A movie directed by Shuji Fukasaku and starring Takeshi Kitano as a supervisor of a class of 14-15 year old students. The story is set in a hyper-violent future where the previously mentioned students are sent to an island. Each has an explosive collar wrapped around their throat. If more than one of them are left alive at the end of three days, all of the collars detonate. The only way to live, is for one of the students to kill all of their classmates.

Truly disturbing.

The students are portrayed as scared teens trying to survive, and this is no small component of the shock value of this movie. Toei wanted to release the movie with a "PG" rating, but instead it was given an "R-15", preventing anyone under the age of fifteen from seeing the movie in Japan. In fact, it's been quite the controversy in Japan, even causing Governer Ishi to try to stop the distribution of the film. "You cannot show young people how to kill others!"

The trailer for the movie is available on the net, and gives an idea of the general mood of the film.

This film is set in the future but if you watch it, you would be forgiven for thinking it was set in the present. From the uniforms to the weapons the students are given, Fukasaku Kinji (I am not sure why Eos called him "Shuji") has done his best to associate everything in the film with Japan's present.

For anyone who understands Japan and its current situation, Battle Royale will have great meaning for them. It raises the issue of Japan's rise in youth violence. Among other things, the Yakuza or Japanese mafia, have set up gangs of youths to do things like steal and intimidate people for them. When they are older, these kids are often picked to join the adult Yakuza gangs.

There is also a link to the competitive nature of the Japanese education system. Just as in the film, students have to kill each other to survive, in real life they must beat each other to go to the best schools. How they do in comparision to their peers can often decide their future. This is much more so than in other countries, like Britain and America.

Such was the impact of the film in Japan, that the Japanese Parliament debated whether it would encourage young people to commit acts of violence. Though the MPs may have overeacted, considering the extreme nature of the film, this is understandable.

The film will make a great impact on anyone who watches it. The killing is not rational or even professionally done like in most action movies. Even the more ruthless students cannot kill the classmates with one shot, but take a while to kill them. The violence is more instinctive and primeval than we would be used to.

SPOILER !!!

As an example of this, in one scene a group of girls, who have barricaded themselves in a lighthouse, are sitting down to lunch. They are happy and feel that they can get through the ordeal together. When one of them is accidentily poisoned (the poisoned food was meant for someone else), this air of trust is immediately replaced by one of fear and paranoia. As a result, they massacre each other!

However I would not wish you all to think this film is all doom and gloom. The ending is full of hope. Indeed, our hero and heroine survive and can be deemed to have been strengthened by this ordeal. Rather than submit to the "System", they seem to fight it - they go on the run. I would recommend this film to most people. The action is well put together and there are plenty of surprises. Be prepared though. It doesn't matter how many times you have seen Reservoir Dogs - the violence in it will be like nothing you have seen before!

Actually, the film is based on a novel by Koushun Takami. This novel has also been adapted in an ongoing manga, drawn by Masayuki Taguchi that is published in the Young King magazine. So far, there are 5 tankoubon paperbacks, but an end is not yet in sight.

The manga shares the films disturbing imagery, but because of the change of medium, the portrayed scenes of violence and slaughter are even more detailed and graphic. Scenes that could not be done on film are detailed in their gory detail. The characters are explored in more detail, their backgrounds better explained than in the movie, which makes their final fates even more horrifying.

Still, the artist did not borrow the faces of the actors to draw his characters but instead chose to use his own imagination. The director for example, who was played by Takeshi Kitano, is portrayed here as a fat pig, clearly enjoying the scenes of death and horror, while stuffing himself with burgers and sodas.

I do not recommend the manga to the weak of heart, as they might find the images too disturbing. If you liked the film, or take such things lighter, you might also like this manga.

Here's a link to a Battle Royale site:

  • http://homepage.tinet.ie/~screamanthology/br/

This movie will change your life. Possibly.

Battle Royale

Directed By: Kinji Fukasaku
Written By: Kenta Fukasaku
Year: 2000

Background
At the beginning of the new millennium, Japan is in a crisis. With 10 million out of work, the nation's unemployment rate stands at a staggering 15%. 800,000 students boycott school. The adults, fearing the nation's youth, pass the New Millennium Reform Act, better known as the Battle Royale Act.

