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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 February 2012
After having read the Hunger Games trilogy I'd heard on the grapevine about where it all originated from and thought that Battle Royale sounded like a good read. But I have to admit I was somewhat torn between whether I should risk reading it (particularly as it's not exactly cheap) for a number of reasons. So I'm gearing this review towards those of you who, like me, aren't too sure whether you'll enjoy this book.

The first doubt I had, before choosing to buy, was towards the telling of the story. Would I be able to follow it since it's originally japanese and I'd read a few bad reviews about the translation? Would it be too different from the novels we're all used to? Absolutely not! This book is really fantastic, and I wouldn't have been able to tell you it wasn't English originally if it weren't for the names of the characters. And even then I probably could have looked past that fact and assumed it was.

So what about the characters? I won't delve into who I liked for fear of giving away the end results but the character development and connection was something I was concerned about. With 42 students to remember I feared I wouldn't make a connection with many or I'd lose track of who was who and all their different back stories. Well to some extent this is true. For me, the names were initially difficult to remember and place a face to but this became so much easier after 10 or so pages once I'd gotten used to it. I honestly thought this wouldn't be the case and I'd struggle signigicantly but it was fine. I did however, struggle with remembering all 42 students but given the nature of the book and the consistent lose of students it became clear that I really only needed to know about 10 of them and actually I probably could have told you about 20 from memory now so don't worry over that either.

Something else I was concerned about was that I'd already know what was going to happen in the end. Obviously there could be a winner right? Well I based all of these assumptions on the Hunger Games and I really shouldn't have. The story is very different and there are a number of rules within Battle Royale which weren't evident in the Hunger Games and I felt some of these were really clever. One concept for instance are the metal collars the students are forced to wear. Unremovable collars which essentially blow up if the student remains in a "forbidden zone" on the map - these forbidden zones increase in number over the course of the battle. The most striking rule to me though was that there doesn't have to be a winner. If a student isn't killed every 24 hours then everyone dies.

So overall, I've awarded this five stars because I honestly enjoyed every second of it. Although it's graphic in places and some of the descriptive passages could be considered a bit disturbing (so if you're buying as a gift keep this in mind for younger readers) I thought it was very cleverly written, a brilliant concept and I can now completely understand why Collins, the author of the Hunger Games, borrowed a few ideas and added her own twist. I'd recommend this to anyone and if you're in doubt then I hope this has helped to reassure you that Battle Royale is worth your time.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2003
Those who have seen the movie, "Battle Royale," will be familiar with the story - 42 high school students, sent to a deserted island, must fight to the death until only one survivor remains. Being a huge fan of the film, I was eager to get my hands on the Koushun Takami novel, on which the movie was based. Never before have i read 600 pages in two days. I found the book extremely hard to put down and despite parallels with the film, it features enough differences to keep fans of the movie interested. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the novel is its portrayal of the thoughts of each student. This allows every single charater to be given a personality, making their inevitable deaths that much more horrifying. Learning more about the character backgrounds allows for greater knowledge that i feel makes the film more enjoyable too. While i have nothing but praise for the story, the translation is not always spot on and is, at times, a little confusing. Fortunately for those who have seen the film, each character (wth the exception of sakamochi, or kitano) has the same name in the book as the movie. Being able to put a face to the name aids greatly in understanding the book, despite taking something away from the imagination. I really enjoyed the book, but if i did not have some knowledge of the characters already, then remembering and identifying the 42 different players may have been difficult. The translation may let it down at parts, but overall this is a very touching and moving tale about love, friendship and loyalty. If you havnt seen the movie, i would recommend you read this. If you have seen the movie, then i insist you read this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2013
Battle Royale is a book set in an alternate timeline where Japan has become a militaristic state ruled by the all great Dictator. Aside from outlawing rock and roll, Japan has a bunch of crazy new laws, one being the Battle Royale act, where students are abducted and forced to fight to the death as part of a 'game'. This is claimed to be for the greater good of the state, and the winner gets a life pension and an autograph from the Dictator himself!

