周婉蓮 차우 크리스티나 Cass 's Reviews > Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
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Aug 02, 2011

it was amazing
Read 2 times

I first read Battle Royale by Koushun Takami back in 2006 and just loved the story. Battle Royale is a Japanese novel translated into English. The translated English is well-written, with a few typing errors here and there. Occasionally, a word seems to be missing. I don't consider this to be due to badly written English, but more likely a typing error as there are examples of well-written English throughout the novel. (In my opinion, the translated English in this novel is better than the English in some of the more recently popular fiction. An achievement I'd say, considering the translation is done by a Japanese person while the other novels I'm referring to are written by native English speakers. This shows that just because you speak the language, it doesn't mean you can write it well.) Battle Royale was originally criticized in Japan as "violent exploitation", but it eventually became a bestseller. A hit movie soon followed.

The premise of Battle Royale is simple, and is comparable to Lord of the Flies. In a dystopian version of Japan, a class of junior high school students are taken to an evacuated island as part of the "Program" where they are required to kill each other until only one survivor is left. With this premise in mind while reading Battle Royale, you have to expect this story will consist of gore, violence, and yes, people dying. However, if you shallowly dismiss this story as just gore, violence, and meaningless death, you will miss out on the beauty of this story. Ultimately, people will die in this story, but what's interesting in this novel is how the characters deal with the possibility of an early death. The story explores how the students react to being forced to participate in the program. The novel has two main protagonists and the story is told mainly through those protagonists. Occasionally though, Takami writes a point of view from another character (since the story is about a class of junior high school students, the story has a cast of 43 characters - 42 students, plus the character of Kinpatsu Sakamochi, who is running the "Program"), so that you get a chance to understand some of the other characters in the novel before they take their final bow. Takami also uses a lot of flashbacks to help establish the backgrounds for most of the characters and also to give the reader a sense of what "normal life" is in this dystopian version of Japan.

Battle Royale is an action thriller story with emotional depth. It's a fast-paced read that has many heart-wrenching scenes, and you'd have to be shallow or cold-hearted to not feel some tears well up. Remember too that the characters are students, all about the ages of 14-16. Reading this story should remind people of how they were at those ages. Some people were insecure while others were more secure. Some were more reserved while others were more outgoing. Some were popular, some were the class clowns, some were just not noticed by their class mates (unless they were being picked on). All of this plays into this story on top of the question "Could you kill your classmates?"

Deaths occur early in this story, the first being one of the more shocking. The first time I read that scene, I thought "Did I just read that?! Really? Please, no..." Of course, this was setting up the motivations for the two main protagonists (one a girl and the other a boy), and I probably saw it coming, but it was still... heart-breaking. (view spoiler)

Those were just a few of the more memorable, heart-wrenching, yet beautiful scenes in the novel (some other scenes that I remember well are too complicated to summarize here). The contrast between gory violence and raw emotion is the beauty of this story. Some critics of this novel say that the gory violence is needless. I disagree. The violence is integral to this story and the gore is realistic (you can compare the descriptions in this novel to the live video of Neda Agha-Soltan's death and to the picture of Khalid Said after he was beaten to death). Faced with a realistic portrayal of violence and the results of that violence (that is, the gore), raw emotions are felt. Violent death is horrifying as is violence against people you care for and love. In describing as realistically as possible the violence in this story, Takami gives the reader a sense of what it could really feel like. If reading it is this emotionally upsetting, then watching someone you love die violently is unquantifiably upsetting; more than likely, it's traumatizing. Indeed, people can go into severe shock after witnessing a brutal killing. The gory violence is very necessary to this story. It's what makes the deaths have a real emotional impact.

Battle Royale not only asks the reader "Could you kill...?" but also asks what would you do after witnessing such brutality and violence. Could you overcome what you've seen? Could you then try to prevent this from happening again to others? (view spoiler)

Battle Royale is a very human story. It looks at the human behaviour when we are put in the direst of situations. What's very human about this story is that in the midst of tragedy and death and in the fight for your own survival, a sense of love, compassion, and empathy for others can be found. Years ago, I watched a documentary that touched upon this theme. The documentary, Scared Sacred , described the travels of the director who visited various disaster sites. In visiting these sites, the director wanted to know if some hope remained. In the midst and even aftermath of disaster, is there some sense of hope? In the documentary, a Buddhist concept was referenced - "breathe in suffering, breathe out compassion". Strangely enough, that seems to fit Battle Royale. The main protagonists breathed in all the suffering that was going on around them, then managed to breathe out compassion (view spoiler). This is the beauty of the story.

The emotional elements mixed with the fast-paced action is what makes Battle Royale a page-turner. It's hard to put down. Be prepared to put aside anything else (including sleep!) until you finish reading this novel. Battle Royale is a memorable story with characters worth remembering.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 2, 2011 – Shelved
July 12, 2012 – Started Reading
July 12, 2012 –
page 34
5.51% "Re-reading 'Battle Royale' by Koushun Takami. I first read it back in 2006 and likely forgot some details, but I remember liking the ending."
July 12, 2012 –
page 70
11.35%
July 13, 2012 –
page 120
19.45% "On part 2."
July 13, 2012 –
page 150
24.31%
July 15, 2012 –
page 231
37.44%
July 16, 2012 –
page 283
45.87%
July 16, 2012 –
page 408
66.13% "Part 3."
July 17, 2012 –
page 617
100.0%
July 17, 2012 – Finished Reading

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