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Alice in Borderland 2 - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Imawa no Kuni no Arisu Season 2

Japan 2022

Number of Episodes: 8
Mystery, Thriller, Drama

Shinsuke Sato

Kento Yamazaki
Tao Tsuchiya
Yuki Morinaga
Nijiro Murakami
Aya Asahina
Yutaro Watanabe
Ayaka Miyoshi
Yuri Tsunematsu
Riisa Naka

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Alice in Borderland 2

Alice in Borderland 2 - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Along with Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) and other players, Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) is still stuck in a deserted Tokyo, where they have to buy lifetime in perfidious games. There aren't many games left to win, but their level of difficulty is particularly high now. To win them, you need physical fitness, intelligence and insight into human nature as well as the ability to work in a team or the readiness to self-sacrifice. One of the simpler games is to take out a killer who runs through the city with machine guns and shoots everyone on sight. On the run from the killer, Arisu and Usagi get separated from Chishiya (Nijiro Murakami) and Ann (Ayaka Miyoshi). While most of them encounter new allies and enemies in other games, Ann tries to find out why the city gets taken over faster and faster by rapidly growing vegetation. Even though the players are still denied answers about where they are, who is behind the games, or whether they are actually allowed to return to their world after the last game, they still grow as people and give each other hope. But will it be enough to escape this nightmare?

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Review: For the second season of "Alice in Borderland" I actually planned on only adding a small update to my review of the first season and leave it at that. But with each episode I watched, I realized that it would not do justice to the series, as the sequel stepped up its game in many areas and might therefore even be called the best series of the year. In my review of the first season, I wasn't able to mention the fact that I already liked it better than the overly hyped "Squid Game", simply because "Alice in Borderland" was there first. But the second season leaves absolutely no doubt that this manga adaptation, based on a work by Haro Aso, is so much better and more complex.

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Surely fans of the series will be happy to see that things get down to business right away and we are thrown into various games in rapid succession. They are even more interesting than they were in the previous season, and they require a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and tactical skill. At the same time, the story also moves things forward on a personal level. Often, the antagonists are actually not that evil and only try to survive themselves. Their nuances also work thanks to the well-done character drawings, even though some characters turn out a little flatter than others, of course. This time, Chishiya also has more screen time, and he even gets his own games that he has to survive. Since his analytical nature already made him a fascinating character in the first season, it's nice to learn a little more about his backstory. Once more, the series luckily does not make the mistake of using too many flashbacks to the real world. You only get the bare necessities here, so that it doesn't destroy the consistent tone of the world's sometimes surreal atmosphere.

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This brings us to the next big praise the series deserves. The visual adaptation of the manga. Not only that - just to mention one small example - during a simple game of "tag", the light of the game equipment on the back of the players stands out wonderfully against the dark environment, and images like that allow a 4K TV with HDR to show off its strengths, but the special effects are also generally just great. Vines grow everywhere on Tokyo's skyscrapers, and on the streets, vegetation has completely taken over asphalt and abandoned cars. The CGI just looks great, and director Shinsuke Sato managed to create exactly those kinds of wonderful images in "Alice in Borderland" that you wish for the TV show adaptation of the video game "The Last of Us", which should appear months later. The sets are often extremely elaborate and show that - thanks to the success of the first season - Netflix gave the director a much bigger budget. The CGI is so impressive that you can't even tell it apart from some of the clearly practical effects. You can't stress enough how epic the series looks - even by Hollywood standards.

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While the story comes closer and closer to an end with each game, I started to get a little bit uneasy. Because I had to ask myself what kind of explanation there could possibly be for what happens on the show that wouldn't leave us with a certain sense of disappointment? Do we get another "Lost" here, where it was quite clear that the writers didn't know where they actually wanted to go with the series? After some pretty impressive action, which makes you wonder how some of the characters can even still be alive, and some frustrating moments (thankfully, we get a great explanation at the end, even for the plot holes), the pace of the series slows down a bit. The finale is quite anti-climactic, and you could criticize that the makers didn't even come up with a particularly great game for the ending. But I for one simply cannot make this point, because the series always skillfully manages to challenge narrative traditions - even here. The game is actually just the facade for another game.

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It's a bit tricky to say something about the finale now without spoiling anything. But at least the following can be said: It makes fun of some of the story's possible resolutions. In addition, the ending is also pretty moving, as now, the drama becomes the focus of attention. This could also be a point of criticism if you consider the otherwise brisk pace of the series, but "Alice in Borderland" mainly works on a character level - mostly successfully so - and therefore it simply continues its path leading to a successful resolution. It stays exciting anyway, because when it comes to answers, we are pushed into all kinds of different directions and just everything seems possible. I cannot remember the last time the ending of a series actually managed to satisfy me the way this one did. It is conclusive, in retrospect maybe somewhat obvious, but it maintains a something mystical touch as well, and also offers room for interpretation. The last image might suggest that there could be something close to a sequel at some point in the future, but hopefully there won't. "Alice in Borderland" is almost perfect the way it is.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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