So what is this Battle Royale Act?
It's pretty simple. Once a year, a class of 9th graders is selected to participate in what is known as Battle Royale. One way or another, the class is transported to a deserted island (note: deserted means abandoned, not that it's full of sand) by the military, and then told their mission. The students are released onto the island with some food, a map, a flashlight, a compass, and a weapon. Whatever they do after that point is up to them, but only the last surviving child after 3 days will be allowed to leave the island. To make matters complicated, each student is fitted with a tracking collar around his or her neck. Not only does it help the organizers determine where students are and who's alive and dead, but the collar is fitted with explosives set to go off if A, a student walks into a danger zone (turned on randomly over the course of three days), or B, if a student tries to remove the collar.

In addition, the class is joined by two special students, both of whom seem to be more adept at the game than the rest of the class...

The extent to which the country knows about Battle Royale is unknown. While the intro to the movie shows a swarm of media awaiting the winner of the previous year's match, it seems that the class, upon arriving on the island, is absolutely surprised and shocked.

The Weapons
While each student receives a "weapon" of some sort, these can vary from the mundane to the dangerous. Several students recieve handguns, the luckier ones recieve automatic weapons. Lots of knives/blades, a crossbow, and more. However, some students recieve non-lethal objects, including a pot lid, binoculars, a megaphone, a GPS locator, and even a kamakaze headband. While these "tools" are useful, they definitely won't help the player in the game. Or will they?

The Movie
Doesn't get much more interesting than this, does it? The plot is, for the most part, centered on Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa, two good friends, as they struggle to survive together in the game. Significant screen time is also given to Mitsuko Souma, as well as Kitano, the class' 7th-grade teacher who has returned to be in charge of this year's operation (he reads out the 6-hour reports on who died, which danger zones are active, etc, over the radio).

Of course, there are a bunch of teenage love plots, a major plan of rebellion, lots of betrayal, many flashbacks, and more. The ending paves the way for Battle Royale 2*, which will be released in July of this year.

Interesting Things

  • The girl who does the BR instructional video is none other than the Japanese voice actor for Asuka Langley Soryu.
  • In fact, there are a few Neon Genesis Evangelion references. Some of the classical music used in Eva is used here, and one of the battle sequences is a tribute to Evangelion.
  • I believe I'm correct in saying this, but this movie actually did get a PG release in Japan, after lots of CGI blood spurts and a few flashbacks were removed. You can see them in the Special Edition of Battle Royale, just look on eBay. The long version is about 120 minutes, while the original version is around 112 or 115. IMHO, while a couple of the flashbacks are good, the Special Edition isn't worth it.

Finding The Damn Thing
The problem with finding this DVD is that it was never licenced for Region 1. Thus, one is forced to go onto eBay and get a Hong Kong "import" (read: bootleg). However, you're not completely out of luck. Tartan, a company in the UK, licenced BR for release in that country. If you can find it, good luck, but I believe it would be in PAL format. The NTSC Special Edition DVD I purchased had great picture, but the English subtitles were a bit lacking (not in translation, but in that several lines are outright MISSING, including a few memorable ones). I know this because before buying the DVD, I downloaded a DivX copy which has everything subtitled. Then again, the DVD I purchased came with three different subtitles (English, Korean, Italian), so I knew what I was getting into.

Browsing eBay now, there appears to be a new two-disc set that a few sellers are promoting. A 3,000-pressing only Korean release, and the second disc comes with lots of extras. Looks to be around $35. If I buy it, I will definitely relay the quality to this writeup.


*See my w/u in Battle Royale 2 Sources: www.imdb.com, www.battleroyaleonline.com, my DVD.

This here is a list of all forty-two characters that were in Battle Royale. It has been listed in order of first death to last death and includes the following information for each character:

  • TO GO - After deaths a black box will pop up during the film to tell you how many people are still alive.
  • Name - The full name of the participant.
  • Position Of Release - This is resembled by the BOY/GIRL number. The kids were released one at a time in boy/girl order.
  • Weapon Issued - When released the teen was given a bag that included a map, food, water, and a weapon. Some of the weapons are very helpful, while some are nonexistent.
  • Killed - This indicates who the character killed. If the character committed suicide it is noted by either Himself or Herself.
  • Killed By - All of the people that an individual killed are under this category.

NOTE: This could be viewed as a SPOILER. Do not proceed it you haven't viewed the movie yet.


