Squid Game, a Korean thriller drama that's coming to Netflix on Friday (17 September), is about a group of 456 people who struggle financially in life and have been invited to play a series of traditional children’s games — think games similar to hopscotch and tag. Little do they know that they are putting their lives at stake for the prize money of 45.6 billion won (S$52.2 million).
We've watched two episodes that were screened for media, out of the series' nine episodes. If you have watched or are a fan of Japanese thrillers, you may find the plot for Squid Game oddly familiar. We compare Squid Game with four similar but different Japanese thrillers to show you how the Korean series stacks up against them.
You can also check out the director and cast's thoughts on the life-and-death drama here.
1. Alice In Borderland
Just like the Netflix drama Alice In Borderland, Squid Game employs the concept of making the participants play deadly games. While the games in Alice In Borderland can be sorted into four kinds — physical game, team battle, test of wits, game of betrayal — the games in Squid Game are generally simple and are often played by children.
In contrast to Alice In Borderland, where the participants are brought into the games against their will, Squid Game gives the participants a choice to play or go home. Instead of an apocalyptic setting where they have to play to survive, Squid Game presents a greater drama element and dives into the background of the participants and their need for money. As such, Squid Game has a slower pace and is not as nerve-wracking.
2. As The Gods Will
As The Gods Will, which is quite revolting to watch due to its gore, similarly makes use of children’s games in the story. Thankfully, Squid Game is not as repulsive, or at least not yet for the first two episodes. Unlike As The Gods Will, which incorporated the Daruma (a typically red doll modelled after a Buddhist monk), maneki-neko (a beckoning cat), and the Kokeshi (a simple wooden doll with no arms or legs), Squid Game has less cultural elements, making their games more universal.
Both Kaiji and Squid Game have the same premise that the participants are facing some financial difficulties and hope to win the games to clear off their debts. However, Kaiji focuses more on psychological games, as opposed to the children’s games in Squid Game.
Squid Game also outlines the plot in such a way that even if the participants do not join the games, they are most likely not going to make it in life anyway. While the main character in Kaiji is duped into boarding the gambling ship with no guaranteed return, Squid Game puts out a convincing reason why the participants willingly take part in the games even if it means death.
4. Liar Game
Also allowing its participants to win money, Liar Game is a purely psychological drama centred on lies and tricks, or in other words, trust, compared to the deadly Squid Game. Both dramas pit the participants against one another, except they become in debt to the organisers in Liar Game, but pay with their lives in Squid Game. Furthermore, the participants can devise a plan to outsmart the game mechanics in Liar Game. But in Squid Game, it seems to be more straightforward — you just have to be better than the others.
Squid Game may not be for the faint-hearted and those who dislike bloody deaths. But in contrast to the above four Japanese thrillers, it is likely to be more emotional by delving into the characters’ lives outside of the games.
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