Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of Alice in Borderland.Among all the surprises that Season 2 of Netflix’s Alice in Borderland had in store for its viewers, it’s safe to say that one of them caught us completely off guard. Kyuma (Tomohisa Yamashita), also known as the King of Clubs – the first “boss” (or “citizen”) that Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) and Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) take on – is a nudist and spends all of his time in the series completely naked.
While nudism is a real philosophy and practice, in the real world the adepts to it have limited areas where they can exercise it (normally at specific beaches and inside their own houses). However, a fully nude body is still a shock for most of us, and the impact of seeing a buck-naked person on television can make a lot of people uncomfortable – and this is especially true for Japanese audiences since the country is still pretty conservative in several aspects.
For Kyuma, Being Naked Is The Ultimate Exposure
The first reason why Kyuma is naked all the time is that he’s been in Borderland longer than the new players, and he came to understand that he’s living in a world where societal rules no longer apply. He gets to do what he wants and dress — or undress — as he likes, and no one can force him to wear anything. All things considered, it’s actually surprising that the series doesn’t feature more characters who blatantly ignore social constructs – other than, you know, the ones who kill mercilessly with no punishment.
The second reason is that, narratively, having Kyuma never wear clothes helps underscore the character’s philosophy. Before they gear up to play the symbiosis game, Kyuma and Arisu have a conversation about the “real world” in which Kyuma questions Arisu’s belief that Tokyo from Season 1, Episode 1 might not be the real thing at all. Kyuma states that Borderland unveils the true nature of the human being, and because of that, it can be perceived as a lot more real than the world they left behind.
Kyuma also comments that society is tethered to rules that make us wear masks and shields which frequently prevent us from forming meaningful connections and having brutally honest conversations. In Borderland, nothing is off the table and you can fully expose yourself – which, visually, translates to the King of Clubs wearing no clothes and constantly inviting people to have heart-to-hearts. According to Kyuma, only by looking at death in the eye you can really reveal your true self, and that’s why he likes living in Borderland.
As the season progresses, you realize that Kyuma was right at least in part. Out of all the citizens that Arisu and his team fight, the King of Clubs is the only one that makes them reflect about where they are, what could Borderland be, and if they really feel like returning to the “real” world. Kyuma is also the only one who has a long and meaningful conversation with the protagonist – true, there is a longer conversation that takes place in the final episode, but the level of honesty in that exchange is up for debate.
Naked and (Not) Afraid
Kyuma’s beliefs also end up making him one of the most “reasonable” citizens. Since he believes that inside his arena everyone is equal, that suggests that his team always manages to find a way to fight fair inside the twisted Borderland rules. Kyuma lays out the rules of his game explicitly, his team doesn’t feel unbeatable (as opposed to other citizens’ arenas), and it doesn’t feel like he’s hiding anything like some of his fellow citizens.
Last but not least, this is only briefly explored by the series, but being buck naked is also a way to psych out your adversaries. When Kyuma shows up, no one is prepared for what he will look like, and his being naked is enough to destabilize whoever takes him on. On our side of the screen, having this type of character introduced so early in the season signals to the audience that citizens are unpredictable, and that they play by their own rules, so you never know what to expect when a new King, Jack or Queen present themselves.
True enough, the games from Season 2 wildly differ from Season 1, especially when it comes to battles of wits. In Season 2, there is room for games that are completely physical, others in which players only need to think and barely move, and sometimes a combination of both. This was teased in the first season, but making the games as distinct as their clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades signs is what makes the new episodes all the more thrilling.
You can stream all episodes of Alice in Borderland on Netflix now.