Mangaka: Haro Aso
Synopsis: Feeling unsettled about the future, high school student Ryouhei Arisu often escapes the reality of life. After hanging out at a bar, Arisu and his best friends, Daikichi Karube and Chouta Segawa, wait for the first train to arrive in the morning. Suddenly, a colorful array of fireworks set off in the sky, and an enormous blinding firework renders them unconscious.
The trio finds themselves back at the bar covered in dust, discovering that the city has become a barren wasteland. But instead of being worried, Arisu feels alive for the very first time in his life and relishes the freedom of this lifeless city. However, his bliss is cut short when the group rashly enters a festival venue. Seeing its delicacies and lively ambiance, they think the place is a dream; unbeknownst to them, it will be the setting for their first deadly game.
Together with his friends, Arisu slowly enters the mysterious area known as the Borderland—an unknown country where every game puts their lives at stake, and a single misstep can lead to their demise.
“Life is built upon the taking of another life. If you have the resolve to kill, then you have the obligation to eat.”
Another Thriller manga up my list. Feels like I haven’t read a romance manga in a long time, anyway leaving that aside this was another psychological/action manga. The last one I read similar to this one was Tokyo Ghoul and I absolutely love it, I thought Alice in Borderlands would be the same but boy was I wrong. This one was more psychological and mental games with a touch of action and gore.
With the different games and rules explained, it’s hard to keep up at time but once you understand the whole thing, it’s one of the most intricate and interesting mangas ever. To me Alice in borderland was almost perfect, there were little things that really brought down the manga such as some annoying side-characters, a confusing ending. Anyway a great manga recommendation for anyone who’s interested in flexing their brain cells.
The following review contains major spoilers, read at your own caution.
“A reason for living”
Escapism. Have you ever wanted to go somewhere else? An unknown place? Exams, relationships, phone pals, conversations, the future, have you ever wanted to leave everything and run away? Life is full of uncertainties, Alice in borderland tells us a story of the characters who just wanted to escape reality but instead got caught something unexpected, a game of death.
If you don’t win, your existence disappears. You have no merit if you’re not above another. It’s as if your right as a living being is forfeit. Perhaps there was a reason for them to be in borderland? Maybe a chance to feel alive? A world where you’re supposed to feel anxious but you’re oddly at ease.
The concept of the story is very interesting. You’ve been sent to an unknown place to fight for your survival. You clear games with your lives on the line, and in accordance with the game’s difficulty, your visa for survival is extended. What needed to survive in Borderland is the heart of iron of soldiers on the battlefield. Observation, analysis, concentration, measure decision, no matter what the game be calmer than others in the final moments. That’s the only way to survive or in this case feel alive.
The plot twist at the beginning was something I was not expecting at all. Chouta, Karube, Saori dying was something that was never in my mind because usually in these type of mangas you’d actually see them escape trough the jarring of games but their death was a unexpected. And this is where Arisu’s character development really stood out. It is not courage nor resolution that you need, it is volition. Vanity, sociability, deception, flattery, pretension, here in borderlands all those facades come loose an you see one’s true form in the face of death, a place you can express one’s true self.
Pain, sadness, darkness. Everyone in this island have experienced it. Everyone have been hurt by someone, has wanted someone to treasure them. This proves that humanity still exists within each one of them. Even in a place full of despair, there are still moments you can enjoy, moments that makes you feel like you haven’t lost your humanity. Perhaps it is only when we are at the height of a traumatic event, on the brink of death or contemplating a deep sense of loss, that we are able to savor what we have
The side stories are also very enjoyable. A majority of the characters in the earlier side stories show up in later games so it helps to know who they are and how they fit into the plotline and when you get to later arcs, the side stories explore more of the plot and background of the Borderlands so it’s very interesting to see how the author correlates both. Some side stories also explore the backstories of a few side characters and the games they’ve played but the other ones just as good as the main story’s, and viewing the Borderlands through someone else’s point of view really helps you appreciate the story better.
All the games in the Borderlands are incredibly well thought out. Each game is a roller coaster of anxiousness, by the end it has completely reeled you in, hooked in your seat. The most intriguing element of the series is how intricate these games are. The elaborate way the challenges are set up are amazing. The games challenges the player’s emotions, physical strength, and problem-solving skills. There’s also the fact that some games aren’t at all what the players think, something that leads to fatal consequences. While these games are the hook of the show, there is so much more at play that is engaging and thoroughly entertaining.
