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Manga Review: Alice in Borderland

Have you ever wished to escape from your boring life and jump into a world of fantasy where you could be the protagonist of an exciting story?

The manga cover featuring our protagonist, Ryohei Arisu.

Everyone surely has thought of it once or twice in their lives— But for Ryohei Arisu, whose wish was granted, things turned from a dream come true to a nightmare quickly.

The spookiest day of the year is fast approaching! Which means, naturally, that you have to whip out some horrifying manga to match the season! As such, I’ve come to you with Alice in Borderland.

For those of you who love anything relating to the death game genre, or want to consume more after dipping your toes into Squid Game, this is the manga just for you! It's perfect for beginners with a good plot, engaging characters, and not much gore, unlike most series in the genre.

This manga has a total of 60+ chapters/18 volumes which, if you’re a fast reader like me, you can binge read in a whole day. If not, you can finish it within a week or two as long as you read a few chapters a day. 

Alternatively, this manga has both an OVA and live action series. However, the OVA only covers up until chapter 13, whilst the live action series covers up until chapter 29. The OVA is quite accurate to the manga while the live action series has differences in character portrayals and the plot, so if you’ve already finished reading the manga, you might want to try out the live action show. 

The live action version of Alice in Borderland.

By the way, the live action will have a second season that covers the rest of the manga’s chapters, so if a live action is more enticing to you, then you might want to pick up the manga right now whilst waiting for the second season to air.

The manga is about Ryohei Arisu and his two best friends, Chota Segawa and Daikichi Karube, who seemingly get isekai’d to a dystopian future, known as the Borderland. They learn that they must play dangerous games in order to extend their visa, or else they will die when the visa expires. Along the way, they meet Saori Shibuki, an office lady who seems knowledgeable about the games. Together, they team up and aim to stay alive while investigating the truth behind the Borderland, and who exactly is orchestrating these deadly games.

Ryohei Arisu with his two best friends during their first day in the Borderland.

I personally feel that the manga draws readers in with its interesting premise and manages to continue pulling you in due to the depth and complexity of the characters. The drama between the characters feels real and genuine, and it’s easy to understand the reasoning behind the actions of many characters. 

Not only that, despite the huge cast of characters, all of them play a large role in the manga’s plot— Many characters make small cameos in early chapters, only to appear later with huge significance, making the world of Alice in Borderland feel real. It feels as if all the characters are real people who have their own past, dreams and ambitions, with none of the characters feeling one dimensional. I believe that’s quite hard to achieve for such a large cast of characters, so I’m impressed by the writing.

The whole cast is endearing too, with only one or two hard exceptions. I love most of the cast equally, though my favourites include Mira Kano, Shuntaro Chishiya and Ginji Kyuma.

Mira Kano, who has both beauty and brains.

The games featured in the manga are unique too, as they are split into four categories: Club (teamwork), Diamond (intelligence), Spades (physical strength) and Heart (psychological strength). Each game tests the players on one of these aspects. The difficulty of the game is determined by a number and, as shown in the manga during the Three of Hearts game, Heart games are notoriously difficult even at a low number.

Some games seem to deliberately mislead players too, like the Four of Clubs game, titled 'Runaway'. The game, held in a 10km tunnel, tells the players that in order to win, they must survive four trials and reach "the goal" before the time limit is up. The trials include cheetahs, a flood with crocodiles, sudden cold temperatures, and an explosion. The characters, knowing this is a game about teamwork, are definitely confused as it seems more like they should be running away in order to survive these trials and reach "the goal", which they think is located at the end of the tunnel.

... However, there is a bus at the start of the tunnel with "GOAL" spray painted onto it. If only the players had worked together, they would have realised that and could have stayed inside of the bus to survive the four trials and win the game. Instead, the players were fragmented, thus most of them chose to ran to the other side of the tunnel, only to be met with a dead end. There are other games which have similar loopholes or misleading instructions, which is truly what makes Alice in Borderland so fun to read even after readers learn how the games work.

There are currently two spin-offs for the manga too; Alice on Border Road and Alice in Borderland Retry. Border Road is a regular spin-off while Retry is a direct sequel which involves Ryohei Arisu once again entering the Borderlands. For fans who have already finished both the manga and live action series, there's still more content to consume!

While I haven't consumed either of those yet, I personally feel that both will be good, considering that the writing and flow of the plot was handled so well in the original. Overall, I highly recommend checking this manga out for anyone who hasn't yet!

I might make a list of recommended manga to read next... or maybe I'll get around to reviewing more crane game apps. Who knows?

Until then, stay home, stay safe, and have fun!

Written by Ririko

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