considering the fact that she's only known the other 3 for a few days, and the bonding scenes between them were mostly left out, she doesn't have the same conflict as the guys do who have known each other their whole lives. Chouta instead forces her into hiding to let Arisu win. She does at least stop struggling at the end and accept that she's about to die. This change seems small, but has a major consequence going forward: Shibuki never appears in Arisu's mental visions with the other two, as she did in the manga.
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  • Advancing Wall of Doom: A watery version occurs at the end of the 4♣ game.
  • Affably Evil: The game announcements are always unfailingly polite despite ushering so many participants to their deaths.
  • Age Lift: Here, Arisu is a young adult instead of high school delinquent.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In the final episodes of season 1, all of the remaining players are trapped inside The Beach and forced to play the 10♥ game, Witch Hunt.
  • Anyone Can Die: With a dash of Decoy Protagonist. The first two episodes and the first bit of the third set you up for the expectation that the series' character focus is on Arisu, Karube, Chōta, and Shibuki. Only Arisu survives the events of episode 3, leading Usagi to become the true deuteragonist.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Displayed early on by Arisu in the 3♣ game and most of the succeeding games except tragically for the ♥. Chishiya later gets to show off his own intellect as well when he figures out where Hatter was keeping the cards (and manipulates Arisu into getting caught looking in a fake location so that he can go after the real location), and later when he figures out a seemingly random doodle was actually a map of the subway system.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Arisu and the wounded man on the bus during the 4♣ game.
  • Bilingual Bonus: At the beginning of the eighth episode of the Netflix series, during the boot sequence of Asahi's phone, the only word not translated into English is でぃらぁ. It's the word "dealer" written in Hiragana, which is a significant clue that Asahi may play a bigger role than she appears.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The first episode begins by showing the books in Arisu's room, and a lot of the books' topics later become relevant in how Arisu solves the 3♣ Dead or Alive.
    • The drawing Chishiya finds in the dead tagger's pocket. The season finale reveals it was a subway map leading to the dealers' room.
  • Cliffhanger: Season 1 ends right after the end of the 10♥ game and the existence of the Citizens is revealed.
  • Deadly Game: The main premise of the series. The suit of the cards that represent the game indicates the "genre": spades are primarily physical challenges, clubs are based on teamwork, diamonds are intelligence-based and heart games are based on betrayals and heartbreak. The card value represents the difficulty and the number of days added to the players' visa if they survive the game.
  • Death by Irony: In 3♣ Dead or Alive, between "Life" and "Death", a schoolgirl goes through the door labelled "Life" and gets a laser to her head as the result.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Kurabe is physically one of the stronger characters but in 5♠ Tag Kurabe is stabbed in the side. This means that during 7♥ Hide and Seek Saori is able to exploit his injury to fight on much more even footing, and he is unable to catch up to Arisu when he runs away.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The series ends with everyone waking up in the real world, having forgotten their time in the Borderlands, but still changed for the better. The final scene zooms in on a table with a bunch of cards scattered over it; the wind blows away every card but one as the camera focuses on the Joker card right in the middle...
  • Explosive Leash: Used in lieu of the lasers to kill players who "lose" games, particularly games where players compete against one another.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The solution to 4♣ Distance in the tunnel is written on the side of the bus they start the game in.
  • Fanservice: One of the rules at the Beach is that everyone has to wear swimsuits at all times, on the logic that it leaves no room to hide weapons in. As such, there's plenty of eye candy for everyone.
  • Fatal Family Photo: During 4♣ Distance, one of the participants has a picture of his wife, whom he talks about as his reason for surviving. He fails to outrun the flash flood before the game ends.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Happens briefly during 7♥ Hide and Seek, before Karube and Chōta let Arisu win.
  • Friendly Enemy: Kyuma, the King of Clubs, treats Arisu like a friend even though they're in a competition to the death.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Last Boss is revealed to have been a shut-in during his previous life.
  • Gasoline Dousing: In episode 7, Last Boss douses a utility room with gasoline and lights it with a lighter to force people into the courtyard to get shot up by the militants.
  • Graceful Loser: Almost all of the Face Cards take their losses with grace, complimenting their opponents on their victory, even though it means their death.
  • Gratuitous English: Important words are often written in English rather than Japanese, making them stand out. Most notably, "Game" is always written in English on the otherwise entirely Japanese messages announcing the next game.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Karube and Chōta hiding from Arisu so he can win the Seven of Hearts game.
  • Hero Killer: The King of Spades, a One-Man Army who tears through the named characters of the series, though everyone ends up living in the real world anyway.
  • Hidden Badass:
    • Kuina spends most of her first few appearances walking around in a bikini and trading snarks with Chishiya. Then she gets into a fight and reveals herself to be a skilled martial artist.
