Mar 1, 2016
**This review contains spoilers for the original novel/manga of Battle Royale**
Possibly the most memorable scene of the cult novel Battle Royale is the infamous lighthouse massacre, in which a close-knit group of female friends are pushed to the edge by the horror of finding themselves placed in the Program, a brutal military experiment that pits junior high school students against each other in a fight to the death. Taking refuge together in a lighthouse on the abandoned island that they have been sent to die on, the girls cling desperately to the hope that they will somehow be saved from the cruel game, only to
end up doubting and eventually betraying each other, resulting in the violent death of all of them.
Battle Royale: Angel's Border is a collection of two spinoff stories from this scene, written by the novel's original author Koushun Takami. The stories get deep inside the minds of two of the girls who were minor characters in the original novel, and shares with us their perception of their world and the horrific situation they have found themselves in. Angel's Border is clearly set within the novel's universe (the 'teacher' is Sakamochi, not Kamon as it is in the manga) but those who have only read the manga adaptation will easily be able to understand what is going on.
The central character in Angel's Border's first story is Haruka Tanizawa, the tall, athletic best friend of the dependable class representative Yukie Utsumi, who is responsible for gathering the girls in the lighthouse in the first place. Haruka's narration reveals that she has recently come to realise that she is 'not normal', i.e. gay, and that she holds romantic feelings for Yukie. After the girls stumble upon a severely injured Shuya Nanahara, protagonist of the novel and object of Yukie's affections, we are given an insight into Haruka's feelings and anguish at the very real possibility of not only her own impending death, but the death of her love too. Although primarily focused on Haruka and her feelings, the story also does an excellent job of further developing Yukie, who had the largest role of her friends in the original novel, through the conversations she has with Haruka. The artwork drawn by Mioko Ohnishi is remarkably soft and shoujo-like, perhaps to compliment the romantic themes of the story, and unlike the main manga adaptation the characters actually look like fifteen year olds, which makes the violent scenes all the more disturbing.
Unlike the first story, which takes place entirely during the duration of the Program with only brief flashbacks to the normal lives of the characters, the second story in Angel's Border is mostly set prior to the program, and focuses on the relationship between Chisato Matsui and class bad-boy Shinji Mimura. Chisato was the most underdeveloped of the lighthouse girls in the novel, with only her crush on Shinji being the only real thing we knew about her, so it is incredibly interesting to see her take centre stage here. In this story, we learn about Chisato's life and why Chisato likes Shinji, and that the two of them shared a secret, rather odd friendship before entering the program. The artwork here is done by Youhei Oguma, and is less fluffy and more realistic than the first story's, with great attention to detail shown on the guns and other weapons used in the Program.
One of the shortcomings of the novel of Battle Royale was that outside of a select few main characters, almost nobody got any significant characterisation. Angel's Border offers a new perspective and some much-welcome development for originally minor characters, and makes you wonder what kinds of lives the other students in the story were living before the story began. A treat for fans of the novel and/or manga, Angel's Border is a touching, poignant addition to the Battle Royale universe and a cruel reminder of what could have been for the young students who lose their lives in the Program.
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