42 TO GO Fumiyo Fujiyoshi (GIRL #18)
Weapon Issued: N/A
Killed: N/A
Killed by: Kinto

41 TO GO Yoshitoki Kuninobu (BOY #7)
Weapon Issued: N/A
Killed: N/A
Killed by: Kinto

40 TO GO Mayumi Tendou (GIRL #14)
Weapon Issued: Boxing Gloves
Killed: N/A
Killed by: Yoshio Akamatsu

39 TO GO Yoshio Akamatsu (BOY #1)
Weapon Issued: Crossbow
Killed: Mayumi Tendou
Killed by: Kazushi Niida

38 TO GO Hiroshi Kuronaga (BOY #9)
Weapon Issued: Dagger
Killed: N/A
Killed by: Kiriyama

37 TO GO Ryuuhei Sasagawa (BOY #10)
Weapon Issued: Uzi 9mm
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

36 TO GO Shou Tsukioka (BOY #14)
Weapon Issued: Nunchaku
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

35 TO GO Mitsuru Numai (BOY #17)
Weapon Issued: Colt 357 Pistol
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

34 TO GO Izumi Kanai (GIRL #5)
Weapon Issued: Hand Grenades
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

33 TO GO Kazuhiko Yamamoto (BOY #21)
Weapon Issued: Head Band
Killed: Himself
Killed By: Himself

32 TO GO Sakura Ogawa (GIRL #4)
Weapon Issued: N/A
Killed: Herself
Killed By: Herself

31 TO GO Youji Kuramoto (BOY #8)
Weapon Issued: Rope
Killed: Himself
Killed By: Himself

30 TO GO Yoshimi Yahagi (GIRL #21)
Weapon Issued: Plastic Hammer
Killed: Herself
Killed By: Herself

29 TO GO Megumi Etou (GIRL #3)
Weapon Issued: Stungun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Mitsuko Souma

28 TO GO Tatsumichi Ohki (BOY #3)
Weapon Issued: Hatchet
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Himself/Shuya Nanahara

27 TO GO Kyouichu Motobuchi (BOY #20)
Weapon Issued: Smith & Wesson M19 Handgun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Shougo Kawada

26 TO GO Yukiko Kitano (BOY #6)
Weapon Issued: Megaphone
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

25 TO GO Yumiko Kusaka (BOY #7)
Weapon Issued: Sword
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

24 TO GO Hirono Shimizu (BOY #10)
Weapon Issued: Colt. 45 Handgun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

23 TO GO Kazushi Niida (BOY #16)
Weapon Issued: Coat Hanger
Killed: Yoshio Akamatsu
Killed By: Takako Chigusa

22 TO GO Takako Chigusa (GIRL #13)
Weapon Issued: Knife
Killed: Kazushi Niida
Killed By: Mitsuko Souma

21 TO GO Toshinori Oda (BOY #4)
Weapon Issued: Bulletproof Vest
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

20 TO GO Mizuho Inada (GIRL #1)
Weapon Issued: Knife
Killed: Kaori Minami
Killed By: Kaori Minami

19 TO GO Kaori Minami (GIRL #20)
Weapon Issued: Knife
Killed: Mizuho Inada
Killed By: Mizuho Inada

18 TO GO Yuuchirou Takiguchi (BOY #13)
Weapon Issued: Machete
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Mitsuko Souma

17 TO GO Takakatsu Hatagami (BOY #18)
Weapon Issued: Baseball Bat
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Mitsuko Souma

16 TO GO Yuka Nakagawa (GIRL #16)
Weapon Issued: 9mm Machine Gun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Yuko Sakaki

15 TO GO Chisato Matsui (GIRL #19)
Weapon Issued: Walther PPKS 7.65mm Handgun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Satomi Noda

14 TO GO Haruka Tanizawa (GIRL #12)
Weapon Issued: 9mm Handgun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Satomi Noda

13 TO GO Satomi Noda (GIRL #12)
Weapon Issued: M870 Shotgun
Killed: Chisato Matsui, Haruka Tanizawa,Yukie Utsumi
Killed By: Yukie Utsumi

12 TO GO Yukie Utsumi (GIRL #2)
Weapon Issued: Smith & Wesson 357 Handgun
Killed: Satomi Noda
Killed By: Satomi Noda

11 TO GO Yuko Sakaki (GIRL #9)
Weapon Issued: Poison
Killed: Yuka Nakagawa
Killed By: Herself

10 TO GO Hiroki Sugimura (BOY #11)
Weapon Issued: GPS Device
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kayoko Kotohiki

