Review: Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru)

You all knew this was coming, in the wake of The Hunger Games I figured it best to revisit what most people regard that book/movie’s biggest inspiration.

Battle Royale is one of the top ten highest grossing films in Japan, and is also based off a book, it also follows a sadistic blood sport invented by adults to kill off a disrespectful youth culture.
A class of forty high school age students are abducted while on a school trip and brought to an isolated island, and are immediately told that only one of them can survive the next few days; they are required to kill each other and are each given a basic supplies and a random weapon.

While BR is far from a perfect movie, it has a simple structure compared to Hunger Games; children are given weapons and asked to kill each other. End. They aren’t trained up, instead they must rely on their own knowledge and family backgrounds to help them survive; some are computer literate and they try to hack the game’s system, for example. Others, helpless and innocent, are killed off immediately or commit suicide rather than fight.
But when a truly psychotic “transfer student” is in the mix, the odds of any children surviving is significantly reduced.

The antagonists of this movie aren’t as flamboyant as The Capitol, but their school teacher’s game feels more secure; each child has an exploding collar on, and the island is divided into zones which he can allocate as “danger zones”, linger too long in a danger zone, and the collar explodes.
And of course, there’s a lot of gore and killing in Battle Royale. Most of the forty children are exclusively killed off, weapons including scythes, pistols, submachine guns, shotguns and cross-bows. Not everyone gets offensive weapons however.

The Hunger Games does have a better role model than any of BR‘s characters however, and in light of today’s lack of strong female role models, that does make the film stand out somewhat. But what makes Battle Royale more appealing to me is simply how these victims are just children, they have no training to make them equals. We can relate more to them, or at least to the terrible plight they find themselves in, they also show different ways of surviving and how forming into groups in this situation would not work!

Would I own Battle Royale or Hunger Games? Probably not… But it is an interesting compare and contrast, and BR for me feels more visceral, violent and true to the ethics of a “blood sport”


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