on 23 October 2007
I read this book after seeing the film, and reading some of the manga, so I came to it expecting more of the same - I was pleasantly surprised.
The book has the luxury of being able to explore each character in depth, something that the film was unable to do. You get a more rounded portrait of the class, although don't assume that this is just the book of the film - the characters here are more like the ones in the manga, but they're subtly different again from their graphic-novel counterparts. These are characters that we half-know, and it's interesting to find out more about them - how friendships developed, what's going on inside their heads as they go through their ordeal.
Shuuya, our hero, is likeable and capable of calling up our affection. Noriko remains a bit of a drip, but that's only to be expected in a book which offers up only one or two strong, interesting female characters. As a reader, you honestly start to wonder what you would do in that situation.
However, I can't skate over the fact that this is an awkward book to read. The name of the translator is Japanese, not European, and it's an inescapable fact that this book isn't perfectly translated. Sentences can be shaky and repetitive, with word-choices that seem strange to a Westerner. The introduction at the beginning could do with some explaining. Some metaphors are very strange and come across as either inappropriate or just plain weird, and you do get the sense that this novel could have done with a bit more editing before it was published in the English language - and maybe another translator for good measure.
That's not to say that it's a bad book. Although some of the characters can be confusing and difficult to keep track of (why the author gives some of the 42 characters the same first names or last names is beyond me), it's a good story, and you'll keep reading it right to the end. Just ignore the strange errors in grammar if you're a nit-picker like me, and sit back to enjoy the interplay of teenage personalities as they try to deal with an impossible situation.
on 21 April 2013
When the Hunger Games first game out and I talked to my friend about it she told me it sounded an awful lot like a Japanese story she had read. She told me the basic outline and I agreed their were similarities but it didn't bother me. It seems she wasn't the only one to think it the internet exploded with people saying Hunger Games had 'ripped this story off' etc. Having never read this I couldn't judge.I love the Hunger Games and always will but I decided I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I requested this book from the library quite a while ago and even once it had arrived I didn't pick it up. My friend warned me that it was quite gory, and as a wimp it put me off. It remained in my tray at work, but when I had 15 minutes to pass yesterday I picked it up.
Now to get the whole Hunger Games thing out of the way - apart from the fact a group of children are put together and told to kill each other - that is where the similarities end. The books are very different and stand very well on their own two feet. For one in the HG everyone knows what is going on and the people going into the arena are trained and have warning, in this the kids are just thrust in with no warning at all, and it's more friend against friend as they are all from the same class. This is brutal!
This book is very gory, although I had been warned I was still shocked and put off in places by the level of gore. Takami has no problem describing all sorts of horrendous wounds, guts and blood included in detail. I actual found myself trying to look away in some places and skimming other really violent bits. The deaths themselves seem to be in more detail than necessary, nothing is left to the imagination, yet all the images formed in my mind and made me cringe. I certainly couldn't watch the film of this, the images conjured in my head were bad enough without seeing them played out in a film.
Basically the Government randomly selects a class of students and sends them on a 'field trip' but it's a cover, all of the students (classes average at 40 pupils) are knocked out and taken to an island. Once there they are all given a backpack which contains some basic survival equipment and a weapon. These weapons range from a fork to knives and various guns. They are then told that they must kill each other and only one student will be left alive. To ensure they comply they are all fitted with a metal collar which tracks their movements and can be detonated to kill any of them. As the 'Program' takes place more areas on the island become out of bounds drawing students out of hiding and force them to face off.
There are main characters - Shuya, Naroki and Shago are pretty much the 'protagonists' but I liked that they didn't tell all of the story. Many chapters are told from other students points of view. Some of them get multiple chapters and a more developed story whereas others appear just to be killed.But it gave everything a more rounded perspective and I liked getting to see other points of views.
I did get slightly confused with the names - as there were so many characters, a lot of which you only see briefly I got a bit lost with who was who, and a lot of them had similar names like Yoku and Yoka. But I kind of just glazed over their names at times and tried to keep up more with what was happening.
It took me a while to get into the story, it starts on the bus on the way to their 'field' trip and Shuya is describing who is on the bus. This is set out almost like a 'register' of students, he describes who is sitting where, names and class number, but with so many being described and introduced I couldn't keep up with who was who at that point, and of course being at the beginning of the book none of them were really relevant so I wasn't particularly interested at that point. But once they get to the actual island it started to pick up pace.