    • One of Kyuma's bandmates looks like a dropout but turns out to be an even more talented martial artist than Kuina.
  • Just a Flesh Wound:
    • Aguni takes several gunshots from Nigari and is revealed later to have survived the encounter, none the worse for wear.
    • Akane takes this to rather absurd levels when she absorbs half a clip of assault rifle fire to the torso at point-blank range and yet manages to not only survive for several hours but crawl a block away to find Aguni.
  • Le Parkour:
    • This is Usagi's primary skill, as she used to be a mountain climber. She puts it to good effect in the 5♠, Queen of Clubs and King of Spades games.
    • One of Kyuma's bandmates turns out to be a surprisingly talented parkour runner, fully able to keep up with Usagi.
  • Map All Along: The scrap of paper found on one of the gunmen in the Tag game, which just looks like a lot of overlapping lines, turns out to be a map to one of the dealers' bases in the subway.
  • Mercy Kill: In the end, the King of Spades offers his gun to Aguni to mercy kill him, flashing back to wartime when he gave his comrade the same courtesy. He also reveals to Aguni that all of the deaths he inflicted in the Borderlands were mercy kills in his eyes, sparing the inhabitants of further torment from the games.
  • One-Man Army: The King of Spades. Unlike the other face cards, there's no "game" to him other than defeating him in combat, which certainly takes a village.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: During the 10♥ Witch Hunt game, Aguni encourages everyone to kill each other, because he both has a death wish for having killed Hatter, and blames everyone else for feeding his egomania to the point that Aguni had to kill him. As Arisu puts it, he wants to take everyone down with him.
  • Red Herring: Used frequently across the games.
    • In 3♣ Dead or Alive, the doors marked either "Live" or "Die" don't really tell the players which one to go through. The true key to the game is Arisu figuring out where they are in the building and how the rooms are arranged.
    • The goal of 4♣ Distance is not to achieve the highest value. The bus they started at was literally tagged "GOAL" the whole time, and it's the only refuge from an incoming flash flood on the other side.
    • In 10♥ Witch Hunt a girl Momoka is found dead with a knife in her chest, with the whole Beach cordoned off and everyone inside having two hours to find the "Witch" responsible. In truth there's no killer, Momaka committed suicide and is herself the "Witch" so with enough calm analysis and thought absolutely no one had to die, but with the recent regime change putting the likes of the bitterly destructive Aguni in charge violence was largely inevitable.
    • In the Jack of Hearts game, three contestants are teased as the Jack: the candy-chomping schoolgirl, the male conman, and the serial killer. None of them turn out to be the culprit.
  • Scenery Censor: Used in season 2, as the leader of the King♣ game is a nudist, blocking the view of his junk with camera angles and objects in the foreground.
  • Sequel Hook: Season 1 ends with the mysterious game leader (possibly a representative) announcing the introduction of new games. The next day, blimps carrying huge banners of face cards fly in over Tokyo, suggesting that the new games will be even harder than the hardest encountered up until now. Season 2 ends with all of the main characters in Shibuya on the day they were sent to the borderlands with no memory of each other or the games. The fireworks were revealed to be a meteor strike that caused major damage to the town, but the characters are shown to survive it, aside from the wounds they had in the borderlands. The final shot shows the Joker card, implying that the games are still not complete.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The King of Spades is revealed to be a war veteran who was faced with mercy killing his comrade after a botched mission.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: The murder victim in 10♥ Witch Hunt turns out to have been a dealer who stuck the knife into her own chest and the solution to the game is to throw her on the fire.
  • Too Dumb to Live: 4♦ Light Bulb takes place in a room being filled with water with live wire hanging from the ceiling. A girl touches a metal conductor and gets zapped to death as the result.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 1, episode 3 for demonstrating that Anyone Can Die when three protagonist characters — out of only four the audience knew well at all die.
    • Zigzagged in season 2. In episode 7, seven longstanding characters, six of them at least somewhat sympathetic, appear to suffer grievous if not mortal injury. Chishiya and Niragi are both shot as a result of a Mexican Standoff also involving Arisu, while five others are hurt badly battling the King of Spades — Ann and Heiya appear to actually expire from their wounds, while Kuina clings to life saying she can't move. Usagi and Aguni are definitely alive, but suffer serious injuries too. (Arisu gets some cuts and bruises, but nothing worse than he sustains throughout most of the series. In the next episode, once the Queen of Hearts game, and consequently all games, are cleared, all of these characters return to the real world and though they sustain injuries comparable to what they sustained in Borderland (notably, Heiya loses her foot), they're all alive and well. It's a zigzag because though briefly resurrected, Chōta and Karube are still killed in the real world.