Under the guise of a "study trip," a group of students from Shiroiwa Junior High School in the fictional town of Shiroiwa (Kagawa Prefecture) are gassed on a bus. They awaken in the Okishima Island School on Okishima, an isolated, evacuated island. They learn that they have been placed in an event called the Program.
According to the rules, every year since 1947, 42 third-year high school students are isolated, and each student is required to fight to the death until one student remains. Their movements are tracked by metal collars around their necks, which contain tracking and listening devices; if any student should attempt to escape the Program, or enter declared forbidden zones, a bomb will be detonated in the collar, killing the wearer. If no one dies in a 24 hour time period, there will be no winner and all collars will be detonated simultaneously.
Battle Royale is an adaptation of Koushun Takami's novel of the same name which was published in April 1999 (and later published in English by VIZ Media). The novel was adapted into a live-action film the following year and became one of Japan's highest grossing films, though it was condemned by the National Diet.
The series was published in English by Tokyopop from May 13, 2003 to April 11, 2006. The Tokyopop version was extensively rewritten by Keith Giffen which eventually led to contradictions and plot holes in the later volumes. Tokyopop rereleased the series in 5 omnibus volumes under the name Battle Royale: Ultimate Edition from October 16, 2007 to February 10, 2009. It was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Conrad from November 2006 to November 2011.
'Kill or be killed. This is how this fucking game works'.
It's more violent than your Tokyo Ghoul and much more emotional than Eren's mom being munched by a Titan. This, ladies and gentlemen is 'Battle Royale' - an original story featuring a very gruesome gladiator fight imposed by the government act, between innocent teenagers on a deserted island. One thing is for sure - Battle Royale encapsulates trust, betrayal, love, insanity, gore, fear, anxiety, despair for survival and most importantly, hope into this incredible 15 volume manga that is just incomparable with the movie.
For most of you out there, who've seen the Battle Royale movie and are bitching how it's better than its 'successor' The Hunger Games… You haven't read the manga or the novel that was used to make, what is in my eyes now, poor of an excuse movie. Battle Royale is so surreal and down to Earth gory and explicit, yet somehow it feels frighteningly real and close to our own universe.
A group of 9th grade students are chosen to participate in The Programme called the Battle Royale. It is part of the law, that each year, a 'randomly' chosen 9th grade class, will be participating in this battle to death game, broadcasted all over Japan. A similar story, isn't it? Yet this is the original 'Hunger Games' and I'll go against my own opinion to say - 'Hunger Games' is nothing compare to Battle Royal in every single sense, be it books or the film (I'm being highly subjective here, but hey, this is my review and my own humble opinion)
The story is following the original novel written by Koushun Takami, but expands greatly into a backstory of each single character. The story in this manga is very high paced, yet it doesn't feel too rushed at all, neither is it complicated to comprehend what's going on. It feels very natural and easy to read and the flow is never interrupted with unnecessary scenes. 'Battle Royale' has quality what most present day mainstream 'kawaii' manga lack. It is as if the majority of todays mangakas are aiming at readers who would prefer something 'light' and 'fluffy', but nothing that would seriously shake their already soft brains and challenge them to think deeply about the world they're living in.
'Battle Royale' makes you open your eyes to the reality that we are living in, but do not bear to admit - the brutality of everyday life, be it abused or neglected children, homeless and damaged people, prostitution and mental insanity. It questions the stability and the governments ability to control a nation. It's constantly in motion to question, break and push the limits of morals, such as the value of human life, the value of your own life and the value of friendship and love. One thing you'll be taught after reading 'Battle Royale' is how fragile and easily altered human nature is. How one can crack quickly under pressure when told 'Kill or Be Killed', and what was once a 'friend' is your ticket out of this hell. It makes you realise that there are more things one should treasure and more things one should be willing to sacrifice. It also explores how to show compassion and love towards those that would least expect to receive it, how to forgive those damaged by life people (ref. to Kiriyama).