The book follows one of these games, from the students being abducted through the three days of fighting (after which, if there is more than one student left standing, the collars attached to the surviving students explode!). The novel primarily follows Shuya and Noriko who team up with a shady Shogo hoping to overthrow the game, but the story also frequently delves into the affairs of the other students. It's a bloody book, lots of gore, but never glorified. The message of oppression hangs throughout the entire novel.

Brilliant read. The style of writing feels a bit basic at first, but you get to grips with it and get sucked in. Definitely worth experiencing and infinitely better than the film.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Imagine this: Japan is run by a totalitarian government, which occasionally selects groups of ninth graders to methodically destroy each other. On TV.

There now, isn't that chilling? It's the creepy, all-too-real premise of Koushun Takami's "Battle Royale," an intricate novel about a parallel universe, where Japan is part of a brutal, coldhearted empire. Takami's writing style is a bit too spare at times, but he's still able to inspire a sense of haunting terror in his readers.

A group of third-year high-schoolers are being transported on a bus, when they are gassed to unconsciousness, and taken to a distant island. When they awake, they have silver collars around their necks, and a man explains that they have been chosen for the Program: a military training exercise where you must kill or be killed. If you don't play, or stay in one place too long, the collars explode.

The teenagers slowly weed one another out, armed with weapons and random household tools, and monitored by the authorities to make sure they don't plot. Finally the entire class is weeded down to three young adults, including Shuya Nanahara and his girlfriend Noriko. But if they refuse to kill, then they must escape the fascist nightmare... which no one has done before.

"Battle Royale" was condemned in Japan for being so violent, and having a bunch of normal high schoolers killing each other off. So of course, it became a massive bestseller. But "Battle Royale" would have been striking even if it hadn't been publicized like that -- not only is it well-written, but it asks the question straight-out: how much will people do to survive?

Maybe it's also a parable about high-school life, and the struggle to succeed at all costs in Japan. However, Koushun Takami avoids any outright preaching or pondering. Instead he uncoils the tense plot, all about the kids fighting (they're told to "show no mercy") as they try to find a way out of their dilemma alive. Will any of them make it? There's a little glimmer of hope, since Shuya is trying to think his way out.

The pacing is pretty slow and intricate -- considering the large cast, it's not surprising. But the careful plot is punctuated with bursts of nasty action. And Takami writes in a spare, taut style, full of little details to add atmosphere and keep it from being TOO stark ("Under the moonlight, the bluish-white concrete pier gleamed like bone").

Shuya and Noriko are the main characters, and most of the novel's action is through their eyes. These are nice, normal, everyday kids like the ones who live down the street, but suddenly they're faced with their friends and classmates... wanting to kill them. Takami does a great job exploring their emotions as they struggle to keep their sanity and lives.

Violent, creepy and wonderfully atmospheric, "Battle Royale" is a brilliant cult novel that takes an exaggerated look at what it takes to stay ahead. Excellent piece of work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2013
Once I discovered that the 'Hollywood Version' was based on this, I decided to read this first. I read a lot of reviews which warned of the graphic violence and must admit to some trepidation before starting the book. However, although the violent bits are quite graphic, it doesn't detract from a very good story.
Takami homes in on the unpredictability of human nature and what people will do to survive, be it in a kill-or-be-killed situation or living under an oppressive regime. The plot is pretty basic but the insight into the characters more than makes up for it.
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on 30 January 2015
When I saw the film of this I didn't realise there was a book or manga series, and Hunger Games didn't exist yet.. I enjoyed the movie but looking back the point of the story totally passed me by as a pretty amazing social commentary.
The book (and the mangas) really flesh out the story behind the characters and puts so much more emotion and depth into it.
The story is set in an alternative present time Japan. The government has come up with the Battle Royale Act as a reminder to the citizens who is in control. The BR Act consists of selecting random classes of teenagers each year from around the country to be put in isolation to participate in a fight to the death until there is one survivor.
It's a pretty dark premise and it is pretty horrific throughout, but the emotions, issues of trust and the character building throughout make it really compelling. It is one of those stories that I couldn't put down, and even after I'd finished I couldnt stop thinking about it. (So I read the mangas, which compliment it well- though now I forget whether certain back stories were in the novel or manga!)
The translation of the book is great, following so many Japanese character names I found a little hard to remember who was who to begin with. I can't fault that though!
If I'm entirely honest I didn't like a scene near the end, it got a bit unbelieveable and silly, but not enough to spoil what is now one of my favourite books.
It really makes you think, the parrallels with the story and the cutthroat world teenagers are thrown into when they leave school and enter into the battle for survival. I recommend it!
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on 5 May 2014
I first came across the Battle Royale franchise five years ago by pure chance when my father purchased the first volume of the graphic novel series. Upon reading said volume, I was hooked and decided to read up about as much of the franchise as possible, soon discovering that it all spawned from this novel. I immediately went out and purchased it and have never looked back since.

