Around two years ago I reviewed the first season of the Netflix drama “Alice in Borderland” (with the Japanese title 今際の国のアリス, “imawa no kuni no arisu), which you can find here. It was quite a wait for the second season, but when it finally came out I couldn’t help but watch. Fortunately, it was definately worth the wait.
Picking up where we left off in Season 1, a series of characters is forced to play various games in order to try and survive in the weird post-apocalyptic/dystopian world they have ended up in. Overall many things were similar to Season 1, including the edgy or adult elements including heavy violence, gore, and a good dose of partial nudity.
There were a few things that stood out for me in Season 2 that I wanted to talk about. First, the games this time felt to be really hit-and-miss. Some of them felt plain stupid, and others seemed like real genius (the one with the suit-guessing was my favorite by far). Some of the games took a lot of screen time, whereas others only a few seconds during a brief look. While ultimately I think the games were supposed to add a dramatic element to the series (and clearly succeeded in this respect), I appreciated how a few of them actually made me wonder what I would do if it was me playing them.
The atmosphere also felt improved a notch from the first season, especially in terms of the overgrown-jungle city that appeared in a bunch of the episodes, which was really done wonderfully. Also I liked how there were some scenes that slowed down the pace in order to build character relationships better. On the other hand, some of the semi-random flashbacks that gave hints about a character’s previous life felt rushed, and in some cases confused me a bit. As the series is based on a manga, perhaps reading the manga would give a more comprehensive look at some of the characters. As with the first season, the diversity in the characters was pretty good, and I liked a majority (if not all) of them.
To be honest, originally I wasn’t planning on writing a review of the second season until I came to a certain episode of it that totally blew me away, to the point that I had to literally take a few minutes away from my monitor to calm myself down.
This episode had an amazing series of connected action scenes (did I mention the gore?) along with edgy dramatic twists that had me saying “No way!” repeatedly. While it’s not exactly Matrix-level cinematography, I would say the action was above-average for Netflix-made content, and even that this episode was the single best episode in a series I saw on Netflix. Ultimately the “How is this possible?” parts made sense, but in order to avoid spoiling things I’ll omit further details. But I’m considering watching this episode again sometime in the future just to savor the action and drama.
Considering the series as a whole, I think this is clearly the best live-action Japanese series on Netflix. Besides the action and atmosphere, they even managed to fit in a little romance in a few places. It’s also not a bad watch for Japanese-learners, since there is a lot of simple conversation (though there are a few scenes in season 2 that have a lot of advanced vocabulary).
In sum, if you can stomach violence and gore, I’d highly recommend checking out both seasons of this drama ASAP.
And if you are wondering whether there is a third season, I think I’ll keep quiet about that. Don’t want to ruin the fun (: