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From Tokyopop: In the future, random Jr. High School classes are chosen to compete in a game called Battle Royale. The rules: only one student can survive after 3 days on an island or else they all perish. Weapons are handed out and each student is sent out into the field alone and unprepared for the horror that awaits them. The classmates turn upon themselves in a battle for survival, treaties are made and broken, and former friends become foes as the relentless countdown continues. Amid the betrayals and rising body count, two classmates confess their love for each other and swear to survive this deadly game together.
Note: An English-language release of the collected volumes, published in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom by Tokyopop, was extensively rewritten by Keith Giffen, whose script does not completely follow the original manga. This adaptation makes several changes to the plot. Most notably claiming "the program" is a reality TV show and changing the time that the story is set in by almost 10 years, both of which are contradicted in later volumes.
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Violence a la mode
Battle Royale is a very gory, very sexual, very violent series. However, at times the violence is so over the top it's hilarious. For example, it seems that no matter where somebody is shot, their eyeball will pop out of their skull and hang by their optic nerve. Gross the first time, hilarious the next 20.
The last two volumes with the Final Showdown are some of the most intense I've read, and again, so over-the-top I was laughing for a lot of it (Why is there a sports car on a deserted island?). It's a good read. Not for the weak of stomach.
Battle Royale contains the usual guro, snuff, blood-spattering, and back-stabbing content that all too many of the more visceral and under/overstimulated fans expect and enjoy, with one notable difference. Had this manga continued in the same vein as most others in its’ category, I would have simply dismissed it and gone on to other things, but the issues it raises are so repugnant that I felt the need to comment on it here for the dubious benefit of those who have not yet read or watched any of the media in this franchise.
Put as simply as possible, Battle Royale involves a moral and ethical subversion in the reader. In more modern scientific terminology, it relies on triggering a cognitive dissonance in the reader to capture your attention. In modern media, you can have good characters committing evil acts (catch 22’s), and evil characters committing good acts (antiheros), along with fallen and redeemed characters switching allegiances back and forth as the plots require. Yet, for the most part, the underlying ethical structure of the universe in the story remains static, and more or less consonant with our own: good is good, and evil is still evil. In Battle Royale, this underlying subtext is carefully mutated throughout the plotline, generating an ego-trip and desensitization in the reader.
Analyzing the story with en eye towards psychological b.s. that a largly waisted college degree left me with; you can easily see the moral subversions leading to the elements designed to trigger a cognitive dissonance: characters whos' actions are clearly evil are treated in the artwork and dialog in a manner that a person familiar with manga would recognize as styles and effects more frequently used to highlight positive actions or emotions. So, too, does the moral and ethical structure of the world represented in the manga deviate horrifically from the norm: presenting a representation of individuals as ‘normal good people’ and ‘normal evil people’, while clearly showing that the society as a whole – composed of the summation of those ‘normal individuals’, is unredeemably sick, sadistic, and debased; with even the ‘best’ members of the society shown accepting without serious debate or question the atrocities around them, provided it doesn’t directly impact them. You end in a situation where you have ‘good’ characters implicitly accepting the sadistic environment that surrounds them as a positive environment. This leads to another ethically-related cognitive dissonance – where in reading the story, one has to visualize and accept the moral structure and environment in which the characters’ decisions are made, to provide the context used in rationalizing those decisions. This is, of course, something the majority of the readers will do without even recognizing it for what it is, leading to the gradual desensitization I referred to earlier.
Frankly, for a disturbingly sizeable number of it’s admirers, the resulting ego-trip of the cognitive dissonance itself is probably the appeal.
I recognize that these opinions will offend many of the people who scored this manga highly, and I apologize – a little. If you read up on the effects of cognitive dissonance (wiki it), you’ll learn that your rejection is fully expected, and perfectly normal – and seriously disturbing. I really do find this kind of psychologically manipulative, shock-value, near-propaganda manga disconcerting, and I really do feel that prospective readers should be aware that there are more serious issues in the manga, detracting from the admittedly good art, and consistent (if warped, debased, degenerate, and offensive) storyline and plot.
Better luck reading a different manga, folks.