I can't really say that I enjoyed the book, it's too gory and disturbing for that, but I appreciate the writing and think it was well done. It was a 'good book' but for me just a bit too dark and disturbing. I wanted to know more about why the government ran this program, what was behind it, and how come with so many pupils disappearing over the years - why did they not suspect anything. Trust me, if I knew kids disappeared on Field Trips to go into the program I would avoid all field trips at all cost. This just seemed really random and I would have liked more to explain the purpose of it.
I quite liked the ending there were certain characters I wish had escaped throughout and one late death that I was really saddened by, but overall I liked the end.
At 617 pages this book is quite hefty and I was worried it would take me a long time, but it didn't at all. I had to do it over 2 days as i couldn't read it too late at night, but apart from that I pretty much whizzed through and I wanted to know how it would turn out.
I can understand why it was hyped up, it is well written, gripping and very involved. It will certainly get your heart pumping.
A Compelling read that will have you turning pages and gripping your seat, packed with action and writing that will certainly have your blood pumping, but also very violent and gory. Not for the faint-hearted!
3.5 stars, to be fair.
This was on a '50 most challenging books' list. Thought I'd give it a go - loved the film a few years ago.
After reading it, I think the reason it made the above list was not the violence, the premise or the morality. It's the names. A class of 40 students is selected to take part in a 'to the death' battle in the dystopian Republic of Greater East Asia. Only one can survive - the 'winner'. The rest must die. Friends must fight friends, girls must fight boys. The students are 15. The problem as a reader is really the fact that it's very hard to tell everyone apart. In some ways it hardly matters, most are going to die soon after being introduced. With 600 pages and more than 30 deaths, that's an average of a death every 20 pages. So we don't really get the chance to know many of the students well. But when we do, it's pretty hard to distinguish best friends Yukiko and Yumiko, and the group that includes Yukie, Yuko and Yuka. You can see what I mean.
Anyone preparing to read this book, I assume, is aware that there is going to be a LOT of violent death. One of the interesting aspects for me was how students reacted to the news that they were going to have to abandon loyalties to save their own skin. Would they refuse to go it alone and stay together? Would they take to the game with relish? Both extremes of human instinct come into play, with a wide range of characters and stories. In some ways it's a shame the book isn't longer, to really see the stories of the students. But in another, it wouldn't be necessary as they die so quickly anyway.
For me, the fact that it was a class of 15-year-olds made it a little samey in parts (is that possible with this storyline?!). Over half the students have crushes or boyfriends/girlfriends in the group, and spend a fair proportion of the 600 pages admiring or pining for their loved ones. There ARE some affecting scenes and deaths with this in mind, but really, there are too many in my opinion. But I'm not a teenager reader anymore, it might review better with them than it does with me.
I wanted to know more about the students who were really taking the game seriously and relishing the legal change to kill fellow human beings, one in particular is a figure of menace but never explored in any depth, just showing up regularly to off another classmate unexpectedly like a threatening shadow.
The wider picture is what is missing really - in a society where the government condones and encourages classes of students to murder each other, we are given precious little of outside the island setting to see the larger society's view on this - the students' parents are mentioned, children watching the 'news updates' of the game results. I'd have liked more of this. But at 600 pages, it's already quite an epic.
A small issue crops up in the translation of the Japanese original - some teenage language comes across as very false and wooden, there are grammatical errors that had me re-reading a few sentences to make sense of them, which were small things but a little annoying.
I'm going to have to watch the film again to remind myself of the differences, but this is a stunning idea, a fantastic talking point, and definitely one teenagers will want to read. There is a little sexual violence among the more usual kind, very little swearing (surprisingly enough), but it is definitely not an easy read.
on 2 July 2009
Without a doubt the best book I've ever read.
I'm not going into detail into why it's great but will get straight to the point.
-Full of twists
-Well written (but not perfectly translated, still brilliant though)
-Brilliant character background
-Beautifully detailed scenes
Really worth a read. You probably won't regret it!
on 1 February 2013
I feel almost cheated with this book, cheated because I don't read Japanese. The story is great, the idea exciting yet I feel the translation lets it down. Some paragraphs seem so basic that for brief moments I was wondering if I was reading a book for young adults, only to be reminded I wasn't by the brutal murders. I feel it's especially relevant when describing quiet, personal moments. The literature isn't deep enough to make you care about the people and can come across quite basic in how its written. I have no doubt that in its original language this book is amazing and as much a classic as it is renowned to be. However I feel the Japanese to English translation just does not do it justice, basically I need to learn to read Japanese.
on 27 January 2012
I first heard of Battle Royale when reading reviews of The Hunger Games, when it was suggested that Ms. Collins' inspiration must have come from this book. It took me a while, but after seeing a few more recommendations, I purchased a copy and sat it on my shelf. Where it sat for several months until last Saturday I decided I felt like reading a paperback book and it was the first one I picked up.
