I’m not a big horror person, but the idea behind Haro Aso’s manga series, Alice in Borderland, sounded interesting enough that I decided to give it a try – this in spite of the fact that there is a guy with a super creepy-looking horse face on the cover!
Let’s get into the review and see if my display of bravery paid off.
Arisu and his friends are a bunch of aimless teens, wasting away their youth. They’re struggling at school and have no idea what they’re going to do in the future. To avoid thinking about their lives, they spend their time drinking, acting like idiots and daydreaming about how cool it would be if a zombie outbreak – or something like that – decimated the city and they didn’t have to worry about exams or getting a job anymore.
Someone should have told them to be careful what they wished for…
A mysterious firework fills the sky with a blinding light and the next thing he knows, Arisu and his friends are waking up in a completely different area of town covered in dust. No other people are anywhere in sight and the city appears to have been abandoned for a really long time. When they finally stumble into an area with electricity and find another human being, she tells them that they’ve accidentally wandered into a deadly game. One they’ll have no choice but to play if they want to remain alive!
This Signature edition of Alice in Borderland collects the first 2 volumes of the manga into a single book, and I’m glad I was able to read a double helping of the story, as I found that this took me a little while to get into. That said, once things really got going, man was I hooked!
When they are first introduced, Arisu and his little band of friends aren’t exactly what I’d call endearing. After years of being compared to his overachieving younger brother, Arisu has no motivation to do anything and just spends his time trying to distract himself from the stress of thinking about his future. His pal, Chota, is a cheerful moron and also a pervert who concocts schemes to peek up girls’ skirts, but is thankfully too stupid to ever succeed. Karube is the only one in the bunch who seems at all reliable. A strong fighter and loyal friend, Karube stepped in to help Arisu and Chota when they were getting beat up, and the three immediately bonded and have remained close ever since.
Now this tightly-knit group of friends find themselves in a deadly situation where they may need to abandon one another, or even turn on each other, in order to survive.
Borderland, as the strange place the group find themselves trapped in is called, operates on a strict set of rules. Residents can only stay in Borderland for the number of days indicated on their passport. When the clock strikes midnight on your final day and your passport expires, you are summarily executed by laser blasts that shoot down from the sky. If you want to add more time to your passport and avoid this grisly fate, you need to participate in the games.
The games pop up in random areas of the city and are different each time. Some focus on tests of your physical capabilities, while others challenge your problem solving skills, but all are highly dangerous. The more days that can be awarded for successfully completing a game, the harder and deadlier it is.
It’s a terrifying and mind-boggling situation to suddenly be cast into. Finding themselves trapped in such a preposterous scenario where they can die at any moment, the boys surprisingly rise to the challenge. Being the most mature and physically capable of the three, Karube become the group’s rock and does his best to protect the others.
Arisu proves himself to be highly observant and a quick thinker when the stakes are high, making him the brains of the group. Even Chota, who I had expected to die right away, finds small ways to be useful, as he doesn’t want to become a burden on the others. They all look out for each other and cooperate to stay alive, even when things start getting really insane. Towards the end of this volume, I found myself growing rather fond of these idiots, and more then a little worried over whether they’d manage to make it out of this okay.
What really sucked me into the story was the game of ‘tag’ our protagonists play during the second part of this volume. Arisu and Karube find themselves with a group of strangers in an apartment complex being stalked by a killer in an unnerving horse mask. In order to get out and win the game, they need to find the one unlocked door in the complex without getting caught and shot to death by the killer – and they need to do it before time runs out!
This was a thrilling battle of wits where our heroes were paired up with an unpredictable group, some who were interested in cooperating and some who were only looking out for themselves. There was plenty of clever maneuvering on the part of our protagonists, some unexpected upsets and an intriguing reveal at the end. After reaching the conclusion of this section of the manga, I can’t wait to read more and see how Aso will top it!
I’m also eager to find some answers to the mysteries of Borderland. Have the kids been transported to another dimension by aliens who are conducting a twisted experiment? Or have they been brought many years into the future to participate in these games for some other nefarious purpose? We don’t have many clues to go on, but some of the characters Arisu and his friends have run into seem to know more then they’re telling, so hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.
There’s no way of knowing who, if anyone, can be trusted in Borderland. Even Arisu and his friends’ allies might only be using them. So far, Arisu, Karube and Chota have joined forces with Shibuki, an office lady who participated in their first game and explained the rules of Borderland to them. She starts acting like a big sister to the boys and seems glad to have some company, but it’s unclear how long she’s been in Borderland or what she might have done up until now in order to survive. Our little group of four is all getting along and working together right now, but given that the games change each time, it’s entirely possible they might find themselves walking into a game that pits them against each other! With so many possibilities for how things could go terribly wrong for Arisu and his friends, I’m going to be waiting with bated breath for the next installment.
With it’s griping story full of action, suspense and mystery, Alice in Borderland is the perfect manga for those looking for excitement and some crazy horror scenarios. Even the cast of characters, who I initially found unappealing, proved to be more interesting, and even heroic, than I was expecting. Despite a somewhat slow start, this new release completely won me over by the end and I’ll be sure to pick up the next volume to see what happens next.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Viz Media’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Has anyone seen the live action adaptation and does it include the guy in the creepy horse mask? Let me know in the comments.
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I was wondering when this was getting an English edition. The fact they went with a two for one volume with such a crisp cover is awesome. I still haven’t checked this out myself (the JDrama was super popular) but I’m glad the original has yet to disappoint you!
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This manga sounds gruesome, but I am also very curious to read it! Haha. I agree with you on the horse mask, that is unsettling and scary. Great review!
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I don’t know why the horse mask unnerves me so much, it’s pretty silly looking. But man is it creepy!
Really liking that cover. Sounds like a good series to have omnibus releases instead of single volumes.
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