... Last updated on September 30th, 2007, 2:36am
sorry for such a long review
Well, first I'd like to say that I really think I shouldn't recommend this, even though I liked it, so that people won't come after me waving sticks. Which is why I didn't put a rating in it. Second, I really try to refrain from commenting on other people's reviews, but I kind of had to say something to the idea that people who think that the nudity was worse than the gore are no better than murderers. I can see where you're coming from, but I think you went a little overboard. Okay, now that I've blabbered on for a bit, I'll talk about the comic. Battle Royale really has some nasty gore, [eyeballs everywhere, entrails hanging out] but what disturbed me more was the rape. Maybe it's just me, but I've got a really hard time dealing with rape, more than any amount of violence. After reading reviews, I decided to skip the third volume all together, because of that. The gore, though realy nasty, was not as bad as I had exspected. The scariest thing I thought about the deaths was the expressions. Masayuki Taguchi is really good at expresseions, and the faces of the dead and dying are no exception. They are the kind of images that stay implanted in you're brain for a long time. The artwork though, especially the scenery, is some of the best ever. Koushun Takami said that Masayuki Taguchi's artwork was "directly decended from Osamu Tezuka's", and I can really see the similarities. What made me want to read this comic was the story though. The idea of it is so horrifying and crazy and Lord of the Flies times 20. The premise is really a unique and facinating idea. I thought the Keith Griffen adaption did a good job with the dark humor, and generally it was good, but some of the time it was hard to figure out what everybody was saying because he made it super slangy. But all in all, I think if you're determined to read Battle Royale, you should make sure you're ready, because it's really disturbing. This is really taking the Lord of the Flies-esqe psychological genre to the extreme.
My two cents
I rather liked Battle Royale, I do however understand a lot of peoples complaints about it. The art for one thing, it's nor my favorite style, too western looking for japanese kids to be honest, but you can't really argue that it is not well drawn. I think that the caricature look of it I liked on the other hand, for the same reason I enjoyed a lot of the slightly super human stunts, especially by Kiriyama, and to some extent the gore as well. I'll tell you this, I'm not a genral gore fan, most of the time and a lot of the time here as well I just find it disgusting and unecessary. But what is the feeling of this manga? I think the caricatures, the gross out factor and the supernatural aspects just brings you there. How much more horrible wouldn't a bullet to the face of a person standing right next to you rather than a picture of it be?
As for the story I rather enjoyed it as well, and to be honest rather than a story it is about characters, and how these characters react to this extreme situation. The backstories I think makes the chracters come alive, they are not just another kill, another messy death, they are made into people with interests, feelings (well most of them) and friends. Which of course is what makes this manga so disturbing, and don't get me wrong, I do think it is. And I'm certain it was meant to be as well.
As for how realistic the peple and their backstories were, I think most of the chracters in were very realistic, what you have to realize is that all these people are put in a very extreme situation, it is made very clear to them that it really is kill or be killed by seeing some of their class mates killed right in front of them. And two, they come from a very different society, I don't think it was made as clear by the manga as it was by the novel, but it takes place in a very different present (one which I always imagined is the result from world war two ending differently) where "the program" has existed for 60 years and the nation is at war or something similar to the cold war at the very least. And there is only 2 people that are really activily killing, most do it in self defence, out of extreme fear for their own lives or out of insanity, which I think is entierly plausible given the circumstances. In the end, I wouldn't say I could relate to but clearly understand most of the characters in the plot, though some may be the protagonist or antagonist a bit too much to the core, but once again I think it sort of brings, if not them, but their action alive, it can really make you feel what the others around them must feel towards them.
This being said, I have not given this a perfect grade, for several reasons, the manga and the novel along with it was pulp litterature, it was an easy read, while still making you think, which is always a good thing. Some times I think the violence took too big a part over shadowing the chracters afflicted by it. A plot hole here and there. But my main issue with the manga was the, what seemed to be almost constant, nudity. Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude rather too far in the other direction, but I just didn't feel it belonged there, and many times it just felt stupid, really stupid.
But I still really liked it, in my opinion it has a lot of believable chracters which i could really feel for, and a lot of suspense and very original writing in some scenes made for an exciting read even though it kind of messed me up emotionally for some time after reading it.
not completely thought-through, yet entertaining
First I'm gonna say that it's overall a good and entertaining manga, mostly due to the story and the characters that are well done. For a manga that tries to be realistic, many situations weren't that well thought-through, while others were done brilliantly. Some characters were brilliant while others were lacking. I don't want to go into detail for the not so thought-through situations, since it would require too much text to explain how the specified situations came to be, so I'm gonna list only a few things that I remember: (finished 3 days ago) Again, note that I write that in the assumption that the manga tries to be realistic. If you don't think so, stop reading.
Spoiler (highlight to view)
Noriko gets shot in her lower leg with a gun that easily put a hole in someones head, yet only receives minor injury and can even use the leg in the days after (minus the time it gets infected). I'm no medicine student but I''ve gotta call serious bullshit there. The muscle would be at least partially torn and muscles don't regenerate in half of a day. For the shot see chapter 3 page 8, no graze shot or anything, direct hit.
I doubt you'd survive a major bomb explosion unscathed if you hide in a shabby old truck, especially not if said truck lands straight on the driver's cabin after flying a good 20 metres through the air.
Again with muscles, towards the end, before Kiriyama goes on to the final showdown, he prepares for it. That includes fixing his index finger by cutting himself open and shortening a muscle in his upper arm and duct-taping it. Again, I'm no med student but sounds like bullshit. Especially when I can't even feel the slightest contraption in my upper arm when I'm moving my index finger. Maybe I'm a mutant.
