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Parallels: The Japanese Series Alice in Borderland Season 1 vs. Alice in Wonderland

Cammie is a music and film enthusiast who loves looking at how media portrays humans in all their interesting and sometimes, messy beauty.

Your life is not going anywhere, and you wish you lived in some unknown place. But what if you open a door and suddenly, you are thrust into a world where you have to win a game to live? “Be careful what you wish for,” is what they always say. Your wish was granted, but was it really what you wanted?



The story starts with a boy playing an FPS game. His name is Ryohei Arisu. He looks like a NEET who has not taken a shower in days. He skipped his job interview, his life does not have direction, and his family is not willing to support him anymore. He leaves his home without taking anything but his phone. He contacts some of his friends in the hopes of finding a place to stay. But Karube lost his job, Chota did not want to go to work, and all three of them were having a bad day. They decide to meet up and end up causing a traffic accident. While hiding in a toilet stall, a power outage plunges them into darkness. When they finally come out, they find that everyone else had disappeared.

What happened?

Like dumb horror movie leads, the first thing they decided to do after that was to split up. But when the trio enter a game called “Dead or Alive,” luckily, we see they were not as stupid as they initially seemed. Arisu could strategize and read the patterns in the game. His game knowledge and skills aided him a lot in his – and the others’ – survival.

Alice in Wonderland to Borderland

If you like to read books, the first thing that you will probably think of upon seeing the title of this series is Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There are numerous parallels, starting with the first chapter of the book. Alice had to figure out a puzzle that involved a long corridor of doors. The first game involved surviving by choosing the correct door among many. In the second game they entered, they met Usagi. The second game was again full of doors. Most of them were locked, and they needed to find the safe zone. Alice gets confused as her size changed, which signified “growing up”. Arisu was forced to grow up as well because every decision could cost them their lives. Being “happy-go-lucky” or “naïve” was no longer an option.

The second chapter of the book is “The Pool of Tears”. The second challenge left Arisu in a pool of tears; he was in deep depression, with no will to live. Alice in the book asked the rabbit for help but he ran off and hid. Usagi, Arisu’s “rabbit”, initially saw and left the dejected Arisu, but she returned to give him the strength to play the games again. In the book, Alice was confused about her identity as her size continued to grow, and yet she knew that she had to find a way back to the real world. Arisu similarly needed to accept the illogical and messed up reality of the ”Borderland” to stay sane. The “Borderland” and the “Wonderland” caused them to detract and react emotionally.

Next is the “Caucus Race and a Long Tale” chapter. The third game they entered was a race. In the book, Alice talked about her cat, which scared the other animals. In the game, Arisu and the other players encountered a deadly beast that resembled a wild cat. The animals in the story were running in circles not knowing where to go, while the players of the second game just needed to go back to where they started in order to survive. They had no clue how the race should go, and they only survived because Arisu decided to go back and save the player they left at the starting point –the bus. What was shown in both the book and the game is that sometimes, although we do not always understand why we are headed towards a certain direction, it is possible that we are still headed to the right place.

“It was all very well to say “Drink Me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked poison or not.””

In reference to the first chapter, they also saw here a table full of water bottles. They wanted to drink it but Usagi, thinking it was poison, stopped them.

In the chapter, “A Mad Tea Party”, The Mad Hatter asks, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”Just as the Hatter in the series did not know how to get out of the game world, the Mad Hatter did not have an answer. People though assumed that the Hatter does know, just as one would assume that the Mad Hatter can solve his own riddle. Why would the “BEACH” residents arbitrarily follow Hatter and his topsy-turvy principles without assurance that what he is saying was real? It is probably because, whether it was a lie or not, the idea of someone having the answers gave them some security in their disorderly world.

The March Hare and the eternal suspension of “time” in the story is paralleled by Aguni in the series. Aguni is a character that drowned in a state of agony, no pun intended. Wonderland’s March Hare and Mad Hatter were trapped in an eternal teatime. Although the Mad Hatter’s watch marked the passage of time, time had stopped in March.This drove the March Hare insane. In the series, it shows how the world will continue revolving whether you like it or not. Aguni just wanted his Hatter to go back to before time stopped, and he was driven to his breaking point by the madman that Hatter had become.

The Verdict

It was fun to see how intertwined the events in the series are with the book. The show is exciting and easy to understand whether it’s watched with or without knowing the references. It is just more enjoyable to watch it with the novel in mind. It makes you, as a viewer, a bit more “curious”.

Tsuchiya Tao and Yamazaki Kento are undeniably excellent actors, but the rest of the cast did great as well. The story was good. It is one of those series that you would not regret starting – and especially if you like thrillers, this will not disappoint. How much humanity will they have left at the end? How did they enter this "country", and why did everyone else disappear? Since season one ended on a high note, let us all watch season 2 to quench our thirst for answers, shall we?

Game. Start.

Let’s Go!

© 2020 Cammie Kisoro

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