To be honest, at first I was a little wary - sure the storyline sounds amazing, but how could I possibly keep 42 (!) characters (with Japanese names which also confuse me) straight in my head? I have trouble with half a dozen sometimes....so it was with a little trepidation that I opened the book to the first page.......
I was immediately hooked - keeping the characters straight was made easier by a list of names in the front of the book, and when characters that had been previously mentioned reappeared, the link back through the writing was strong enough that I was fully aware of who was who, their story, their actions and their fates.
This is not a book for the faint hearted - Takami holds nothing back in his imagination, and some scenes are jaw-dropping in their intensity and detail, but the story itself stops Battle Royale from spiraling into a mindless bloodbath. There are twists and turns I never saw coming and the ending is breathtaking (and unexpected!).
Three days and more than 600 pages later I finished reading (I put off the final 20-odd pages off because I didn't want it to end!), put down the book, turned to my boyfriend and said just one word "Wow!".
I wish I could tell you more about this book, but it is a difficult book to review without giving away key parts of the story. If you can get a copy, you should definitely invest in this book - I'll definitely be going back to this one again!
on 18 September 2011
If you liked 'The Hunger Games' you will love this book. Very similar themes although this is a slightly more adult version that I would say isn't really suitable for anyone under 14 or 15. It is fantastic.
One piece of advice though, If (like me) you are not good at remembering names make a list of all the characters before you start and jot down bits about them as the book goes on. There are lots of very similar Japanese names, and sometimes characters are called by their sur names rather than their first, so it's easy to get a bit lost. The author (or editor) seems to be aware of this and has included a page of character names in the front.
I promise, you will love this book.
on 1 April 2015
This book is amazing! The pacing is perfect, it's fast for the action but slower for the character development. The characters are all easy to differentiate as he has created 42 different personalities fantastically, and they're all great characters. Some of the characters are more developed than others but that's to be expected in a book with so many characters. It's emotional (I think I genuinely experienced every emotion while reading this book), it's gripping, it's clever and it really makes you think. I honestly can't praise this book enough, it's become one of my favourite books and I absolutely love it. Highly recommend it!
on 6 February 2014
I read this after reading some comments claiming Hunger Games was a rip off of this book. I was intrigued and wanted to judge for myself. I read HG trilogy and Battle Royale all within 1 month so firstly I must say they are totally different.
You know a load of teenagers are selected without their consent and put into an alien environment to fight to the death with only one survivor.
That is the only thing in common between these stories, but this basic plot has been used many times. E.g. A real event being gladiators.
Three positives about this book:
1. In BR the book is written from the point of view of EVERY participant in the event. All credit due to the author for taking on this challenge and writing so many chapters each with a different voice and different experience of participating in a fight to the death.
2. The exciting thing in BR, that keeps me going to the end, is that a few characters are hatching separate plots to escape and as the reader I can't see how this could work so I want to know if any are successful and how.
3. The focus of the book was totally on how the participants within the BR respond. I like books to make me think and I frequently was thinking about how I might act in the situation. As we see it from all Points of View we can see whether we identify with any of the many strategies adopted by the different people (in constrast to HG, which is all from one perspective).
The many criticisms you will find about this book are valid:
1. the girl's characters are pathetic, thin and feeble, as a female reader they make me cringe. They are unrealistic. The author is not able to write from a female perspective yet he gives it a try.
2. the kid's are supposed to be 15 but perhaps 19-21 might be more realistic (perhaps Japanese kids are very different to Europeans).
3. The book drags on and on in a badly written way. The same story could be culled and told in about 60% of the words. This could be due to the translation. Perhaps in Japanese it flows?
4. The characters have similar names - I expected this to be a problem but actually it was not.
5. Why the event is taking place and how it relates to the world outside is incoherent. Again perhaps this was due to the translation.
I would say the readers for Battle Royale are likely to be aged 16 upwards and core readers for the Hunger Games aged 12-17.
Battle Royale is not a book I will be reading again or recommending widely. I think because of its violence and because it is long and difficult to read it will have minority appeal, unless there is a better translation available.
on 15 December 2013
Battle Royale in two words: Shock Horror. The title itself probably originates from the fact that writer Koushin Takami is a huge pro-wrestling fan; and other than the fact that the actual definition of Battle Royal, the wrestling terminology of Battle Royale and representation of this book all mean the same thing (a fight involving two or more combatants until only one remains), it's still quite odd how he managed to conjure up such story whilst relating it to staged wrestling...and also without having a bizarre imagination during high-school. It's also slightly disconcerting how he dedicates the novel to everyone he loves.
