Alice in Borderland: The Netflix Thriller’s Biggest Changes to the Manga

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Netflix's Alice in Borderland, streaming now.

Netflix's psychological thriller Alice in Borderland has captivated viewers' attention with its masterful edge-of-your-seat suspense and mind-games. After a mysterious event lands Arisu and his friends in an abandoned Tokyo, they're forced to participate in Games in order to stay alive. Each Game is determined by playing cards. The numbers denote the difficulty, and the suit denotes the Game genre: Diamonds is focused on wit, Clubs collaboration, Spades physical and Hearts psychological.

Alice in Borderland is adapted from a manga by Haro Aso. As with many adaptations, there are some key differences between the manga and live-action series. Let's take a look at what the biggest changes are.

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The Beginning of Alice In Borderland and the First Game

alice in borderland ep 1 three of clubs

The Netflix adaptation of Alice in Borderland begins with Arisu, Karube and Chota meeting up at Shibuya crossing. The three friends mess around, causing traffic disruptions and get chased into a washroom cubicle to hide from the police. All of a sudden, the electricity goes out suddenly and the three of them find themselves suddenly transported into an empty Tokyo--the Borderland. In the manga, what pulls people into the Borderland is that they witnessed fireworks at dusk. They also feel a little lost in life.

The first Game, Three of Clubs, differ vastly. The manga has the three friends and Shibuki answering trivia questions with the difficulty determined by how lucky their paper fortune is. If they get the answer wrong, the difference is subtracted from the correct answer and equals the number of flaming arrows shot at them. The Netflix series adds an unnamed girl to the group, and the five of them play a completely different game where they're trapped in a room and are forced to decide between two doors, Live or Die, within a given time frame. If they choose the wrong door, they get shot with a laser. If they don't pick one in time, the room gets engulfed in flames.

Seven of Hearts: Hide-and-Seek

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One of the most gut-wrenching and traumatic games in the series, the Seven of Hearts Game, puts Arisu on the brink of a mental collapse. The four of them enter a botanical garden and see a table full of various tools and weapons along with a collar attached to a tracking headset. The Game is called Hide-and-Seek: Three sheep will hide from the wolf and the wolf changes every time they look at someone. Whoever is the wolf at the end survives. At first, this Game makes no sense. If the Game is called Hide-and-Seek, why would the sheep hide from the wolf if only the wolf survives in the end? Except, the game's objective becomes horrifying clear when Arisu and his friends begin turning on each other in order to survive.

In the show, once he becomes the wolf, Arisu hides and attempts to take off his collar with the tools that he grabbed from before. In the manga, Arisu hides in the bushes, trying to reason why he should be the one to live. Chota restrains Shibuki, muffling her screams,  so she can't go after Arisu whereas, in the manga, Shibuki is not as dead-set on chasing after Arisu, choosing to hide after she realizes that she can't bear to shoulder her friends' lives should she survive. Arisu ends up finding Karube in the show, but in the manga, Arisu is unable to find anyone and only hears the explosions.

At the end of the manga chapter, when Arisu -- barely functioning after seeing his friends sacrifice themselves to save him -- sees the prize which is a plate of mutton, he completely loses it, screaming that he'll kill everyone who set these games up but this scene is gone in the show. Instead, the show uses the same instrumental strings from Episode 1's Shinjuku crosswalk scene at the end of Episode 3's Seven of Hearts game -- a heartbreakingly ironic parallel.

Alice in Borderland's Characters and the "Side Story"

alice in borderland arisu chota karube

In the show, Arisu's analytical and tactical skills are attributed to his hours of gaming. In contrast, manga Arisu isn't a gamer but just highly observant. Manga Karube owns a bar and is single; in the Netflix adaptation, he's just an employee and about to propose to his girlfriend. TV Chota is a deeply religious office worker whose mom's in a cult; in the manga, Chota is a good-hearted pervert.

In the show, Shibuki's shown to be crueler than her manga counterpart: She was willing to use the girl as collateral in the first Game and used sex as a way to manipulate Chota. In the manga, she still has sex with Chota but it plays less as manipulation and more for emotional comfort. The show also doesn't show how she won her first Game, the details of which in the manga make Shibuki into a much more sympathetic character.

One of the manga's side stories gets integrated into the main plotline of the show, with Arisu and Usagi now participating in the Four of Clubs Game. The game's name is changed from "Runaway" to "Distance," and various details are altered. The last trial is an enormous wave and not an explosion like in the manga.

The Ending of Season 1

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This is where manga and show really start deviating. Season 1 ends with the players finding all of the cards except the face cards. We never really know why Asahi and Momoka decided to participate as players in the show. Aguni saves Arisu from Niragi by pushing him into the fire that's burning the Beach, leaving their fates unclear.

In the manga, Arisu and his friends see the four citizens of the Borderlands but they're shrouded in shadows. After finding the dealers' hideout in the show, Arisu, Usagi, Chishiya, and Kuina get confronted by a familiar face: Kano Mira, one of the executive members of Beach, who is revealed to be one of the "game masters." Mira looks slightly unhinged in the adaptation. She recounts how all of the remaining players got here, going through what they had to do -- shooting, killing, sacrificing -- in order to get to the next stage, delighting in their despair.

For those who can't wait for more Alice in Borderland after watching the show, the manga is the perfect way to fill in that time before a potential Season 2.

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