Alice in Borderland is a manga series written and drawn by Haro Aso. It follows high school student Ryohei Arisu who struggles with school, and is living in the shadow of his brother who seems to excel at everything. Instead of trying at school, Arisu spends most of his time hanging out with his friends Chota and Karube. After a night out they head to a train station together and witness a really late fireworks show that blinds them and they wake up in a seemingly different world that looks like it may be their own world but years in the future. They stumble across a game, where the stakes are literally life and death.
The first volume of Alice in Borderland collects the first two volumes that were released in Japan, so there’s a little over three hundred pages in this collection. For the most part this is just setting up the world of the story and overarching plot. The other version of Tokyo the characters end up in is called Borderland and they have to win at the games they play in order to stay alive and earn visa points. One point equals one day of living in Borderland.
It has quite a slow pace as you get to know the main characters, but does pick up once the games start. With the first game each character has to take a fortune, and some of them have questions on it, and how far off the correct answer they are means that fire arrows would be shot at them. It’s a really good way to introduce you to Borderland, since it sets the stakes really high instantly and shows that it’s not messing around. I did find the pacing a little too slow at points, and I do hope it picks up a bit in further volumes.
Ryohei Arisu is definitely an interesting character, as his family life haunts him throughout the story. While he’s not very good at school work, he’s very adaptive when it comes to the games and thinking outside the box. He adapts to the different situations quickly and is clearly smarter than his test scores would give him credit for.
I read this purely because I really enjoy Zom 100 which Haro Aso started after Alice in Borderland. It’s a very different manga that explores similar themes about post apocalyptic worlds, and both feature a central character who doesn’t quite fit into modern life. This is a much darker story and with the constant threat of death none of the characters feel safe at all. The first volume is a little slow, but I’m sure it’ll pick up in the next one, which I will definitely be reading at some point.
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