Battle Royale

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Battle Royale  
Cover
First edition cover, as published by Ohta Shuppan.
Author(s)Koushun Takami
Original titleバトル・ロワイアル
TranslatorYuji Oniki
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Genre(s)Dystopian
Thriller
Horror
Alternative history
PublisherOhta Shuppan
Publication dateApril 1999
Published in
English
February 26, 2003
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages666
ISBN4-87233-452-3
 
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Battle Royale  
Cover
First edition cover, as published by Ohta Shuppan.
Author(s)Koushun Takami
Original titleバトル・ロワイアル
TranslatorYuji Oniki
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Genre(s)Dystopian
Thriller
Horror
Alternative history
PublisherOhta Shuppan
Publication dateApril 1999
Published in
English
February 26, 2003
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages666
ISBN4-87233-452-3

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru?) is a Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami, completed in 1996 and published in 1999. The story tells of school-children who are forced to fight each other to the death.

The novel was ranked fourth by Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! 2000, an annual mystery and thriller guide book published in Japan.

The novel has been adapted into a 2000 film and a manga series. The novel itself has also been translated into Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Norwegian, and Hungarian.

Contents

Plot

Map of Okishima Island, as seen inside the cover of the English version.

Battle Royale takes place in an alternate timelineJapan is a member region of a totalitarian state known as the Republic of Greater East Asia (大東亜共和国 Dai Tōa Kyōwakoku). Under the guise of a "study trip", a group of students from Shiroiwa Junior High School (城岩中学校 Shiroiwa Chūgakkō) in the fictional town of Shiroiwa, in Kagawa Prefecture, are gassed on a bus. They awaken in the Okishima Island School on Okishima, an isolated, evacuated island southwest of Shodoshima (modeled after the island of Ogijima). They learn that they have been placed in an event called the Program. Officially a military research project, it is a means of terrorizing the population, of creating such paranoia as to make organized insurgency impossible.

The first Program was held in 1947. According to the rules, fifty third-year junior high school classes are selected (prior to 1950, forty-seven classes were selected) annually to participate in the Program for research purposes. The students from a single class are isolated and are required to fight the other members of their class to the death. The Program ends when only one student remains, with that student being declared the winner. Their movements are tracked by metal collars, which contain tracking and listening devices; if any student should attempt to escape the Program, or enter declared forbidden zones (which are randomly selected at the hours of 12 and 6, both a.m. and p.m.), a bomb will be detonated in the collar, killing the wearer. If no one dies within any 24-hour period, all collars will be detonated simultaneously and there will be no winner.

After being briefed about the Program, the students are issued survival packs that include a map, compass, food and water, and a random weapon or other item, which may be anything from a gun to a paper fan. During the briefing, two students (Fumiyo Fujiyoshi and Yoshitoki Kuninobu) anger the supervisor, Kinpatsu Sakamochi, who kills both. As the students are released onto the island, they each react differently to their predicament; beautiful delinquent Mitsuko Souma murders those who stand in her way using deception, Hiroki Sugimura attempts to find his best friend and his secret love, Kazuo Kiriyama attempts to win the game by any means necessary (stemming from his lack of ability to feel human emotion due to a brain injury sustained in a car crash while in utero) and Shinji Mimura makes an attempt to escape with his best friend Yutaka Seto.

Cover of the first English-language edition.

In the end, four students remain: protagonist Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, Shogo Kawada—a survivor of a previous instance of the Program—and antagonist Kazuo Kiriyama. Following a car chase and shoot-out between Kazuo and the main characters, Noriko kills Kazuo by shooting him, but to absolve the quiet and naturally good-natured Noriko of any guilt, Shogo then shoots Kazuo, claims he is in fact responsible for Kazuo's death, and then takes his two partners to a hill. After telling Shuya and Noriko that he will kill them, Shogo shoots in the air twice, faking their deaths for the microphones planted on the collars. He then dismantles the collars using information he had previously hacked into the government servers to obtain. Shogo boards the winner's ship, as do Shuya and Noriko, covertly, a short while later. On the ship, Shogo kills Sakamochi and a soldier, while Shuya kills the other soldiers on board. Shogo tells Shuya how to escape, succumbs to his wound from the battle with Kiriyama and dies. The two remaining students return to the mainland and attempt to travel to find a clinic belonging to a friend of Shogo's father. From there, they make plans to escape to the U.S., facing an uncertain future as they run from the authorities who have spotted them as they try to board a train.