Every single character in this story gets a chance to shine, and I'm serious - every fucking 42 students get's an opportunity to expose their inner personalities and backstories, that makes it seems like they're real people. It gives us, the readers, a chance to explore the reasons behind their actions, the reasons behind who they are. It is so down to Earth in terms of honesty and in terms of portraying the mentality of the majority of teenagers out there, that I doubt any other manga can do that.
'Battle Royale' aims at very realistic approach towards manga illustrations. The eyes are all aiming towards natural shape, the faces of most children are oddly shaped, which brings a great sense of reality. There are no sparkles, neither there are any neglected characters - each and every one of them has features that reflect their own personality. There is NO fan service, and this is what I love about it.
The quality. Oh don't get me started on how detailed and impeccable, Masayuki Taguchi's art in this manga is. I think if it wasn't for his art, this manga wouldn't be that meaningful or that popular. He breathes life into the characters and makes them all seem so ordinary, yet so unique in their own sense. If you think Attack on Titan had extreme expressions, you haven't seen what facial expressions did Kazushi Niida did whilst trying to rape and murder his class mate Takako Chigusa. Taguchi makes the characters to express a lot of pain, anger, desperation, sadness with a little grain of happiness and hope. Because of how extremely violent this manga is, those moments when characters are seen happy, like Nanahara's and Noriko's reunion, makes you believe that even in the most darkest moments, there's always hope.
And yes, this manga is most known for it's brutal, violent and highly sexual depiction. Now I must say, I've seen a lot of gore in manga such as Deadman Wonderland, yet not as EXPLICIT and OVERWHELMINGLY bloody as 'Battle Royale'. It makes Deadman Wonderland look like child's play. The shooting scenes and the way the bullets are portrayed protruding from the persons head with all the brains splashing, might make some of you gag as it's so realistic, it seems like you can hear the blood trickle and smell that sickening metallic smell that it brings. The anatomy can be sometimes exaggerated and the reason why I gave it a 9, is because most teens look like they'd be in their early 20's, when they should be 14/15. Well I guess none manga is flawless
However, the shining coin is the way the manga is divided into small arcs that are each dedicated to a different characters story line. The stories are all individual, meaning they're told from each characters perspective, making the plot very variable and not dragged on AT ALL (emphasis on this).
You have your protagonist, Shuuya Nanahara - a typical wannabe teenager who has big dreams to reach the top in the music industry and become the next 'Elvis'. He's way too loud (often scoulded to 'keep it down' by Kawada) and too quick to trust, but he has a good heart. A heart wanting to save everyone from the hell they're in. The story does revolve about Nanahara's struggles to come to amends with the reality of the game and it can be sometimes annoying, since he's usually turning on the waterworks, but he has a strong character.
Noriko and Kawada are two characters who keep Nanahara together. You could say they are his rock. Kawada must be my favourite. He is a previous winner of the game and his realistic approach usually throws Nanahara off balance, but at the end of the day, if it wasn't for Kawada's strong and sharp mentality, Nanahara wouldn't be Nanahara. Kawada made him to question his own morals, to question his priorities and most importantly, to value Noriko and protect her with his might.
Shinji Mimura was one of my favourite characters. A popular basketball prodigy, Mimura was a ladies man, a heartthrob, but also an extremely intelligent and caring man. His plan to go against the game was my favourite scheme in the series and I deeply miss him. Hiroki Sugimura was another major character, a friend of Mimura and Nanahara, he was the odd one out. Being socially awkward yet disciplined in the martial arts, Sugimura's caring nature was what made him so unique.
You have your main antagonist, Kazuo Kiriyama - a cold blooded killer who's dead on on wining this game. Kiriyama never speaks in the manga, but his personality is shown through actions. In the movie, he was a 'transfer' student, but in the manga, he was a gang leader and a genius who could learn anything he set his eyes on. His past is revealed in the last chapters.
Mitsuko 'Harcore' Souma is your another 'hot' antagonist, and myGod, does she like to flash her body. Abused since childhood, Souma developed a complex character that made her very manipulative and aggressive. In the manga, the chapters about her are the most sexually explicit.
