Beyond the Borders: Navigating the Parallel Realms of “The Looking Glass Wars” and “Alice in Borderland”

In the realm of speculative fiction, two captivating narratives unfold, each drawing readers and viewers into the mesmerizing landscapes of wonder and danger. The Looking Glass Wars and Alice in Borderland share thematic threads that intertwine through their fantastical settings, complex characters, and the perpetual dance between peril and discovery. Let’s dive into the parallels and distinctions between these two imaginative worlds, uncovering the unique elements that make them stand out.

Concept art of Boarderland by artist Vance Kovacs from "The Looking Glass Wars" books and graphic novels by writer Frank Beddor.

The Looking Glass Wars and Alice in Borderland: A Visual Symphony

Both The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland and the world of Alice in Borderland offer a visual feast for the imagination. Boarderland, carved from rock and stone with an endless blend of land and sky forming the mysterious Void, sets the stage for a landscape that shifts and transforms. Similarly, Alice in Borderland presents a dystopian Tokyo, a cityscape that morphs with each challenge, creating an ever-evolving backdrop for the characters.

However, while Boarderland leans towards a fantastical and mythical aesthetic, Alice in Borderland anchors itself in a contemporary urban setting, fusing the fantastical elements with the familiar. This contrast adds a layer of relatability to the latter, enhancing the immersive experience of the characters’ journies.

Kento Yamazaki, Tao Tsuchiya, and other actors wearing glowing harnesses in a still from the Netflix science fiction series "Alice in Borderland."

Nomadic Tribes and Martial Tribulations

The martial tribes of The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland and the survival games in Alice in Borderland share a common theme of constant motion and unpredictability. In Boarderland, nomadic tribes emerge like multi-colored oases, disappearing overnight only to reappear miles away. Similarly, in Alice in Borderland, characters face threats that shift and evolve, mirroring the transient nature of Boarderland’s tribes.

Yet, the distinction lies in their movements. Boarderland’s nomadic tribes traverse the land as warriors, a society molded by the necessity of constant warfare. On the other hand, the games in Alice in Borderland demand strategic thinking but lack the pervasive martial ethos seen in Boarderland.

Concept art of King Arch surrounded by women in a throne room by artist Vance Kovacs from "The Looking Glass Wars" books and graphic novels by Frank Beddor.

King Arch vs. The Game Masters

The cruel and cunning King Arch is the chief commander of The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland, leading a mercenary state fueled by war. His ascendancy to the throne through constant battle paints a picture of a formidable ruler, a theme mirrored in the challenges faced by the characters in Alice in Borderland. The games in the latter are orchestrated by enigmatic Game Masters, each presenting a unique challenge that requires skill, strategy, and a willingness to confront mortality.

However, the motivations differ. King Arch’s Boarderland thrives on economic prosperity driven by warfare, while the games in Alice in Borderland seem more like a cosmic experiment, designed to push the boundaries of human capability. The contrast is clear – Boarderland’s king is a strategic military leader, whereas the Game Masters seem more like puppeteers orchestrating a complex experiment in an alternative Tokyo.

Riisa Naka, wearing a black and white dress and black gloves, smiles and raises her hands in a still from the Netflix science fiction series "Alice in Borderland."

Games, Challenges, and the Puzzle of the Ancient Caves

The theme of games and challenges is central to both narratives. In The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland, various territories are considered game ‘boards,’ each known for its challenges. The ultimate game, the Puzzle of the Ancient Caves, takes place in the mountainous caves overlooking The Void. This puzzle, involving stones that when placed incorrectly bring alternate images to life, has been King Arch’s unconquered challenge.

In Alice in Borderland, the characters face a myriad of challenges and games set by the Game Masters. These challenges range from life-and-death scenarios to complex puzzles, each designed to test the participants. While both elements revolve around the concept of games, the stakes and motivations differ. Boarderland’s games are deeply rooted in the nation’s culture and economy, while those in Alice in Borderland seem driven by a mysterious higher power.

Concept art of a Boarderlander covered in tattoos and holding a spear from "The Looking Glass Wars" books and novels by Frank Beddor.
Concept art of a Boarderlander wearing animal skins and holding a knife from "The Looking Glass Wars" books and novels by Frank Beddor.
Concept art of a Boarderlander wearing a loin cloth and holding a spear from "The Looking Glass Wars" books and novels by Frank Beddor.

Lost Rocks and Wonderland’s Reflection in The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland

The concept of the Lost Rocks in Boarderland introduces an element of prophecy and foresight. Nomadic soothsayers traverse the plains in search of these rocks, splitting them in half to reveal intricate crystal images that guide military strategies. This mystical aspect of Boarderland contrasts sharply with the contemporary and technological challenges faced in Alice in Borderland.

