Rachel K's Reviews > Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
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Apr 29, 12

Read from April 26 to 29, 2012

3.5 really.The plot was interesting, and despite what you might have heard, quite a bit different from that of the Hunger Games. It loses a star due to poor characterization/pop psychology. I don't know if the awkwardness of some of the dialogue or the inner monologues of some of the characters had to do with translation issues, the higher formality of Japanese speech, or just a weakness on the part of the author, so I'm not dinging it for that, but perhaps due to the large number of characters, the treatment of the people involved was somewhat shallow.
I tend to believe Suzanne Collins when she says she was not aware of Battle Royale, as I like to think she'd tell the truth about it. It's certainly not a straight-up rip-off, so I don't think there would be anything to lose by claiming it as an influence, much as the author of BR claims King's The Long Walk and The Running Man as his influences. In any case, comparing and contrasting the two similar works was an interesting exercise for me.
I'm going to digest it all for a bit before coming back to write an analysis of the similarities and differences between them, but it should be mentioned that Battle Royale is a long book, 95% of which takes place during the Program whereas the Hunger Games is a trilogy of shorter books, and the time actually spent in the games is comparatively short, comprising maybe 2/3 of the first book. The types of dystopia are different, though they both deal with the control of the populace by a totalitarian regime. Hunger Games focuses more on the decadence and excess of the capitol, where Battle Royale is more about the control of a large population through what they term "successful fascism", a more homogenized society, the granting of small freedoms to maintain a total lack of real freedom. The fact that the Program is not televised made for a lot of practical differences in the action, and that the Program selects an entire class of 15 year olds is a huge difference as well. All these kids know each other, many of them quite well and for years. From a character standpoint, that was the most interesting thing about the book for me. I can't help but feel that the author could have dug deeper into that, but he did enough to intrigue and let me fill some of that in on my own. I will state again here that I wanted more from the characterization. Just a little more and this could have been even a five star book, I think.
There are definite similarities; the plots are clearly similar. At the end of it though, I felt that the differences outweighed the common elements. They made me think about different things with surprisingly little overlap. If the Hunger Games had ended after the first book, I might think differently, but the fact is that the series continued and the territory it covered was larger than just teens-fight-to-the-death. I don't know if I would have liked Battle Royale as much as I did if I had not read HG first. Thinking about them together was more interesting than thinking about just one of them, so I suggest you all read them both.
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Reading Progress

04/28/2012 page 393
68.0% "Whether or not the Collins was aware of Battle Royale when she wrote the Hunger Games, comparing and contrasting the two is proving an interesting intellectual exercise."

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Rachel K So, of course I will be comparing this to the Hunger Games, but I will say right off the bat that I think Battle Royale is far from the first or only example of this type of story. It's not an original idea, just one that has had many treatments, and my impression is the HG and BR are quite different thematically and stylistically. If after reading the book I decide that HG is a straight up rip-off of BR, I won't be too proud to admit it.


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