Title: Alice in Borderland Vol. 1
Author: Haro Aso
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Publisher: Viz Media
I had never heard of Alice in Borderland until everyone started talking about Squid Game and the alternative similar things you could read or watch like it. This manga actually came out in 2010, with the Netflix series only coming out in 2020, so I’ve apparently been behind on this whole “death game” genre for a while. Now that I finally got around to reading Alice in Borderland, I have to say that it’s quite good, and fans of this now-booming premise will likely take to it pretty quickly.
Alice in Borderland follows buddies Arisu and his friend Chota. Both are high-school slackers who are viewed as the lowest of the low and wish for nothing more than to be transported to some other world where they could thrive.
Alongside their dropout bartender friend Karube, the group is sent to another place called Borderland upon seeing a huge firework; but things don’t go as they hoped. Thrust into life-or-death games with a mysterious woman named Shibuki, the team must survive to find a way home.
The story of Alice in Borderland is straightforward but it does its job with impressive efficiency. I understood Arisu and co. and their feelings pretty much immediately, as those somewhat familiar pressures of young adulthood made me wish for similar things as a high-schooler.
This early sense of understanding makes the deadly stakes feel heavier, and Arisu’s character development feels earned and more impressive. Arisu goes from thinking he’s worthless to figuring out game solutions as a result of how sharp he really is, in a way that isn’t forced or too fast.
The games themselves are pretty unique in Volume One, though the first one being purposely unfair is an odd choice to start out with. The solution is neat, though, so it has an interesting conclusion in the end. I think the second game, “Tag,” is a lot better and more exhilarating.
Having to find a single unlocked room in an apartment complex while being chased by a horse-mask-wearing killer is a freaky concept on its own, made even tenser by the final few scenes. These killing games are diverse and way different from what you’d see in Kaiji and Squid Game, so you likely won’t feel fatigued reading this if you’re already a fan of killing games as a concept.
The art of Alice in Borderland is great, as the suddenly heavier lines and scratchy backgrounds during tense moments make things feel scarier and more hopeless, especially when the horse-headed killer first appears. That moment was so impactful because of the art, which was consistently impressive.
Alice and Borderland is a strong and tense killing game manga that will appeal to both fans of the premise and those who are new to it. The killing games are diverse and creative, the characters are likable and well-developed (given a single volume’s length,) and the art emphasizes the tension and excitement of each game quite well. I look forward to seeing where this story goes, as I hope to see the main crew all come out of this alive, as unlikely as that may be in this kind of story.
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