I first learned about Alice in Borderland from the Netflix original series. Pulled in by the death game premise and the way the series dealt with relationships, I was excited to see the manga officially released in English—even more so when I realized the mangaka behind my favorite seinen title Zom 100 Bucketlist of the Dead is also the mangaka who created this story. Created, written, and illustrated by Haro Aso, Alice In Borderland Volume 1 is published and localized in English by VIZ Media through its VIZ Signature imprint. The English translation and adaptation comes from Jonah Mayahara-Miller and features touch-up art and lettering by Joanna Estep.
Originally released in 2011 by Shogakukan, the Alice In Borderland manga isn’t exactly what the Netflix series brought to audiences. In Volume 1, readers are introduced to 18-year-old Ryohei Arisu who is sick of his life. School sucks, his love life is a joke, and his future feels like impending doom left in his kid brother’s shadow. His friends Chota and Karube are no different. With what feels like a world closing in on him as he approaches adulthood, he wants desperately for a zombie apocalypse or some other natural world-ending disaster to hit Japan. Then, maybe he can have a chance at life. But wishes are dangerous, and when a strange fireworks show transports him and his friends to a parallel world Ryohei realizes the danger that comes with going down the rabbit hole.
A city that nature has started reclaiming, empty streets, and games await. What starts off as something interesting and exciting to the trio, quickly becomes dangerous. The first game starts with a bang, but Ryohei manages to beat the clock and save his friends. It’s a short-lived victory, however, as they discover that winning only earns them a few days’ grace period. With a pace that fits the dire circumstances, the death game the friends find themselves in becomes even more dangerous as the cards are dealt.
If you’re coming into the manga after watching the series like me, this massive volume with 344 pages offers up the first two challenges we see in the series—only very different (well, at least the first one). The ages of the characters in the manga are younger, making Arisu a very different character than what the television series showed us. He’s even more insecure and worried, but that works by the volume’s end when we see him figure out the games. Additionally, the entire first game is different than that in the show, though some events are the same within it.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, I’m mentioning it because even though you may know all the twists of Alice In Borderland, opening up the manga that started it all gives you more story, different games, and characters with slightly different motives. While I was worried that the shocks that the series delivered on Netflix would spoil reading the manga, that didn’t happen. Instead, it built up a tension that only grew as the story revealed all the liberties taken in the adaptation.
Now, Aso’s story is what keeps me set on returning to Alice In Borderland, but their art is what seals the deal. While some hyper-stylized characters like Chota are hard to like design-wise, the games, the violence, and the danger are all expertly illustrated. Each moment of dreams it brought to life with the illustration, and the horse-masked tag-game and barrage of bullets feel even tenser and fear-inducing than I thought it could be.
Overall, Alive In Borderland Volume 1 is amazing. It’s a thick volume that does a lot of work by showcasing two games. But every bit of it leaves me craving more. Death games are great, but they’re only as good as the characters playing them. Haro Aso’s characters, particularly Arisu, are all the reason you’ll need to stay with the series.
Alice in Borderland Volume 1 is available from booksellers on March 15, 2022.
Alice in Borderland Volume 1
Alive In Borderland Volume 1 is amazing. It’s a thick volume that does a lot of work by showcasing two games. But every bit of it leaves me craving more. Death games are great, but they’re only as good as the characters playing them. Haro Aso’s characters, particularly Arisu, are all the reason you’ll need to stay with the series.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.