Characters

MalesFemales
NumberNameNumberName
1Yoshio Akamatsu1Mizuho Inada
2Keita Iijima2Yukie Utsumi
3Tatsumichi Oki3Megumi Eto
4Toshinori Oda4Sakura Ogawa
5Shogo Kawada5Izumi Kanai
6Kazuo Kiriyama6Yukiko Kitano
7Yoshitoki Kuninobu7Yumiko Kusaka
8Yoji Kuramoto8Kayoko Kotohiki
9Hiroshi Kuronaga9Yuko Sakaki
10Ryuhei Sasagawa10Hirono Shimizu
11Hiroki Sugimura11Mitsuko Souma
12Yutaka Seto12Haruka Tanizawa
13Yuichiro Takiguchi13Takako Chigusa
14Sho Tsukioka14Mayumi Tendo
15Shuya Nanahara15Noriko Nakagawa
16Kazushi Niida16Yuka Nakagawa
17Mitsuru Numai17Satomi Noda
18Tadakatsu Hatagami18Fumiyo Fujiyoshi
19Shinji Mimura19Chisato Matsui
20Kyoichi Motobuchi20Kaori Minami
21Kazuhiko Yamamoto21Yoshimi Yahagi

Background and publication

Koushun Takami completed Battle Royale when he stopped working as a journalist in 1996. The story was rejected in the final round of the 1997 Japan Grand Prix Horror Novel competition, due to its controversial content. It was first published in April 1999 by Ohta Shuppan. In August 2002, it was released in a revised, two-part pocket edition by Gentosha.

Cover of the 2009 expanded English-language edition.

Takami describes the characters as possibly all being "kind of alike", being "all the same" despite differing appearances and hobbies, and being static characters. Takami used these descriptions in contrast to the manga adaptation he wrote, with Masayuki Taguchi illustrating, which he believes has a more diverse and well-developed cast.[1]

English adaptation

The novel was translated into English by Yuji Oniki and released in North America by Viz Media on February 26, 2003. An expanded edition with a revised English translation and an afterword by Takami was published on November 17, 2009 by Haika Soru, a division of Viz Media. This version also included an interview with the director of the book's film adaptation, Kinji Fukasaku.

Supporting materials

Kōji Ōnuma (大沼 孝次 Ōnuma Kōji?) wrote Battle Royale: Kyokugenshinri Kaisekisho (バトル・ロワイヤル 極限心理解析書 Batoru Rowaiyaru Kyokugenshinri Kaisekisho?, roughly "Battle Royale: Analysis of Extreme Psychology"), a dissertation that explores the themes of the book.[2]

Adaptations

Feature films

Battle Royale was adapted into a 2000 feature film of the same name, directed by Kinji Fukasaku and written by his son Kenta Fukasaku. It was followed in 2003 by Battle Royale II: Requiem.

Manga

A manga adaptation, written by Takami and illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi, was serialized in Akita Shoten's Young Champion Magazine from November 2002 to January 2006.

A second manga, Battle Royale II: Blitz Royale, first appeared on Young Champion Magazine on July 2003. Written and illustrated by Hiroshi Tomizawa, the new series ties-in with Fukasaku's second Battle Royale film, having no continuity with the original novel nor the first manga adaptation.

