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.Read more ›
This book is awsome. I will not bother with a summary, there are plenty on this page, however this book blew my mind.I picked up this book in the back of a Borders book store and read the cover which said that Battle Royal was a "Lord of the Flies for the 21 century". Having just completed Lord of the flies for the 4th time ... this time for my tenth grade humanities class ... I decided to buy it. I have heard from a lot of people, including my teacher, that Lord of the Flies was a chilling psychological tale, yet I felt that even though it was a great allusion to the world situation at the time, the Lord of the Flies did little in the respects of exploring the individual psyche.... Battle Royal does just that.One of the reasons for the book being so long (616 pages) is that it splits itself into many different perspectives and what is going through their heads during the "game", the most prominant beng that of the antagonist, Shuya Nanahara. Battle Royal brilliantly sums up the basic human steriotypes and their perspectives on life. Even though some situations may be a little unbelievable (like how Kazuo ends up the way he is) Battle Royal is a great concept and presented (even through it was translated) beautifly.One of the best things about this book is the way nothing is held back, nothing is censored. Battle Royal is not for the faint of heart, or the altruistic, because if you have that attitude twords life you woudn't last an hour on that island in "The Program" and would also find it hard to believe some of the choices made in the novel. If you can stand a little discriptive gore and know that the real world isn't all fun and fair, then this is a must read. Being a 16 year old myself, i can say that nothing in Battle Royal is beyond each and every one of us.
"Battle Royale" is a gripping, intense socio-political novel in the tradition of "Brave New World" and "1984." When first hearing the subject matter, a government-sponsored game where a Jr. High School class must kill each other until only one remains, it seems sensationalistic and more action-thriller than thought-provoker. However, there is far more hear than ultra-violence and simplistic teenage slaughter.First, the writing is brilliant, combing the subtlety of classical Japanese literature with the aggression and confrontation of European/American political literature. Each of the 40 students are individuals, with unique motivations and personalities. There are no throw-away scenes or off-screen deaths, and each student's demise is made to feel intimate and important. Each life matters.Second, the issues dealt with are legion, from the conformity of Japanese schools to the insane bureaucracy and immobility of the Japanese political system. Along with this are more personal issues of loyalty, pain and loss. "Battle Royale" is a thick book, with a lot packed inside. I would imagine that those more fluent in modern Japanese politics and social issues would grasp some of the subtler messages, but there is still something here for everyone.
A minor complaint is that the students act nothing like Jr. High School students, especially not Japanese ones. Maybe this is how they would like to be, but there are a few too many "super-heroes" amongst them, a a few too few crybabies. However, as this is an alternate-reality setting, perhaps in the "Battle Royale" world kids grow up a little faster.