Review: Battle Royale
The 42 students of Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School, Shiroiwa Town, Kagawa Prefecture are on a bus heading for what they think will be a study trip. All of a sudden, strange things started happening – the bus driver is wearing an oxygen mask and all of the students become sluggish, eventually falling asleep.
The students wake up in an unfamiliar classroom and discover that their class has been chosen to participate in this year’s “Program.” They are on an island and must kill each other until there’s only one student left. (The Republic of Greater East Asia claims this program has been instituted for security reasons.) Each student is wearing a collar that tracks their movement and will kill them if they wander into forbidden zones or if no one dies within 24 hours. Each student is given a backpack with a random weapon as they’re dismissed, one by one, and the carnage begins.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami explores the way people react to an unimaginable scenario. Would the students band together or fight mercilessly? While the overall plot of this book was good, I struggled to finish it. At over 600 pages, I felt that it was too long, and at times, there was too much detail. Several pages would be devoted to a student’s background just to lead up to their death. Some of the battle scenes are pretty gory, but I think that’s to be expected in a book of this nature.
I struggled with the students’ names as I read this and had trouble remembering who was who. Just in the girls half, there’s Yukie, Yukiko, Yumiko, Yuko, Yuka, and Yoshimi and it was a bit much for this old brain to take in. Vance and his friends read this book when he was in high school and loved it. I read his copy of it, which was published in 2003 and there are several translation errors in it that added to my confusion. A new English version was published last November and it’s my understanding that these errors have been corrected in it.
Battle Royale just wasn’t the book for me. At first, I thought it was because I’m way past the target audience, but I know others my age who’ve enjoyed it.