"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

"We Revolve Around You"

The Dakota Planet

Alice in Borderland Film Review & Analysis


Alice in Borderland is a thriller series, adapted by Netflix in 2020, in which a trio of friends – Ryohei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki), Karube (Keita Machida), and Chouta (Yuki Morinaga) find themselves in an alternate version of their home city: Tokyo, Japan.

Not only is the name “Alice in Borderland” is inspired by Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, but the whole series. It’s a disturbing twist on Alice’s fall

into Wonderland, and the character’s in the series are just as absurd and wonderous. And, my favorite fact, the characters parallel each other! This is one of my favorite literary and film devices. Even better, it’s done so well in the adaption.

The first episode starts with Arisu exhausted by his reality. He comes second to his brother and doesn’t live up to his fathers standards. He escapes by living

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vicariously through video games. He feels trapped; misunderstood. Then he’s running from the police with his best friends Karube and Chota for disrupting traffic after spinning in circles in Shibuya Crossing. After they come out of hiding from the dark subway, everything is abandoned.  They’re calling out to anyone who may hear, and they’re briefly elated,  until they realize that they’re completely alone.

I remember watching this for the first time and trying to think of some realistic explanation as to why everyone was gone. I had no idea the series was fantastical, I thought it’d be semi-realistic like the other dramas my friend has me watch.

I personally am a huge fan of literary (Alice in Borderland is based off a manga) and films with an incredible level of depth and thought out twists (like the film “Coraline” where everything is purposeful and there are so many layers).

As the show progresses, the characters lean that they have to compete in games, and not doing so results in death because these are also life and death games, and each game is rated by a playing card. The suit dictates the type of game where the number dictates the difficulty.

Club card games are based on communication and team work. “Distance”, my personal favorite, is a four of clubs. Players are in an abandoned underground tunnel and

must run the length of it in the span of a one hundred and twenty minute time limit. At the 5000 metre mark, there’s a replenishment station of water bottles – most players won’t drink because they don’t know if it’s safe. At the 7000 metre mark, the tunnel is packed with cars.

Oh, and there’s a tiger, too.

Like a horrific scene out of “Zoo” or something.

Heart card games (the worst, in my opinion, and my favorite type) are made to torture you psychologically by breaking down your mental resolve and destroy your trust.

Or in the wiki’s words “players must manipulate the natural desire to live in others.”

Seven of hearts is the first game Arisu, Karube, and Chota play in the show. It’s simply a game of hide and seek, and a game of trust. Famously, there’s always a wolf in sheeps clothing. And what gets me is that the wolves collar isn’t rigged to explode, so the sheep could have cut the wolves collar and transfered the “wolf” status to another player until every collar was cut off.

Diamond cards are a test of intelligence, often on the spot. They test your ability to analyze and make quick judgements.

The King of Diamonds in season two is played like this: five players who must select a number between 0 and 100. The average of the values os multiplied by 0.8 and the person who chooses the number closest to the calculated number wins, concluding a round.

A new rule is announced with every round. The goal is to be the last person alive and to reach 10 points, as in make ten points by surviving the ten rounds.

When a player is “game over”, the scales above their heads dumps aqua regia.

Finally, spade cards are a test of physical intelligence. In the first season, there’s a brief clip of “human elevator” (a two of spades game) in which contestants have to hold onto metal scaffolding until it reaches the top but, sometimes it will stop moving and you never know for how long. If players fall to hold on, they fall to their deaths.

I love how the games strain the relationships of the characters and bring out the ugliest parts of humanity.

Every character has their own defining traits and parallels. Arisu, our aforementioned main character, is kind and wants to help everyone, even if it gets most people killed in the end, making empathy his biggest flaw. Very obviously, he parallels Alice and his name is the Japanese pronunciation of Alice too.

Shuntaro Chishiya (Nijiro Murakami), a parallel to the Cheshire Cat, also has a name that sounds very similar to his parallel. Huniquely cat-like too. Chishiya is a character known for his grey morality, apathy, and cunning intelligence. In the episode he’s introduced (“A Game of Tag”) he’s playing a Five of Spades game with Arisu. Chishiya neatly evades the threat and waits for others to eliminate the options before acting. This is a repeated tactic of his, and it’s even more brilliant in the King of Diamonds game.

Yuzuha Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), the White Rabbit, excels in the spade games and is Arisu’s companion throughout the majority of the series. The meaning of the name “Usagi” is “rabbit.” In the first chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll when Alice had to figure out a puzzle involving a corridor of doors. Similarly,

Arisu in his second game – also where Chishiya is first introduced – is faced with numerous corridors lined with doors. This is where he meets Usagi, where she’s

incredibly impressive with her athletic prowess. When she first meets Arisu outside the games, she acts as a guide and support to him, as the White Rabbit did to Alice when she was lost.

Speaking of the characters, there’s one that literally made my jaw drop. I had to replay the scene – a hospital scene implying her identity – because I was so shocked. I adore her completely: Kuina.

It’s well-known that the thriller genre, at least in America, is one of the most diverse. I think that queer characters especially are fleshed out and spectacularly written in the thriller genre, and this is true in Alice in Borderland as well, which is Japanese media.

Finding out that Kuina was a trans woman – trans, and a trans woman at that! – shook me. In my experience, it’s more common for there to be trans men – men who were assigned female at birth – and the only time I have seen trans characters in media was with Euphoria, which isn’t a thriller and I only watched it after the fact.


My obvious bias aside, I’d wholly recommend the show for anyone who likes dramas, thrillers, and dystopia because it’s got all that, and in such a creative way.

The characters and plot twists are memorable, and as I said before, it’s incredibly well-written. You can find Alice on Borderland on Netflix, but make sure to keep track of the time because it’s easy to get obsessed.

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