‘Alice in Borderland’ Season 2: A Thriller Where People Play Life-And-Death Games In An Abandoned Tokyo
At the time of writing, Alice in Borderland has only been available to stream on Netflix for five days. With the series still extremely new, we aren’t expecting to hear any news of renewal for at least several weeks.
This is normal for Netflix, as the streaming service will wait to gather all of the data it needs to judge whether or not an Original is worth renewing.
A major positive for the potential renewal of Alice in Borderland is how the series is performing on Netflix across the globe. The Original has already made it into the top 10 lists of over 50 countries. In particular, the series is performing well in Asian countries where the series has already reached the number one spot in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
Alice in Borderland has yet to make it into the top 10 of the US, UK, and Australia but is currently 7th in Canada.
Ryohei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) is directionless and a little depressed, playing video games and ignoring the efforts of his brother to find him a job. His father decides to kick him out of the house if all he’s going to do is play video games all day. As he walks towards Shibuya station, he asks his buddies to meet him for a drink. His friend Karube (Keita Machida) is about to get fired for punching out his boss, who punches him for kissing his girlfriend. His other friend, Chota (Yuki Morinaga), wants an excuse to blow off work; he hates his job and isn’t good at it.
When they meet outside of Shibuya station, they goof around in the middle of the famous intersection in front, causing two cars to collide. To avoid the cops, they hide in a train station bathroom, then the power goes out. When they come out, all of Tokyo is empty; there are no people as far as they can see.
They figure they have the city to themselves, until a disembodied voice directs them to the game they are required to play. At a gaming center a few blocks away, the three of them get involved in the game, along with a young woman named Shibuki (Ayame Misaki) who seems to know the parameters, and a scared high school girl. In the first game, they are asked to choose a door marked “Live” or one marked “Die” in two minutes. If they don’t move, the room gets set on fire. The high school girl chooses the wrong door and is immediately killed. So when the rest of them go through the other door, Arisu starts to figure out the logic of the game, but not before some hairy moments that include Chota getting his leg severely burned.
When they come out of the game, though, they realize that it’s not the only game they’ll have to play in order to survive.
Alice In Borderland is based on a manga series that was written and illustrated by Haro Aso. It feels like a story that would work well in graphic novel form; Arisu eventually meets a girl named Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), whose playing these games by herself, and they try to figure out how to defeat whatever is running this game. As a TV show, though, it feels like it’s going to be relentlessly grim, and we don’t think anyone is in the mood to see empty city streets and life-or-death games these days.
The first episode doesn’t start out so grim; when Arisu, Karube and Chota get together, they’re goofing around to an upbeat rock soundtrack, and it seems like the show is being set up as a coming-of-age dramedy. Then it shifts gears so fast that the sprockets almost come off; the game becomes this 50-50 proposition that just results in a lot of screaming, then the realization that winning this game means that they just have to play another game. Eight episodes of this feel like they’re going to be relentless, even though we know that Arisu and his friends encounter more people as they go along.
Maybe we’re wrong and things will get more hopeful as Arisu and Usagi try to figure things out, but this already has the feeling we felt during the third season of The Walking Dead, when there was no hope, the group was stuck in a grimy prison, and it just seemed to be one depressing event after another with no end. Given the tone the show tried to impart during its first 20 or so minutes, it feels like it could come back to it. We hope it does.