"This one is SUPER lucky!"
July 23, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

At the dawn of the millennium, Japanese society has suffered a severe economic collapse, leading to widespread youth apathy and 800,000 students boycotting school. Adult society sought to reassert their authority by passing the Millennium Education Reform Act, otherwise known as the BR Act. - a look at Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale.
posted by Artw (64 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
My brother introduced me to both Battle Royale films after discovering them in a pirate market in Hong Kong and thinking they sounded interesting. Since then we're collected and purchased the books, comics, films and all other manner of things that were available. A fantastic film and fantastic world that Kinji Fukasaku created. Great to read more about it.
posted by dogbusonline at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2013


I never knew there was a sequel.

I still remember one sticky, hot summer weekend about 10 years ago, a friend and I worked for 48 hours or so non-stop mixing some band recordings we had, ordering pizza, alternating running out for beer, and the entire fucking time the DVD menu screen for BR looped on a flatscreen in the background. That little high-pitched girly giggle.. I think we lost a little part of our souls that weekend.
posted by mannequito at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2013


It's hard to find an actor that has so consistently nailed the role of a total fucking asshole as well as Takeshi Kitano. I love that guy. Even when he's playing a more sympathetic character.
posted by Hoopo at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


The advent of multi-region DVD players, however, ensured that the curious cineaste could effortlessly secure a copy of the film.

This piece is now a bit dated, as both the original and the sequel are available to stream on Netflix in HD, and as such, are probably available via other streaming media sources.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the things BR does very well is make the violence perpetrated by and against these teenagers feel sick, sad and shameful (as it should). It's the antithesis of the slasher movie or bad Italian horror flick in which one roots for jerks and idiots to get theirs in a gory way. Instead, even the death of random extra the audience barely knows feels sad and wrong.

It's notoriously difficult to condemn violence by portraying it, and even Fukasaku isn't entirely successful, but for the most part he nails it.
posted by Gelatin at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Too right, filthy light thief. The day BR was available as a legal Netflix stream was a freaking holiday at my house.

I encourage anybody who enjoyed the first Battle Royale film (and the handful who may have enjoyed the second) to seek out the original novel by Koushun Takami. It goes into considerably more depth about the characters and the world's sociopolitical background than the movie does, and is a splendid little exercise in King/Bachman-esque suspense fiction.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:23 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the things BR does very well is make the violence perpetrated by and against these teenagers feel sick, sad and shameful (as it should). It's the antithesis of the slasher movie or bad Italian horror flick in which one roots for jerks and idiots to get theirs in a gory way. Instead, even the death of random extra the audience barely knows feels sad and wrong.

After first watching this movie with a friend in college, we had a debate over self preservation versus success as a community. My friend thought the movie implied you could only trust yourself, and in that, the killings were justified. There was no rooting for death, but embracing it as a necessity in the confines of the game. His beliefs startled me, and I didn't have a strong come-back. I then wanted to think of other, happier things. I was recently tempted to stay up way too late and watch the first movie again, after watching The Hunger Games and seeing Battle Royale listed a something I might enjoy to watch.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:32 AM on July 23, 2013


I watched Battle Royale totally blind, just grabbed it off the shelf of a video store in LA because I liked the design of the cover. And it completely wrecked me. I flew home the next morning and thought about it the entire flight. One of the best movie experiences of my life.

The sequel was very unfortunate.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:39 AM on July 23, 2013


Without question, the best thing to come out of Hunger Games mania is that it finally forced the powers that be to release a new transfer of Battle Royale on Blu-ray (region coded for North America). For years, the only quasi-legit way to watch a decent looking version of the film on video in the USA was to pick up grey market burns (or use an out-of-region Blu-ray device). Now anyone can just go pick it up at a Best Buy.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have only read the first novel, and I have not seen the movie. The novel is very good.

I am curious about the relationship between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. Not in a "it's just a ripoff wank wank wank" way, but in that the US and Japan more-or-less independently and more-or-less simultaneously fastened on to this one concept and made it a huge Cultural Thing around the same time.
posted by feckless at 11:43 AM on July 23, 2013


"Battle Royale is a savage indictment of a failed competitive education system, a nation’s disaffected youth, and a proud martial civilisation coughing up blood, punishing the next generation for its own failings."

