Battle Royale

Battle Royale – Batoru Rowaiaru – 2000

Plot: In the beginning of the 21st Century, the economy of Japan is near a total collapse, with high rates of unemployment and students boycotting their classes. The government approves the Battle Royale Act, where one class is randomly selected and the students are sent to an island wearing necklaces with few supplies and one weapon. After three days, they have to kill each other and the survivor wins his or her own life as a prize. The 42 students of a ninth-grade class are selected to participate in the survival game and abducted while traveling in their bus. Under the command of their former teacher Kitano, they have to eliminate each other following the rules of the sadistic game where only one wins

It’s Japanese Classics Revival here at Zombie Cupcakes land!

Being born and raised in a part of Europe where J culture is extremely popular, i kind of took movies like this for granted, like it was pointless to bring them up because “everybody has seen them already”.

It was then brought up to my attention that maybe a fresh viewer who is introduced to asian cinema for the first time might not exactly be so familiar with Akira, Tetsuo, Boiling Point, or in this case Battle Royale.

If i was ever to make a top 10 must see Japanese movie-list, this one would definitely be a part of it.

But first things first: Batoru Rowaiaru is a 2000 Kinji Fukasaku movie based on the shockwave novel by Koushun Takami, which is a bestseller in Japan, and which has become very controversial in a very short time. The plot is simple – a group of students are set to kill each other until only one survives – and stars the one and only Takeshi Kitano as the merciless teacher who’s behind the whole ordeal

Battle Royale is a fever-pitched exercise in the theory that reality itself is so close to absurdity that you need twist your picture of it only slightly to send it over the edge into nightmarish satire. There is no real meaning to the violence of it: just plain, bloody, and ultra-violent.

The main chatacters are Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa, two students who are secretly in love but never revealed it to each other before, and a third guy, Shogo Kawada, a survivor from a previous Battle Royale Program. But the thing is, even though she is in the movie only for a few minutes, the movie features a way more popular face, Takako Chigusa, played by Tarantino’s favorite japanese lady, Chiaki Kuriyama (aka Kill Bill’s Gogo). She wore that yellow one piece suit first!

The movie is brilliant in its simplicity, the satire against modern society is dry, bloody, and extremely effective.

And did i mention super-cute Japanese Schoolgirls (in uniforms!!) butchering each other?

Many other japanese movies involving schoolgirls and blood will be made after this, but Battle Royale will always be the “serious one”, the one that is not so gory it makes you laugh, but the one that’s brilliantly real even in such an unrealistic setting. If you’re approaching J-Cinema, and you want to do it right, make sure this movie is a part of your viewing experience.

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17 Responses to “Battle Royale”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gogo Blackwater, Dr. Gonzo. Dr. Gonzo said: RT @zombiegogo: BATTLE ROYALE: new post on https://zombiecupcakes.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/battle-royale/ […]

  2. Joshua Johnson Says:

    I’ve been familiar with this film for several years, but never took the time to watch it. I’m glad that you included it here. I would also like to see you make that list of Top Ten Japanese Films.

  3. thank you Joshua! i think i will eventually :) i have so many ideas streaming thru my brainzzz at the moment, to make this blog more interesting. i’ll be definitely working on it more and more now!

  4. Joshua Johnson Says:

    I recently came across a website that mentioned a collection of J films, called Guinea Pig. Have you ever heard of that? Evidently the films caused quite a stir. In one incident an American actor who found a copy of one of the movies turned it over to the MPAA and FBI as being real. It was concluded after serious investigation that it was just really good filmmaking.

  5. You are aware that the yellow tracksuit is an homage to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, correct? Fukasaku intends it as both joke and homage (because the Royale is “a game of death”), and Tarantino homages both Lee and Fukasaku with the tracksuit and the use of “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” to open the House of Blue Leaves sequence – as Fukasaku directed the movie that inspired the song. Tarantino also goes a step further than Fukasaku does and has The Bride wearing the exact style of shoe that Lee wore in Game of Death to complete the outfit. Kuriyama ending up in Vol. 1 is itself simply an homage to what Tarantino has called “the far and away number one movie made since I started directing”.

    This is an ironic circle of homage, because without Tarantino, Koushun Takami would have likely never written Battle Royale, as Takami has said outright that the inspiration for writing the novel Battle Royale came from Reservoir Dogs.

    Which, on that note, was influenced by yakuza films. Which in turn were inspired by the American gangster pictures of the 30s and 40s.

  6. oh man yes! the guinea pig-s are so old!

  7. kevin, of course it took you something like this to leave a comment on my blog!

    yes teach’, i’m aware of that, i was making a joke-ski :p

    i like how the circle goes around tho, thank you for the insight

  8. Joshua Johnson Says:

    Ok, Blackwater…got my hands on BR. Going to watch it tonight.

  9. Here’s a film that I would loved to have been over 3 hours long. So many characters that you don’t really get to know. I had first read the manga and then watched this and was disappointed. Of course that’s all about how much time you can spend in a movie on each character.

    A very good film anyway but I still prefer reading this one to watching it.

  10. i agree, but then again you read the manga first, and i found that only in such sporadic cases a “simple” movie will be able to beat it

    for example, my all time favorite manga mpd psycho, was turned into a sort 3 part movie/mini tv series by Miike himself, and still… it was awful.

  11. Yeah, I tried to watcy MPD Psycho myself but couldn’t finish the second part. I love Miike but that one was brutal. Just couldn’t finish it.

    What about Battle Royale 2. I have that as well but haven’t watched it yet. Is it even worth it?

  12. Dang, i dont pay attention for a few weeks and now you talk about one of my all time favourites.
    This was one the first asian movies i ever saw (beyond the Hong Kong Kung Fu movies).
    To me, this is a true Masterpiece. The only thing better then the movie, is the book.

    ps. and the second Battle Royale has a few nice scenes, but sadly overall its a trainwreck (not in a good sense).

  13. lol this brought my memory back to the Livejournal time, anyway this is a cult classic, saddly the second one is kinda poor of new ideas even if great in some scenes, nobody will ever beat Kitano.

    btw, going a little offtopic and talking about Miike, (even if it’s not an horror movie), have you ever seen The BirdPeople of China? I’d like to know what you think about it.

  14. yes, that’s why i called this my “japanese revival” eheh
    i have seen the birdpeople and i’m gonna write about it at some point, guaranteed!

  15. This is such a brilliant film – It’s one of those ones where, when you watch it for the first time, you’re left open-mouthed! I’ve only seen it on my TV at home, but it’d be amazing to view it on the big screen!..Without 3D glasses ;)

  16. Don’t bother with BR2. To say it sucks would be an understatement. There’s some fine moments, some photography that is borderline surrealism, an epic anti-American rant, twice. A sensei who is is just mad, and so many plot holes it’s a surprise the film didn’t collapse under itself.
    It’s a shame, there are so many places this movie could have gone, like what happens when an adult-hating child eventually becomes an adult themselves? But instead we see the guy from the first film as a world-weary Ché Guevara clone paired with an odd assortment of rebel kids including a blonde WHO SHOUTS EVERY LINE, and… yeah, did I mention epic plot holes?
    The problem, I think, is the director passed away partway through making this film and while his son took over the reins, I think he either didn’t understand his father’s vision, or simply didn’t have the balls to push it all the way.
    Hence, BR2 is best considered a “clone sequel” rather than a real sequel. It sucks less that way, like 99% instead of 100%.

    [I could go on, but that’s spoiler territory]

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