I was given this book as a Christmas present this year by my little sister but I have wanted to read it since my friend Millie told me about it in my first year at university (which was such a long time ago!) For those of you who don’t Battle Royale is a Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami and it talks about the fictional Republic of Greater East Asia, although I tended to read it as just a mainly Japanese Republic that had taken over all of the surrounding countries.
A way to control the people in the Republic was to routinely take 50 classes of 42 students from a secondary (high) school and place them in a remote location where they would have to fight to the death. No one is exempt from this practice and even people who have been favoured by the government have had their children sent to this remote locations, and it is more than likely that most of them hadn’t survived. Also, although these events aren’t televised the general public is told of the death toll and they have the winner of each game televised for all of the Republic to see.
This book in particular starts with students from Shiroiwa Junior High school going on a study trip, whether this was the real reason they were travelling or not is never really explained but it is assumed that it wasn’t. These 42 unlucky students awake in a school on an Island they don’t know. They are told that they have been accepted into the programme and then told that their teacher hadn’t agreed with the idea which is when they are shown his dead body in a bag. Although the true horror of the novel had yet to come I found this scene somewhat disturbing as it showed just how far this government was willing to go to be able to carry on with their barbaric procedures.
Before the students are even given their full brief and allowed out of the school building two of the students are killed and one is seriously injured in her leg. This comes a few chapters after showing their dead teacher and adds to the growing sense of doom that the other students feel. It also reiterates the point than none of the government officials care about the children as it is to show that these people want to reinforce the fear that these exercises bring.
Although I knew what to expect from this book I have to say that I was willing my favourite characters to live and I didn’t want them all to die! Some of the deaths could have easily been avoided if the characters hadn’t let the paranoia of the situation overrule them, but then who wouldn’t have some small feeling of paranoia in this situation? Your friends have to kill you otherwise the government will kill you all! Someone is going to want to be the last man standing! This is why the ending made me happier than it probably should have done. It showed that some people still can retain their feeling of trust even though their entire body would probably be telling them to run away from the place they are in. And that’s as much of a spoiler as I’m giving as you honestly need to read it for yourself!
Whilst reading this book I did notice that there were some similarities to the Hunger Games and I can understand why a lot of people have claimed that Suzanne Collins used this book as a basis for her own series, despite her claims to the contrary. The topics covered are both quite similar and if you compare them you can see why people believe this to be the case. Both deal with an authoritarian government that uses the random selection of teenagers fighting to the death as a way to control the population. Nobody is saved from retribution. And fear and lies are used to make sure everyone is fully subjugated. However, I feel like Battle Royale went were Suzanne Collins wouldn’t have been able to. Koushun Takami pushed his story to the darkest places he could, making it as violent and disturbing as possible whereas Suzanne Collins had her target audience as young adults or potentially younger so wouldn’t have been able to get away with the extent that is taken in Takami’s book.
I honestly think that everyone should read this book and try not to go into it expecting something like the Hunger Games as you will be in for a shock! I think that this book definitely lived up to my expectations and I was glad that I received this as a present and also that I was recommended it all those years ago!
Rating: 5/5 stars