Sunday, May 27, 2012

Battle Royale-Spoiler Free!

Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru in Japanese)
Spoiler Free!

Cats sleeping on lap? Check. One monster of a German Shepherd next to me? Check. What does all this mean? It’s Japanese horror movie time!

This movie has a lot, and I mean a lot, of similarities between The Hunger Games. I’ll go through them as I feel like it, but I’m not doing a whole comparison because, well, why should I? Maybe I will one day, if I feel like it. And this is going to be spoiler free because I don’t think this review/rant needs them. Apparently there is an extended version of this film, but I don’t have that one, unfortunately. It’s tragic, actually, as it sheds light on my favourite character. I'll seek it out one day.      

First Edition, Japanese
edition, 1999.
Ugly. Jus' sayn'.

This film is based on a novel of the same name (Batoru Rowaiaru) written in 1999 by Koushun Takami. Just like The Hunger Games, Japan has created a game that pits young people against each other in a death match. In Battle Royale, it is done because kids have no respect and are basically running rampant, though I don’t think the film illustrated it enough. In the beginning it is explained that The Battle Royale was created after 800,000 students walked out of school. The main character’s best friend, Yoshitoki Kuninobu (called Nobu), stabs a teacher in the butt, though it’s not explained why he does it. But the teacher doesn’t even seem that mad about it; he goes over to a sink and washes his hands.

This is Nobu's "Face of Rebellion".
What the hell is he doing?

So, students are being naughty and the government decides to do something about it.


So instead of having some kids who might straighten up, let’s make one psychopathic killer. This is a victor of a game shown at the very beginning of the film:

"Look, she's smiling! Smiling!" (So says my subtitles)

One whole class is chosen to participate, and while they are on a bus they are gassed and taken to an island that seems to have once been inhabited, but is now abandoned. This typical Japanese lady gives the students a run-down on how the game works:

They have collars on that monitor their vitals. They must kill each other in three days with one remaining victor. If the three days are up and there is more than one survivor, all collars explode, taking off the head of the owner. In this game, you have to fight. The time limit is a fantastic idea, as you can’t hide and wait for everyone else to die (which is what I would do if I had to be a tribute in the Hunger Games).

My problem with this set-up is this opening scene. The reporter is talking and there is a film crew. So this is televised, right? We learn later that this isn’t the first game. So why are all the students so surprised that they are in the game and they need everything explained? The students are confused, asking if this is real. If they already knew about this, a great tactic would be to wait at the enterance of the school as the students are leaving and killing them all off. But the kids are scared and just run into the night. 

The Characters

One thing that The Hunger Games does better is establish the characters better. There are just too many in Battle Royal, and since it is a horror movie, much of the movie is focused on who kills who. Too bad I had no emotional connection to most of them. I do have to say that even with very little character establishment of so many characters, there are some moments that really stand out because the characters know each other. Especially in the world of girls, things between people can get pretty dirty, and when you have to kill each other these issues come out. There are some touching scenes of love and friendship though.  

Noriko was bullied before, locked in a bathroom stall.
She is an idolized character for staying so pure in
The Battle Royale. Cliche, but she's nice.

And this is why you don't mess with other peoples'
relationships. Because later they might have a gun
and a chance to kill you, and they might still be pissed. 
The main character is Shuya Nanahara, his best friend is Yoshitoki Kuninobu (Nobu), and the main female character is Noriko Nakagawa. What is interesting about this story is that Shuya and Noriko are not in love (Noriko likes Shuya, and she tries to give him home baked cookies on the bus), but they are working together. I won’t say why because it will spoil what is supposed to be a big moment in the film that happens early on. Because the film moved so fast in the beginning (with good reason) I just couldn’t particularly care when this big moment happened. However, I do see how the two of them would work together after that.  
Noriko Nakagawa

Shuya Nanahara

Yoshitoki Kuninobu (Nobu)
*sings* Best friends...
But this scene has TERRIBLE
fake laughter.
There are a few memorable characters, and my favourite one happens to be Mitsuko Souma. She’s crazy and sexual and she aims to win not by waiting, not by escaping, but by killing everyone, and getting some action while it’s available.

Mitsuko Souma
Can I come in?


There are two transfer students, Kazuo Kiriyama, and Shogo Kawada. Kazuo is smoking hot but damn, he’s crazy! It’s apparent that they are different from the other students: they are almost like soldiers, knowing exactly what is going on already, and how to play this game.

Random Bits

The whole “Let’s lose our virginities before we die!” bit comes up. Hilarity ensures. How could not? 

Clearly not the time for that...
Unlike The Hunger Games, there is still hope for these students to escape the game. Early on two girls try to rally everyone to their spot to figure out an escape, but that’s just a terribly stupid plan. Others try too different methods of escape.

Uh...what exactly is dangerous about the danger zones? Do the collars just explode?

I appreciate that the film gives the students guns, but no one is particularly good at shooting them with the exception of the transfer students. I hate it when kids get guns and they turn into the Point Man from FEAR. I have some experience with guns, and even if you line the sights up for that perfect bulls-eye, there's the probability that you won’t hit the bulls-eye because of the gun itself. Guns aren’t perfect, and neither are people.

There is a point when a weird dream scene occurs with Noriko and the teacher Kitano eating popsicles by a river in the city. I am seriously confused by this dream. Their lips move but there is no sound, so there are no subtitles. I have no idea what they are saying! Noriko says that Kitano seems lonely in the dream, but why she says this is eluding me. 

They're like the kids from Kingdom Hearts II.
I’d like to know about the text that appears on the screen. At least twice it was voiced, but other times it is not.  It is probably something that happens in Japanese cinema that I’m unaware of, but I would like to know more about it.

American Remake?

There once was talk of making an American remake. At one point I believed that American remakes were a good idea, but I was young and foolish. To make an American version would probably make it PG-13, cutting out much of what made it interesting. And I’m not talking about just the violence and the blood. There are a lot of issues that have to deal with sex that will probably be cut. For a story that focuses on young people in high school, I don’t think that you can realistically cut out the sex talk. When you start maturing in high school, sex is a big deal. It creates bonds between people or destroys people. These feelings come out in Battle Royale. Unlike in The Hunger Games, all of these people know each other, not just the two who are from the same district. Emotions run much higher.

My verdict is that an American remake isn’t needed, nor appreciated. With The Hunger Games out and the sequels in the making, we don’t need one. Watch the original. It is crazy good, probably one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Yeah, I know it’s only May, but it’s that good.   

One of the best moments of the entire film:

End Comments

I’m not going to deem one better than the other. Psh. I don’t need to.

And there’s a sequel to this film titled Battle Royale II: Requiem, with the extended version called Battle Royale II: Revenge. There is also the original novel that has been translated into English, and I would LOVE to get my hands on the extended edition. It’s seriously on my “to buy” list. Lastly, there is the manga. I’m not so big on manga anymore, but I’m interested in reading this if it isn’t too long. I’d have to find a translation and a cheap set to buy.

Battle Royale is definitely worth checking out. This film is gory and tragic in circumstance. It was banned in several countries because of the subject matter, which makes it impossible to resist, right?

If you want a great resource, there is a wikia here.

Below are some more captures that I collected that I think are worth sharing:

Nobu has a hair this normal in Japanese culture?
Mitsuko curles her eye lashes after she washes her hair.
Not really the best time to be doing that...

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