I binged Alice in Borderland over 2 days and knew immediately after it was over that I needed to write a review on it. Sorry, it took me a bit to sit down and actually write it BUT HERE WE ARE! If you have not checked out this Japanese drama on Netflix and you are a fan of action, puzzles, post-apocalyptic scenarios - WATCH THIS DRAMA!
Here is a quick synopsis - Arisu is a man living in Tokyo. One day he and his friends suddenly find themselves in a barren, empty version of Tokyo. They are thrust into a life and death scenario where they have to win games to survive. Arisu meets other people in this world and together they venture out, trying to unravel the mysteries of the world and discover why they are there.
Now, let me preface, I went into this drama knowing nothing about it other than what I saw in the trailer. I knew it was based off a manga but I never read it. I actually think this helped me in the end because I didn't have any source material to compare it too.
4 THINGS OF THIS DRAMA THAT STOOD OUT TO ME AND 1 THING I DID NOT LIKE:
So, this genre is not new to us. We have seen it in other setups like Hunger Games and Maze Runner but this drama still puts its own twist on the survival genre. As I have always said, I like Japanese dramas for their depth. On the surface, Japanese dramas come off with certain themes or with certain talking points but there is always more to their stories and their setups. Alice in Borderland is ONE BIG SOCIAL COMMENTARY! It is survival of the fittest both literally and figuratively. It takes all of these themes and sort of turns it a little to make it unique and their own.
This drama takes us on the thrilling journey from start to finish. You don't get a break which runs parallel to the characters because they don't get a real break for the most part in the story as well. FAIR WARNING - THIS DRAMA IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! It is VIOLENT and BRUTAL so if that is not your thing, this is not the drama for you!
One of the best things about this drama is the unpredictability. Now since I never read the manga, this might be why. I don't know if the drama follows the manga or not. When this drama says it is a survival game, IT IS A SURVIVAL GAME! NO ONE IS SAFE! You have certain assumptions about certain characters and think they will last and will make it till the end and then you get the rug pulled out from under you. MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS WITH THIS DRAMA!
Even the twists are good! You think the characters have figured everything out and you think that you know what has to be done for them to survive AND THEN THE DRAMA THROWS IN ANOTHER TWIST! I like to be surprised. I have watched so many dramas at this point - to the point where I know tropes and can a lot of times predict things. It is refreshing when I come across a drama where I can't do that.
One thing I think that helps with how unpredictable this drama are the games themselves. You always enter a game not knowing everything about it. There is always a twist so you can't predict to beat it. You learn as the players do which makes the drama unpredictable because you don't know what the players are thinking. The set up for this drama is just so well done because a game is featured in every episode, maybe rolling into the next episode. It keeps it exciting and you wanting more.
You may only have 8 episodes in this drama, doesn't mean you don't become attached to the characters. The unpredictability even rolls into the characters themselves. You make assumptions of characters as you meet them and then the story just gives you clues or backstories and you are BLOWN AWAY by the character development! All of the characters have twists that you as the audience did not see coming and give depth to their characters.
The heart of this drama is the characters. Yes, this drama is plot driven and you watch it for the plot BUT THE DEPTH is in the characters. You as an audience relate to these characters more and more as the drama goes on because you find out more about them and their backstories. One of my favorite parts of this drama are the backstories because you get to see how everyone ended up in this place and really what their origin story is. I loved that this drama did it for A LOT of the supporting cast and not just the main characters. This allows the audience to become more immersed in the drama and connect with it.
I can't do a review about Alice in Borderland without talking about the CGI and cinematography. There is A LOT of CGI in this drama and it is BEAUTIFULLY done! I mean CGI is sort of needed in this type of drama so it is not surprising that it is in this drama BUT NETFLIX THREW SOME MONEY INTO THE CGI! It paid off because you believe the games and how tough these games are.
The cinematography of this drama is also a highlight. There are a lot of action scenes/fight scenes in this drama. There is sort of a fluidity with the cinematography in this drama that makes it immersive. The cinematography pulls the audience in and it seems like we are in the games itself. The cinematography draws us in and doesn't disconnect us from the story which can sometimes happen in dramas with lots of action scenes. The fight scenes are BEAUTIFULLY choreographed and shot in this drama! THAT SCENE WITH KUINA AND THE TATTOOED GUY WIELDING SWORDS WAS *CHEF'S KISS*! The conscious use of slow-mo and camera angles with that fight scene was amazing to watch!
This was the only downside of this drama - IT NEEDS A 2ND SEASON! It wasn't an abrupt ending or anything but it definitely needs another season. Let me tell you though, I AM SO EXCITED FOR SEASON 2! Netflix has also confirmed that we will be getting a season 2 in 2021!
Rating: 9/10 - Definitely needs a 2nd season which is why it is rated down.
So, have you seen Alice in Borderland?
What did you think?
Is it on your list to watch?
Check out some of my other drama reviews such as Cherry Magic and A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower