Alice in Borderland, the live-action series based on mangaka’s Haru Aso’s manga of the same names, blasted onto Netflix two years ago. A death game isekai, the series expertly explored guilt, grief, human connections, and just how far someone will bend their moral will when their life is on the line. As one of my favorite series that year, the news of a second season excited me, especially as I’ve been reading the official English release of the manga by VIZ Media. Alice in Borderland Season 2 is directed by Shinsuke Sato and features a screenplay by Yasuko Kuramitsu and Shinsuke Sato.
Alice in Borderland Season 2 picks up immediately where last season left off. With The Beach destroyed and mysterious blimps gathering in the center of the city, the players in the Country find themselves all pulled to one place, only to be fish in a barrel for the King of Hearts. While Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) and Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) are chasing the mystery of “Borderland” in order to return to their real world, the players we’ve come to know and love (or hate) have to win the remaining 12 games, difficulty level: face cards. Still running on the assumption that beating every card will eventually lead them home, we follow Arisu, Usagi, Chishiya (Nijirô Murakami), and Kuina (Aya Asahina) as they take off and play the hardest games yet. Pushing themselves through their own morality barriers and physical pain while attempting to outwit the others around them, the group is as steadfast as ever, no matter how many times the games knock them down and cut their connections to hope.
This season ramps up the action to match the face cards in play with the toughest difficulty of anything we’ve seen so far. The series is more brutal and more violent than the last season, and none of it is without reason or exploration of the characters involved. While I appreciate every character’s growth and their games this season, it’s Chishiya who is the standout of the season as he enters mental games to test betrayal. The Chesire Cat, Chishiya watches those around him, learns about them, and smiles while he enacts his plan. He’s alone for the majority of the season, but this allows him to work as a window into the Country beyond his friends.
As much as we get a view into who Chishiya is and how he thinks, it’s the people around him, specifically the ones running the games and those who want to stay in the Borderland, that get a much-needed exploration. While it’s easy to see that Arisu’s quest to find out the truth of the world they’ve found themselves isakaied to serves its purpose, Chishiya’s participation in games that force people to expose their inner desires and motives is what makes Alice In Borderland Season 2 grander than just cool death games.
That said, Arisu develops by embracing his past and using his memories for strength when he’s about to break instead of being debilitated by them. It’s a course of action that shows Arisu embracing who he was as much as who he is in the Borderland and allows him to get much-needed depth from Season 1. Additionally, the Arisu we see this season is more confident and more reliable when it comes to thinking for the people around him. While he is better with a team, he pulls his weight this entire season and from the beginning is pushed to understand his place in the bigger picture.
Alice In Borderland Season 2 also features a stunning score from Yutaka Yamada that keeps the series’ tone and atmosphere perfectly. With each death game either increasing or slowing the pace of the series with what it tasks players to do, the score keeps everything united. While this does yo-yo the audience around, especially completely games mid-episode instead of lining up the episode count to the game at hand, it’s quick to recover from the whiplash.
Aso’s work is wonderfully adapted and it makes me even more excited for the upcoming ZOM 100: Bucketlist of the Dead live-action coming to Netflix next year. As a sci-fi series, Alice in Boderland Season 2 is better than the first with larger concepts and more tech. The series gets deeper into the intricacies of the game instead of unraveling the characters. Now that we’ve known them and their tragedies and triumphs, the immediate genre fair is easy to enter. Smaller time for exposition allows the series to show audiences the past, how it impacts Arisu and the others now, and does so in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow of the current story (which was my only complaint from Season 1).
My main critique of Alice In Borderland Season 2 is the fact that the season feels substantially different than the last in terms of tone and pacing. With a full cast of characters to learn more about and follow, only having eight episodes to grow each character and solve the mystery of the Country and its citizens is a tall order that the series sometimes struggles to manage. It’s not for lack of trying. Every character that we’ve been introduced to, Usagi, Kuina, Chishiya, all get moments to shine and develop just like Arisu; however, as we approach the final episode of the season, and likely the series, the way the stakes begin to bend and diminish around them runs counteractive to the dread usually induced by injury and potential death in the games.
That said, Alice in Borderland Season 2 excels in the designs of each game and what they bring out of the characters who play them. Season 2 is bloodier, more drama-filled, and more action-forward than the first. This difference will leave you wanting just a little more from the series when the credits roll on Episode 8. It may be hard to stick the landing for a finale, but the way that each character is wrapped up and realized helps the final episode leave an impact.
Alice In Borderland Season 2 is streaming now exclusively on Netflix.
Alice In Borderland Season 2
Alice in Borderland Season 2 excels in the designs of each game and what they bring out of the characters who play them. This is particularly true of Chishiya’s arc in the middle of the season. Ultimately, Season 2 is bloodier, more drama-filled, and more action-forward than the first. However, it also seems like a series more focused on action than the characters compared to the first, and this difference will leave you wanting just a little more from the series when the credits roll on Episode 8. It may be hard to stick the landing for a finale, but the way that each character is wrapped up and realized helps the final episode leave an impact.