Title: Battle Royale
Author: Koushun Tamaki
Published: 2003 by Viz. First published 1999.
Warnings: Nearly 40 deaths, almost all in graphic detail. Profanity. A few suggestive situations.
Other info: It has an M rated manga published once by Tokyopop and two films based on it.
Summary : Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic, now available for the first time in the English language
Review: This is probably the only one of the week you’ve heard of before now. In it there’s elements of Lord of the Flies, and the Hunger Games , and lots of other things. Even the title is used to mean a huge fight. So, maybe you have heard of this. Or maybe you haven’t.
A class of forty 15-year-olds are knocked out with gas on a school trip bus, and wake up in a strange classroom with collars around their necks. Then a relatively cheerful looking man tells them they have to kill eachother, gives them a few rules as to where and where not they can go, and sends them out with food, water and a weapon. Weapon meaning anything from a machine gun to a sickle to a fork. Shuya Nanahara and Noriko team up with mysterious Shogo, and 35 other students work out their own ways of playing THE GAME.
The premise is one that shocked readers when it first came out. It’s also one on which there have been a lot of variations. There’s a lot you can do witht hte kill or be killed idea, and Koushun Tamaki has taken just one route with it.
My favourite thing is the character depth. Almost all of the characters get a long backstory (what did you think the 600+ pages were full of? Thirty deaths in great detail won’t fill all of that!), some of which are funny, some are intriguing and some tragic. With that, and the actions of the students in the game, they all become real flesh and blood people, before they become just flesh and blood.
It’s very fast paced. People betray everyone left, right and centre and it’s really amazing to see what will happen to people once they’re put into a situation that they weren’t expecting but s till have to fight for survival.
One really helpful bit about this is the fact that at the end of every chapter, it say “X students remaining.” With the X being the number of students remaining. Seriously, if it wasn’t for that, I would have lost count within the first few chapters of the game.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to a fast paced thriller with many many full characters. Can’t wait to see what Tamaki has next. Which is apparently in progress, if the author bio is to be believed.