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  • Writer's pictureSora Sasaki

Alice in Borderland vs Squid Game: Is it worth the watch?

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Whilst scrolling through Netflix (as usual), a new show pops up in your recommended: Alice in Borderland. A cursory look tells you this is yet another "death game" genre series, much like popular series such as Squid Game and the Hunger Games which you have (probably) heard of before. Maybe you love the death game genre, maybe you hate it, but most importantly, is Alice in Borderland worth watching and what makes it different from its peers?

Comparisons to Squid Game

Full disclosure: I watched Squid Game because of the hype and did not find it an enjoyable experience. Do I regret watching it? No. Would I watch it again? No. Needless to say, I liked Alice in Borderland (henceforth referred to as AiB because that title is too long) a lot more than Squid Game (now to be called SG). Here are the main reasons why:

  • Games: I found the games in AiB to be more interesting with characters actually able to succeed in them because of their individual strengths whether that is reasoning, physical strength or teamwork. Whilst there are some smart moments in SG, the games felt like they had a much higher element of luck, which leaves less of a puzzle for the viewer.

  • Characters: AiB's characters were more likeable to me, whether good people or bad people each character, including side characters, were generally (at least somewhat) fleshed out and each got their moment of growth or the moment where they were the star of the show. Importantly, AiB feels a lot more like a team effort, allowing you to get attached to the characters whilst SG's set up feels a lot more last-man-standing since the prize is divided among victors. Whilst SG's characters are believable (?) and act in very natural ways, I find them hard to like. I think in some ways AiB's main character Arisu and SG's main character Seong Gi-hun are similar: both are good-for-nothings, selfish and self-preserving, but I think Arisu's arc and decisions give him more redeeming characteristics that make him easier to get behind. And can we mention characters without mentioning AiB's Chishiya? I'm sorry but really that guy could save any show.

  • Themes: As most death games are, both AiB and SG look to explore certain themes. SG tends to focus more on social themes, especially the divisions between rich and poor whilst AiB looks at the meaning of life and how people live by their ideals. Although neither is better or worse, I found that the more personal nature of AiB's topics made the characters more appealing and interesting.

  • Plot (no spoilers, but references the ending): Overall, AiB's plot was more fun to me, I especially found the ending more interesting (although original readers of the manga somehow seem to disagree with this?? Maybe I'm just oblivious to how obvious the ending was or not invested enough in the genre to know its tropes...) whilst SG's revelations were a bit disappointing to me. It also doesn't help that SG's season one ends with a clear set up to season two whilst (I hope) that AiB will be more self contained.

  • Puns: In case you hadn't noticed, AiB is somewhat based off Alice in Wonderland which provides for a myriad of references from puns (just look at the main character's name) to reinvented ideas - having these to look out for definitely makes the watching experience more fun.

All in all, there's no reason why you shouldn't watch both. But I think from the characters to the plot to the themes to even the sheer enjoyment of the games AiB is the winner for me (season two is definitely the better of the two seasons).

What is Alice in Borderland?

For those of you who have somehow read this far without even knowing the series...


Based off a manga (Japanese name 今際の国のアリス or Imawa no Kuni no Arisu), the series focuses on Arisu, an unemployed man from modern-day Tokyo as he navigates a strange world where people are forced to play death games to live. The first season spends more time on set up, world building and plot; I would argue it can get a bit slow in places, but the games are interesting and if you're binging it like I did you can speed run the bits where the pacing begins to lag. I think the real gem of the series comes in season two, which spends more time developing the characters from backstories to personal beliefs and ideals. Better yet, season two nicely wraps up the series and answers the important questions (the Netflix series ending is a little dubious about whether it's really over, but the manga ends there so I hope they don't try and force another season out of it).

The series also has the advantage of working off a completed source material; whilst live-action manga adaptations are usually awful (Gintama being a notable exception to this) I think Alice in Borderland does a pretty good job: I found season one of the live-action better than the manga whilst in season two there were some choices which I think were good (or at least were neutral/made sense) whilst some were bad. All in all, I think the series definitely benefitted from the usually better thought-out and planned games/plot that comes from having source material so definitely a pro.


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