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Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale

Koushun Takami
Thursday, Aug 30, 2012

Originally published in 1999, Battle Royale predates the Hunger Games by almost ten years! The story takes place in an alternate future, in The Greater Republic of East Asia (a totalitarian state formed after some ambiguous war with America).* Every year one 3rd year middle-school class (the equivalent of freshmen or sophomores here), is randomly selected to participate in "The Program." Can you guess what The Program is? Correct! A fight to the death!

Although the game itself is not televised**, winners are announced and interviews on national television. They serve as both hope for the continued survival of the next generation, and a warning to those who would fight against the regime. Shuya Nanahara is a popular guy in his 3rd year class. He is athletic, relatively smart, good looking and plays guitar like a rock god (despite the fact that rock music is strictly prohibited by the government). Riding the bus to their class "field trip", Shuya chats with his best friend Yoshitoki, and their mutual crush Noriko. Suddenly, everyone on the bus starts to fall asleep, Shuya notices this peculiarity but isn't able to escape before he too is knocked unconscious by the sleeping gas. The students awaken in the classroom of a strange school on an unnamed island. They have a new instructor, the diabolical Sakamochi, who informs them that they have been "lucky" to have been selected to participate in this year's Program! Woot! The class, less than excited about the prospect of playing the game, is understandably upset. To calm them down, Sakamochi brings in the mutilated corpse of their former teacher.*** He explains the rules:

  • Students will leave the classroom one at a time, with two minutes between each exit.
  • Each student will be given a bag of supplies and a randomly selected weapon.
  • Each student has been outfitted with a steel collar. It is rigged with explosives, so don't try to take it off.
  • Every hour one section of the island will be named as a "forbidden zone." If you enter a forbidden zone, your collar will explode.
  • If no one dies within a 24 hour period, everyone's collars will explode.
  • The game will go on as long as it takes until there is only one winner.

After showing how serious he is by killing two insubordinate students (one being Shuya's best friend), Sakamochi sends them on their "merry" way! Hunger Games fans will recognize the trends: some students create alliances, some break alliances, some don't want to fight, and some go crazy and kill as many as they can. Shuya and Noriko are stuck in the middle of it all with the enigmatic Shogo, a recent transfer student with mysterious scars. Can they do what needs to be done to survive? The plot of Battle Royale may be similar to Hunger Games but the execution is very different. While much of the bloody gore of Hunger Games takes places "off screen", the violence is front-and-center in Battle Royale. Prepare yourself for eye-gouging-goo and bits of brain everywhere. It is a visceral and fast paced adventure, fueled by a body count at the end of each chapter. Not to mention, at 608 pages, it will take up a few of those 448 days before Catching Fire.

*Can you spot the first similarity? There will be more.

**The biggest difference between the two plots.

***Obviously, this doesn't help the situation.

Kate M.

Written by Kate M.

Fun fact: I never forget to be awesome!

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