Watching movies or television shows is a popular pastime among architects. A movie or series may be pretty calming once a project has been judged, submitted, or with a blocked head. However, very few programs or films will keep you glued to your seat from beginning to end. ‘Alice in Borderland’ is one of those shows where you can skip a single frame. This is a 2020 Japanese science fiction thriller drama film based on Haro Aso’s manga. The series, directed by Shinsuke Sato, stars Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya as comrades imprisoned in an abandoned Tokyo, forced to engage in risky games determined by playing cards. From the first episode of this intriguing series, you will be fascinated to see how it ends. This series should be on the list of must-sees for architects. Let us briefly tour this fantastic series to learn about its essence, storyline, aesthetics, form, user interactions, lighting, and so on.

An architectural review of Alice in Borderland - SHeet1
Alice in Borderland_©Netflix.com

An Active Urban Area Becomes Deserted: Episode 1

It’s a beautiful day on a busy working morning in Tokyo when the narrative begins. Arisu, 24, is a video game addict who recently had a disagreement with his family and is now hanging out with his buddies (Chota and Karube) in a crowded neighbourhood in Tokyo. In this episode, we observe structured circulation in an urban environment and the synchronization of human and vehicle movement. However, people follow the regulations, and we can see how celebrating three friends in a square might result in an accident. The group hides in a metro station’s public restroom. When they exit the toilet, they are astounded to see that the entire city has been abandoned. In this episode, a functional urban space becomes abandoned and makes a dramatic change to the viewers. Without people, the city becomes a desert of towers.

Following this sequence, we see the night atmosphere where they discovered a home. The outside of that home appears to be a casino where you may play poker or roulette. But the filmmaker of ‘Alice in Borderland’ is already plotting the series. The lighting, buildings, people hurried movement, room details, puzzle solving, and so on add to the intrigue of this episode. Even the desire to solve a plan like a true gamer or builder is nicely guided in this episode. In this episode, ‘Live or Die is a simple yet terrifying game in which one must select a door to enter the next room. There is a way out in one area, but in another, there is a horrific death.

Meet Others in a Modern Building at Night: Episode 2

They received a three-day visa at the end of the first episode, and Shibuki joined their team. Shibuki is left to care for a hurt Chota while Arisu and Karube play another game to extend their visas because they have no other way out of the abandoned city. They meet with others in a 7-storied modern building for this game. In this episode, the blue colour of the frames gives the night effect and creates a very intense visual for the viewers. Even team works can save your lives sometimes; one can experience that in this episode. The plot becomes intense and creates a vacuum to see the end of the architect of this game. The objective of this episode’s game, “Tag,” is to force the players to conceal themselves inside the structure from two armed assassins while searching for a room with two buttons that must be depressed simultaneously to prevent a bomb from detonating and killing everyone.

An architectural review of Alice in Borderland - SHeet2
Alice in Borderland_©aliceinborderland.fandom.com

Hide and Seek: Episode 3

In this episode of Alice in Borderland, a botanical garden becomes the venue for the ‘Hide and Seek’ game, where the four characters of the first episode face a tragic event. To extend the survival visas for Shibuki and Chota, they go together to this game arena where one will survive. Three of them are given “sheep” as their allocated animal, while the fourth is given a “wolf,” along with face recognition headsets. Every time a player locks eyes with another animal during play, they exchange animals, and the wolf wins the game while the sheep perish. In the end, Arisu won the game and lost his friends. The botanical garden gives a vibe for the terrifying environment here. In this episode, one can get a different aesthetics of a botanical garden. On the other hand, viewers will experience mixed emotional feelings in this episode. 

An architectural review of Alice in Borderland - SHeet3
Alice in Borderland_©Netflix.com

Distance: Episode 4

Another essential character in the story, Usagi, demonstrates several methods for surviving after a catastrophe. However, she comes upon a dejected Arisu and chooses to assist him. They go to a gaming area inside a bus housed in an underpass, where a distance is indicated on the gadgets they were handed. However, they recognized they had been led astray at the episode’s conclusion and fled for their lives. Usagi makes it back to the bus and wins with Arisu and the injured player as water erupts from the end of the tunnel, killing the other player.