ENJOYMENT & OVERALL: 10/10
Nothing more to add. This was one hell of a manga that took me through a roller coaster of emotional turmoil. It holds a lot of virtues discussing and touching upon so many loopholes in today's society and social background. What it is to truly love? To truly trust? To truly believe in another human being? Is hope really the mother of idiots? Or is it a grain of victory in the middle of
war? Are those who scarify themselves for the sake of others are heroes or idiots?
If you want to find out the answer to these questions, 'Battle Royale' is the answer, After all, this is something that will change you as a person after you read it. read more
A Psychological, Action, Thriller that will take you on the most extreme thrill ride you can imagine. But be warned, you must be 18.
Battle Royale is basically about survival of the fittest, where kids have to duke it out with each other in a sort of "last man standing game". This interesting plot brings forth a great deal intensity and emotional turmoil, of which you have never seen. It’s also surprising how long and in-depth the story is, even though it only covers a short time-frame. The problem with this set-up is that it almost completely removes the thought of getting attached to any characters because they usually end up the same way. However at least some of them are developed so well that you cannot help but get attached to them.
The artwork is perfect in depicting a disturbing amount of gore and violence that you'll feel sick to the stomach, because the one thing this manga is famous for is going over the top. A lot of readers may have a problem with the extreme level of gore but one thing I personally had a problem with was how old the students looked, when they were supposed to be 15-16.
Battle Royale is an excitingly, gut-wrenching manga that will keep you on edge. It is really interesting how this manga was put together, in 15 Volumes, without the story feeling dragged. However the TokyoPop version did mess it up a bit with their poor translations. BR is also one of the few manga out there that allow readers to express so many emotions; from sadness, to frustration. Unlike the similar manga "Gantz" BR has this lingering feeling of hopelessness that makes the story very depressing. With this really depressing story it can make Battle Royale less enjoyable to read but there are plenty of shocking moments and cliff-hangers to keep you going.
A few years ago I saw a god-awful movie called Battle Royale, I discussed the movie with a friend and he said: Well if you hate the movie that much but liked the concept why don’t you read the original source material. This came as a shock to me at that time, I had no idea that the movie was based on a novel. I never got my hands on the novel so I decided to buy the manga.
I was astonished with the artwork in Volume 1, I kept staring at certain panels trying to figure out how much work they put into this. I was determined to add the complete series to my collection.
Volume 1 starts of with introducing the main characters and a little of their background. Unlike most series the main characters are not the only ones with a well thought out background. Every student in Battle Royale is a character so well developed that it could breath and walk right of the panels. I could even sympathize with the most evil of characters.
The artwork is extremely detailed, and not always for the faint of heart. One of the few flaws of Battle Royale in my opinion may be hidden within the beautiful artwork. Sometimes panels are so extremely detailed that it may be nauseating to stare at it too long.
If you like a little gore, some sexy antagonists, a flinch of love and an air of despair, then there is not another manga I could recommend as much as Battle Royale. read more
It had to be a bit rubbish. That's what I always thought to myself when I saw Battle Royale mentioned. I assumed this because it doesn't have an anime adaptation. What I didn't know back then was the reason for this -- I thought it was because the series wasn't that interesting. I never suspected it was because what's included in the story is so extreme that it would have to be butchered to make the jump from manga to anime. There's just no way a series that involves someone getting raped whilst dying by a psychotic girl, with flashbacks to her being abused by her stepfather as a child appearing during what was happening, could ever be faithfully adapted into an anime. Once I actually read a description of the story and saw its high ratings I was sold -- it sounded like something different, and it most certainly is different from anything else I've encountered.
