Alice in Borderland: the Netflix series is a derivative survival game, but it's not a defect

Alice in Borderland: the Netflix series is a derivative survival game, but it's not a defect

Alice in Borderland

Arisu Ryohei is the protagonist of Alice in Borderland (in Japanese "Alice" - in English - transliterates "Arisu"), a series on survival games transposed from the manga of the same name by Haro Aso into an original Netflix production that from its debut a few days ago it was in the Top Ten of the most viewed ...

Arisu Ryohei is the protagonist of Alice in Borderland (in Japanese "Alice" - in English - transliterates "Arisu"), a series on survival game transposed from the manga of the same name by Haro Aso in an original production of Netflix which since its debut a few days ago has stood in the Top Ten of the most viewed on the on demand platform. The Alice in the title is a "neet", an unemployed 20-year-old who dropped out of university and spends his days playing video games and the insults of family members who denigrate him for his ineptitude. However, Arisu is no ordinary video game addict loser: he is a young man with superior logical insights, a talent that will be the only chance of survival for him and his best friends - the shy, submissive and religious Chota and the rebel, impulsive and aggressive Karube - when they find themselves inexplicably catapulted from a public toilet at Shibuya station into a deserted Tokyo where they are forced to participate in deadly games together with other unfortunates.

Alice in Borderland follows the trio of friends and playmates as she faces different challenges that are increasingly complex and dangerous. Each level corresponds to a playing card that identifies its type and difficulty: to survive a test you need intelligence, agility to another, teamwork to another; the most cruel and terrifying are those that test the emotional stability of the participants. Between one trial and another, survivors can enjoy peace or seek an answer to their fate and figure out if they are victims of a conspiracy, guinea pigs in a virtual experiment, pawns in a perverse betting round or prisoners of their own madness.

Of eight episodes that make up the first season, only half strictly follow the dynamics of the survival game: the second part - the narrative arc of the Beach - is set among a community of players whose social dynamics follow those of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead, developing around the examination of a culture, the Japanese one, which makes the community and the sacrifice of the individual for the well-being of the group its strong point. Here the most intriguing characters are introduced (we remain vague but there are an "Immortal" killer and an expert in transgender martial arts protagonists of the best scene of the series) and we move to a less action and more "social" mode. The last episodes make, from here on, a qualitative leap moving from the level of mere brainy action to that of social examination and questioning the aforementioned foundations of Japanese society. In the end, it still improves, providing some of those answers (not all, a second season is expected) that many similar stories leave out to mask the lack of ideas or for provocation: the pieces come together and the design that is emerging is quite coherent.

Alice in Borderland is full of surprises for the generalist viewer - that is, without a particular passion or knowledge of videogames or the survival genre; for the most passionate, however, it is predictable, but tastier precisely because it refers to known patterns. Alice in Borderland evokes cult such as Gantz and her premises (a heterogeneous group of Japanese is inexplicably removed from their everyday life and forced by an indefinite entity to overcome increasingly lethal trials). In Alice in Borderland the characters refer to popular stereotypes in manga: the tough teenager, the shrewd girl who gets protection in exchange for sexual favors, the sociopathic genius and paraculo with the devilish smile, the tough gangster on the outside and tender inside, the charismatic leader and insane who ensnares the weakest, the social misfit who finds his reason for living in an ultraviolent and insane world. Nothing new on the horizon, Alice in Borderland is a strongly derivative work in which we recognize dozens of manga, films, series already seen from the aforementioned Gantz to As the Gods Will passing through Battle Royale, from Hunger Games to Cube passing through Big Match. Shinsuke Sato, former director of di Gantz, Death Note and Bleach, draws on this material recycled with impunity with calm complacency: characters and situations are seen and overwhelmed, but the source - the manga of Haro Aso - although it does not offer anything from the start. again, it's a mix of those familiar elements that we want to see that worked great on paper already.



Even the presence of Kento Yamazaki in the role of the protagonist is predictable but for this very reason appreciable: the ephebic and beautiful 26-year-old actor specializes in giving a body to paper characters and is a 'icon at home and for the Japanese fanatics of manga in general thanks to his participation in the series taken from Death Note in the role of the recluse investigator L (Elle), in those of Josuke in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, in those of Hirotaka in Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku and so on. Some stories conquer with surprise, others thrill precisely because they satisfy the expectations of the most cultured user (or if you want, geek) who wants to recognize situations, narrative twists and behavioral models typical of a genre: for these Alice in Borderland is unmissable.

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