When was the last time you pondered upon the question – Why do I want to live? It’s a very fundamental thing to ask or inquire upon. However, we do struggle to illustrate the picture i.e. to comprehend the vastness of the question itself.
Not to mention, we dance around several broken and dangling answers that seem to fit the role. But again, one might simply just answer with ‘the’ rhetoric – Why do I not want to live?
Alice in Borderland is the exploration of both of the aforementioned questions. In addition to that, it also focuses on self-deprecation from various viewpoints in the process.
After experiencing its greatness, I wasn’t able to stop myself from penning an Alice in Borderland manga review that might just convince you to read it too. So, here goes nothing.
Alice in Borderland Manga Review:
Before getting into the review itself, lets take a look at the plot of the manga.
Arisu Ryouhei will leave high school soon, but he’s trying to avoid thinking about his future. Late one night, when he’s hanging out with his tough friend Karube and Chota, they see fireworks.
After one blindingly bright explosion, they find themselves waking up in a different world. In this ‘Borderland,’ people are forced to either participate in potentially deadly games or simply die.
Will Chota, Karube, and Ryouhei be able to survive this dangerous new world?
Journey of An Average Loser – Arisu Ryouhei:
Let’s be straightforward while being oblivious at the same time – Arisu is nothing short of an amazing protagonist. Right off the bat, we see an 18-year-old kid who goes through a distressing development through and through. Not to mention, he carries on the burden, the guilt, and the grief in his actions and values.
What makes Arisu charming, elegant, and raw is the fact that he’s able to hold himself accountable for the consequences. And I know that this trait is found in the majority of the shonen protagonists so why’s Arisu any different?
Well, he self-inserts the guilt and grief & constantly relives it again and again as to remind himself of the agony. This very part constitutes the most prominent aspect of his entire existence in the Borderlands. In other words, he’s diving in a rabbit hole only to find that there’s another rabbit hole.
The continuous loop of unexpressed admiration trapped in a traumatic incident cages him from striving forward. And yet he relentlessly pursues the idea of freeing himself with the guilt he’s burdening himself with. Not to mention, he isn’t alone in this and it is only with the help of his friends that he’s able to overcome it.
The Depiction of Beauty in Struggle:
There’s a certain charm in seeing someone struggling with themselves and their past in such a tragic manner. To be honest, it’s almost a noble thing to do – waking up from the nightmarish reality. Moreover, accepting one’s flaws and recognizing that we are the only ones responsible for our actions is a great accomplishment.
After all, Arisu comes to terms with his not-so-good upbringing and the death of his friends. In a way, he himself acts as a thesis and an antithesis in order to create a synthesis. The synthesis being a person who is willing to answer the question – ‘Why does he want to live?’
Again, it is beautiful and enchanting to see someone rise from such despair. Arisu along with many others went on a journey of ruthless self-discovery amidst chaos and death. And who does not love to see someone who’s able to wield a sword masterfully but chooses not to?
Now, allow me to use this Alice in Borderland manga review to bring your attention to the side characters in this series.
Compelling Characterizations Of The Side Characters:
Let’s be frank here, the amount of fascination and anti-frivolous value the side characters bring in the story is unbelievable. Simply put, no amount of appreciation will ever be enough on how phenomenal every single one of them is.
The meticulousness Haro Aso has put in crafting the characters is something to jump in excitement with. Be it Takeru’s everlasting enthusiasm or Niragi’s hedonistic behavior, there’s something in everyone that makes them stand out.
Apart from all that, the side characters actually hold a lot of significance in the main story too. In fact, their actions reflect in the narrative and align with the story properly. And let’s not forget how beautifully all of them are portrayed when the story focuses on them; truly spectacular.
The Stupendously Curated Games:
I don’t even want to go on and on telling you all how freaking impressive every game is Alice in Borderland. To put it another way, it’d be an insult even to talk about how stunning and grand every single game felt. It’s one of those things which you genuinely need to experience for yourself.
Although that doesn’t stop me from stating my favorite game amongst the lot – King of Clubs. In every manner possible, that death game is truly in a league of its own. In addition to that, it is the culmination of everything that Arisu stands for – life and terror of it. Truly remarkable.
