Arisu has fallen down the rabbit hole, deep into wonderland – or shall we say borderland – and the only way out, is to survive.
Season two of Netflix’s highly anticipated Japanese survival thriller and drama is back, and with it, the return of its lead star Kento Yamazaki as well as the messed up and challenging games the show’s characters have to play in order to survive.
Following up from a harrowing first season, Yamazaki, who plays protagonist Arisu, reveals that there are plenty of changes and surprises in store for fans of the series from major character changes, to a deep dive into the show’s themes and side characters and original games not seen in the manga.
One of the biggest differences between the two seasons, teased Yamazaki, is that the characters are no longer victims of the situation they find themselves in.
“In season one, all of a sudden we were in this Borderland and Arisu and the others have overcome these games, these deaths of their friends, and they basically try to solve the mystery, work as a team and they try to survive – that’s the story,” said Yamazaki.
Much of that is due to Arisu’s meeting with Usagi, played by co-star Tao Tsuchiya. Earlier episodes of season one saw Arisu and his best friends Chota (Yuki Morinaga) and Daikichi (Keita) sticking together through every game. But when Arisu lost his friends, he begins to form a friendship with Usagi – a girl he met during the Five of Spades game in episode two. Their relationship pushed Arisu to change for the better and allowed him to regain strength to survive through to season two.
“In season one, Arisu was trying to protect himself – that’s his weakness, his vulnerability – and his friends ended up dying so to speak. The reason why Arisu is still existing is because of his friends and his team. Of course, he wanted his friends to survive but then it ended up that he survived so he’s thinking about why he survived alone when the others have passed,” explained the actor.
“Then he meets this very important person Usagi and by meeting her he overcame his selfishness and his weakness. Usagi’s presence and the sense of surviving together, I think mentally he’s been stronger.”
No longer playing the victim of the situation, Arisu’s newfound strength has shifted his perspective and burned a deeper desire in him to fight, survive and save not just himself, but his peers too. Yamazaki revealed that this season will also see Arisu step out of his comfort zone too, like using a gun for the first time in a gun action sequence.
“This desire to go back to the original world is very clear and you don’t want to abandon your friends and lose their lives anymore,” said Yamazaki. “Arisu lives as a normal person from the normal world so when he shoots a gun, he has this fear of actually handling a gun. I think it feels very real.”
Arisu isn’t the only character with this newfound strength and fire. Yamazaki shares that this season will delve into each character deeper and allow viewers to understand and get to know the themes in the show, and inherently, of the manga too. These themes are also explored via Arisu and Usagi’s relationship throughout the season.
“In season two, it’s not just a death game or a death match that you’re seeing. We really dig into each character and we really dive into the theme of ‘what are we doing on this Earth?’ and these questions include, ‘What is life about? What is it to live?’. These deep questions that we pose are also part of the original comic series,” shared Yamazaki.
“You’re living in a world of survival. There’s betrayal, people hurt each other, people con each other and in that world, [Arisu and Usagi] understand each other – there’s no lies, and they’re able to build this dynamic relationship and in order to survive, in such an extreme environment, they’re helping each other, they trust each other. I think it’s the power of love.”
Adding on to ‘the power of love’, Yamazaki hopes that viewers can also engage with other characters and even empathise with them, even if they were the ‘villains’ of the story.
“I think everybody is right for the way they try to live. Someone who is considered a villain, just because he or she is the minority, they’re considered evil. What if the evil [characters] are 90% of the population and the heroes are the 10%, then we end up being the villains right?” explained the actor.
“Everybody has their own right and it really made me think. I can’t say some things because they’ll be spoilers but it depends on how your heart is. Through my experience, I really feel and learn that heart is very important – how you perceive and capture life. It’s important to have a good mind, a good heart and a good mindset to live life.”
Out of all the characters in season two, Kyuma (Tomohisa Yamashita) is Yamazaki’s favourite character. Though there are many reasons why, Yamazaki simply says it’s because “he’s very straightforward and he really charges towards you.” Yamazaki adores Kyuma’s philosophy and way of life. Perhaps, not so much the fact that he’s a nudist, but rather for his outlook that life is short, and one should enjoy every moment and not hold back.
Another big difference between the seasons is that season two features more original games. As many viewers know, Alice in Borderland is an adaptation of the popular manga of the same name. Whilst the series has attempted to be as close as possible to the source material, season two will see the showrunners get creative with the games.
“The games in season two are different, they’re more original. Of course, I like how it is portrayed in the original manga but when we adapted the story into our show I think it’ll be more thrilling if we have some original aspects,” explained Yamazaki.
“Arisu as a player is enthusiastically participating in physical games. In season one, he wasn’t really aware of what’s going on he just had to play these games. In season two, he willfully wants to participate in this game or that game.”
Alice in Borderland season two is now streaming on Netflix.