Set in an alternate world during 1990s Japan, the Republic of Greater East Asia randomly selects 50 classes per year (that's roughly one per week), ranging from Junior High to Highschool, to compete in the simulated battle experiment dubbed Battle Royale. The students are fitted with vital monitoring explosive collars and ordered to dispatch their friends and classmates until a conclusion is reached; either with one victor or by all of the students being eliminated should 24 hours pass without a death.

First off, the sheer scope is enormous. Taking into account the average class size, that's over TWO THOUSAND child deaths per year attributed to this "game". And the chilling part is that they're being killed by their friends.

The novel is constructed masterfully, with a range of characters both sympathetic and otherwise, each being fleshed wonderfully. Every one of the 42 students gets at least one chapter devoted to them, and it would be a struggle by the end of it to not find one that you relate to in some way. Gripping and thought provoking, it dives into the primal instincts of why the students do what they do during the Program; be it through fear, anger, trauma or (in the worst case) just because they had nothing better to do. In many cases I found myself hating a character, however the more I read about them, the more I seemed to understand them.

That being said, it does take a while for first time readers to get a handle on the characters; simply due to the sheer volume. However, after the first ten pages or so you'll find yourself being able to put names to faces and figure who's who etc.

The author's origins as a political reporter are evident throughout the story, and at some points you will find yourself thinking that a world like this could exist, given the correct worst case scenario circumstances.

Easily my favourite work of fiction, I make a point to read it at least twice a year and have done for the past five and hope to continue doing so in the future.

I recommend to anyone who isn't too squeamish (due to the often graphic violence) as well as anyone looking for a good read. You won't be disappointed. I sure wasn't.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2014
I am not the right demographic to write a sensible review of this book that was originally published in Japan in 1999 and has been translated by Yuji Oniki with the first English edition appearing in February, 2003. Some idea of its success can be seen from the fact that my book is the ninth reprint from August, 2005.

The book is set in 1997, in Japan, now part of the Republic of Greater East Asia, a dictatorship embattled by the `American Imperialists'. A group of 15-year old high school students are taken on a school trip only to be gassed and rendered unconscious. The students find themselves caught up in a bizarre event where they are taken to an island, fitted with metal collars, given weapons and supplies, and told that they must take part in the Battle, the aim being to kill one another. The only survivor will be given a lifetime pension and a card autographed by the republic's Dictator. If more than one person is living at the end of the `game' or if they try to leave the island, their collars will be exploded. The connection of this novel with `Lord of the Flies' is obvious. This event happens every year with the 50 `lucky' schools being chosen randomly. The only point of the exercise is to provide data for "research purposes."

There are 42 students taking part, equal numbers of males and females, some have made friendships amongst their classmates, others are loners. They are sent out into the island in a random order so that friends cannot easily meet up with one another. There is obviously great scope in their response to the game, do they accept the rules? if so, are they reluctant or do they take part with enthusiasm? What kinds of strategies do they adopt? Very helpfully, the author tells us how many students are alive at the end of each short section.

