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Battle Royale Paperback – February 26, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 372 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC; Original edition (February 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156931778X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569317785
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (372 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
In his violent, controversial first novel, Koushun Takami takes us to the Republic of Greater East Asia, a contemporary, fictional, essentially fascist empire that includes Japan and China, but not Korea. Among the stranger forms of abuse under this oppressive regime is the Program, a compulsory game that pits a group of teenagers against one another until there is only one survivor. Ostensibly begun as a sort of tactical experiment, every year the Program destroys 50 junior high school classes of 15-year-olds for no clear purpose. This is the story of one of those classes. 42 students, 21 male, 21 female, are given weapons and confined to an island. There, they must kill each other until there is one winner, or all perish should they refuse.
"Battle Royale" is often compared to William Golding's 1954 novel "Lord of the Flies". The two books are superficially very similar: They both concern a group of youths on a island fighting for their lives. They are both allegories, but of different things. "Lord of the Flies" illustrates the baser instincts that are normally hidden beneath a thin veneer of civilization. It is to some degree a mockery of British society as the author saw it at the time. "Battle Royale" is explicitly anti-fascist, but since it is doesn't have an audience living under fascism, that's not meaningful in itself. The book's fascism seems to be an allegory for the more rigid aspects of Japanese culture and its educational system. It's possible to interpret the book as anti-capitalist, but I've no idea if that was intended. I do think it implicitly criticizes expectations that modern families often have for their children, and I suspect that bourgeois American youth will empathize more with this facet of the book than with those themes which apply more specifically to Japan.
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This revised English translation of Koushun Takami's spectacular debut novel could not come at a better time. It has been out of print from VIZ for a few years now, but their new Haikasoru imprint is ideal for bringing it back. This "notorious, high-octane thriller," presents a gripping story that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It is a simple story. A group of 42 high-school students are taken to an evacuated island, given weapons and a time limit, and forced to kill each other until only one of them is left standing.

First off, why is this a must-buy?

1. The translation has been improved. The first edition was rife with typographical errors, and more than once a character would be addressed with another's name. I asked the Haikasoru editor personally, and he said the book received a line-by-line edit, so this improved, tidied translation is something to be excited about.

2. A 22-page afterword by author Koushun Takami! This will be "his longest published work since the novel itself," according to the Haikasoru website. His own opinion on the cult status of his own creation is something no fan should miss.

3. A new forward to the novel by Max Allan Collins. The prolific Road to Perdition writer knows a thing or two about good fiction, and there can never be too many essays about good novels by good novelists.

4. Last but not least, an interview with the director of the first Battle Royale film, Kinji Fukasaku. Unfortunately, Fukasaku died in 2003, so this will be an old interview, published in English for the first time. It will be interesting to know the opinions of this master director, who so perfectly adapted a film for a much younger generation than his own.
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After describing The Hunger Games to a friend, he said that sounded almost exactly like what he read with Battle Royale... only with Japanese kids instead. I enjoyed The Hunger Games (and look forward to catching up with the rest of the series), so I gave this book a shot. I was definitely glad I did.

The plot by now is well-known to most reading this review. Every year, 21 male and 21 female Japanese junior high school students are taken to a remote and deserted island where they are forced to compete in a free for all contest where the lucky winner gets to live out the rest of their life as a surviving pawn of the Japanese government's games. The number of characters at first can seem pretty intimidating as there are 42 students at the beginning coupled with a few other characters in the Japanese government. However, the important characters are Shuya, Shinji, Shogo and Noriko. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of every character but Koushun Takami does a nice job of clearly labeling/distinguishing the characters throughout the novel.

The book does what The Hunger Games did for me. It made me mad, but it made me think also. Battle Royale is packed with action sequences and there is never a dull moment for very long as someone must die at least every 24 hours. If not? They all die via their collars which are rigged to explode if the entire group decided to band together against the government. The overriding theme in Battle Royale is one of human survival and a look into just how the human psyche can be twisted. How do you really justify not killing someone in a game like this? It's either kill/be killed or sit-by/be killed. Takami does an excellent job of showing the dark side of the human race that can be brought out in even the most innocent of people.
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