All right, so against my better judgment, I finally wrote a short review of Battle Royale II. I am probably not the ideal reviewer, given my less than stellar Japanese skills that only allowed me to grasp a rough 80% of the dialogs, but considering the only "review" to this day is solely based on the tidbits read on some rumors website, I figure it won't do any harm.

As a meager disclaimer to what follows regarding the sequel, allow me first to precise that I really loved the original Battle Royale. Although "love" is probably the wrong word, seeing how it made me nearly physically sick the first time I saw it, and brought a complex mix of violent emotions every times I watched it after. And I am not exactly the type of person who cries when the hero dies at the end of a movie.

The mix of kids' innocence and cold-blooded killing, the gore, the relentless underlying sexual tension, the pathetic exhibition of human weakness, the unfathomable smugness of Takeshi Kitano's character... all these elements made BR1, one of the most powerful movie I have ever seen.

Now, on to the sequel, and why my hopelessly high expectations were quickly shattered.

Rough Synopsis (spoiler warning)
As mentioned in the WU above, BR2 starts a few years after where BR1 had left off: Nanahara, one of the surviving boy from the first episode, has "declared war on adults" with a bunch of other kids. He has gathered a terrorist faction called "the Wild Seven", responsible for the bombing of a bunch of Shinjuku buildings and ensuing death of thousands people. Another class of particularly messed-up kids is selected to enter the "revised-rules" Battle Royale program, which basically consists of equipping them with all kind of weaponry and sending them to take over the island where Nanahara and his terrorist group have barricaded themselves.

The premise of their kidnapping/mission briefing is rather similar to the first movie. Except Kitano's role is now assumed by sensei Takeuchi Riki (both the actor and the character's name, in an interesting parallel with BR1's Kitano). After some rather confused and confusing geopolitical exhibit of the situation, Riki basically gives them the choice between joining the terrorist fighting effort or ending up missing some rather vital part of their neck. After a quick demonstration on some hapless free-thinker, most of the class quickly enrolls. This time, the explosive necklaces do not detonate after three days. However, all the students are matched by pair and the moment one dies, his assigned companion's necklace explodes.

From then on, the pace quickens considerably while the plot loses most of its substance: the kids are sent on their semi-hopeless crusade, immediately decimated from the moment they set foot on the island. They play war-games for a little while, until a handful of survivors eventually makes it into the terrorists fortress, where they are captured, freed of their deadly necklace (some special electronic signal jammer or something) and more or less assimilated to the cause.

Ensues more people (adult commandos, this time) being sent against them, more stuff thrown at them (including a missile, fired by an unnamed "all powerful", "aggressive" nation). And most everybody dying.

The movie closes on a few survivors making it to some remote country (presumably Afghanistan) where Nanahara gets reunited with Noriko (her companion in BR1), who's been training troops for their resistance movement.

Among the (rather under-exploited) scenario twists are the fact that Kitano's own daughter is part of the new BR2 team (after trying and failing to kill Nanahara, she joins their fight and ends up dying in his arms). We also learn that Riki's daughter was killed in the terrorist bombing and that he himself is wearing one of these necklace (although the reason why remains a mystery, at least to me).

My Comments
Well, first, if the plot seems a bit simplistic in the above synopsis, it's because it definitely is: while BR1 did not have such an elaborate plot either, it had a certain geometry in its execution, skillfully balanced by unexpected twists, that turned the rather "straightforward" premise of its scenario (a bunch of kids forced to kill each other) into a captivating and satisfying narration. Here, we get served a rather traditional war movie (with open tributes to such war movies as Saving Private Ryan, not to mention the very obvious Seven Samurai) with all the gore but none of the psychology from the original.

In no particular order and without excessive developments, here are a few personal criticisms:

  • First, Riki's character is honestly unbearable. His overacting seem completely out of place in the middle of dying teenagers and heavy pseudo-political speeches.
  • Characters do not get given any development whatsoever. Most get killed in the first few minutes anyway, but as for the surviving few, it is most often limited to a couple lines uttered between lengthy fighting scene and flashbacks sprinkled here and there. Contrasting with the diversity of BR1 is the bland "rebelling"-bad-ass-kid mould in which all of BR2's kids seem to have been cast.
  • The political message, or what seems to be one, is just so twisted and meaningless that it's hard to even get worked up on its stupidity and rather bold arguments in favor of "some" terrorism. I personally did not have such a huge problem with the underlying argument: "terrorists are not the only one who've been bombing other nations left and right: just take a look at the US", though I know others have. But the whole "kids vs. adults" war theme, taken without the slightest hint of tongue in cheek: c'mon now.
  • Overall, the editing is so choppy and the camera work so bumpy, that they are far more likely to induce nausea that any of the graphic gore sequence. I suspect this can be accounted for by the fact that Fukasaku Shuji died of cancer and was replaced half-way during shooting by his son Kenta, who, though he did write the screenplay adaptations for both BR episodes, had absolutely no experience in directing whatsoever. Probably a matter of taste, but I think the overall technical execution was very much lacking, whether compared to the first episode or to any movie in general.


Although I would full-heartedly concur in placing Battle Royale (the first one), among the most significant (and most underrated) movies of the decade, I would have a hard time giving any props to its sequel. It comes as no news that most movie sequels do not even come within range of the original, but in the case of Battle Royale II, it's not even worth a mention as a movie of its own: barred from its unoriginal premise, it would be utterly unlikely to appeal to anybody save for die-hard fanboys and people fancying watching a bad remake of Saving Private Ryan with Japanese snotty teenagers in place of American GIs...