Book Review: Alice in Borderland, Vol 1 by Haro Aso

Alice in Borderland, Vol 1   

Author: Haro Aso

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 15, 2022

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Dystopian/344 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ryohei Arisu dreams of living a different life and doing it somewhere else. He feels as if he is an NPC in his own life, and his parents always hold him up for comparison to his accomplished brother. Ryo’s friend Chota has much the same attitude, his only concern being his obsession with girls – not that he’s ever had a girlfriend. Chota laughs almost constantly and has no serious goals in life, never taking things seriously.  Their friend Karube manages a bar, and lets Ryo and Chota have free drinks. He has ambitions. Someday he wants to own a ranch in Australia and chase sheep.

One night, Ryo wishes for a huge earthquake to happen or some event where people turn into zombies. Just something. Anything that isn’t what they have now. Feeling restless, he decides they should go somewhere else. Since the trains have stopped running, they’ll have to walk. After a while, too tired to take another step, they decide to rest in a train station. From somewhere nearby they spy fireworks someone is shooting off. At four in the morning? Why? But then there is a blinding flash of light…

When they wake, they find themselves covered in dust! Heading outside, they discover everything is not only deserted, but overgrown, abandoned even, and much of the food they can find is rotten. What is going on here? There is no sign of anyone anywhere. But rather than feeling alarmed, Ryo and Chota are elated! Perhaps this is the paradise they’ve dreamed of? No one to tell them what to do or when to do it. If they look carefully, they can find some edible food. That’s not too bad, right? But suddenly they hear something. Are there other people after all? Drawn to the sound, as they are standing there, looking confused, a girl walks out from the restroom, grumbling.  When she sees them, she sighs and says they are better than nothing, and she doesn’t have a lot of choice. What does that even mean? Pegging them as newcomers, she says something about an arena. Ryo and Chota decides this sounds dangerous and want to leave, but Karube has moved in the other direction. The girl warns him not to cross over the line, but it’s too late. She tells them they’re in the game now.

Apparently the guys have managed to land in a futuristic time when survival depends on playing certain games, which are strictly structured and timed, with varying degrees of difficulty as well as rewards. The first game they find themselves in has to do with drawing fortunes. How hard can that be? They are about to find out.

This is an interesting start to what I assume will be some kind of play on Alice in Wonderland. But here, the stakes are high, as in life or death high. Sometimes you have to cooperate to win, but sometimes it’s every man for himself. Ryo is definitely an anti-hero, not your usual protagonist. I have to believe that he and Chota and Kyube will undergo some life-altering situations that will make or break them. These games are not for fun. Perhaps they will awake at some point, as Alice did, to find it was all a dream. That remains to be seen. Look forward to volume two.

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