Hi guys! Remember me? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t, since it’s been…eight months since my last post? More than that, probably, if I’m honest. Sorry about that. I hope to be more active with my blog in 2023. In fact, it’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions.
2022 was a pretty tough year for me. Things were fine up until the end of March. Then I fell down two steps (literally) and broke my right leg in two places (tibia and fibula, if anyone’s interested). And, no, I wasn’t drunk.
Anyway, after the breakage, I went to hospital, where I stayed overnight and had to have a surgery in the morning. So now, I have a metal bar in my right leg. So I guess I’ll be setting off alarms at airport security from now on? Anyway, I was in hospital from the Wednesday until the Monday, which is when I was discharged and my dad came to take me to Nottingham, so I could stay with my parents and hopefully recuperate from the breaking of my leg. I had crutches and was managing pretty well…or so I thought.
Turns out it was a very good thing I was staying with family, because five days after getting out of hospital the first time? I was back in there. After having barely any appetite and noticing a painful spot under my left arm, I rapidly went downhill on the Friday and was admitted into hospital Saturday. I woke up on Monday morning in the ICU, having been brought in with DKA and sepsis. In other words, I very nearly died. (This isn’t an exaggeration. The doctors told my parents they would resuscitate me if it was necessary). Anyway, when I woke up, I had a brand new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and was receiving insulin.
I did get out of hospital, but it took a little while to reach a point of full recovery. I also ended up having to move house at the same time as getting used to all of these medical issues, so I’m not kidding when I say there was a lot going on. Believe me when I say I haven’t just neglected this blog…I’ve also neglected my writing as well. That is going to change.
So here are my New Year’s Resolutions:
- Return to writing reviews of movies, television shows, books and games here. Also try and write an update post every month or so.
- Finish the projects I actually start. To help with that, I have a group on Facebook to share actual updates on my original fiction. If you’re interested in following along with my journey, you can find the group here.
So let’s go onto the review.
Alice in Borderland
This is the first thing I watched in 2023. Well, it’s the first thing I finished watching in 2023. I watched the first episode on New Year’s Eve, prior to starting work, and then watched the rest of it after work. It’s now after 1am on 2nd January in the UK and I’ve not long finished the series.
I’d say that this series has a very similar feel to Squid Game and Hunger Games. It is violent; it’s graphically violent, but not to the level of an 18 certificate movie or series in the UK.
The basic premise of this series is that three friends in Tokyo, Japan suddenly find themselves in a Tokyo that’s entirely devoid of human life. After some confusion and searching for other people, they find themselves needing to play various violent games in order to extend their ‘visas’. Once a visa runs out, the player dies. If they fail to win or ‘clear’ the game, they die. And if they try to leave the game before it’s over, they die.
The first episode spends a bit of time introducing the characters and their lives prior to entering ‘Borderland’, so when they leave a toilet stall and abruptly find themselves in a deserted, normally bustling city, it feels all the more eerie to see the stark contrast to what came before.
The world that Arisu and his friends find themselves in is both familiar and strange. In the first episode, they spend time running to familiar locations and trying to find other people. Somehow, there’s no working technology, apart from what’s used by the Game Masters. As seen in the second picture above, there is some electricity, but it’s not available to the players.
An interesting thing that’s learned through the series as it progresses is that, not only are there other players involved, but some of them have been there for only a day or so, while others have been there for months. And Tokyo has been overrun by nature. Plants are growing unchecked at various points in the city. And in season two, there’s one very beautiful scene where some huge elephants are bathing in a hot spring. And other wild animals make an appearance, such as a panther and a tiger. The rest of the world isn’t shown, only Tokyo, but it’s likely that the rest of Earth is in the same kind of condition.
As mentioned above, the players who enter the Borderland need to play games in order to survive and continue living through this new, savage world. With one exception, though, the players have the choice of whether to enter the game arena or not. But once they do enter it, they have to win the game in order to be able to leave.
There are four types of games, each correlating to a suit in a deck of cards. Clubs are games that require teamwork; spades require strength, dexterity…basically physical ability like strength and endurance; diamons are games of logic and rational thinking; and hearts are games that are more psychological in nature-they ‘play with your hearts’. The difficulty of the game is shown by the number on the card. A two of clubs would be a fairly easy game, while a ten would be very difficult. And the face cards are the worst of all.
Throughout the series, there are a number of different games that the players have to take part in. In a similar manner to Squid Game, some of the games are ones that started out as a children’s games; such as hide and seek, or tag, or even chess. Unlike Squid Game, however, there are some games that no one has to die…however, the actions of the characters are sometimes enough to ensure the deaths of some players.
I’m going to start with my two favourite characters here: Kuina (on the left) and Chishiya (on the right). Their first appearance, they don’t seem that different to the rest of the characters. Chishiya is the mysterious, intelligent, charismatic guy you’re not entirely sure is good or bad or somewhere in between. Kuina proves herself to be a total badass as the series goes on and I had various moments when I was literally cheering her on. She truly had some of the most epic moments throughout the series.
Chishiya isn’t really a fighter or a warrior, but his intellect more than makes up for his more limited physical strength. As is mentioned by some of the other characters, I’d hate for him to be my enemy. And in keeping with his more mysterious personality, his past prior to entering Borderland isn’t revealed until much later into season two.
Arisu and Usagi are the two characters who you’re meant to spend the series rooting for…and I did. They might not have been my favourites, but they were definitely a close second contender. Arisu definitely went through the most character development through the whole series, going from a slacker who played video games all day to a hero willing to risk his life for everyone around him. The most interesting thing about his character is his ability to use his experience playing video games to think like the game masters and notice the pattern in games.
Usagi is a fairly typical tough woman, but she’s definitely really good at it. Her past as a mountain climber with her dad gives her a huge amount of dexterity and there are some truly amazing scenes where she’s climbing, or swinging, either away from a threat or towards one. But also, she and Arisu working together make for some truly amazing scenes, like one in season two that I had to watch three times over because the plan and its execution and follow through was just so awesome.
I probably can’t really mention my favourite characters without talking about my least favourite, or most hated, character.
Niragi is a villain with no redeeming qualities. It’s a huge shame, because the rest of the antagonists in the series had, if not redeeming qualities, at least moments that made them seem more human. A good villain is always one that doesn’t truly believe they’re evil and who has moments of humanity that show through. I think the show did try to make him less of a hugely evil guy, but unfortunately, a tragic past just doesn’t excuse his actions in the series.
I’m not going to go into any details about the ending, but I will say that it fit extremely well with the rest of the series and it was good to see an actual end that didn’t really have a cliffhanger, even though it took until season two for that to happen. Fortunately, the two seasons in their entirety are on Netflix, at least in the UK, so there’s no reason to wait between seasons.
So. I very rarely binge-watch series now, as I struggle with paying attention throughout. But when I was looking for something to watch and saw this advertised, I was immediately intrigued. And the first episode grabbed my attention. The second onwards held my focus and just didn’t let go.
The series is violent and there’s a lot of death in it, but the characters are seriously engaging and easy to care about. I’d quite happily rewatch this series in the future…and if a new season comes out, I might even be watching the first episode on launch date.