Spoilers will follow the white rabbit.

There’s a subgenre in anime known as isekai where the protagonist travels to a different world, sometimes a fantasy, science fiction or just a dystopian reality of ours where their worthless set of skills in the real world gives them an edge on this new one. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing how that would look in live action, have I got the series for you. No fantasy, no classic sci-fi but there’s something definitely dystopian about this show. If you’ve ever wanted to dream of an scenario in which your gaming skills would actually thrive, this is one in which they would keep you alive. Although, not without some suffering.

(Credit: Netflix)

Alice in Borderland (2020) was directed by Shinsuke Sato with episodes written by Shinsuke Sato, Yoshiki Watabe and Yasuko Kuramitsu. It is based on the graphic novel by Haro Aso. Ryōhei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) and his friends Daikichi Karube (Keita Machida) and Chōta Segawa (Yûki Morinaga) breeze through their days dodging work and responsibilities in Tokyo. One regular day, they find themselves in the middle of town when everyone in the city disappears. Suddenly they find themselves in a reality where they’re forced to play games of life and death just to live a few days more. They will later find Yuzuha Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), an experience climber and survivalist young woman who has managed to survive several games already.

I haven’t read the original graphic novel by Haro Aso, but I am glad that this was produced by a Japanese production company, Robot Communications. I am judging it merely as its own product, since I have already read that as an adaptation it changes the order of some events, introducing characters on a different order and simplifying (dumbing down) some of the game puzzles. Yes, this has puzzles and some of them have more complex solutions than others. People die in these games so you get attached at your own risk.

Let me break this down for you. It’s good. This is one of those movies in which you can get immersed and play from home. Would you have gone the same route? Would you go back for your friends? Would you choose to run away or towards the threat? I think the less I tell you the better it’s going to work. I wasn’t sure what to expect until I finished the first episode and then I felt like I needed more.

It’s definitely a survival show, so anyone besides the main cast is fair game. The thing is, you’re not quite sure who is in the main cast other than the main character, Arisu (in Japanese pronunciation it sounds like “Alice”). You’re not quite sure if the new people they meet will add to it or are they going to be dead later. It also lacks an antagonist so far, as we’ve yet to see the mastermind behind it all.

Highly recommended for fans of suspense, thrillers and mystery. You can tell by the puzzles presented there’s a bit more to each one. The chemistry between the cast is palpable, which of course can be a trap for the audience depending on your guess on who’s going to clear the game and who’s going to die. It doesn’t rely solely on special effects but it does feel the need to explain some of the outcomes a little, although not enough to get annoying (so far). I guess they believed the show would get distributed internationally at some point. Very much worth your time.

That will do for now.