Alice in Borderland renewed for season 2, Netflix game thriller VFX revealed

Visually stunning manga adaptation Alice in Borderland has been renewed for a second season by Netflix. The alternate reality thriller, in which select Tokyoites find themselves transported to a deserted city where they have to compete in mind-bending games to survive, has become a global hit for the platform. 

Its audacious visual effects and relentless gameplay-themed action have made it the most popular Japanese Original live action title on the streaming service.

The show centres on a trio of friends, one an avid gamer, one a salaryman and the other a bartender, each dissatisfied with their lot, find themselves in a deserted Tokyo (after hiding out in a public restroom), where they have to compete in ever more complex and deadly games in order to survive. Failure to participate leads to laser beam termination from the heavens. Think Hunger Games meets Battle Royale.

The series, based on the popular sci-fi-thriller manga of the same name, by Haro Aso, has found fans around the world. 

Since its December launch, Alice in Borderland’s popularity has spread across Asia, with huge ratings in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s also been a Top 10 show in nearly 40 countries, including Germany, France, Portugal, Austria and Greece.

The original comic was serialised in Japanese weekly comic books Weekly Shonen Sunday S and Weekly Shonen Sunday from 2010 to 2016.

Audacious visual effects and relentless gameplay-themed action have made it the most popular Japanese Original live action title on Netflix…

Series lead Kento Yamakazi, who previously starred in the live action adaptation of Death Note, plays the slacker gamer Arisu. In this alternate Tokyo, he partners with Tao Tsuchiya’s Usagi, who together search for a way back to the real world.

Series creator Aso says he based both the lead characters on himself. About Arisu, he says “I remembered how I was when I was around 20 years old and created Arisu based on my own indecisiveness.” He says Usagi’s character comes from the part of him that “is independent and doesn’t need to rely on others”.

Alice in Borderland is visually striking, not least for its depiction of an empty, deserted Tokyo. So how did they film it?

The opening episode features a deserted Shibuya Scramble Crossing, globally famed as one of the busiest intersections in Tokyo. In fact, it wasn’t not shot in Shibuya at all. It was filmed on a massive outdoor set in Ashikaga city, Tochigi Prefecture, over 100 km away from the actual Shibuya Crossing.

The sequence of Arisu and his friends running from a crowded street into the public restroom in Shibuya Station, waiting, and then coming out to see an empty Shibuya is filmed in a single take that lasts longer than 4 minutes. As a result, the team had to physically create everything that appears on screen.

In the Shibuya scene, everything apart from the ticket gate, the public restroom and the road was created with CGI. To keep the setting authentic, the visual effects director even recreated the shadow of the Tokyu Building that would normally fall on that location.

Alice in Borderland Season 1 is available to view now on Netflix.

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