I'm not gonna even get started on the whole KI thing when Kiriyama battles the guy with the staff who tries to protect his chick.
Also, the human psyche is unpredictable, but I think that, considering the situation, a lot more rape would happen. They are 15. But I guess you can't show much more in a non hentai manga.
If you've read this all and think "nitpicking prat" you deserve to have wasted your time since I warned you before.
... Last updated on February 25th, 2011, 10:26pm
Battle Royale is one of my favorite stories, but the manga version totally screws it up. It glorifies the violence and over-sexualizes the situation, entirely removing the philosophy and genuine horror found in the original work (and to some degree, the film).
first of all i have to come clean... i am no sadist and i no that i am also a normal person...and psychologically me think i am normal!! and for the record...i am not a dude and i am not of legal age...and just gotta say the people who said that this nothing but a gore feast...well you people are all wusses to the core!! i mean its pure genius!!
okay gotta say one thing i love it as in seriously love it!! i am normally a shoujo- loving girl but after seeing this and everybody says that its all gore to the core...me thinks no!! now i just gotta know how to put the spoiler thingys in here...and let the real commenting begin!!
Spoiler (highlight to view)
well first of all what draw me in was the art...the very picture of shuuya...up there...and that made me think is this thing really that disgusting cause you know...the boy looks good...anyways about the art...the eyes are popping out and also the brains are splashing about <also the drool and other body fluids that seriously aint pretty>...but it aint that gross if you think about it...thats what really is inside of our bodies...why get scared of the things inside me and you?? anyways for what its worth the story is pure genius i mean it was tapping the fragility of both the human mind and body...also the characters...they are so real...everybody!! and the girls i love them...yes even mitsuko...i like her...i mean she has her glitches and she a bitch slasho whore but her story it touched me!! one of my favorites is also takako...the girl didnt go down without a fight!! go girl power!! okay moving on to the boys side...mimura...oh mimura...my favorite character...i mean the guys a genius!! but not a twisted one like kiriyama!! he could have done it...i like his principle..yeah keep it frosty!! god which brings it to the kiriyama...i know the guy's a wacko for a reason...im going to miss his poker face...but sometimes he is just so annoying i mean i was near thinking that the guy is supernatural!! okay about the main character...the guy is a breath of fresh air... shuuya has real beliefs...i mean that became the main point of this thing how far your beliefs and morals can take you against fear, madness and all the goddamn guns pointed at you...also kawada totally worth mentioning...this guy...couldnt have made it without him...he was...i dont know...comic relief...just relief..the guys a savior!! anyways...i just love it!! the other ones...i hafta say i love it and i dont know why but this one i gotta say that i love it out of all this things worth!!
the violence and the perversion of everything didnt dragged my morals down but actually gave me life lessons i mean yeah really! i am not that much fond of tragedies but this one takes it home!!! really a page turner!! oh and another description comes to mind...THIS ONE IS EXQUISITELY EXPLICIT!!!
... Last updated on October 5th, 2009, 4:29am
Best of the best
Out of all the manga I've read, in all categories, Battle Royale is one of my favorite ones. Instead of pure action, it deals with psychological and moral dilemmas. Sure, it's a little depressing, but it's realistic. It's similar to Lord of the Flies in some sense. It's not a shallow manga based on pure action, but there's man vs man, man vs nature, man vs himself, etc.
I can't read this
This manga makes me want to slit my writs huddle in a corner and cry myself to sleep. it's soo depressing to read. I can't handle it. But just cause I can't handle it, doesn't mean I can't recognize that it's very well done. It's rare to find manga that can cause such strong reaction.
This manga is great. Lots of gore and stupidity that just kept me coming back. With its reputation that should come as no surprise. If you're looking for gore look no further. Just one problem, it did nothing for me besides being cheap gore porn.
Maybe the book does the characterization better, I don't know I haven't read it yet. All I know is that everyone was dying and besides one or two people, I didn't care one bit. If you sympathize with characters easily( and I do mean easily) you might even cry reading this. If you can care about characters but they have to work for your love, like me, then forget about liking anyone in this. Why? Cause they are all either moronic beyond belief or psychotic(and not the fun kind, the kind that you just want dead already). Wanna see the epitome of stupidity and bad decision making? Read this manga to see a good show.
Also if you're not a fan of excessive backstory and authors trying to make insane killers somehow sympathetic right before they die then don't even touch the book. However if you're looking for some cheap thrills go for it. The art is pretty disgusting at times and everyone has huge watery eyes like you just killed their dog, but it's a story where most people don't stay alive long enough for it to matter what they look like. You'll forget all about them by the next page anyway.
Tl;dr : Read for the gore/horror, the psychological aspects don't come through too well unless you're a REALLY empathetic person.