Battle Royale is one of the most innovative movies to come out of Japan in the last few years. I’m sure most of us have seen it so I won’t go into the storyline too much, but a few things always bothered me about it.

There was no really good reason for the show. It didn’t seem to be shown on television, and the kids taken to the island aren’t really that bad. Teenage tearaways to be sure, but deserving to be put in The Battle Royale program? If the government in the film were trying to make an example of their current youth population, the very threat that you could be sent to Battle Royale if you didn’t behave should have given that generation a lot of pause for thought. Besides one broadcast, its hardly mentioned. If it occurred in real life, it’d be on every channel (ala Truman Show) and bets being taken.

I have a feeling that this was because the director (Kinji Fukasaku) wanted to make a statement about youth in Japan today and a give it a more Lord of the Flies stance in that you can’t trust anyone, not even your closest friend or lover.

This is very different from the book by Takami Koushun (available from Viz Comics), where “The Program” is a game show in the style of BB and Series 7: The Contenders. The government is more fascistic and the children more like gangsters. One notable thing is that most of the children come from broken or poor homes, orphanages, are homosexuals or sexually promiscuious. The kind of people that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison in their wildest paranoias thought Maggie was out to exterminate from society. Oh, and the rich are psychos.

The manga of Battle Royale ( TokyoPop. Latest volume is #2 of 3) is taken from the book and if it was in colour would (along with Ichii The Killer) have drained the world of red ink. The art by Taguchi Masayuki has a weird childish feel to it with its large eyes and cute characters which is totally at odds with the methods and depictions in which they are dispatched. The background in which the society and “The Program” exists is given more detail, as are the lives of the children. The only let-down is the translation by Lobo creator Keith Giffen. Its more geared to an American audience and some the mannerisms and slang grates, especially in its descriptive use of female genitalia.

Definitely not to everyones taste but recommended if you’ve seen and like the movie and want to dig deeper. Besides how can you not love a book that has a Parental Advisory sticker on it.

From all good comic-book shops now priced around £7.50

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