Exploring The Main Idea(s) of The Manga:
Ask yourself a question – Will you let your morals get in the way of your survival? To put it simply, will you be able to click on the button that says – you live, others die? Okay, that’s two questions but anyways, let’s understand the underlying and apparent theme of Alice in Borderland.
In the several stories of Alice in Borderland, one particular subject matter was always there. The idea of questioning the notion of whether survival is worth the cost of sacrificing one’s moral compass is intriguing.
But Alice in Borderland does it frequently – asking the same question repeatedly to the characters as well as its readers. And, it puts us all on a pedestal of something larger than life – the burden of carrying death(s). The best part, we all do it, knowingly or unknowingly, carrying and remembering the ones who died.
The Ramifications of One’s Actions or Choices:
Haro Aso subtly imbues the aforementioned idea in his characters as well as the story of Alice in Borderland. In a way, he is saying that the games have a lot less to gain and much more to lose. But because the characters don’t have much of a choice, they need to embark on a catastrophic journey.
Another thing that made these grueling personal moral dilemmas interesting was the lingering aftermath aka consequences of their actions. In addition to the fear of not getting obliterated from existence, the characters were also tormented by severe emotional disturbances.
As a matter of fact, the main cast comprises mainly 18-year-olds; a very fickle age. Because in this moment of our lives, we constantly think about – ‘What do I want to do with my life?’. However, the people in the borderlands don’t have the privilege to think about that.
So, what happens when you randomly snatch away the very foundation a child needs to ascend into adulthood? Chaos ensues followed by one’s preconception of how’s and what’s of life and death; basically, unbecoming of oneself happens.
Alice in Borderland is Great But…
Sue me but there’s almost nothing that I would consider a negative or a flaw. For people who ask is Alice in Borderland worth reading, the answer is definitely YES. But still, I will do some nitpicking here and there.
- I won’t believe you if you said that you didn’t think of that ending. After all the brutality the players went through, it can’t be merely categorized as a dream. However, it did happen and I can’t do anything about it.
Furthermore, I don’t have any other idea to illustrate a different ending too so I won’t say more. But only if the mangaka came up with a finale that no one saw coming, it’d have been pretty cool. At this point, all I can do is wishful thinking so let me.
- Okay, so do not get mad and think with a cool head – wasn’t the last game a bit underwhelming? Keeping in mind all the previous games we as readers witnessed, I genuinely wished for an epic endgame.
Alas, it didn’t happen and I get why; the contrast between the mood and the game builds the tension so well. The idea always works but could‘ve been better if the game was set on a grand scale? Guess what, we will never know.
- The self-insert main character, unofficial girlfriend, super-strong side character, and a few other cliched tropes were used somewhat forcefully. Let’s keep this one short as describing the tropes would be a waste of time for you and me.
To be honest, there’s nothing to expand upon in this Alice in Borderland manga review as tropes generally don’t have much substance in them.
Moreover, Alice in Borderland wasn’t a ‘deconstruction type’ either, so we all know what I am talking about.
The Art of Alice in Borderland:
The best way to describe the majestic-looking art of the manga would be ‘delicate’. It eerily enough fills the gaps that a written medium couldn’t have. Additionally, the cherry on the top is that the spreads look extremely beautiful.
One more thing I like is how Haro Aso depicts the emotional battles; it’s bleak and grim yet lively. To be able to paint the contrast while an exchange of dialogue is taking place must be difficult. But he is able to capture it effortlessly and elegantly. In short, the art is great.
Finally, here I am, trying to jot down my closing statement. For those who didn’t read and directly came to the last section – hi, are you proud of yourself? Keeping the ignorance aside, I genuinely want you all to experience the terror and beauty that is Alice in Borderland.
I mean, picture my words like this – you’ve got a manga at your disposal that many people don’t know about. Just think of the times you can flaunt yourself in front of others when you talk about AiB and they talk about Death Note.
But again, there’s simply no reason that you won’t read this amazing piece of work by Haro Aso. So yeah, go on and have a look at it. And while you’re at it check out the review of Insomniacs After School too.
You can get a free preview of the Alice in Borderland manga on Viz.