How Alice In Borderland parallels Alice in Wonderland

After the release of the second season, the Japanese sci-fi thriller from Netflix Alice in the Borderland is gaining significant popularity. Deservedly, the show is full of suspense and action, with some calling it even better than Squid game. Both shows follow similar storylines where a select group of people are relocated to an undisclosed location and forced to play games in order to survive. However, unlike Squid game, Alice in the Borderland it has more nuances in terms of cinematography and even games. Want Alice in the Borderland exceed Squid gameThe popularity of is definitely a question for the future, as both shows seem to have left viewers with many unanswered questions.


One of the main reasons Alice in the Borderland has much more to tell than other similar thriller dramas is its connection to Lewis Carroll’s infamous 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which is now commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland. From the show’s title itself, viewers of the series might be able to recognize its connection to the book. However, Alice in the Borderland, unlike the book, is absolutely NOT made for children. However, the references to Carroll’s book may be shocking to some.

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Chishiya talks to Arisu and Cheshire Cat talks to Alice
Netflix and RKO radio pictures

The main characters of the show appear to resemble the main characters in Carroll’s book. The obvious one is the protagonist, Arisu, played by Kento Yamazaki, who is a replica of Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. According to Justin Oh, Arisu’s name is the “Japanese pronunciation of the name Alice”. Similarly, other character names in the show translate to or refer to the English characters in the book. Usagi, played by Tao Tsuchiya, who is portrayed as Arisu’s partner translates to rabbit in Japanese. Thus, it could be a reference to the white rabbit in the book. How Arisu is smitten with her further states this, as in Carroll’s book we see Alice following the white rabbit. The Cheshire Cat in the book is portrayed as someone who is intelligent and complex and randomly disappears. Interestingly, Chishiya (Nijirō Murakami), whose name sounds similar to the word “Cheshire”, has a very similar character line and qualities.

The same goes for Kuina with her fake cigarette (Aya Asahina), who represents Carroll’s Caterpillar with hookah. Also, Ann (Ayaka Miyoshi) who seems to be a strong female leader and ally of Arisu and her team seems to represent the White Queen, while Mira (Riisa Naka) with her elegant garden and her evil nature seems to represent the Red Queen Queen. These two characters are contrasting to each other. Other character references include Hatter as the Mad Hatter, Chota as the Carpenter due to her hyper-focus on work in life, Karube as the Walrus who accompanies the Carpenter, Aguni as the March Hare who is the one who witnesses the madness of the Mad Hatter who is also portrayed in the series as the Hatter’s obsession with the beach and the last boss as the bloodthirsty Jabberwocky obsessed with fighting and killing.

Interestingly, when one becomes aware of these references, one might even be able to visually see the similarity between the physiques of the characters in the show and those in Carroll’s novel. Chishiya’s white hair, round face, and broad smile may resemble the round face and broad smile of the Cheshire Cat. Similarly, Kuina’s dreadlocks portray the body of a caterpillar, while Last Boss’s tattoos represent Jabberwocky’s monstrous appearance.


Arisu and Usagi meet Mira as time slowly ticks by and Alice meets the Queen of Hearts
Netflix and RKO radio pictures

In Carroll’s novel, time plays a major role. For those who have seen the animated version of the 1951 book, the “tick-tock” sound may be quite familiar. Indeed, the repetition of this sound is a reminder of how important time is both as an element and as a theme of the story. Likewise, time plays a central role Alice in the Borderland. Unlike the real world, time travels slowly in Borderland. Because Borderland serves as the space between life and death, simple moments in the real world can last for months and even years in Borderland. The same concept is seen in Carroll’s Wonderland, where Alice’s time in Wonderland appears to be quite long, while it’s just time to take a nap in the real world.

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Setting, illusion and games

Arisu plays croquet with Mira and Alice plays croquet with the queen of hearts
Netflix and RKO radio pictures

In Carroll’s novel, the story takes place in a dark forest that forms the backdrop for Alice’s adventures. Fascinating, most of the adaptations of the novel have focused on this dark forest. For example, in Tim Burton’s 2010 film, the strong focus on the setting made it possible to emphasize the dark tones of the images. Subsequently, this contributes to the two themes of illusion and games in the novel. With the place, the events and the characters seeming mere illusions of Alice’s mind, the story focuses on how unreal these events are. Alice in the Borderland captured these elements and added their own twists. The series also reflects on these dark tones and has focused heavily on them, and the visuals are an eye-catching feature of the whole show. However, by introducing the sci-fi element, the creators were able to answer the question “what would a Wonderland be in a dystopian future”.

Alice in Wonderland it also focuses on games, with the two queens representing the mighty queens in a game of chess and the card soldiers representing the game of playing cards. Therefore, it is no surprise to see Alice in the Borderland take inspiration from these games. In fact, instead of Card Soldiers, the show uses playing cards as a lifeline, with the numbers on each card representing the number of days players must save until their next game or death. Also, both stories lead the protagonists to one last game of croquet against the queens of hearts.

Boredom and identity crisis

Arisu in Borderland and Alice in Wonderland
Netflix and RKO radio pictures

If the above parallels aren’t compelling enough to state so Alice in the Borderland It is related to Alice in Wonderland, perhaps the ideas of boredom and identity crisis focused in both stories might be the more compelling connection. Both Alice and Arisu are characters scolded by adults and bored with their monotonous lives. Thus, both embark on an adventure that allows them to realize who they really are. In fact, both characters’ longing to go home comes through as they go on their adventures.

Both characters seem to be going through their own identity crisis as they seem to constantly wonder what life is about and who they are. Therefore, it is difficult to look past how similar both Arisu and Alice are.

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