What Is Alice in Borderland and Why Is It So Popular?

Yes, you read that correctly—I said ‘Borderland’ not ‘Wonderland,’ and I’ll get back to that later.

Released in December of 2020, Alice in Borderland is a Netflix, live action adapted Japanese thriller series that follows the protagonist, Arisu, and his friends as they are transported into an apocalyptic and alternate reality of Japan. They’re forced into playing deadly and manipulative social games to survive, all while simultaneously trying to find the truth about this reality so they can return home.

Believe it or not, this story originated in November 2010 when Haro Aso wrote and illustrated the original manga series until March 2016.

According to Looper.com, there was even a short anime OVA created for Alice in Borderland in 2014 and 2015 by the CONNECT animation studio. Unfortunately, there were only three episodes, and it doesn’t seem like anyone talks about it nowadays.

Game Rant’s “8 Things Netflix’s Alice in Borderland Changes from the Manga” credits Netflix’s adaptation with honoring the integrity of the manga series’ counterpart.

With only minor stylistic and character changes to ground the show and make it more realistic, the overall story is the same. Two years later we now have the second season, and the series’ popularity has grown to greater heights.

Today, Alice in Borderland sets the Netflix record for most watched hours of a non-English show with 80 million hours in just a week of its release, overtaking the popular Korean drama series Squid Games, which had 63 million viewing hours.

Enough of the lore and the statistics, what do I have to say about Netflix’s new anime favorite?

As someone who had never heard about the series until my sister showed it to me last year, I’d say it’s a very interesting show. It has intense mystery and depth; the characters are well-written, despite all coming from different walks of life; and the world seemingly makes no sense with its fictitious founding and gruesome social games.

This show reminds me of the Danganronpa anime and game franchise, Squid Games, and the Disney classic, Alice in Wonderland (told you I’d get to it).

Although I recommend this show, viewer discretion is greatly advised. Alice in Borderland can quickly go from 0 to 100 in terms of violence, hence my mention of Squid Games.

On the other hand, Danganronpa is comparative to the show as the outside world beyond Hope’s Peak Academy is similar to the apocalyptic reality Arisu explores.

Nevertheless, I’ve saved the best for last. Elements of Alice in Wonderland are scattered across Alice in Borderland.

For starters, the title is a direct reference; the protagonist’s name, Arisu, is a Japanese variant of the name “Alice.”

Secondly, the social games are named after all the cards in a standard deck, and the card’s symbol, number, and face suggest the game’s difficulty. For example, the premise of a card of hearts game is based on other players’ emotions— the higher the card number, the more psychologically twisted the game.

Lastly, many fans speculate that some of the show’s characters are based off the original Wonderland characters as seen in their ideals and personalities.

So, what makes Alice in Borderland briefly more popular than its Squid Games counterpart?

The greatest difference is likely the purpose of the games. In Squid Games, the players compete in variations of popular children’s games for a cash prize. Conversely, the games in Borderland are based on trust, endurance, strength, teamwork, strategy, and wits.

Another reason for Alice in Borderland’s popularity can be attributed to the development of its main characters as their perspectives on life, death, survival, and friendship are tested and formed. By the end of season two, their perspectives are unrecognizable to when they first arrived in Borderland.

I would give Alice in Borderland a rating of 8.5/10. It will leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting more, and maybe even a little emotional.