“Alice in Borderland” has no shortage of good or bad characters. There is no middle ground when it comes to them. The good ones are people who have had a tragic past, and who must now deal with the life and death games just to redeem their lives. Meanwhile, there are out-and-out bad characters, just like the ones who made the games. The so-called citizens of Borderland can be described as the bad ones who use every trick in the book so that the participants lose. Such straightforward black-and-white characters are not very hard to locate in a show such as this one, for they are right there in your face telling the audience that “We are good” or “We are bad.” Almost all the characters in “Alice in Borderland” come across as either right or wrong, which is not unusual, but there are a handful who come with visible shades of gray. There is Kyumo, the leader of the team that created the game called Osmosis, the King of Clubs. His character appeared briefly before him and his team were defeated by Arisu and his team, and they died in the process.
A prominent character that has left an impact on the audience since the first season of “Alice in Borderland” is Shuntaro Chishiya. Chishiya, at the beginning of the show, did come across as shady and untrustworthy. He appeared in episode two of the show, as someone who is simply witnessing the chaos unleashed in front of him in the form of “the game of tag.” Chishiya keeps watching how Arisu, his friend Karube, and Usagi navigate the onslaught caused by horse-mask wearing taggers who were asked to stop the participants from entering the right safe room. Chishiya, with his quiet and nonchalant demeanor, does not start playing the game even though he is one of the participants but keeps commenting on what all of them are doing wrong. The audience would wonder if he is on the side of the game masters and if he has been planted by them to sabotage this game. Turns out he is keen on winning, but he only joins in at the last moment when chaos is about to be unleashed in the wake of the main room being detected. Chishiya and Arisu want to end the game together, but he is unable to join him. Chishiya, at this point, comes across as someone who loves to see chaos around him; the situation implodes, only for him to jump into the game at the last minute. It is easy to brand Chishiya as a villain because of his inability to show any emotions. He neither smiles, nor frowns, but manipulates through his words and actions.
In the sixth episode, Chishiya plans to take control of the status quo on the Beach by stealing all the playing cards, which he reveals to Arisu and Kuina. This is the only way they can leave the Beach and the atrocities committed in the name of the games. As the Hatter dies, many are under suspicion, including Chishiya, but he and Arisu have a bigger plan to carry out. As Arisu is caught looking for the location of the cards, Chishiya gives away Arisu’s position in the mansion just to gain the confidence of the current bunch of militants who have taken over the Beach. Chishiya’s strategy was to find the original location of the cards. This proves that he is smarter than everyone and has the qualities to manipulate people into following him and his ideas of rebellion. Some people would believe him, and he knows it and he uses this quality to the fullest to establish confidence in others. Though Chisiya finally decides to help Arisu and Usagi, he gets into the bigger scheme of things to rescue them off the Beach.
We get to see more of Chishiya in the second season as many of the participants from season 1 are taken to the second stage of the game, where they confront the face cards, unlike the previous season. Chishiya appears in the first episode of “Alice in Borderland” Season 2 very briefly when he tries to escape the onslaught unleashed by the King of Spades. As Arisu, Usagi, and Kuina escape with Ann, Chishiya is left behind, but they know they will all meet him at any point in the game as a participant because, just like them, he is a survivor. Chishiya has so far entered the good books of Arisu and Usagi, and they are willing to not avoid him altogether, for they know that just like them, he is fighting for survival too. Though many are unaware of his compulsion or the circumstances under which he became a participant in Borderland, as season 2 progresses, audiences get to see who Chishiya was before and what made him so cynical that things don’t affect him anymore.
In the game “Solitary Confinement, the Jack of Hearts,” episodes three and four of the second season, we get to see Chishiya in his element, using his abilities of manipulation perfectly to get to the game master planted by the Borderland, the Jack of Hearts, to end the game. Through mind games, play of words, and trickery, Chishiya gets to the end of the game. His manipulation and clever thinking assist him in finding the Game Master. He helped the remaining participants locate Enji Matsushita, who was the actual Jack of Hearts hiding behind a veil of confidence while controlling certain participants. Chishiya can see through the hack that is Enji and makes sure to let him know that he is not as smart as he thinks he is. With Chishiya’s assistance, Enji is eliminated, and the game ends with his death. Still, at this point, Chishiya is only seen as conniving and shrewd; no one is aware of his past like they are of Arisu’s or Usagi’s. He is still considered a semi-villain who is trying to survive the game to live by fighting his way out of every game.
It is in the game “Balance Scale, The King of Diamonds” that we get to see the real person behind the smirk that scares other participants. It turns out that, like many other participants in the game, Chishiya has carried around guilt for a long time, which he refuses to think about. Chishiya was a doctor at a medical college and was taking care of a kid ready for a transplant at the medical college hospital. Looking forward to the surgery, Chishiya is suddenly asked to push his patient down to make way for another patient for the transplant procedure; the new kid is related to the director of the medical college. Chishiya is in no position to fight the authorities for the kid he was treating from the beginning. The kid, unfortunately, passes away, and Chishiya tries his level best to keep his moral sense intact by blaming the hospital authorities’ and their greed of wanting donations over saving lives. For the longest time, Chishiya did not think about this monumental incident that changed the course of his life, but during the game of Balance Scale, he comes across this prominent memory, for he starts wondering if the game is not as complicated as his decision to stay with the hospital’s orders. Getting to the solution would have been easy if he had decided to stay with the kid, fighting for his right to a transplant. Chishiya confronts the memory he has been avoiding for a while, for this game is reminiscent of why the rich get away with things while the needy end up roughed, in the cycle of survival. Even though laws are made to protect the poor from the powerful, they are seldom useful. Chishiya emerges as the winner of this game, and he can understand his mistake of not standing up for his patient. All this while, he has lived with the fact that it was the hospital’s greed and not his mistake for losing the kid. To keep his conscience clear, he refused to deal with this incident. When he finally does it, his conscience is cleansed, and he can live his life peacefully.
At the end of the second season of “Alice in Borderland,” we get to see an injured Chishiya choosing the option to opt-out of Borderland once Arisu and Usagi clear the last game. Chishiya, at this point, is done with the efforts he has put in to keep himself alive, and he cannot fight anymore. He would rather live peacefully in the other world, and just like others, he has faced enough hardships from being forced to participate in the games. Chishiya opts out and is proud of the decision he makes. He can now live the life he wants, being a medical practitioner and helping the needy. Chishiya is on the path to clearing his conscience further, which will help him get over the mistake he made. His is a classic arc that begins with many shades of negativity but ends up being about a flawed man who made a mistake that he only wants to rectify. Once he decides to redeem himself, it brings out the shades of positivity in him. An arc done right in the “Alice in Borderland” world.
See more: ‘Alice In Borderland’ Season 2: Games, Explained – How Did The Games Impact Arisu, Usagi And Other Players?