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Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale (original 2003; edition 2009)

by Koushun Takami

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6321042,673 (4.11)1 / 100
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller envisions a nightmare scenario: 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 until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan—where it became a runaway best seller—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. A new translation by Nathan Collins.… (more)
Title:Battle Royale
Authors:Koushun Takami
Info:Mondadori (2009), Copertina morbida
Collections:Your library

Work Information

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (2003)

  1. 112
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Kira)
    Kira: The Hunger Games is a shorter, less violent book, with a similar plotline of children forced to fight to the death.
  2. 61
    The Long Walk by Stephen King (LadyHazy)
  3. 51
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: Two books that explore the survival instinct of people, even at youg age, as fueled by fear and lust for violence
  4. 41
    The Running Man by Stephen King (mniday)
  5. 21
    The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi (Jacey25)
  6. 00
    All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody (amanda4242)
  7. 11
    Hunters of the Red Moon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Konran)
  8. 01
    Kung Fu High School by Ryan Gattis (slickdpdx)

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Written in the late 1990s, Battle Royale takes place in an alternate timeline, Japan is a totalitarian state, called the Republic of Greater East Asia. The government chooses a class of fifty junior high school students, who are forced to kill each other another until only one student remains, supposedly for military research. Here, during a school trip, the 21 boys and 21 girls of Shiroiwa Junior High School are gassed, wakening on an evacuated island, wearing explosive metal collars. After explaining the rules, students are randomly issued survival packs (with water, food, and a random weapon) and sent out in two-minute intervals.

This was an action-packed, violent, gory predecessor (by at least a decade) of The Hunger Games. It was refreshing to see both male and female killers, and the author’s exploration of the student’s feelings about themselves and each other was well done. The constant tension between trust and betrayal kept readers constantly wondering what would happen next, and I liked the several twists at the end. I had a hard time keeping track of the student’s Japanese names, wondered why there were a seemingly infinite number of bullets as well as how the students were so proficient using weapons they have never handled, and finally, how three students, with injuries, can overpower a ship’s adult crew in their daring escape. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Loved the movie, and loved the book. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt, though, and say the translation was a bit stilted. I found it tough to read just because the writing/translation doesn't always flow well, and Gollancz seem to have skimped on the proofreading (spaces before full stops, and occasionally a missing word).

Content-wise, though, it's fantastic. More violent and action-packed than [b:The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset|7938275|The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset (The Hunger Games, #1-3)|Suzanne Collins|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1274791992s/7938275.jpg|11349083], and the main character spends less time hiding in cupboards or passed out during crucial moments. That's a win for me right there. ( )
  Craftini | Jun 19, 2021 |
**mild spoilers **

An enjoyable and bloody satire, doing for Japan what Orwell and Stephen King did for the UK and US.

Takami makes the most of his large supporting cast to offer a multitude of different responses to his premise, and there’s more than enough action, intrigue and incident to justify the page count.

I’d love to give it five stars but a few issues hold it back. The fascination with adolescent romance does come to be a bit cloying, a couple of twists are repeated (I’m sure a bulletproof vest isn’t *that* bulletproof), and the one queer character is a horrible stereotype. The ending’s also a minor disappointment, lacking the boldness the story shows elsewhere.

Still recommended, though. Enjoy the individual stories and characters, and the insights into the perceived dysfunctions of Japanese society. ( )
  m_k_m | May 2, 2021 |
An ultra-violent, shockingly good read. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
In an alternate history Japan (now "the Republic of Greater East Asia"), the government randomly selects 50 third-year junior high classes per year for something called "the Program." Each class is confined to an island and forced to fight until one survivor is left. Each student in the Program is made to wear a tracking collar that not only keeps track of their vital signs and location but is also set to explode if they leave the island. They're each given a little water and food, a map, a compass, and a randomly selected weapon of some sort. The map and compass are handy, because every couple hours one new section of the island becomes a forbidden zone. The tracking collars are set to explode if they're in forbidden zones. They're also set to explode if no one new has died in the past 24 hours, so students can't simply agree to not kill each other. Program survivors are given a pension and are instructed not to tell anyone about their experiences.

Shuya thinks his class is just going on a regular trip. He and the others fall asleep on the bus and wake up to find themselves in an unfamiliar classroom. They all have some general knowledge about the Program, of course, but none of them expected they'd actually end up in it. A man named Sakamochi tells them the rules and kills a few people to underscore that, yes, this is happening and there's nothing any of them can do about it. Then he sends them out one by one: the game has begun.

I've owned this for a while but avoided reading it for a couple reasons. First, it's a brick of a book, and if the writing/translation didn't flow well enough, that could mean months of slogging. Second, I was worried it would be too gory for me.