Battle Royale was everything I expected it be prior to buying it. Nothing was held back, everything was shown in graphic detail, there was lots of death and the situation the characters found themselves in is the kind that no-one would want to be in... but it's also a situation everyone is interested in from a voyeuristic perspective. A 1 in 42 chance of survival, where survival is only possible if you kill people you once thought of as friends... I wouldn't want to be in that situation, and I don't know how I'd handle it if I was. The story painted a bleak (and accurate) picture of how humans act when there are no laws and only fear and lust governing their actions. I read manga to see what's too extreme or not moe enough for anime, so in many ways Battle Royale was perfect for me.
The story starts with 42 students, all aged 14-15, on a bus. The students think they're going on a school trip. They talk, laugh and act like teenagers do. Then they all start falling asleep, only realizing when it was too late that the bus driver had put a gas mask on and gas was being pumped onto the bus. They then wake up in a classroom, sat at their desks, with some kind of ring around their necks. Once everyone starts to wake up, a person who introduces himself as their new teacher walks into the room, calling himself Mr. Kamon. After pausing to distress the confused students a little more, he reveals to them that their class has been chosen for The Program -- an event that takes place every year (and has done since 1947 in the Battle Royale universe) where a random 9th grade class is selected for an 'educational' battle to the death at a deserted location (the story of Battle Royale takes place on a small island). Smiling, he tells them that if they don't kill they'll be killed, either by their classmates or by the ring around their neck that will explode if there's more than one person left by the deadline.
Kamon is a truly great bad guy. He looks more evil than any other character I've seen. He's the sort of character that readers will want to see die as painfully as humanly possible. If I was to describe his looks, I'd say he looks inhuman, like he was modeled from clay, and that suits him perfectly. This guy enjoyed seeing the suffering caused by strangers being put in a truly hopeless situation, joking about how seeing the daughter of a famous person get raped on live television would increase the ratings and even going as far as to push the kids into attacking him during the first few chapters. With an evil grin and perverted tongue movement, he was happy to inform one of the kids that, after the woman in charge of the orphanage he was staying at argued against he and his friend being taken, he gave her "tough love" that she was only too happy to provide after "proper persuasion." He got kicks out of watching him get so angry he cried, and then blew his face off after, fueled by pure hate, he charged at him. It's too bad he appeared very little after the start of the story, only speaking when giving updates every six hours...
The first volume was fantastic just because of Kamon. He explained the rules of the game to the class of 42 with a smile and happy tone, showing a dead body of a teacher (he was on the bus with the students at the start) who was against them taking part in The Program and killing a female student who was speaking while he was explaining the rules as an example of how little he valued their lives. He then sent them off alone, one by one, onto the island to kill each other. They were sent out with the belongings they had with them on the bus and another bag, which contained a random weapon, map, watch, compass, water and bread. He made it clear that there would be no escape because the ring around their necks would explode if they tried to take it off and, if they still tried to escape knowing their head would be blown off eventually for doing so, then the ships around the island would shoot them in the water. He gave them no time to think, throwing them out into the wilderness with the knowledge that they'd die in a few days if they weren't the last student alive on the island.
Trust is hard to come by once you're given the task of killing everyone else to ensure your own survival. If you were in a class with 41 other people then you'd only be friends with a small percentage, and out of those few how many would you truly be able to trust? Most likely only a few. In that sort of situation the fear alone would cause many to kill -- people would become too paranoid to trust even the friends they'd spoke to daily at school. When a person is presented with a choice between death and friendship, the real person, who had put on an act in the past in order to get on in the world, comes out. It's horrible to think what fear and paranoia can cause a person to do, isn't it?
If there's one thing Battle Royale is then it's over the top. When people go crazy in this they have saliva coming from their mouths, their eyes are as wide as possible, they do the 'zombie walk', with their feet twisted inwards and their knees bent, and they act more like animals than humans. The ability the artist has at depicting extreme emotions is a huge plus in a series like this, where the situation is hopeless and death seems all but inevitable, but he goes too far at times, often showing brains, guts, breasts, dicks and everything else needed to make it near impossible to adapt into an anime. Personally, I would've liked to see a more realistic and less exploitive art. But, on the plus side, the art is very clear and nearly all of the action sequences were easy for me to follow, which isn't something I can say about a lot of the series I've read to date -- I usually have to go over panels numerous times in order to understand how one panel flows from the next.