9 TO GO Kayoko Kotohiki (GIRL #8)
Weapon Issued: Handgun
Killed: Hiroki Sugimura
Killed By: Mitsuko Souma

8 TO GO Mitsuko Souma (GIRL #11)
Weapon Issued: Sickle
Killed: Kayoko Kotohiki, Megumi Etou, Takako Chigusa, Yuuchirou Takiguchi, Takakatsu Hatagami
Killed By: Kiriyama

7 TO GO Yutaka Seto (BOY #12)
Weapon Issued: Fork
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

6 TO GO Keita Iijima (BOY #2)
Weapon Issued: Jitte
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

5 TO GO Shinji Mimura (BOY #19)
Weapon Issued: Beretta M92F Handgun
Killed: N/A
Killed By: Kiriyama

4 TO GO Kiriyama (BOY #6)
Weapon Issued: Harisen
Killed: Hiroshi Kuronaga, Ryuuhei Sasagawa, Shou Tsukioka, Mitsuru Numai, Izumi Kanai, Yukiko Kitano, Yumiko Kusaka, Hirono Shimizu, Toshinori Oda, Mitsuko Souma, Yutaka Seto, Keita Iijima, Shinji Mimura
Killed By: Shougo Kawada

3 TO GO...

Sources:

http://www.battleroyaleonline.com

This writeup will cover not just the Battle Royale book, but also the manga, since information on both seem to be somewhat scarce at the moment. I'll also include a few points the various incarnations of the story differ from each other.

Battle Royale book

Author: Koushun Takami

Publisher: VIZ, LLC (published in Japan by Ota Shuppan)

ISBN: US edition: 1-56931-X

Koushun Takami was born in 1969 in Amagasaki, near Osaka, and grew up in the Kagawa prefecture of Shikoku. He graduated from Osaka University with a degree in literature and later dropped out of a liberal arts correspondence-course program. He worked for the Shikoku Shimbun news company from 1991 to 1996, and shortly afterwards wrote his first book, Battle Royale, which caused a great deal of controversy in Japan.

In the book, Japan did not lose World War II and has developed into the Republic of Greater East Asia (i.e., Japan and presumably a number of colonies). It is isolated, somewhat united in its opposition to the American Imperialists and is ruled by a Soviet-style government, complete with a leader aptly known as the Dictator.

One of the defining characteristics of this republic is the Program. The Program is a yearly event where each prefecture randomly chooses a junior high school class, which is then transported to a secluded area and told that they will have to kill each other. The last one standing after 24 hours is the winner. Should there be more than one left, then the collar each student wears around his/her neck will explode and there will be no winners. The aim of the Program seems to be to encourage young people enlist, since Japan (unusually for a dictatorship) does not have a system of conscription. The exact logic behind this is not readily appearent, though.

The book details how each member of the Shiroiwa Junior High School's third year class B handles the situation when they are confronted with this choice. While the main character, Shuya Nanahara, is followed most closely, the fates of all his classmates are included. Some go into denial and are inevitably killed by the more enterprising students who have decided to play the game, while others attempt to cooperate and somehow defy those who have forced them into an intolerable situation (with varying results).

While the book can be depressing at times, it becomes clear that every student has a reason for acting like they do (something which is not always obvious in the movie). Throughout the book, the protagonist and his friends sometimes discuss the nature of the society they live in, the effects of the repressive dictatorship and what drives their class mates to, in some cases, cheerfully kill their former friends.

While I haven't read the Japanese version, the translation, done by Yuki Oniki, seems to be done fairly well. However, there are a few points where it seems like a passage has been translated directly from Japanese. These passages seem out of place, and should, perhaps, have been rewritten to suit the style of the rest of the book.

Battle Royale manga

Created by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi

Publisher: TOKYOPOP

ISBN: US edition: 1591824345 (first volume)

The Battle Royale manga is based on the book with the same name, and the plot is (at least during the first two volumes) nearly identical (see above). Compared to the book, the manga is gratuitously bloody. Not even the movie manages to portray the slaughter so vividly. While the book sometimes describes a corpse or somebody's death in detail, the manga shows an abundance of blood, brains and gore. While not exactly offensive, it does tend to detract from the plot when the reader is repeatedly treated to close-ups of spectacularly maimed corpses. The art looks pretty much like you would expect a Japanese comic to look, although each and every character seems to have a body which mirrors their personality: One look at somebody's face, and it becomes annoyingly obvious what we can expect in the way of action from him/her.

At this point, at least seven volumes have been released in the US, and there are probably more coming.

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