Battle Royale takes place in an alternative future where a totalitarian regime rules over Far-East Asia, attempting to disconnect nations within the region from a more liberal western culture. There are means to ban religion, and repress any forms of fashion, entertainment or social involvement that may influence rebellious activity. But through the years as technology grows and younger generations become unmanageable, the stronghold against freedom of expression begins to crack: school children have become less obedient.
The government must not allow society to deviate, so for assumed research purposes, if not to set disciplinary example: 50 randomly selected classes of 15-16 year old students are kidnapped every year, and re-introduced into programs inside large arenas (they scale in km2). The aim for each student is to terminate every other classmate by the end of a program, leaving just one: the winner of the Battle Royale. The winner is then nationally awarded on television, even interviewed by officials and congratulated - much to the excitement of getting rewarded to kill your own friends.
A few main features;
* Every student gets a collar clipped around their neck, and each collar has a tracker & microphone for surveillance purposes, and a detonating device to instantly `dismiss' any transgressing character.
* There is a deadline. The collar explodes passed the deadline if more than one student remains.
* The whole arena (in this case an Island) is rigged with mega-phones to:
A) Pronounce deaths.
B) Warn others when certain zones are forbidden. Failure to remove one's self from a `forbidden zone' results in the jittery collar. This encourages gameplay to continue.
* Each student gets given a backpack, loaf of bread, a bottle of water, a map, compass, and most importantly: a specific weapon depending on his/her physical stats. Weapons range from a frying pan to a machine gun.
Moving on, what must be mentioned is how well thought out the entire novel is, from the mere layout of the book (gridded map, student list and Government Memo) to the psychological standpoint of every character. Speaking of characters, each one is introduced on a school bus, describing their traits and abilities, sportive or intellectual, which may seem advantageous or disadvantageous in the future. The main character, Shuya, is created perfectly to adapt the least to the flow of the upcoming situation, making the story tenser throughout. There is a main villain (other than the system) who is introduced as a leader delinquent with no ability to feel guilt or regret - a perfect antagonist for the upcoming situation - again making the story tenser. There is a fragile and injured female character that makes the situation all the more difficult for the protagonist, and there is an anti-hero: a complete bad-a** who knows exactly what to do, in turn making the situation all the easier. There are plenty more characters with different aspects and their mentalities which are well described play a role in how they act in desperate times; Takami has carefully thought up virtually every possible scenario a person might make had this been a real event, from revolting to even being content in playing the game.
Marry all the character depth with brutal and vivid death scenes and you receive storytelling that provides you candy before snatching it right back off of you...and replaces it with a sour but worryingly addictive candy. There are plenty pages of background added to every character for you to connect with, mostly right before they meet a gruesome death. Combine this with the fact that there's a big bold number that appears and decreases per death, plus the Student Register that you can cross off like a grocery list, by then you understand the ruthless approach Takami is taking. Takami does not hold back his punches; in fact they're designed to low blow you whilst you beg for submission, and just when you think he's about to walk away, he strikes again. That is pretty much the pace of this novel.
Yes, Takami strikes with an emphasis on disrupting purity (adolescence in this case); not only being forced to suffer abduction, but to also perform destructive acts against their will. The most horrific element though, is the fact that these acts would mean the killing of close ones. At first, it would be common to believe each character wouldn't agree to such a program and instead rebel (which the some naturally do at first), but as soon as they realise resistance is futile, the majority face of this one innocent class turns grim, which is why the most horrific element is horrific; it is the element that turns the students in virtual cannibals, a dog-eat-dog battlefield in which mutiny and paranoia ensues, dismantling any trust and previous relationships. It also shows how in a warzone without rules, abstaining from committing atrocities may bear none against the will of survival - this is Takami's main message to the viewer.
Overall, Battle Royale is not a read for the fainted hearted. It is however, a non-stop thrill ride that is not only thoroughly thought out in terms of psychological and social accuracies, but also has an engaging drama for every character, with many twists that keeps the pages flicking. The mixture of first person writing through the view of Shuya in this mainly third person tale reminds you to keep routing for him despite of every other student's struggles; the outbursts through Shuya's mind also helps you understand him more emotionally. It's really good stuff. The only few cons that exist are the unrealistic political agenda of the Battle Royale projects, and that if you aren't good with names, you're going to struggle.