The over the top comment also goes for the story at times. At this point I can't say if it was anywhere near as silly in the novel because I haven't read up to that point yet, though the novel has come across as somewhat less insane so far, but there's a part of the story in the manga that was impossible for me to take seriously. I'm referring to a scene where a guy runs away from another guy (a sociopath/terminator wannabe called Kazuo) after being shot, with his stomach hanging out, running into a warehouse. In the warehouse he has time to set the bomb he was building before Kazuo enters, as well as the time to wrap duct tape around his stomach, and he then manages to kick the bomb at Kazuo AND jump out of the window as he entered the warehouse, without getting shot. A truck then flies out of the warehouse as a result of the bomb blast, over the head of the guy who escaped through the window, and that's followed by Kazuo appearing out of the truck, unharmed. Kazuo then unloaded his machine gun on the guy who jumped through the window. And, as if to make it all a little more silly, the guy who had just had many bullets inserted into him still had the strength to pick up his handgun in one last attempt, after playing dead, at killing Kazuo. After all that, I wasn't sure whether to praise Battle Royale for being a bit too much or attack it for its distance from reality!
There are some other issues I have. Shuuya, the main character of Battle Royale, is the main problem. The manga artist had the annoying habit of turning Battle Royale into something of a soap opera at times, showing needless flashbacks involving Naruto 2...err, Shuuya being a goodie-goodie, acting on his feelings instead of his brain, and helping his friends back when he was at school (he got to know just about every important character at school after helping them in some way). The artist was determined to highlight the fact that near enough the entire cast liked Shuuya for acting brainless, just like in shounen stories where the main character does stupid things and gets loved for it. The flashbacks involving Shuuya saving the day did stop once all the characters had been introduced... however, they were replaced with (often chapter long) dream sequences that showed Shuuya getting support from his deceased friends. I hate it in anime when the plot advances through dreams/visualizations, and I hate it even more when characters are shown speaking to people long dead in an attempt to add character development... Would it have been so hard to just have Shuuya think for a few panels instead? There was no need for a large amount of chapters, many reusing the same art, to be used for repetitive conversations with the dead. I disliked Shuuya's character because, as well as being an idiot, the very existence of his character resulted in the story lasting 10+ chapters longer than it needed to.
Continuing on from what I said in the above paragraph, the pacing wasn't perfect. The story of Battle Royale takes place over the course of a few days, and it lasts for 15 volumes. If you do the math then you'll see the problem already -- a lot of chapters were created but not a lot of time passed. It's understandable when you consider how many characters are in the series but I must confess to often feeling that the story was dragged out and could've ended sooner. I didn't mind most of the flashbacks, which every main character had in order for them to be fleshed out before their deaths, but it became tiresome when dialogue was repeated time and again for no real reason. Kawada, an experienced character who joins up with and helps Shuuya and his female friend, Noriko, seemed to be pointing out in every conversation that Shuuya needed to kill to survive, no matter if he wanted to play the game or not. If Shuuya didn't get it then I certainly did, and I quickly became bored of seeing it being said. And, sadly, lots of the dialogue was like that, and it wasn't unusual to see panels used to repeat what another character had said in the past. But don't get me wrong: the pacing wasn't awful, it's just that I feel the story could've progressed quicker and, in my opinion, it would've been far more enjoyable if it had. If the pacing had been truly bad then I would've struggled to read 15 volumes in 3 days.
