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Alice In Borderland: The King Of Spades' Game And Character Explained

There are several boss battles in "Alice in Borderland" Season 2, but the most menacing of all the face cards has got to be the King of Spades (Ayumi Tanida) and his game, "Survival."

While some card suits place the focus on psychology or trust in their games, the excursions under the Spade banner favor physical strength, where things like speed, endurance and agility are a player's best assets to survive most of these weapon-friendly activities. The bullet-riddled take on "Tag" courtesy of the Five of Spades and the fast-paced parkour match "Checkmate" from the Queen of Spades (Chihiro Yamamoto) proved Spade games don't mess around.

But none compare to the King of Spades' "Survival." The game begins at the start of Stage 2, and a player not engaged in another challenge must participate without registration. While most challenges occur in a specific area, in "Survival," the entire map of Japan is the King's playground. With no introduction or warning, except for the sight of the King of Spade's blimp, he can appear anywhere, at any time, armed with assault rifles, pistols, and other weaponry. The highly trained killing machine's objective is to take out all players, and while the chances of survival seem low, the rules are quite simple. The game will be cleared if players can take out the King of Spades using whatever means necessary or at least survive until he dies. The game is over for a participant when the King of Spades kills them. Of all the games seen in the series, "Survival" is not only the longest, spanning almost the entirety of Season 2, but also contains the biggest death count.

But who really is the King of Spades, and why is he so keen on killing everybody?

A tortured soul motivated by a dark past and flawed view on life

While most face card operators did plenty of showboating and monologing, the King of Spades is all business, only making his presence known by his blimp or the sound of gunfire. The character is shrouded in mystery, and all that's revealed about his origins is a quick flashback in Season 2, Episode 7.

The source material does reveal more about the character. In the manga, his name is revealed to be Isao Shirabi, a reputable mercenary with next-level skills in weaponry and combat. At one point, he took a job with a fellow soldier-for-fire and friend known as Apache. Shirabi thought it was a bad idea and he turned out to be right: the ill-fated gig resulted in a devastating injury for his combat-ready companion. Apache knew his life would be full of turmoil if he survived, so he begged Shriabi to end his misery and kill him, which was briefly shown in the Netflix series. Shirabi didn't want to but ended up doing it anyway, and the traumatizing event is where he adopted the mindset that life was cruel and that he could save people by ending their pain with death. That's why the King of Spades doesn't see himself as a villain but as a savior freeing those he kills from the agony that life inevitably brings. He prefers going after large groups of players to get higher kill counts faster, and his death-dealing skills are backed by what he believes to be good intentions. Masterful murder abilities and a deranged way of thinking easily make the war-torn persona a heavy favorite for the deadliest boss battle in "Alice in Borderland," who has also garnered some intriguing reactions from fans.

The King of Spades gets love, hate, and John Wick odds from fans

The players in the series aren't big fans of the King of Spades, but when it comes to what followers of the show think of the "Alice in Borderland" boss, the reactions are a bit of a mixed bag.

Some viewers enjoyed the live-action interpretation of the villainous persona. One user on Reddit praised the depiction of the "Survival" game and what it was like watching the event, saying, "I read the manga, and the King of Spades game is already brutal, but the live-action adaptation really brought it to a new level. I really like the total combat scene, it's definitely the best highlight of the show. I can't sit still while watching it!!" 

However, not everyone was a fan of Netflix's take. u/holdawnn criticized the streamer's version of the character and how his story played out, writing in a comment, "I hated him. I just didn't like episode 7 in general, and it's mainly because of him and the insane plot armor in that episode."

But arguably, the most fascinating topic covered in the King of Spade discussions is how the Borderland Baba Yaga could fare against another contract killer, John Wick. While they both share a similar skillset, u/jevling believes the evenly matched battle would be a fantastic fight writing in a post, "I really think it is a toss-up between the two TBH. John Wick is a machine, but The King seems to be a very op dude himself. I'd say it could go 60/40 to John Wick out of 100 matches." Those are solid odds against the likes of Mr. Wick, and based on the reception, love or hate him, fans will never forget Isao Shirabi's reign as King of Spades.