This movie will change your life.
Directed By: Kinji Fukasaku
Written By: Kenta Fukasaku
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.
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?
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.
- 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.