Spot on. Really important to view this movie with the cultural and societal context in mind, it's this aspect in particular that elevates it to true masterpiece.
posted by naju at 11:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


I just read The King Must Die by Mary Renault and thought that there were quite a few similarities between that story and The Hunger Games. Both of BR and HG draw on themes that go pretty far back in narrative history.
posted by mmmbacon at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Deadly Game - WARNING: TV Tropes.
posted by Artw at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2013


The general outline of the trope is super old. Of course modern shows like Survivor are pretty much just watered down versions of the same premise.

I remember reading "Survivor", a short story by Walter F Moudy (described at the TV Tropes link under Literature) when I was a kid in one of those Best Of anthologies and it left a strong impression on me. Actually found it online a while back... aha.
posted by kmz at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2013


I am curious about the relationship between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. Not in a "it's just a ripoff wank wank wank" way, but in that the US and Japan more-or-less independently and more-or-less simultaneously fastened on to this one concept and made it a huge Cultural Thing around the same time.

I wouldn't read too much into it. BR was written in 1996, and HG was written in 2008. That's 12 years apart, which is less than the gap between BR and the movie version of The Running Man in 1987 (and just barely longer than the gap between BR and the novel version of The Running Man in 1982, but that didn't have as much of a cultural impact).
posted by Etrigan at 12:16 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great, fantastic, film, but an awful date movie. Enjoyed it much more the second time, when I was (a) single again and (b) not sitting next to my upset, and very shortly afterward ex-, partner.

After Battle Royale, and a very similar experience with Old Boy, carefully read film reviews thereafter before suggesting date movies, spoilers or not.
posted by Wordshore at 12:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have an Oldboy story. Probably not to be committed to text on the internets though.
posted by Artw at 12:21 PM on July 23, 2013


artw: interpretative dance? we can kickstart it and hire someone else to perform it.
posted by raihan_ at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a good story to tell next time conversation lags at a meetup.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on July 23, 2013


I know a guy who took a date to see Lars von Trier's Antichrist. She smashed his penis with a hammer.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:33 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, good date, then.
posted by Etrigan at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Comparing THG and BR is interesting because they use the same plot device to examine + critique very different aspects of society.

So Battle Royal can be seen as an metaphor for what Japanese society was doing to a generation of youth, and I'd say that THG is in large part an examination of the gap between first and third world (and also rich/poor, have/have-nots.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:38 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


She smashed his penis with a hammer.

Okay. Along with amongst others penis competitions, penis through Glass and senior penis social issues, is there some kind of MetaFilter penis thing going on here? Is July 23rd annual Penis Mention Day on the Blue for those in the know? It's kinda weird, especially when you're out of the loop.
posted by Wordshore at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great, fantastic, film, but an awful date movie.

Yeah, for date night, double-bill some permutation of the following:
Kamikaze Girls
Detroit Metal City
Air Doll
Kisaragi
...and your love will last forever.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:43 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


On topic, I read the Takami Kōshun book years before I saw the movie, and loved both. Of course, the book was better, more complete, more exciting, and more gruesome, but I thought Fukasaku did a great job with the film.

This didn't surprise me: I also own Fukasaku's Yakuza Papers box set, which is pretty amazing. It's a series full of short dramatic scenes packed with lowlife providing slim pretexts for lengthy gang rumbles full of quick slashes with long knives and short clubs, and the occasional gunshot. Reprobate back-stabbery of the highest order.

Thanks for posting this, Artw.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:59 PM on July 23, 2013


I remember when Hunger Games first came out saying to someone, "so, it's Battle Royale?"

I don't want to be all "ripoff ripoff!", but, no, sadly, you can't just chalk the similarity up to similar cultural forces or whatever.

It's very possible that Suzanne Collins hadn't seen BR before writing HG, but yeah, Battle Royale was first by many years, and tells not only the same basic story, but the same story beat for beat. Like, down to a boy and a girl teaming up and then having to figure out how to cheat the game in order for them both to survive.

I actually saw Battle Royale for the first time on a date. That was fine. Though I later realized the relationship was doomed while on another date to see one of the more crass Takashi Miike films.
posted by Sara C. at 1:10 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've yet to see fondue Christians embrace BR.
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on July 23, 2013


It's very possible that Suzanne Collins hadn't seen BR before writing HG, but yeah, Battle Royale was first by many years, and tells not only the same basic story, but the same story beat for beat. Like, down to a boy and a girl teaming up and then having to figure out how to cheat the game in order for them both to survive.

