Alice in Borderland

A comprehensive (mostly) spoiler free review

Leah Parkhurst, Howler Staff Writer

Overall review scores: 

Effects- 7/10

Characters- 8/10

Sets- 9/10

Plot- 9/10

Concept- 9.5/10

Soundtrack- 5/10

Verdict- 8.7/10

Given the massive spike in popularity of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Squid Game, it’s no wonder that fans of the show began looking for additional similar content. Enter: Alice in Borderland. The underrated Japanese drama has been around for almost a year, yet its spike in popularity is considerably recent. 

Eager Squid Game fans have flocked to the show, giving it new attention that hasn’t been seen since its release.  A newfound enjoyment in game-based thrillers has made Alice in Borderland a clear next choice to newcomers to the death-game genre. This prompts a possible question to new viewers: Is it worth the watch? 

The answer lies in the show’s storyline. Similar to Squid Game, Alice in Borderland features a small main cast fighting for their lives in timed challenges. In both shows, characters we’ve grown attached to are forced to compete in head-to-head, life-or-death games of teamwork, strategy, quick thinking, physical ability, skill and treachery. 

“Honestly I kind of like it more than Squid Game. It’s not as good of a show, but I find it more enjoyable,” sophomore Connor Daniels said.

Similar to Squid Game, Alice in Borderland starts with an unassuming main character seemingly wasting his life away. Both shows focus on individuals trying to escape their real life. This and the general genre of the two shows is practically where the similarities end. 

Because of this, I do not think that the two should be compared directly. They are extremely varied in pacing, message, tone, and are overall two unique takes on the murder game genre. 

Alice in Borderland takes an approach that is more structured around the individual games and challenges, whereas Squid Game is more focused on the characters. Another difference is how Netflix’s overnight hit starts with its titular character entering these challenges alone by his own choice, whereas Alice in Borderland has its main character thrust into the games with a group of close friends. 




Anything “spoiled” in this review is revealed within the first two episodes of both shows.

Arisu (Alice pronounced in a Japanese accent, hence the title), the main character of Alice in Borderland, is a college-aged young adult living in Tokyo. 

The action starts when Arisu and his best friends -Karube, a team leader-type bartender, and Chōta, a young IT worker- are suddenly transported to a seemingly abandoned version of the world they know.

While hiding from the police in a public bathroom, the power goes out; When they leave the stall, they find all of Tokyo to be empty of people. This is Borderland.

In this world, they live by time limits. After completing a challenge, they are given a couple more days on their “Visa.” When their Visa expires, they are eliminated. At each new challenge they meet more and more new people.

The challenges are divided into four categories, with 10 levels of increasing difficulty per category. Diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. These categories correspond to what strategy is used to complete and survive the game: Wit, physical ability, collaboration and betrayal respectfully.

These high stakes and compelling characters lead to a lot of tense situations and tear-jerking scenes.


The question still stands though, is Alice in Borderland worth the watch?

With an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, 7.7 on IMDB and 95% on Google approval rating, I’d give that question a resounding yes. 

The sets are stunning. The practical effects are immersive. When used, the CGI is passable. The soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but it doesn’t take you out of the story and fits each scene properly. The characters are believable and feel fleshed. And thankfully, the ending left me eager for the upcoming season two.

I wouldn’t consider it a “life-changing must-watch,” but if you’re a fan of puzzles, escape rooms, thrillers, smart main characters, high stakes, sci-fi, or mild gore, this is a show that will likely give you a great time. If you have the time and are looking for more shows like Squid Game, I recommend you give it a shot.

So strap in. Grab some tissues, snacks and blankets, and enjoy the 8-hour vacation into your screen. Just be sure you don’t forget to keep your Visa up to date.