In 2011, a two chapter spin-off manga titled Battle Royale: Angels' Border was drawn by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma (each drawing one chapter). They were published in Young Champion Magazine and later combined into one volume on January 20, 2012.[3]

Theatre

In 2012, the Sipat Lawin Ensemble, a theatre company in the Philippines, adapted the novel into a live, theatre performance called Battalia Royale, which had its debut at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Performances were also held at an abandoned high school in Quezon City.[4]

Series

On July 26th 2012 The LA Times reported that The CW Network was considering buying the rights to develop Battle royale as an hour long dramatic series [5]

Reception

Upon publication in 1999, Battle Royale became one of the best-selling novels in Japan.[6] The novel was earlier entered into the 1997 Japan Grand Prix Horror Novel competition, but was eventually rejected in the final round due to its controversial content.

It was also critically acclaimed abroad. In Entertainment Weekly, the writer Stephen King included it as one of the seven books in his 2005 summer reading list, after it was recommended to him by novelist Kelly Braffet (writer of Josie and Jack). King described Battle Royale as "an insanely entertaining pulp riff that combines Survivor with World Wrestling Entertainment. Or maybe Royale is just insane." He also notes that it has some similarities to his own novel The Long Walk. He concludes the brief review with a "No prob," as "Takami's Springsteen-quoting teenagers are fond of saying."[7] The town from which the ill-fated students in Battle Royale hail is called Shiroiwa, which translates as "Castle Rock", a possible reference to Stephen King as well as Lord of the Flies.

The writer David N. Alderman, writing for the Red Room site, gave Battle Royale a score of 4½ out of 5 stars, stating that the "story itself is brilliant. Touted as being extremely controversial, especially for the time it was released, the book opens up all sorts of doors to conversations and thoughts about psychology, murder, survival, love, loyalty, and moral ground." While noting that those who "cringe at slash and hack" should "steer away from this" since "it is a bit gory," he states that it is "definitely worth the read" and concludes that it has "touches of romance, and definitely some great moral themes to spark off in-depth conversations with others."[8] Complete review gave the novel a B rating, describing it as "a perfectly fine thriller, with a fun premise, quite well drawn-out."[9] In The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, Tom Good praises the novel, concluding that, as "a pulp-fiction horror tale, Battle Royale delivers plenty of thrills, action, suspense and fun."[10] On the Barnes & Noble site, the novel holds an average user rating of 5 out of 5 stars.[11]

Legacy

Since its release, the novel and its film adaptation have had an influence on later works. These include filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino,[12][13] most notably his Kill Bill films;[14] the character Gogo Yubari, played by Chiaki Kuriyama, is similar to the character she plays in the Battle Royale film, Takako Chigusa.[15] V.A. Musetto of the New York Post also compared it to The Condemned, which the critic called "a bad rip-off" of Battle Royale as well as The Most Dangerous Game.[16] Critics have also noted the influence of Battle Royale on other later works, such as the 2008 film Kill Theory,[17] and the 2009 film The Tournament,[18], and have noted similarities with the novel and film franchise The Hunger Games.[19][20] Battle Royale has also been compared to the manga, anime and film franchise Gantz,[21] and the 2007 video game The World Ends with You.[22]

The 2008 American young adult novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been accused of being strikingly similar to Battle Royale in terms of the basic plot premise and the world within the book. While Collins maintains that she "had never heard of that book until her book was turned in", Susan Dominus of The New York Times reports that "the parallels are striking enough that Collins's work has been savaged on the blogosphere as a baldfaced ripoff," but argued that "there are enough possible sources for the plot line that the two authors might well have hit on the same basic setup independently."[23] The general consensus in the time since has been one of amicable controversy, especially since the release of the The Hunger Games film adaptation. Battle Royale author Takami said he appreciated fans "standing up" for his book, but stated that he thinks "every novel has something to offer," and that if "readers find value in either book, that's all an author can ask for."[24]

