‘Alice in Borderland’ and the border between life and death



Arisu and Usagi walk amidst the ruins of their old city, now overtaken by vegetation and turmoil.

Karli Torres Hinojosa, Staff Writer

After two years of waiting, the second season of “Alice in Borderland” finally arrived on Dec. 22, 2022. The second season follows Arisu and his friends across death games, similar to the first season. However, we meet new characters and learn more about the backstories of past characters as we watch the main cast separate and reunite throughout their struggle to survive in the games. 

In the death games, each game is assigned a card when players enter a game arena. The card’s number corresponds to its difficulty and its suit tells players what type of game it will be. Clubs games are related to teamwork, spades games require physical prowess, diamonds games involve intellectual ability, and hearts games are games of betrayal. 

The death games’ number also gives players a certain number of days on their visa, so the more difficult a game is, the more days a player will earn on their visa. For example, winning a seven of hearts game will add seven days to the player’s visa. If a player’s days run out, a laser will come and shoot them. 

As a quick recap, the first season consisted of Arisu and his best friends being thrown into a world where they have to compete in death games to survive. In a heartbreaking third episode, his best friends die right in front of him and he feels an overwhelming sense of survivor’s guilt. Luckily, before his visa runs out, a girl named Usagi helps him get back on his feet. They eventually wind up in a place called The Beach, where the residents’ leader, Hatter, tells them that he believes one person will be able to return to the real world if they collect all the cards. However, once they collect all the numbered cards, it’s revealed that they also have to collect face cards. 

This second season was just as jaw-dropping as the first, and I couldn’t believe how some of the characters managed to survive certain games—especially Chishiya (someone from The Beach who’s established as a smart player) in the Jack of Hearts game. When he walked into that arena, he had to put on a collar and rely on other players to tell him what the symbol on the back of his collar was. If the players fed him false information, he would die, and the goal of the game was to kill the Jack of Spades: someone hidden amongst them as a player. Somehow, through his power of human observation and intellectual ability, Chishiya was one of the three players who survived. 

One of the most emotional episodes of the season has to be the King of Clubs game, where one of Arisu’s friends, Tatta, dies after essentially cutting off his hand. In the arena, Arisu’s team went up against the citizens’ team. It is later revealed that citizens are people who have become permanent residents of Borderland—the people that agreed to stay in Borderland forever rather than return to their old world. When Arisu’s team lags behind in points near the end of the game, Tatta goes to extremes and starts banging a crate door on his wrist to get the wristband (which contained his points) off of his hand. With Tatta’s sacrifice, Arisu’s team was able to win. 

Another episode, which was arguably harder to watch than the King of Clubs game, was where all of Arisu’s friends try to defeat the King of Spades. In that episode, we helplessly watch as some of our favorite characters, including Chishiya, get shot and stabbed repeatedly. My jaw quite literally dropped when I watched as one of my favorite characters, Kuina (a martial artist from the Beach), was mercilessly stabbed right next to Ann, a forensic scientist who had just been peppered with bullets. 

We also get to learn more about players’ backstories, such as how Chishiya worked as a doctor and had to take bribes and move people around on organ donor lists. We learn a lot about him during the King of Diamonds game, when he’s pitted against a dirty lawyer, Kuzuryū. When he’s about to lose (and therefore die via acid), he decides to make the lawyer decide who the winner of the game would be and finally make him answer Chishiya’s initial question of how much value he placed on human life. Chishiya survives this game, and is later shot by one of his enemies from The Beach. 

All in all, this series will take you on a roller coaster of emotions—you’ll want to hug some characters and brutally beat up other ones while you watch them all struggle in their battle against death in the Borderlands. The last episode tells us what exactly the Borderlands is, at least according to the “Alice in Borderland” manga, but it felt like a satisfying conclusion. If you’re looking to fall in love with characters while simultaneously getting destroyed by a few of their deaths, you won’t regret watching this show. It’s completely riveting and will constantly have you eager to watch the next episode.