|The Hunger Games, Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies.|
When The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, first came out, it received a lot of criticism about being really similar to Battle Royale, a 1999 Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami. Due to all the comparisons, I actually set out to read Battle Royale for myself after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I found the books to have a similar approach with a survival game, but there were also a lot of differences between the two novels.
Here’s the pitch: The state forces kids into a death match where only one is left standing.
That’s “The Hunger Games,” right? Yes, but it’s also the storyline for “Battle Royale,” the brutal, harrowing and little-seen Japanese film that beat “Hunger Games” to the plot by 12 years. And that film was based on a 600-page Japanese novel published in 1999.
But with “Hunger” hysteria at a high point, “Battle Royale”—which Quentin Tarantino called his “favorite movie of the last 20 years”—might finally get the attention it deserves. This week, Anchor Bay, hungry for some of that “Hunger Games” action, has just released a four-disc repackaging, “Battle Royale: The Complete Collection,” on DVD and Blu-ray.
Set in a near-future Japan where youth crime has spiraled out of control, Kenji Fukasaku’s tense, tragic and timely film focuses on a group of 42 students who are taken to a deserted island overseen by the bullying Kitano (played by the always steely Takeshi Kitano).
They’re given a deadline (three days), a duffel bag (each with different weapons and implements), and an order to slaughter each other until there’s just one survivor. If they refuse to cooperate, all will be killed.
They did not have training at all compared to in the Hunger Games instead where caught completely off guard which was actually even more intense and creepy to me.
Most tributes had a skill and knowledge based on which district they lived in, since they were trained and had worked since they were young. On the other hand, most of the students in Battle Royale were completely unprepared and had no prior experience with weapons whatsoever.
Imagine “Lord of the Flies” with gunplay and sharp metal objects and you’ve got the idea.
But when “Battle Royale” hit the film market in 2000, it couldn’t have been released at a worse time. In Japan, where it was a hit, it was hotly debated in terms of glorifying violence. Though “Battle Royale” played in at U.S. film festivals, it never received theatrical distribution and some speculated that—coming a year after the Columbine massacre and a year before 9/ 11—that no one in the early 2000s wanted to go near it.
A decade on and “Battle Royale” has built up a fiercely loyal following after being released on video a few years back. They came out in force to see it at last year’s Asian Film Festival of Dallas. And there’s been a virtual war online as “Battle Royale” and “Hunger Games” fans go at each other like they’re the last two survivors in this ongoing teenage war that makes the whole vampire vs. zombie vs. werewolf thing so last year.
“’Hunger Games’ is like another ‘Twilight,’ taking a (great) concept and (weakening) it with a love triangle that bores the (life) outta me,” charged one “Battle Royale” fan on a You Tube “Battle Royale Vs. Hunger Games” page.
“In every ‘Hunger Games’ post, a ‘Battle Royale’ fan has to pop up and claim it’s a ripoff,” moaned one “HG” loyalist on another blog.
Now, with “The Hunger Games” finally hitting theaters and “Battle Royale” getting a renewed push, movie fans will be able to make up their minds about which they prefer.
Overall, both stories were exciting, intense, and enjoyable reads. The writing styles of each novel was different, as the Japanese Battle Royale was more complex in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure than The Hunger Games.
If you loved reading (and watching) The Hunger Games, you should most definitely give Battle Royale a try!