Every six hours the remaining students are told who has been killed and, to prevent them simply hiding away - not a sensible strategy, from time to time, various parts of the island are declared out of bounds, `Forbidden', and anyone found there will be killed. There is no limit on how the killings should be carried out, they can involve one-on-one attacks, groups attacks or suicides.

There are two difficulties with the book - firstly, the degree of violence, since few of the pupils try to smother one another and the weapons that they are given include knives, a scythe, pistols and machine guns [less fortunate students end up with a pair of binoculars or a fork]. However, it is very much cartoonish violence, although it might well give younger readers nightmares and there are always concerns about older, vulnerable readers. Secondly, the author very helpfully lists the names of the pupils. However, the unfamiliar Japanese names make it hard to differentiate between individual students, especially at the beginning.

Much of the story is told by Shuya Nanahara [Male Student No. 15, Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School, Shiroiwa Town, Kagawa Prefecture] who is reluctant to kill but realises that he probably has little alternative. Shuya is a popular athlete and also a rock guitarist, something that is rather dangerous given the attitude of the state towards anything American.

"Why? Why'd you kill him? It's horrible! It's just too awful! You're evil! Why'd you have to kill him? Why?", "She felt as if she had become a hollow bag in a human shape. But the words came pouring out. The human body could do strange things". From these two random lines it can be seen that neither the author nor the translator is seeking high literary merit. Nevertheless, is surprising how far the reader can become gripped by the overt and covert relationships, and the jealousies, betrayals, strengths and weaknesses of the pupils.

It might have been even more interesting had some of the characters who we follow been obviously enthusiastic towards the Battle, as it stands, most are unwilling participants seeking ways to escape the Battle's gruesome conclusion. Having said that, the characters are all very two-dimensional and the motivations for the ways that they behave are presented on very flimsy psychology. Given their likely fate, the reader does not invest too much time in empathising with them. It is certainly true that, once half of the students have been killed, the author has the time and space to fill out his characters and create more interesting stories.

An rather dispiriting read but I do not think that I will return to this genre.
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on 6 February 2011
In many ways Battle Royale is a desperately difficult novel to review. Partly this is because it is, as my title implies, an uneven book, whose best sequences are gripping and contain beautiful portrayals of tenderness and terror, but whose worst bits sink into tediously mechanist fallacies about human motivation. The other problem is that to explain properly what I mean by this would require a far too detailed explanation about some of the elements of the plot, ones which undoubtedly spoil the novel for a lot of readers.
The novel has been compared to Lord of the Flies, to Ender's Game, and, in concept, to Philip Dick's, Man in a High Castle. In the end though it's not really like any of those books. Lord of the Flies was more honest about the true brutality of ungoverned human societies, the boys in Golding's book weren't given silly excuses or plot devices for their violence, they simply fell into that savagery which underlies all human societies. Ender's Game did something similar, but the structure of Card's plot allowed that book to take on a deeper examination of the individual personalities and what the violence meant to them over a longer time frame. While Dick's book was a piece brilliant social satire.
Takami's Battle Royale, while a thrilling read, never quite lifts itself to the level of any of those other works. And yet, I would recommend it to almost anyone. It is, for the most part, a wonderful puzzle piece of a book. You are left genuinely wondering about the fate of the protagonists, not merely while you are within the midsts of the action, but long afterwards. It is touching and has a visceral emotional impact.
If I had to give a reason why I consider it a lesser book than the other three I've mentioned, I believe that the answer can be found in the novel's fascination for Springsteen's Born to Run. The song while a lovely piece of rock, has extremely juvenile lyrics. This isn't a bad thing, or a criticism of Springsteen, the very immaturity was necessary for the emotions of the song to carry the punch they did. However when you transfer the ideology of a five minute rock song about sex and death into a six hundred page novel, without attempting any deeper analysis of the material, your work is going to pall.
All the same, it is a fun read, and as the book and the Boss both say, "tramps like us, baby we were born to run".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This was another present for my other half, as she is a big fan of the original film, however, after getting about half way through,
she said she couldn't figure whether it was badly translated, badly written or just bad in general!.
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