One type of genre that I adore is “dystopian future”, where the world has gone horribly wrong. These can include countries ruled by the iron fists of corporations, a world of martial law, or even something like Children of Men, where there’s no apparent future because no more children can be born. All in all, a dystopian future is a very bleak time, and the genre reflects that.
But one of my all time favourite books in the genre is Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. But why? Here’s why!
The Background of the Plot
In essence, over population has lead to Japan having significant issues with rebellious and criminal behaviour from the youth. So, in order to get some more control over the country, those in charge pass the “Battle Royale Act” – this act decreed that, once per year, a set number of people would fight to the death in televised games.
Sound familiar? Yes, it is the same base plotline that Hunger Games used (although Battle Royale came out about a decade earlier). So, if you like Hunger Games, I would recommend checking out Battle Royale!
However, there are some pretty significant differences between the two. To begin with, Battle Royale involves a full class of students, totaling 40 teens, rather than just 24 in the Hunger Games. On top of that, the island is considerably larger, and there are 2 “volunteers” who have decided to tag along and enjoy the games as well.
There are some seriously gory events in the book, including a girl who uses her body to seduce and distract two boys before slitting their throats… One boy, who is actually a very smart student, develops a psychotic obsession with human flesh and blood, trying to “understand” how humans are “built”… So you can guess what that involves…
Battle Royale is very much the adult version of Hunger Games…
The Main Plotline
The plot, itself, revolves around a boy (Shuya Nanahara) and a girl (Noriko Nakagawa) as they try to survive the events of the games. As classmates, they have been acquaintances for years, but nothing more. It is only when Shuya’s best friend Yoshi dies that he swears to protect Noriko, who Yoshi had feelings for.
After the initial few moments of violence and murder, Shuya and Noriko make their way across the island, trying to find safe places to sit and bunker down in.
Meanwhile, the other students start to feel very comfortable in their new environments.
All in all, this is a survival storyline with a very realistic relationship that grows between the two main characters. The plot, without spoiling anything, twists and turns as you’re never truly sure who Shuya and Noriko can trust.
One way to understand the impact of a book is to look at the legacy it has left behind. Now, obviously I have already mentioned the similarities between itself and Hunger Games (there are a lot more, especially between the two movie franchises), but there’s more than just that.
The book led to two movies, which use the same base plot but change some of the characters and the ending, to give a new experience to fans. Then, there was an entire manga (Japanese visual novels) series drawn and published, which more closely followed the book, but still twisted up some of the events. Oh, and there’s also the huge cult following that the book, movies, and manga have!
And That’s All Folks
All in all, Battle Royale is a much more adult alternative to Hunger Games, so if you guys enjoyed those books or movies, you should definitely check out Battle Royale! Just be warned, whilst Hunger Games had some gore, it had nothing on the events depicted in Battle Royale.
The storyline is really well put together, with the events narrated in just enough detail for you to build the image up in your own mind.
Oh, and it’s also not a short book! Coming in at 600 pages, it’s a chunky book that you can really sink your teeth into. So, if you’re looking for an exciting thrill ride of emotions, and you have time to spare, I cannot recommend Battle Royale enough!
Please note that the images used are from the first Battle Royale movie.