The biggest driving point of the story is the mystery of the Borderlands, where are they, what are they there for, what is the ultimate purpose? These questions are the ones that drive Arisu and the other players to seek an answer, although there some who just want to survive and some who genuinely enjoy being there but still the question the existence of the Borderlands. The mystery and suspense acts as a bigger element than the nail-gripping action.
Like the Borderlands the pacing is also a bit mysterious. There are moments where you feel like your heart is going to drop out with the intense action but also has some incredibly slow moments of character development. The pacing changes each episode, with one action one followed by a slow one of reflection, it is very weird that the pacing is not very formulaic but it does make the story well balanced.
The story literally blew my mind, as a person who like psychological stories, this one made confused in a good manner. I could go on and on about how amazing every aspect of this story but me saying it won’t do anything unless you experience it for yourself. Sometimes it might be too much with the mind games but it’s definitely worth reading for people who love muscling their brain.
I’ll say it, I’m not a fan of the art. The art was weird, very weird but somehow it seemed to fit in with the genre very well, maybe it could also be that for this genre of manga the drawings are usually like this and I didn’t about it. I have to say though that character’s both facial expressions and body language really conveyed character’s emotions and reactions to events. Even though I hated the art at first, the art grows on you and you start to understand the author’s intent more easily.
The character design of each one is so intricate, even the villains make you have some kind of sympathy for them with such intriguing back stories. The characters have heart and are relatable to a certain extend. The author did a good job trying to portray people that you could possibly meet anywhere. There’s also some sort of understanding to their pasts and how Borderland affects who they will and have become after experiencing traumatic moments.
One thing I dislike from the character designs is that the author made some characters way too dislikable with no redeeming features. Agni was a good character, even after his terror during “The Witch Game”, he redeemed himself as a good character by helping Hayato and Heiya defeat the K but there is also another character called Niragi, who has absolutely no good things to say about him, till the end he remains evil, even with so many places to redeem himself he still remains as an textbook villain.
There were also a lot of annoying side characters, who just whine all the time. Although it’s annoying I can’t deny that might be how people would be if they were sent to an unknow place but sometimes it’s just too much. The place where the manga really excels in it’s character design is the diversity. You had very noble people, like Arisu or Usagi but then you had quite the opposite, with psychopaths such as the winners of the J of Hearts, who wanted to remain in the Borderland to rule it.
“Just as water can overfill a container. Madness is all the same”
The protagonist of Alice in Borderland. His alias is a reference to the main character “Alice” in Alice in Wonderland.
A 3rd year high school student with the hidden potential to be one hell of an analyzer, he looks at things from afar and checks every details he can find, he keeps track of everything he learns so that he can find a way to put an end to this twisted game.
Arisu’s character development is one of a kind. He lost an irreplaceable thing soon into the manga, his friends but despite losing it all he’s still struggling with the need to live, with the need to continue moving forward. He is the most relatable character I’ve seen, discontent, dissatisfied, always something pissing him off, the feeling of not being mature enough. Just wanting to change. The prospect of wanting to change in order to see the future ahead.
Arisu is undoubtedly the hero in this story. But his development into one is so gradual, and not in the typically heroic way. His relatability is the one that really made him a great character for me. He’s the same as every other character in the story, there is nothing unique about him. He doesn’t succeed every time, he has lost his friends due to bad decisions and also saved peoples lives. The thought of staking one’s lives for another, Arisu understands that very well and that’s why he is one of the best characters I’ve seen.
The last few chapters destroyed all my brain cells. Mira’s “Truth” literally broke me apart and when she said it was all a lie, I was pretty much dust. The psychological game is intense and the fact that the author came up with every single twist and turn is incredible. Some people would be like “that’s the most bullshit ending ever” but the author knew when to add a twist and when to break your minds. The final few chapters really go back and forth from “Reality” and “Hallucination” and it’s tough to keep up. You don’t know which to believe, you don’t know what the author’s true objective is but the true ending was totally unrelated to everything that’s been said and I don’t hate it.
After reading the final chapter, I felt happy. With all the murder, the questioning of humanity, the author tried to show us the value of living your life. Whether it is to see your family and friends or to grant wishes or to play baseball as a regular or even to just enjoy living. While reading the manga, the readers lost faith and hope in humanity but this sudden change in the last chapter is nice. To move from all the negatives to the positives really put my mind at ease after all the drama.
Everybody needs a goal and purpose to keep pushing on in life, sometimes it’s because life demands it, sometimes it’s because you got no other choice or sometimes it just happens. Everyone needs something for them to keep moving forward, to keep fighting for so they can die with a smile, in the end, we are the one who decide the meaning of life for ourselves.
“Life is not about how hard you lived, nor what you accomplish but is about wanting to live with someone”