References

  1. ^ "Final Chapter Memorial Discussion: Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi." Battle Royale. Volume 15. Tokyopop
  2. ^ "バトル・ロワイヤル 極限心理解析書 (単行本)." Amazon Japan. Retrieved on May 8, 2009.
  3. ^ "バトル・ロワイアル 新作単行本は高見広春シナリオ付き." natalie.mu. Retrieved on March 12, 2012.
  4. ^ "Watch Filipino Teens Recreate BATTLE ROYALE In Live Theater Event. twitchfilm.com. Retrieved on March 2, 2012.
  5. ^ [1].latimes.com
  6. ^ "Battle Royale: The Novel". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Battle-Royale-Novel-Koushun-Takami/dp/1421527723. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  7. ^ King, Stephen (August 4, 2005). "Kick-Back Books: Stephen King's summer reading list". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1089990,00.html. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ Alderman, David N. (October 7, 2010). "Battle Royale - (Book Review)". Red Room. http://redroom.com/member/david-alderman/blog/battle-royale-book-review. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Battle Royale by Takami Koushun". complete review. http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/japannew/takamik.htm. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Good, Tom (10/07/2007). "Book review: Battle Royale (Novel)". The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society. http://liheliso.com/buzz/archive/00000758.htm. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Battle Royale (Novel)". Barnes & Noble. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/battle-royale-koushun-takami/1016541586. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "DVD reviews: Battle Royale (Arrow)". The Scotsman. 9 December 2010. http://www.scotsman.com/news/dvd-reviews-battle-royale-arrow-the-expendables-1-1520872. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "Quentin Tarantino’s Favorite 20 Films Since 1992". http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/08/20/quentin-tarantinos-favorite-20-films-since-1992/. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  14. ^ Mulligan, Jake (March 21, 2012). "Blu-ray Review: "Battle Royale - The Complete Collection"". The Suffolk Voice. http://www.thesuffolkvoice.net/arts-entertainment/blu-ray-review-battle-royale-the-complete-collection-1.2823915#.T25aI9W9a1c. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  15. ^ Sandhu, Sukhdev (October 10, 2003). "Bloody, marvellous". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3320118/Bloody-marvellous.html. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  16. ^ V.A. Musetto (April 27, 2007). "Executioner's wrong: Fans condemned to bad cinema.". New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/movies/executioner_wrong_CZrUJRpBxUnOjTOHrAnRDI. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  17. ^ Solis, Jorge (June 6, 2010). "Fango Flashback: “BATTLE ROYALE”". Fangoria. http://www.fangoria.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1083:fango-flashback-battle-royale&catid=59:fango-flashback&Itemid=189. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Shamon, Danny. "REVIEW: Tournament, The (2009)". Kung Fu Cinema. http://www.kungfucinema.com/reviews/tournament-2009. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  19. ^ Poland, David (March 20, 2012). "Review: The Hunger Games". Movie City News. http://moviecitynews.com/2012/03/review-the-hunger-games/. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  20. ^ Yang, Jeff (March 23, 2012). "‘Hunger Games’ Vs. ‘Battle Royale’". The Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/03/23/the-hunger-games-vs-battle-royale/. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  21. ^ McCarthy, Jonathan Clements, Helen (2007). The anime encyclopedia: a guide to Japanese animation since 1917 (Rev. & expanded ed. ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press. p. 220. ISBN 1-933330-10-4. "Like Battle Royale crashed into Wings of Desire with courtesy breasts, Gantz throws everyday people into a life-or-death conflict, but focuses on their humdrum musings — what to wear, how to impress girls, who gets the rocket launcher." 
  22. ^ Patterson, Shane (March 20, 2008). "The World Ends With You - Hero bios". GamesRadar. http://www.gamesradar.com/the-world-ends-with-you-hero-bios/. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  23. ^ Dominus, Susan (April 8, 2011). "Suzanne Collins’s War Stories for Kids". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/magazine/mag-10collins-t.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  24. ^ Fujita, Akiko (March 22, 2012). "‘The Hunger Games,’ a Japanese Original?". ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/the-hunger-games-a-japanese-original/. Retrieved 29 March 2012.