Light Bulb in ‘The Beach’: Episode 5

Looking for “the Beach”, Arisu and Usagi secretly follow a group of players with matching wrist tags to a hotel holding several players. In this episode, they will find a very peculiar space where almost everyone is happy. People work there for a supreme person. The Beach’s purpose, according to Hatter, is to gather all the cards, which they believe will allow them to depart the city. However, the face cards have yet to materialize. Some stressful and relaxing spaces are introduced in this episode. After an extended period, viewers can experience the daylight here.

Later on, Arisu and Usagi are assigned to join groups of players to gather the remaining cards. Later, Hatter informs a group of “executive members,” including Arisu, who played in a game as a “test” from Ann, that the “Ten of Hearts” is the sole remaining number card to acquire. And this episode of Alice in Borderland evolved into a more complicated narrative to unravel for viewers.

An architectural review of Alice in Borderland - SHeet4
Alice-in-Borderland_©Netflix.com

Betrayal: Episode 6

Hatter leaves the Beach to participate in a game because he has to prolong his visa, but his henchmen return with him dead and claim that he was shot during the round. Aguni receives Hatter’s deck of cards and is elected as the new leader of the Beach.

Alice in Borderlnad_©Spotern.com

Unaware that Chishiya and Kuina had betrayed him, Arisu joins them to take the deck. When Chishiya and Kuina were about to flee with the stolen deck since Arisu was imprisoned and knew his visa was about to expire at midnight, a wall of lasers stopped them dead in their tracks. The “Ten of Hearts” indicates the difficulty in the “Witch Hunt,” a game on the Beach.

Episode 7

The game’s rules are revealed when a girl called Momoka is discovered dead from knife wounds; to win, the players must cooperate to identify the “witch” who killed Momoka and burn the suspect alive. Aguni and his militants plan to toss everyone into the flames to collect the last card with just two hours left to look for the murderer. Usagi joins forces with a group of gamers to save Arisu while hundreds are killed. Chechnya hurts Niragi, Kuina kills the Last Boss, a violent militant, and the building is set on fire. Arisu informs the others that he knows the hidden witch’s identity after considering the game’s rules. Ann gets knocked out after discovering who the culprit is.

Episode 8

In a flashback, Momoka and her buddy Asahi are shown wandering the deserted city while taking films on a functional phone. Aguni confesses to shooting his closest buddy Hatter in self-defence when confronted by Arisu in the present because he thinks the latter is the “witch.” Momoka, who committed suicide, was indeed the witch. The remaining players toss Momoka into the flames to end the game while Aguni tries to kill Niragi, who is still bent on killing everyone in the room.

Chishiya collects the last card. The day after Asahi’s suicide during the game, Arisu and Usagi watched the videos he had captured. They disclose that Asahi and Momoka are “dealers,” or players who set up games to extend their visas.   The two visit an underground lair populated by “gamemasters” in one video. Despite finding the lair, the “gamemasters” are already dead when Arisu and Usagi arrive. Upon arrival, Chishiya and Kuina discover that the “gamemasters” are players. A woman named Mira makes a new set of games available to acquire face cards.

Conclusion

The lighting qualities, directions, and plot of this series are excellent. The process of solving games is also beautiful and inspirational. This series has been gripping and mind-boggling from the outset.

References:

Wikipedia. (2022). Alice in Borderland. [online] (Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_in_Borderland_(TV_series) ) [Accessed 14 Nov. 2022]

Netflix.com. (2020). Alice in Borderland. [Photograph]. (Alice in Borderland: https://www.netflix.com/watch/81035908?trackId=200257859)

aliceinborderland.fandom.com. (2020). Alice in Borderland. [Photograph]. (Alice in Borderland: https://www.netflix.com/watch/81035908?trackId=200257859)

Netflix.com. (2020). Alice in Borderland. [Photograph]. (Alice in Borderland: https://www.netflix.com/watch/81035910?trackId=200257859)

Netflix.com. (2020). Alice in Borderland. [Photograph]. (Alice in Borderland: https://www.netflix.com/watch/81035910?trackId=200257859)

Spotern.com. (2020). Alice in Borderland. [Photograph]. (Alice in Borderland:

https://www.spotern.com/en/spot/tv/alice-in-borderland/347710/nike-de-chishiya-sweatshirt-nijiro-murakami-by-alice-in-borderland-s01e02)

Author

Muhammad Shafayet Hossain is an architect, artist, designer and researcher who is currently working at MSH Atelier. Remarkably making contemporary ideas and working as an artist in the contemporary art scene in Bangladesh. Also, he is associated with working in Research and related fields of Architecture.

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