Set in a dystopian Tokyo, Shinsuke Sato’s new series ‘Alice in Borderland’ has only been on Netflix for a month, but the show’s premiere was such a hit that it’s already received the green light for a second season. Though live-action adaptations of manga typically miss the mark when they cross over onto the screen, this action-packed series has proved itself to be a worthy exception owing to conscious direction and careful attention to detail.
In terms of production value, creating a story about a dystopian world where characters are forced to play survival games poses a myriad of challenges. Here are some surprising facts about what went on in the making of the series.
1. Haro Aso, who wrote and illustrated the manga, said he based the lead characters on himself. In the production notes released by Netflix, Aso was quoted saying ‘I looked back on what I was like around age 20 and created Arisu based on my own lack of direction at the time’. Aso went on to share that the dauntless character of Usagi was based on his independent streak and ability to rely on himself instead of others.
2. The first episode, which featured Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Scramble, wasn’t actually shot in Shibuya. Instead, the scene was filmed at a replica of the famous crossing in Tochigi, which was created for filming purposes. In the script, Arisu and his friends would convene in front of the Starbucks opposite the Shibuya Station, but the meeting place was changed to the other side of the crossing after it was determined that the reflection from the glass would be too difficult to work around.
3. An early scene captured with a handheld camera shows Arisu and his friends running from the crossing into a bathroom stall at Shibuya Station. Because the scene would be captured in a single shot, a replica of everything that would appear in the four-minute scene had to be created, including the public restroom and ticket barriers.
The additional details of the Scramble and its surroundings had to be filled in during post production with CGI, including a shadow of the Tokyu building which normally looms over the crossing.
4. Did the tiger in episode 5 look familiar? Creating the exotic animal using visual effects was actually an international effort involving studios in Japan, Singapore, USA and India. Dutch animation director Erik-Jan De Boer, who won an Academy Award for creating the tiger from ‘Life of Pi’, was the project supervisor.
5. The black panther that appears in episode 4 was a local endeavour by the visual effects team at Digital Frontier. As part of their research, the team went to a zoo to observe how the animal moves and the details of its pelt.
The release date for season two has yet to be announced, but judging from the success of season one, the production team has their work cut out for them in continuing the story from that last cliffhanger. Frankly, we’re most excited to see which iconic Tokyo location they'll replicate next in this eerie dystopia.
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