Additionally, the delicate balance between Boarderland and Wonderland, akin to yin and yang, mirrors the uneasy alliance between Sparta and Athens. The nuanced interplay between these two realms adds a layer of complexity, reminiscent of the delicate balance between men and women in the real world.

Characters from the Netflix science fiction series "Alice in Borderland" crouch and look around a corner while holding guns.

Conclusion: A Tale of Two Fantasies

In the journies through The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland and Alice in Borderland, the similarities and differences weave a tapestry of fantastical realms. Both narratives invite audiences into worlds where challenges, mysteries, and the unknown beckon. Boarderland’s martial tribes and King Arch stand in stark contrast to the urban challenges and Game Masters of “Alice in Borderland.” Yet, the common thread of games, tests, and the unpredictable nature of their landscapes creates an undeniable resonance.

These narratives, each unique in its own right, captivate imaginations and spark reflections on the nature of power, challenge, and the delicate balance between opposing forces. As we navigate the boundaries of these parallel realms, the stories unfold, inviting us to venture beyond the borders and explore the vast possibilities that lie within the realms of wonder and danger.

In contemplating the Puzzle of the Ancient Caves, The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland introduces a strategic and mystical element to its challenges. King Arch’s near-defeat in the face of this enigmatic puzzle adds a layer of suspense and complexity to the narrative. In contrast, Alice in Borderland leans towards a more immediate and visceral experience with the challenges presented by the Game Masters, testing characters’ resilience and adaptability in the face of unforeseen trials.

As we delve deeper into these realms, it becomes evident that both The Looking Glass Wars’ Boarderland and Alice in Borderland are not merely tales of adventure; they are reflections of the human condition, exploring the innate desire for conquest, the pursuit of knowledge, and the unpredictable nature of fate. Whether navigating the nomadic magical plains or facing the challenges of a dystopian Tokyo, these narratives beckon us to question our capacities for survival, resilience, and the pursuit of the extraordinary.

Alice In Borderland Season 3: Everything We Know

Image of the cast of the popular Netflix series: Alice in Borderland. The four of them are kneeling down and hiding in a Tokyo entryway, with the closest character holding a long, double-barrel rifle.

The runaway success of Netflix’s Alice in Borderland has once again proven that Alice in Wonderland has the power to form the bedrock of exciting and emotionally affecting stories more than 150 years after Lewis Carroll’s novel hit bookstores in England.

The adaptation of Haro Aso’s follows Arisu, a video-game addict who is transported to Borderland, an abandoned dystopian version of Tokyo, where he teams with mountain climber Usagi as the two are required to compete in an escalating series of deadly games.

As outlined in detail by Den of Geek, references to Carroll’s Alice abound. Playing cards dictate the type and difficulty of the games, including a twisted, trippy game of croquet. Borderland functions as the inverse of Wonderland, a fantasy world filled with absurdity but with death lurking around every corner.

Carroll’s characters are heavily represented amongst the other players and game masters, from the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter. Usagi even translates to “Rabbit” while Arisu is the Japanese translation of Alice.

The eight-episode first season was released in December 2020 and quickly became a worldwide hit, with critics lauding the cinematography, fight-scene choreography, and performances. The second season set a streaming record in Japan, according to Hypebeast, racking up an astounding 61.2 million viewing hours in the first four days to take the top spot on Netflix’s global list of most-watched non-English series. Season one is number two.

The enormous popularity of the show makes it curious that Netflix hasn’t yet announced a season three renewal. While seasons one and two have already adapted the entire Manga, there are a plethora of paths for the creators to take. Plus, the rabid reaction to the first two seasons makes a third a commercial no-brainer for the streaming giant.

Here’s a look at where Arisu, Usagi, and co. stand after season two and what season three could look like:

4 Japanese characters from the Netflix series: Alice in Borderland, walking through a dark alley in Tokyo. They are very sweaty and dirty, lookin like they just got out of a terrible battle.

State of Play

Season two Alice in Borderland ended with a sense of resolution. Mira is revealed to be the final gamemaster and the Queen of Hearts. Arisu survives her sadistic and mind-breaking game of croquet due to Usagi’s love and devotion and our heroes earn the right to go home. The survivors don’t remember their life in Borderland but Arisu and Usagi do recognize each other in the real world.

