Are we watching or not? Alice in the Frontier, survival horror story
Alice in Borderland: Young Japanese are catapulted into an alternate reality and immersed in a deadly game in which they must pass various trials in order to survive. While season 2 just landed, back to season 1.
What is Alice in Borderland? Arisu (Kento Yamakasi), a young man lost and passionate about video games, hangs out on the streets of Tokyo with his two best friends, Yuki and Keita. But when they go into hiding after causing an incident, everything changes: the lights go out, the sounds disappear and the city is deserted. In the Japanese capital, it seems there is not a soul left. Suddenly, a giant screen lights up, informing the small band that the “game” is about to begin. Our protagonists must then pass a series of complex and dangerous trials if they are to survive in this alternate world.
Available on Netflix, Alice in the Borderland is an adaptation of the manga of the same name, written and illustrated by Haro Aso. We follow Arisu, a hikikomori who suffers from social phobia and is addicted to video games. Under strange circumstances, he and his friends Yuki and Keita are mysteriously transported to some sort of parallel reality, an abandoned Tokyo where the only remaining residents are forced to take part in a series of barbaric and bloody trials. “Games” of various types (intellectual, physical, team, etc.) and levels of difficulty in which they risk their lives and in which they must participate. Because if they refuse to play, the “visa” granted to them expires and they die. It’s like inside game of Thrones : when you play the game Aliceyou win or you die.
To be honest, we can’t tell you if the adaptation stays true to the original manga. But overtly inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story (besides the title, the first name Arisu is the Japanese equivalent of Alice and multiple references punctuate the episodes like playing cards), the series is a nightmarish survival thriller between surreal gaming and the jumanji and teen slasher at the Battle Royale or hunger gameswhile anime fans will remember No game no life. more Alice in the Borderland reminiscent of other fiction and whatever the reference, it’s clear that it can quickly become addictive.
First of all, you have to accept the tone of the series: actors who exaggerate, archetypal characters with outrageous reactions (but understandable given the circumstances), a staging that can sometimes seem cheesy, scenes extremely violent on the graphic or psychological level, a tendency certain “Over-explaining” elements… If we accept their codes and disregard some awkwardnesses, Alice in the Borderland is a good surprise and we are easily immersed in this alternative Tokyo with its neon lights, its large empty arteries and a vague sense of tension and desolation.
In addition, the series shrewdly avoids falling into the repeatability to which the one-test-per-episode scheme might have condemned it. Firstly because the tests in question are all different but always full of suspense, since from the beginning we know that certain characters are going to die and we quickly realize that no one is safe. Then the reversals of the situation multiply, the story becomes more complex as the plot progresses and we suspect several branches, with something else taking shape in the background. The gallery of characters is also enriched, highlighting the past of some of them through flashbacks. Finally, as the episodes progress, we ask ourselves more and more questions: how did our heroes get there? What is the aim of this game? Who is the instigator or the organizer? Is there a way back to reality? What role do the winning playing cards play at the end of the events? And what will the second level look like?
It’s a game of carnage, sadistic and unpredictable that’s easy to get caught up in despite a slight mid-season drop in speed. A series that can be seen as simple entertainment, but where you can also go further and… look at the other side of the mirror. The story takes place in a fictional world, which, however – by exaggeration – is based on certain characteristics and conflicts of today’s society. The paramount role of new technologies, the fragility of social cohesion in times of crisis, the contrast between competitiveness and solidarity, emotional stress, the survival of the fittest (not necessarily the fittest, etc.), the obligation to submit to absurd rules, the establishment of a social or political order (here Arisu meets a cast of characters who obey a utopian and hierarchical form of government instituted by a leader calling himself… The Hatter).
Somehow, Alice in the Borderland transposes a post-apocalyptic society into fantasy, a recurring obsession in the culture of post-Hiroshima Japan. No zombies, nuclear weapons, natural disasters or pandemics, but this fictional apocalypse assumes familiar sources: collective terror, desolate cityscapes, darkness of the human soul, general anarchy, temptation to violence or individualism in the face of cooperation and mutual aid… with two unanswered questions: how far can we go to survive and how can we return to normal after a disaster?
Alice in Borderland is an uneven series that gets too bogged down at times and not everyone will enjoy. But those who fall for it will discover a surprising story that blends elements of Lewis Carrol’s story, video game code, and teen survival thriller/slasher plot in a disturbing alternate world that doesn’t seem to make any sense. But as Alice would say “If the world has no meaning, what prevents us from inventing one? »
Alice in the Borderland (netflix)
8 episodes of about 50′.