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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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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
Not for the weak-hearted. This series is full of intense action sequences and sex, narrated by its emotionally distraught characters (who could blame them). The art is realistic and bold; never too afraid to be grotesque or gratuitous. Despite manifold attractions, the simple concept of Darwinism in this novel/manga is what really stands out. Through the program and its characters, we experience the fear, betrayal, trust, and will to survive. Some people may not find the characters credible, but I thought they were fulfilling enough to successfully depict the reactions of one driven to the depths of human limits. It's a modern Lord of the Flies and definitely worth the read.
... Last updated on September 11th, 2007, 9:59pm
this disappointed me after all. At very first chapters, the character design "of the old day" made me sick like hell which marked my negative impression on the series. The review had absorbed me, though, not much of truth. It's that the story was absurd as suspected, ends up not moving, impressive and un predictable as expected. Two final survivals dont deserve it, they played not much for their life, just cluttering tears all around. More, characters' early backgounds are also immature, incomplete, false focus, not enough for me to "feel for them"...at least the artwork add up my critique! btw, I like the review and gotta a comment on it, "you can see no more than the 2 fluids blood and tear", no, it's 3 and scum counts!
... Last updated on August 27th, 2007, 2:32am
I don't usually lean towards this kind of manga...
but heck, battle royale really captures the character's emotion, fear, courage, and in the end some face their twisted fate of their moment. If you like thrilling manga, then i suggest Battle Royale.
Nice and gory
If you can handle the way the characters are drawn, it's a good read.
Edit: Ok, I just finished it and the ending is amazing. At first i didn't like the art, I'm not sure if I just got used to the style or it got better, but by the end of the manga some of the pages were extremely well done and really showed the character's emotions. One drawback is the occasional block of writing filling a whole chapter, and a bit of repetition, but the action scenes more than make up for it.
... Last updated on May 26th, 2007, 5:22pm
After reading about 3/4ths of the manga, going over the original novel, and watching the Battle Royale movie, I can say that the manga stands a solid second place. It easily bypasses its movie counterpart, only because of its length... but really the obscure and ultimately excessive fanservice has ruined the face of this manga. Although it has nonetheless executed some very believable scenes, it falls short of what it could truly be.
... Last updated on March 28th, 2007, 6:51pm
The art makes this manga stand out from the pack. The student relationships weren't believable though, since we didn't get to know them very well before the battle royale. If the author had devoted a couple of volumes to the genre of school life/romance (suzuka, school rumble, something like that) and then had them duke it out to the death, I would have cared about the characters more--in fact, it would have been awesome.
It has a very unrealistic story that is very catchy. Its like a hide and seek where everyone is a seeker and a hider (someone who hides.. >.>) and they try to kill each other so they wont be killed in return. The plot is really intriguing and have you keep wondering about what will happen next... (well the general storyline is a bit predictable though). Overall, it won't waste your time.
It isnt that good.
Hmm yeah it has gore and blood, but its so-so. Crappy story, basicly its about people's pasts, but still couldnt really feel with the characters. So I didnt really care about them. Its just gore and blood nothin more.
Truly an intriguing page-turner. Let me preface my opinion by saying that I am partial to shoujo manga, but am open to anything that has a good storyline + great art and this is a prime example. The art here is truly unique and the story really takes you for a ride (in a good way)!