Maybe at this point ‘La casa de papel’ is no longer the most watched non-English-language series of Netflix all over the world. The competition has come from South Korea and its title is, for whoever has been out of the galaxy these weeks, ‘The Squid Game‘. Its tentacles threaten to unseat Spanish fiction from the throne and its ink is writing a new chapter in the history of streaming. As in Spanish fiction, there are also masked uniformed in red jumpsuits (well more pink ones) and heavily armed, as well as criticism of the wild capitalism. And there the similarities of the new Netflix bombshell with the predecessor end. The masks of the robbers of La casa de papel had Dalí’s face, but in The Squid Game they are the most basic geometric shapes. Triangle, circle and square. Some have seen similarities with the buttons on the remote control of the PlayStation. The protagonists are a group of people burdened by debt who are recruited to participate in a dangerous game endowed with a prize of 45.6 billion won (at the change, almost 33 million euros). Dressed in a green tracksuit, which is very reminiscent of the sports uniforms that were worn in schools in class of Physical Education during the 80s, they participate in a sinister version of the games of their childhood, where the loser dies. A journey to childhood mixed with ultraviolence that generates a more than interesting contrast. The series turns into an addictive survival game, where its participants will do whatever it takes to continue in it. A fight to the death that is mere entertainment for VIPS with gold and shiny animal-shaped masks, which they enjoy in a luxurious room while swallowing canapes and delicious liquors.
‘The Squid Game’ has become a world phenomenon That has surprised even those responsible for the payment platform. A premiere that came almost under the covers until word of mouth has made a good part of the journey to success. It is a project that its own creator, Hwang Dong-hyukIt had been kept in a drawer for ten years and the story it told was not entirely new either. The proliferation of memes, theories of all kinds on the internet spinning the argument and of people seeking their moment of glory at the cost of their success has been the order of the day for the last two weeks. There have even been those who tried to call the phone that appeared on the cards of those who were invited to participate in the sinister game, finding to their surprise that it was a real number. From a man who has nothing to do with the series and who will surely have learned to hate during these weeks. I imagine you were almost grateful for the calls from those phone company commercials at nap time.
She was not exactly the first to touch on the subject, but the origin of all this would have to be found in a Japanese film from the year 2000 whose title has served to baptize a whole new genre: ‘Battle Royale ‘. Its name refers to a type of combat that is not of one fighter against another, but of all against all. The film takes place in a dystopian future, where each year a group of students are selected by a totalitarian state to be sent to a desert island to participate in a macabre competition where only one of them should be left standing after three days. The filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku inaugurated a whole genre that was consecrated twelve years later when the version made in the USA arrived, ‘The Hunger Games’. The creators of this other saga say they have nothing to do with it, but the similarities are more than reasonable. These stories of survival and of all against all have had continuity in the most disparate formats, from some reality, where its participants are subjected to the most extreme tests, to video games, where the most obvious example is the Fortnite.
Various authors had been proposing dystopian societies where these modern gladiators must give their all. Even his own Stephen King has a novel in which a group of 100 teenagers participate each year in a race for a dystopian and militarized United States until, as tradition dictates, only one was left standing. The winner will have all his needs covered for life. On ‘The long march ‘Anyone who stops running or falls below the six-kilometer-per-hour pace will be mercilessly executed after receiving three warnings. The ruthless soldiers who do not shake the trigger are very reminiscent of ‘The Squid Game’. The adaptation of this novel is still pending its premiere on the big screen, after being a project that has been changing hands for years. The success of the South Korean series predicts that we will see new lurching. The filmmaker André Øvredal (director of ‘The autopsy of Jane Doe ‘) is currently the one chosen to be behind the cameras.
Netflix itself had had its own experiences in this battle royale and coming from the most varied places in the world. One of them is 3%, Brazilian production that speaks to us of a future in which only 3% of the world’s population monopolizes wealth in a privileged place, while the rest of the planet is devastated and lives surrounded by misery and poverty. Once a year, a group of candidates can choose to become part of that elite by passing a series of tests. The fiction lasted three years and his interest began to wane when he put aside the plot of challenges to try to delve into how that nightmare world and the vicissitudes of resistance worked.
But the production of similar titles has been more prolific since Japan. Last year the platform already enjoyed a small moment of glory with Alice in Borderland‘When we were still half confined by the pandemic, the protagonists, a group of teenagers, appeared in an apocalyptic and deserted Tokyo, where they are forced to overcome challenges to keep their lives safe. While in ‘The Squid Game’ these tests were inspired by childhood games of a lifetime, in this Japanese series they are taken from the video game world. And the references and tributes to manga and anime are more than evident. There is a certain similarity in the plot with another Japanese Netflix series, Re: Mind, although in this one the protagonists do not have to show their physical abilities precisely. They are eleven teenagers who wake up chained to a table in a strange dining room, where the person who keeps them captive enjoys subjecting them to all kinds of torture. And as the episodes progress, one of the young women disappears.
The unexpected boom of ‘The Squid Game’ has brought to the fore the entire line of Asian productions that were part of the Netflix catalog. The platform had three own series made in Korea, ‘Memories of the Alhambra‘, which in the style of the drama mixed romance and fantasy and, by the way, shot in Spain; the other is ‘Kingdom‘, a zombie story set in feudal Korea; and now the sinister squid games. As much as the series may draw from other previous titles, there is no doubt that the latter has swept others in popularity, which were still cult titles. The second season is taken for granted. Will they focus on investigating who is behind it all or will they invent new childish and deadly games that have not yet appeared in the six tests already seen? The great difference of this series compared to other ‘Battle Royale’ is that, while other titles were set in dystopian societies, The Squid Game takes place in our world and now. As crazy as its plot may seem, it is perfectly believable. Behind the fable there are large doses of reality about the human condition.