Another issue I had, which also had something to do with the pacing, was the ending. Near enough every story ends in disappointing fashion. No matter how talented the writer, it seems they all struggle to finish their stories in style. Battle Royale was no different. The ending wasn't what I consider bad, and it had a few twists that kept it interesting, but it could've been better. The final battle was rather anti-climatic, with the most prominent bad guy in the series getting shot in the head (after a car chase) and still not dying, like some sort of monster, which took away from what was supposed to be a battle to the death between high school students. He'd shown himself to be near impossible to kill before that but still fighting after taking a bullet to the head took it a tad too far. And, as if to finish the fight in the most boring way possible, Shuuya spent something like 1.5 chapters getting pep talks from his dead friends (in his head, obviously) because he found it too difficult to finish off a guy who'd mercilessly killed most of his classmates. Things did improve for the last stretch once the battle ended and the final the twists started hitting, but I wasn't best pleased with what was a rather upbeat and forced ending to a mostly very, very, very depressing story. Going on the start I was expecting everyone to die, and I feel the story would've been better if not for the final twist.
One final flaw I need to mention isn't anything to do with the actual story -- it's the English translation. There were many occasions throughout where the translator missed a word out of sentences, making what was said not come out right, and there were also a few times where sentences quite simply didn't make sense. The 'F' word was also thrown around a bit too much, as if it was done just to make sure it got an 18+ rating. Seeing a friendly and polite character randomly say "F*** a duck" didn't sit right with me. And, although this is a plus or minus depending on how you look at it, some of the characters speak in an informal manner - like any public school kid would in all fairness - and what they say can be a little difficult to follow. The translation isn't a major problem that ruins the experience; it's just an annoyance, but I still expected better.
But, anyway, enough of the negative. There's far more good than there is bad on show. It's true that Battle Royale is over the top and it's also true that the pacing isn't great and the story is often overly dramatic because of the Shuuya flashbacks/dream sequences that slow down the story. However, Battle Royale is impossible to put down because of the realistic way many of the characters cope with being put in a hopeless situation. There are many different personalities in the series and most offer something the others don't, meaning there's at least one character the reader can connect with and feel for. Like the story itself, there are a few characters that are too far-fetched, but there are also those with believable backgrounds. I've always said that a story that's able to get the reader watery-eyed has great characters, and one of the early death scenes, where a female character died in the arms of her childhood friend, made me a little watery-eyed because of how beautifully it was handled. You'd have to be a pretty cold person not to feel anything as you watch her die after only just having seen her fight bravely against a guy trying to rape her AND seeing a flashback of her and her childhood friend together away from the island, back when they were normal high school students.
There are a number of other parts of the plot that will prove hard to forget, two of which I'll mention now as examples. The first is a scene at a lighthouse that involves 6 girls having a complete breakdown of trust and going from working together as a team to suspecting each other of having poisoned someone -- it captured what paranoia can cause in the type of situation the characters found themselves in amazingly well. The other is a showdown between Sugimara, the kindhearted martial artist who doesn't want to kill anyone, and Kazuo, the sociopath who feels nothing and would give the terminator a run for its money. The fight itself was great and the build-up, which involved around 3 chapters of Sugimaru and his girlfriend talking, showing what Sugimaru had to protect, was even better. Because Battle Royale has a huge amount of characters, there were many short stories like those I just mentioned, some one-shot and some lasting for a few chapters, so there wasn't any shortage of tragedy on show, and we all know that what gets the most emotional reactions out people is death. It's a great series to read if you, like me, enjoy seeing short stories that have a chance of pulling on the heart strings.
So, what are my overall thoughts? Well, I think the series was well worth the £30 I paid for it. You know you're dealing with something high quality when you spend time with *insert whatever here* and time seems to speed up. This happened when I read Battle Royale. I read 6 volumes on the day the books arrived, 4 on the following day and 5 on the day after, never having any trouble reading for lengthy periods. I'm not going to say it was a perfect series because it wasn't, its pacing and the insanity of it all often taking away from the experience a little, but as dark, depressing and involving reads go there aren't many better stories in existence. If you think the premise sounds interesting then give it a go -- you'll enjoy it a lot if you can handle lots of death.
Sometimes Japan makes movies with real people. Sometimes they're not even based on a manga! Sometimes they're even *GASP* masterpieces of world cinema! There's a wide world of live-action Japanese film out there to explore. These seven masterpieces should get you started.