'The Borderlands' (今際の国, lit. "country of dying") is a world that acts as a border between life and death, where the consciousness of people who suffer a near-death experience or clinical death are sent and forced to play dangerous games to survive.
Within the Borderland, people exist there as "immigrants" in order to decide whether they continue to the world of the dead or earn the right to return to the world of the living. For this, the people— known as either players or dealers— are forced to participate in an elaborate game in which they put their lives on the line in order to test their will to live. The wounds suffered in the Borderland are reflected in the body in the original world, so dying there also means dying in the world of the living. Once the game is cleared, survivors can choose to return to the world of the living or stay in the Borderland as citizens, who create and operate the next set of games in the next immigration cycle. No player or dealer in the Borderlands is aware of this until they clear all the games.
Time in the Borderland passes very differently from the world of the living. What a consciousness perceives as months can mean mere seconds to its true body. From the 2 seen in the series, a single immigration cycle takes an average of about 75 days. An immigration cycle ends once either the players emerge victorious, the dealers emerge victorious, or the citizens emerge victorious. After that, the Borderlands sort of resets, and new groups of people begin joining. Upon entering the Borderlands, all memories of the experience that led them there are lost and is replaced with an artificial one. In it, they stayed up until 4AM, and thought the following thoughts: “I don’t care where, but I would like to visit a foreign country.” After that, fireworks start going off in the distance until a massive one explodes, so bright that the person shields their eyes. During this process, they enter an extremely psychedelic wormhole and are transformed into a marionette, before arriving in the Borderlands. The only exception to this was Usagi Yuzuha, who didn't turn into a marionette. Once it is possible to leave, all memories of the Borderland are lost in the same way, only certain feelings of the experiences lived there remain. However, it is possible to remember under certain conditions. A "key" that the players take with them can distort their perception of what is real, rekindling memories of what happened before their reached the Borderland. Again, no player or dealer is aware of any of this until they clear all the games.
The Borderlands is a parallel of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, and the games in The Borderlands have taken place within the wards. However, the parallel Tokyo is abandoned, and the effects of time and nature have a clear toll on it. Many of the buildings are in poor condition, and trash can be seen everywhere. Lots of vegetation can be seen growing through cracks and hanging on infrastructure.
A weather cycle still exists, as proven in the rainstorm and typhoon seen during the second stage. In addition, the day and night cycle exists as well. However, The Borderlands is perpetually in the summertime around July, meaning the days are humid and hot.
As the land approaches the edge of the wards, it grows more ruinous, eventually turning into massive forests and mountains.
Conditions to Be Sent
To be sent to the Borderlands, a person must meet the following criteria:
- They have suffered a clinical death or a near-death experience.
- They were heavily dissatisfied with their current lives.
As long as those 2 requirements were met, someone would be sent off to the Borderlands. The exact details were never explicitly stated in the series. It is assumed that there isn’t an age quota since a young child was seen, as well as many older people. However, 2 types of people that weren’t seen were pregnant women and physically disabled people. Again, it is unknown if that’s a coincidence or if they simply can’t be sent to the Borderlands.
There are 3 groups of people in the Borderlands; the players, the dealers, and the citizens. In essence: Players and dealers both have to keep their visas in mind, but citizens don’t have to worry about it since they’ve earned their citizenship.
Players play the games. A player ID has the format of 10000XXX.
Dealers supervise the games. A dealer ID has the format of 00000XXX.
Citizens create the games.
Every night after sundown, the games commence. Games can take place at any location, indoors or outdoors. Examples include a school, a bank, a field, a park, etc. Players must register in the game lobby, where the rules to the game and the difficulty will be announced.
Games are categorized by their difficulty, which is represented by a playing card. Spades is a game of physique. Diamonds are a game of intelligence. Clubs are a game of teamwork and balance. Hearts is a game of psychology. The number of the card is its difficulty, going from ace-10. The reward for winning are additional visa days determined by the game’s difficulty, (So for example a 5 of Clubs will reward 5 days) the playing card that the game was, and very occasionally a game may include a second prize. The difficulty isn’t announced until after registration. Once a player enters a venue, they cannot leave. Some games have entry requirements too, like having a player limit, requirement, or having all players equip special objects prior to the start of the game.
Dealers are the people who set up the games and clean up the venues after they are done. They also participate in games often acting as taggers (Like the Five of Spades) or as other players to confuse the players (Like the Ten of Hearts). Their visa reward is dependent on the number of people they kill each game. If the players clear the game they’re supervising, then it’s a Game Over for that dealer. It’s a cruel role, but they’re considered the lucky ones.
Once a person’s visa days reach 0, they’re killed. This is why players and dealers must continue participating in games.
This system applies only during the First Stage. The rules change drastically in the Second Stage. There are 2 ways for the First Stage to end:
If all 40 pip card games are cleared, it is a player victory and all dealers are killed. A single person doesn’t need to clear all the games nor have all the cards; every game just needs to have been cleared at least once.
If all players are killed, then it is considered a dealer victory.
The victorious faction will have a 3 day Interval, where visas don’t count down. At the end of the 3 days, the citizens will make their announcement for the Second Stage.
During the Second Stage, 12 new games begin where the survivors must compete against the Borderland citizens in the Face Card games. These games are much more difficult, have extremely strict entry requirements, and have the survivors play against the citizens. All games have their difficulty displayed. However, the visa system is still in effect as well. If all citizens are defeated and the games are all cleared, the remaining people get to choose whether to return to Earth or gain permanent residency, becoming a citizen and making new games in the next immigration cycle.
- In itself it is the representation of the myth of the Sanzu River.