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.

Aspects of Arch: Who is King Arch In Our World?

Like a recurring nightmare, the enemies of Wonderland always seek to strike at the very Heart of our imaginations. Following the Boarderland King’s contact with the Heart Crystal, many ask the questions: “What happened to King Arch?”

If we are to peer into the Pool of Tears, and our memories of recent events, we can see the first and perhaps most damaging instance of such a “collision.” While it boggles the imagination as to how Queen Redd might have survived such an experience, what was spawned on the other side of the looking glass was less than surprising considering the Redd’s vicious determination.

So it stands to reason that if we are to search for a sign of Arch, we must look not for a villain calling himself “King of Boarderland & Wonderland”. Instead, we must seek out the fragments of Arch’s foul imagination having taken root in the minds of men.


Jack The Ripper
Jack The Ripper

A mysterious murderer who needs no introduction. The infamous serial killer who haunted Whitechapel exhibits the brutality and misogyny that made King Arch such a foul enemy of Queen Alyss and is considered by many to be the symbolic death of England’s Victorian era.

While we may never truly understand the man and the motive behind “The Ripper,” one can see the glimmer of King Arch’s cruelty and cunning when it comes to terrorizing the vulnerable. But not every aspect of Arch is so blatantly malevolent, some find themselves at odds with the realm they are in and seem to try and bring it down or escape it.


Pete Browning

A star of the early days of modern American baseball, Pete Browning was a heavy drinking but talented athlete who carried some strange beliefs, including the idea that baseball bats only contained a limited number of hits in them before they lost their “pow.”

His attitude and skill would give him the moniker of “The Louisville Slugger” years before the title would be branded by the H&B Company. While not the madman that Arch was, Browning clearly was a giant in his field and would be an “Arch”etype for many of baseball’s most colorful players.


Sante Geronimo Caserio
Sante Geronimo Caserio

The Italian anarchist whose notoriety erupted from his assassination of the French president Carnot to avenge the executions of his fellow anarchists. The bombastic trial of Caserio is punctuated by his bold refusal of plea deals and his proclamations of his anarchist ideas. King Arch’s distrust of “Queendoms” seems to have reached a full boil of distrust of any form of authority and their allies. Perhaps a sign of what King Arch’s continued reign of Wonderland would have looked like, a violent anarchy.


General Custer
General Custer

An educated and decorated commander in the American Union Army who would met his brutal end at the Battle of Little Bighorn, or the “Battle of Greasy Grass” as it was known to the Natives who fought against this military man.

King Arch himself could only be this aggressive and merciless in battle, as Custer would even use full military force against the unarmed peoples of the Indian Nations. And like the Boarderland King, his force of personality has echoed through time to blur the line between hero and villain.


Ferdinand Esterhazy
Ferdinand Esterhazy

A French military officer and spy for Germany, his nation’s enemy at the time. What is most villainous about this possible aspect of Arch’s tale is not just his betrayal of oaths & friends, but the antisemitic scapegoating of Alfred Dreyfus as the individual responsible for Esterhazy’s treason.

Unfortunately, Esterhazy would not face justice and would be quietly dismissed from military service. He would spend his final days in Britain where he would live on his military pension until his death and burial under a false name & date. Like Arch, this one has “gotten away with it.”


Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly

Equally hero and villain in his homeland of Australia, Ned Kelly truly embodies the aspect of Arch that made him “king” to the rough-and-tumble peoples of the Boarderlands. A long history of robbery, bush ranging, and eventually the murder of police officials, would come to an end at Kelly’s trial and execution.

Today, Ned Kelly holds the distinct “honor” of being synonymous with rebellion and “Robin Hood” banditry in Australia. However, one needs only to look at the long list of deaths associated with the man to appreciate that one person’s hero can be another’s worst nightmare.


Black Bart
Black Bart

An unusual entry into this list of potential aspects of King Arch, considering this colorful stagecoach robber of the American West was rumored to have never fired a single shot during his robberies. Black Bart was reputed to be a “gentleman bandit” with an air of sophistication, even leaving poetic messages at two robberies for the police.

Following his arrest and serving time in the notorious San Quentin Prison, Charles “Black Bart” Boles disappear into the realm of rumors and tall tales.


William Buckley
William Buckley

Formerly a soldier from “Alice’s” England, William Buckley would be convicted of theft and be sentenced to the Australian penal colonies. When the settlement proved lacking in vital resources such as fresh water and eventually Buckley left to try his own luck.

Buckley’s would be saved by members of the Wathaurong people and he would live amongst them for the next thirty-two years. Buckley would prevent conflict between indigenous and English colonizers, the latter of which would learn who Buckley was, leading to his eventual pardon and return to European society.

It seems that the dark imagination of men like King Arch persists through the Continuum into realms beyond Wonderland, or perhaps the Boarderland tyrant himself persists like an ink stain on a page. Should Arch be half the villain that Queen Redd continues to be, then perhaps the realm of Wonderland should expect a return.

To read more about the Boarderlands, check out The Books of The Looking Glass Wars.

Though we can never be certain of King Arch’s fate, we must stay vigilante should the tyrant ever show his face(s) in the Pool of Tears again.

Meet The Author

Marco Arizpe

Marco Arizpe graduated from the University of Southern California and The American Film Institute with degrees in filmmaking and screenwriting. His brand of borderland gothic horror stems from his experiences growing up in a small town where Texas and Mexico meet. Culturally steeped in a rich history of all things terrifying, Marco never fails to bring forward indigenous folklore in contemporary and fresh settings.