Netflix may have found its next big hit, as the South Korean drama known as Squid Game introduces us to a rather dark and twisted look at classic children’s games. Whoever wins six games will garner the massive cash price to pay off their debt. Yet, it makes you question how much worth your life truly has in such a dark and twisted game. Its unique visuals and dark twist on childhood games put it on the map. As it’s Netflix’s new rising star, it’s the perfect time to explore the stories that inspired it.
The script by Hwang Dong-hyu was first written back in 2008 before he scrapped it for some time. He shared that he was inspired by the mangas Liar Game by Shinobu Kaitani, and Nobuyuki Fukumoto‘s Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji (Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji). They center around a similar storyline where unsuspecting people are brought into dangerous games to pay their debts. The former even got a South Korean TV series back in 2014. Kaiji was so popular it expanded into five additional series that offers a dark glimpse into the world of gambling.
While the name and games are inspired by the Korean children’s game by the same name, there was some controversy due to the similarity to one rather specific manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro titled As the Gods Will (Kami-sama no Iu Tōri). In this series, high schools are suddenly infiltrated by Daruma dolls that force students to play the game. If they fail to stay by the rules, they end up dying. The worst part, it isn’t just one game. In 2014, it was adapted into a live-action film, which has been brought up in comparison by critics.
Yes, the concept of a children’s game leading to death is quite similar but the basis is different. As the Gods Will doesn’t give its players anything to win, they are simply unwilling pawns in a game of death. In reality, all these series have one shared origin in the Japanese novel Battle Royale by author Koushin Takami. It explores a fictional world where high schoolers are forced to kill each other on an island for the amusement of a fascist government. It famously got adapted into a film in 2000 that inspired many similar stories. Dong-hyu‘s tale of desperation isn’t a new concept but builds upon almost two decades of storytelling while adding a unique twist on the concept.