I can't comment on the accuracy of the translation, but it was certainly very readable - I sped through the book much more quickly than I had expected I would. As for its level of goriness, well, the first few deaths had me worried. Sakamoto seemed to relish shocking the Program participants, and the first few deaths were both casual and horrible. When he mentioned having raped the woman who'd been the caretaker of a couple of the students because she hadn't meekly accepted the news that they were now in the Program, I wondered whether this was going to reach Ryu Murakami levels of nastiness.

Thankfully, either I got used to it all or Takami scaled things back a bit, because most of the later deaths didn't pack the kind of punch those first few did. A warning to those with eye-related phobias, though: there were several eye-related gory moments throughout the book that were detailed enough that I had to skim them. Still, nothing involving intestines, thankfully, and although there were mentions of rape (Sakamoto, plus a male student threatening a female student), there was no on-page rape.

Nearly every chapter ended with a count of the total number of students still alive. The class started with 42 - 21 boys and 21 girls - and rapidly shrunk as the game progressed. Some of the students committed suicide rather than play along. Others found people they could trust and banded together, at least temporarily. Their different approaches, as well as the variations in their weapons (which ranged from proper weapons like guns and knives to "jokes" like a fork or a set of darts complete with a dart board), made it tough to tell how things might go. Just on the basis of who had the greatest amount of page-time, I was able to mostly figure out who'd be there for the final showdown, but some things did catch me by surprise.

Many of the students were just names and basic personalities, although a few of the students were a little more fleshed out. That said, I didn't really get attached to any of them. There were a few who I wanted to see survive because they seemed to be both decent people and prepared for the Program (seriously, why didn't more parents in this world sign their kids up for basic first aid, survival, and weapons training, just in case?), and there were a couple characters I could tell that the author wanted me to root for. Still, while I did think a few of the deaths were tragic and sad, nothing left me feeling wrecked after the book was over. Maybe because I was braced for all or most of the cast to die at some point? I don't know.

Of all the characters, I think I probably rooted for Hiroki the most, although Shogo and Shinji weren't too far behind. And even where Hiroki was concerned, I liked the guy but didn't think he'd actually make it - I mean, one of the reasons I liked him was his stubborn refusal to actually kill anyone. He wasn't stupid about it, defending himself when necessary and otherwise staying hidden, but it wasn't an approach that had a good chance of getting him all the way through to the end. Shogo and Shinji, meanwhile, were both smart, cool-headed, gutsy, and good planners (and both of them came across as being a good deal older than 15 or 16 years old, to the point that I wondered whether it would be revealed that adults who are passing as kids had infiltrated the Program).

It was pretty clear, though, that the author wanted readers to root for Shuya and Noriko the most. Noriko was nice enough, if bland, but Shuya got on my nerves. He was one of those very dense "every girl loves him but he has no idea" types - nearly a quarter of the girls in his class had secret crushes on him. He'd rage against Shogo or others for being callous, and he seemed to have girls in a special category in his brain - it was always more shocking to him when girls were hurt than when guys were, and he was weirdly surprised when Noriko used a gun to help him and Shogo defend their group.

I was expecting this to be a bleak and depressing book, but somehow it wasn't. There was a murder mystery-like appeal to finding out how all the deaths were going to play out, and the ending managed to be satisfying and somewhat hopeful. I enjoyed it overall and am glad I finally read it.

As far as the Hunger Games controversy goes: I know that there were folks shouting that Suzanne Collins copied off of Battle Royale, and now that I've read both the first Hunger Games book and this, I disagree. Sure, it's a similar setup, but the books each handle it completely differently.


A map of the island with a list of the various forbidden zones and the times at which they became forbidden, a list of the students in the class, an interview with filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku, and an afterword by Koushun Takami.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jan 24, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Koushun Takamiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Collins, NathanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oniki, YujiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"A student is not a tangerine." - Kinpachi Sakamoto, Third Tear Class B
"But tramps like us, baby we were born to run" - Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run"
"It's so hard to love" - Motoharu Sano, "It's so hard to love"
"During all those last weeks I spent there, there was a peculiar evil feeling in the air - an atmosphere os suspicion, fear, uncertainty, and veiled hatred. You seemed to spend all your time holding whispered conversations in corners of cafes and wondering whether that person at the next table was a police spy. I do not know if I can bring home to you how deeply that action touched me. It sounds a small thing, but it was not. You have got to realize what was the feeling of the time - the horrible atmosphere of suspicion and hatred." - George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
I dedicate this to everyone I love. Even though it might not be appreciated.
First words
As the bus entered the prefectural capital of Takamatsu, garden suburbs transformed into city streets of multicolored neon, headlights of oncoming cars, and checkered lights of office buildings.
"Don't even think of raping me after beating me to a pulp. Look, little kid, you should worry more about your life than your dick." Takako Chigusa (female student NO. 13)
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Disambiguation notice
This is a novel, and should not be combined with Vol. 1 of the manga adaptation: http://www.librarything.com/work/5691...
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller envisions a nightmare scenario: 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 until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan—where it became a runaway best seller—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. A new translation by Nathan Collins.

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