The whole point of virtually every Deadly Game story is that the participants have to cheat to survive. Having one of the participants figure out how to do it without helping anyone else makes that participant less likeable, so you make it a pair. The natural pairing is a male and a female, because it gives you the romantic angle as well.
posted by Etrigan at 1:31 PM on July 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Sometimes it is Johnny and Wulf, and, er, yeah, pretty much.
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I encourage anybody who enjoyed the first Battle Royale film (and the handful who may have enjoyed the second) to seek out the original novel by Koushun Takami.

The manga is also quite good, and hews very closely to the novel. Having watched the movie first and then read the manga, I was confused by how different the manga was, until reading the novel later on. It's pretty much note-for-note.

The character art style is very... soft? Like, more appropriate to a funny manga than something so violent and stark, and the mismatch made it difficult for me to get into at first. Perhaps that was deliberate. It was worth getting past it.
posted by rifflesby at 1:34 PM on July 23, 2013


Yeah, any time a story throws a bunch of people together and tells them to fight to the last person you can be sure of two things: 1) There will be more than one survivor and 2) The person running the fight will have a very bad day.
posted by ckape at 1:52 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I later realized the relationship was doomed while on another date to see one of the more crass Takashi Miike films.

wat
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:52 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The whole point of virtually every Deadly Game story is

Wait, there's a whole genre of these things?
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw Battle Royale for the first time while on a date too! A Valentine's Day date at that, during high school (thanks guy!).

The only fanfic I've ever thought of writing was a crossover, basically overlaying the BR plot onto a popular anime series I won't name. There were so many characters and relationships to keep track of. It was going to be amazing. I never finished writing it :(
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 2:01 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


tells not only the same basic story, but the same story beat for beat.

Except the class/economic hierarchy stuff, all the grooming/training parts, the entire background for the main events, and in fact the actual resolution.

Wait, there's a whole genre of these things?

Yes.
posted by kmz at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only fanfic I've ever thought of writing was a crossover, basically overlaying the BR plot onto a popular anime series I won't name.

Use of a Death Note during Battle Royale is cheating, man.
posted by neckro23 at 2:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Wow, there are a lot of movies with this exact same plot. Suzanne, you're off the hook.
posted by Sara C. at 2:22 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "... and [The Hunger Games] tells not only the same basic story, but the same story beat for beat."

No it doesn't. Not at all. The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are so complete different in plot, focus, characterization, theme, and setting, beyond a few basic similarities (which, as several people have pointed out, are not unique to EITHER story) that I cannot read this kind of statement without being completely baffled as to why anyone would make it.

If I stay up late tonight and anyone cares, maybe I'll write up something about the major and massive differences between the two stories.
posted by kyrademon at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Besides, everyone knows that Hunger Games ripped off The Great Outdoor Fight, not Battle Royale.
posted by ckape at 2:37 PM on July 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is July 23rd annual Penis Mention Day on the Blue for those in the know? It's kinda weird, especially when you're out of the loop.

Ah! One for the calendar, to join Zelda Day!
posted by JHarris at 2:52 PM on July 23, 2013


Battle Royale on Blu-ray (region coded for North America)

Japan and NA are the same region code on BluRay (specifically, region A).

On DVD this was not true, which may be what you were thinking of. But Japanese BluRays play in NA (but not Europe).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:52 PM on July 23, 2013


The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are so complete different in plot, focus, characterization, theme, and setting, beyond a few basic similarities

No, I said the plots are the same, beat for beat. I never claimed they are the same in terms of theme, characterization, setting, or anything else.

But the plots are remarkably similar. The only real difference is that The Hunger Games spends more time explaining the selection process and other preliminary stuff before the games actually begin. (Which IMO is handled more elegantly in BR, but more interestingly in HG.) Once the games are going, the only real difference I can think of is Katniss' interactions with Rue, which don't correspond directly to anything in Battle Royale.

Of course, it's absolutely true that there are plenty of other tellings of the same story, and that The Hunger Games isn't a "ripoff" of Battle Royale.

But, yeah, they have the same plot.
posted by Sara C. at 3:07 PM on July 23, 2013


Detroit Metal City

Go! To! D... M...C...!!