All seems to be right with life. The heroes have won and Arisu and Usagi have a chance to rekindle their once-in-a-lifetime connection. But then, everything is tipped on its head when a shot of a table of playing cards reveals that the joker has been drawn.

This cryptic finish sparks a series of questions. Is this “Joker” the final villain? Will the gamemasters decide to revoke the survivors’ right to live in the real world? Are they even in the real world? Are Arisu and Usagi still in Borderland, the illusion of safety just part of another sick game? There’s plenty of unanswered questions to be explored in season three.

Alice in Borderland characters Arisu (Kent Yamazaki) and Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) kneeling in front of a yellow Volvo car. These characters are loosely based on Lewis Carroll's Alice Liddell and the White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

What Could Happen in Alice in Borderland Season 3?

There are plenty of options for writer-director Shinsuke Sato and the rest of the show’s creative braintrust to mine for a possible season three.

First, the bulk of the cast, including Kento Yamazaki (Arisu) and Tao Tsuchiya (Usagi) would be in line to return. Riisa Naka, who plays Mira, expressed interest in returning as the Queen of Hearts and speculated about possible directions for season three in a 2022 interview with NextShark:

“If there were to be Season 3, I wonder what would happen with the whole team that fought together so far. You saw the ghost of Hatter introduced in the show so many times, so I have this feeling that he might come back again. So for Mira, you might also think that she could return.”

The return of the ghost of Hatter is a tantalizing prospect while it would make sense for the Queen of Hearts to want to take revenge on Arisu and Usagi for slipping through her grasp at the end of season two. Furthermore, it would be fascinating to explore the psychological ramifications for the surviving players.

Image of actress Riisa Nana from Alice in Borderland, the popular Netflix series based on a Manga that is based off of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. She is sitting in a garden tea party with white flowers, furniture and building structure, while wearing an elegant black dress with a white floral pattern.

It’s worth noting that seasons one and two constitute a full adaptation of Haro Aso’s manga. Yet there is more source material for the writers to work with. A spin-off series, Alice on Border Road, chronicles a pessimistic teenager, Kina, who wakes up in an abandoned Kyoto holding the Queen of Clubs card.

She later meets another teenager, Alice (no not that Alice), who holds the Queen of Hearts and the two encounter nine other people, all from Tokyo and each holding different cards. They soon realize they must undertake an exhausting and dangerous trek from Kyoto to Tokyo, a distance of over 290 miles. 

The fact that Border Road does not feature characters or storylines from the original manga may make it an unlikely basis for season three. However, there is always the possibility that Arisu, Usagi, and the others are incorporated or maybe Netflix would be open to adapting the spin-off on its own and expanding the Borderland brand.

There is a second spin-off manga that is more likely to be used for a season three. That would be Alice in Borderland: Retry, released during a three-month period from October 2020 to January 2021, coinciding with season one’s release in December 2020.

The story is set well after the events of the original. Arisu and Usagi are now married with a child yet their familial bliss is not enjoyed for long. Once again, Arisu is trapped in Borderland and must survive an escalating series of lethal games to reunite with his family. This option is the most likely if the writers want to return to the source material for season three, though they may need to adapt the manga more liberally in order to construct a fresh and exciting storyline that could sustain a full season.

Close-up image of a Joker playing card, representing the Joker from the hit Netflix series: Alice in Borderland. This makes us question what will happen in season 3?

Of course, the clearest direction for season three might have already been introduced at the end of season two. In the manga, the Joker is responsible for ferrying the players between Borderland and the real world. It’s possible season three would be The Odyssey to seasons one and two’s The Iliad.

Yes, the war is over, but the journey home is just as difficult and sometimes even more harrowing. Or the players could still be in Borderland, subjected to a cruel rendering of comfort and safety before the Joker plays his tricks on all of them.

It’s clear there are plenty of rabbit holes to go down for season three of Alice in Borderland. The writers could adapt one of Haro Aso’s spin-off series, continue on the path set up at the end of season two, or concoct an original storyline. Regardless of the direction, however, this smash-hit looks set for another season of exhilarating action and high-stakes emotion.

Meet the Author

An itinerant storyteller, John Drain attended the University of Edinburgh before studying film at DePaul University in Chicago and later earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute Conservatory. John focuses on writing mysteries and thrillers featuring characters who are thrown into the deep end of the pool and struggle to just keep their heads above water. His work has been recognized by the Academy Nicholls Fellowship, the Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, Cinestory, and the Montreal Independent Film Festival. In a previous life, John created and produced theme park attractions across the globe for a wide variety of audiences. John keeps busy in his spare time with three Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and a seemingly never-ending stack of medieval history books.