This is pretty much the opposite of BR, but damn i love DMC. The live action is fun, the manga is fun, the anime is fun. The English subbed trailer for those interested, and yes, that is Gene Simmons from KISS in it.
posted by usagizero at 3:40 PM on July 23, 2013


> "But, yeah, they have the same plot."

OK, I'll stick to discussing the plot, then.

First, I think you're painting some fairly major differences as being more minor than they are. The "other preliminary stuff" you mention takes up about 150 pages of The Hunger Games, and almost no time at all in Battle Royale. So that's pretty much a third of one book which has no real parallel whatsoever in the other. When you say they're the same "once the game gets going", you are tossing away 10 chapters of one of the books (out of a total of 27) to make that point.

You already brought up Rue, which is another major character and associated plot arc that has no real parallel. Haymitch also has no double in Battle Royale. Nor does Cinna, Prim, Gale ... and while you could argue that many of those characters are primarily important only before the game begins, as I've mentioned, that's a major part of the book.

There are also huge swathes of Battle Royale which have no real relation to The Hunger Games. While a similarity could be observed between Kazuo Kiriyama and his temporary allies and the Career Tributes, Battle Royale spends pages and pages following and detailing Kazuo Kiriyama's actions and plans, a major arc which simply doesn't exist in The Hunger Games. This is even more true of Shinji Mimura and Yutaka Seto, fairly major characters that don't have any real cognates in the other book, with another plot arc that therefore makes no appearance. Shogo Kawada has no equivalent in The Hunger Games, which makes a rather major difference to the way the two stories end.

I mean, sure, there are obviously broad similarities between the two plots, that's undeniable. But the only way to say they are beat for beat the same is to draw them with such a broad brush that you're only looking at about four beats in total.
posted by kyrademon at 4:16 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


One thing that struck me when I first watched Battle Royale was how varied the student's reactions were vs. The Hunger games. In the Hunger Games, pretty much everyone accepted they were going to murder until one person was left standing, and the biggest variable was confidence. They were all trying to win the game. In Battle Royale, lots of the students rejected the game outright and either checked out (suicide, denial, etc.) or rebelled against the authorities.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I watched this on a bootleg VHS in college, and it was great. Battle Royale, not Hunger games.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:55 PM on July 23, 2013


"Battle Royale is a savage indictment of a failed competitive education system, a nation's disaffected youth, and a proud martial civilisation coughing up blood, punishing the next generation for its own failings."

This is an interesting statement and I wish the author of the essay had gone into it more fully. The strongest opinions I remember having after watching Battle Royale a decade ago was that the film was either a critique of militarism or an endorsement of national conscription. The obvious interpretation was that the movie was saying that violence changed teenagers, but I wasn't entirely sure whether the movie came down on saying that, on balance, the change was good, or that it was bad.

On the one hand, lots of death, on the other, the survivors are empowered to fight against the evil state. I couldn't quite shake the feeling that the movie was saying that only by suffering and dealing out violence could the citizenry hold the state accountable. I could see how someone could make the case for either interpretation. It's sort of like how I can see how some people would consider Fight School an endorsement of violence-as-a-solution-to-the-ills-of-modern-society, but I see it as a satire of the same idea.

I haven't seen Battle Royale again since I saw it the first time, so I've never really watched it with that particular question in my head.
posted by Kattullus at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Extra note: Back in the early 2000s, The Flaming Lips used to use clips from Battle Royale (specifically, the instructional tape and the lighthouse shootout) as the onstage video backdrop for "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Part 1", which was how I originally became aware of the film. This was all pre-Youtube, and the internet wasn't quite as connected up in general at that point, so I remember wondering for a solid month just what the hell that crazy Japanese snuff film was until I stumbled across the answer on a Lips fan message board. Good times.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just read The King Must Die by Mary Renault and thought that there were quite a few similarities between that story and The Hunger Games. Both of BR and HG draw on themes that go pretty far back in narrative history.

Yeah, I think it's hard to say that THG apes BR when they are both retelling Theseus and the Minotaur. I also just read The King Must Die and was embarrassed when I realized that it was The Hunger Games and I hadn't noticed because I didn't know the myth.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:30 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Guys, I'm pretty sure all these works of fiction can be traced back to one historical event.
posted by mannequito at 5:53 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]




"The killing, of course, is metaphorical; we can’t simply allow all these teenagers to waltz into adulthood, they’re not prepared! Adulthood is a brutal exercise in Social Darwinism, where only brute strength and cunning can be relied on for survival. But even if the forces that be in Battle Royale use this idea as a theoretical justification for their systems of domination, the practice is much different; rather than work communally towards mutual survival, the students of Class 3-B are forced to kill each other, or else be killed by their detonating collars. The artificial conditions of the Battle Royale parallel the artificial conditions of the world that created it; a system of exploitation, a neoliberalism that always reproduces conditions of deficiency and inequality so that it may continuously justify its own existence."

(see link in above comment)
posted by subdee at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is July 23rd annual Penis Mention Day on the Blue for those in the know?

No, but it is National Hot Dog Day.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:29 PM on July 23, 2013


I want to make a movie where they get all the teenagers together and a giant stone head comes out and says
The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth ... and kill!

I think it would send a good message, not just about abstinance but also about denying bodily pleasures.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:15 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


i also saw it as a metaphor for war in general. why do the adults want the children to fight each other? even with the exposition it doesn't make sense, if you think about it. ultimately, it doesn't matter because they ARE sending their kids to kill each other.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:28 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend of my wife was in Battle Royale II. He advised us both to avoid watching it.
posted by Bugbread at 8:40 PM on July 23, 2013


After realizing that those movies in my instant queue aren't going to watch themselves, I just watched the movie for the first time a couple of days ago. I'm not certain I understood It. As in, I'm not entirely sure I understood what happened in the movie, let alone whatever commentary on society it offered. I guess I'll have to read the book, because I'd really like to understand more about how pitting a class of teenagers against each other in a battle to the death was supposed to solve society's problems.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:54 PM on July 23, 2013



After realizing that those movies in my instant queue aren't going to watch themselves, I just watched the movie for the first time a couple of days ago. I'm not certain I understood It. As in, I'm not entirely sure I understood what happened in the movie, let alone whatever commentary on society it offered. I guess I'll have to read the book, because I'd really like to understand more about how pitting a class of teenagers against each other in a battle to the death was supposed to solve society's problems.


Honestly, I just enjoyed it as a movie. A sadistic little pressure cooker of a movie.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:41 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Presumably, all encompassing reality/torture television. See also: Denpa Shonen.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:43 PM on July 23, 2013


I don't know precisely what message one is meant to take from Battle Royale. The cruelty of teenagers, perhaps, but also the humanism that can be present. The lighthouse scene is an obvious discussion of the facade that teenage girls can present to each other collapsing in a cacophany of betrayal.

The interesting thing about BR is that while it could be seen to be somewhat cynical about youth, fundamentally most of the students do work together, do reject the constraints they are given. Perhaps its just another example of the class' failure to accept authority.

I never saw a comparison between Br and HG simply because they are so utterly different. The central characters are completely different (Shuya and Noriko implicitly trust each other, but Katniss never really trusts anyone), their journeys are different (we follow Katniss exclusively, but BR plays out as a series of vignettes for the most part) and the underlying meaning is quite different (the background of Katniss' journey is one of great external significance to those watching, but for Shuya and Noriko, the only real goal is survival). The tone is also dramatically different. BR is an unashamed dark comedy, and a splendid one at that. HG is closer to a survival horror tale.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:34 AM on July 24, 2013


Really, the movie that reminds me most of Battle Royale is The Cabin in the Woods.
posted by ckape at 1:01 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Considering that The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are written over a decade apart in different countries that has had major events marking the vast differences between the two cultures in the intervening years, then I think it is more interesting at how much of an overlay there is between the two on a Venn diagram. Adding King's The Running Man as a third point of reference makes it even more interesting by seeing the prescience in the thematic content of that novel.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 5:02 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is actually interesting how much they overlap.

I think I tend to end up discussing how much they don't because someone has informed me that they're identical far too many times.
posted by kyrademon at 5:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Battle Royale. It's filled with so many amazing characters, and you actually get a feel for each one, even if you only see them for five seconds before they're killed. And characters like Chigusa and Shinji and all the girls at the lighthouse...

The novel was also utterly amazing, but, oh god, don't read the manga. It's not worth it.
posted by Katemonkey at 9:15 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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