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Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル, Batoru rowaiaru) is a film, released on December 16, 2000 in Japan. It was based on the Battle Royale novel which was released on April 22, 1999 in Japan. It was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and features Takeshi Kitano and Chiaki Kuriyama. Like the novel on which it is based, it aroused much controversy.
A sequel, Battle Royale II: Requiem, followed. The musical soundtrack for both films was composed by Masamichi Amano, and features pieces of real classical music with some original composition.
Fukasaku has stated that the novel reminded him of his time as a 15-year old munitions factory worker, so he decided to create the film adaptation .
The plot of the film is fairly faithful to that of the novel, with a few key differences. The prologue is as follows:
- At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At 15% unemployment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and, fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act... AKA: The BR Act.
The film centres around Shuya Nanahara, a charismatic young boy. After his mother abandons him and his father commits suicide, he becomes disillusioned with life. The rest of his classmates are similarly disillusioned, and have little respect for authority. Shuya's best friend, Nobu, attacks their teacher Kitano, but runs away before he can be identified. Noriko, a sweet, reserved young girl who happens to witness the incident, hides the knife that Nobu has just attacked Kitano with. Kitano, frustrated, resigns.
The next year, as the students are nearing the end of their compulsory education, they embark on a class trip. However, the entire class is gassed and kidnapped, and taken to an isolated, abandoned island. Once there, the students are shocked to find that they are inside an abandoned school, and that Kitano (along with the government) is behind the entire operation. Kitano informs them that, due to their juvenile delinquency, they have been selected as participants in Battle Royale, a game where the students have to kill each other until only one is left; if, after three days, a winner is not declared, everyone dies (by way of explosive collars attached to each student's neck). To prove he means business, Kitano detonates Nobu's collar, killing him. One by one, each student is led away from the school, having been provided with survival packs and a random weapon. The game begins.
Some students refuse to play the game. Shuya, grieving over Nobu's death, decides to take it upon himself to protect Noriko, Nobu's crush. The pair eventually team up with Kawada, a seasoned warrior with an agenda (he reveals that he is out to avenge the death of his girlfriend, who died in a previous game). Elsewhere, class president Yukie gathers up a group of girls and decides to hide in an abandoned lighthouse, however, one of the girls hiding there becomes opportunisitc and poisions another girl's instant noodles, creating distrust among the group and finally snowballing into an all out gun battle that sees all of them dead. While junior revolutionary Shinji gathers up his friends and plans to blow up the school (along with Kitano), thereby liberating the students.
However, some students are all too willing to play the game. A mute boy named Kiriyama has signed up for fun, and kills without remorse. Meanwhile, a troubled femme fatale named Mitsuko takes it upon herself to win the game, using everything she has at her disposal, especially her sexuality. She and Kiriyama share the same trait of picking up the weapons of the people they have killed.
Still other students accept their fate. While some commit suicide, a student named Sugimura decides to make the best of his final hours, and seeks out his best friend and the girl he loves.
Shinji hacks into the central control system and cripples the monitoring network of the army, he and his friends rebuilds an abandoned truck and prepares to drive to the army headquarters, but were ambushed by Kiriyama and all were killed as the bomb filled truck detonates.
Only Shuya, Noriko, and Kawada are left. Kawada reveals that he knows how to disable the collars, and fakes Shuya's and Noriko's deaths. Declared the winner, Kawada treks to the school. Kitano has since declared the operation a success, and is the only one there. Kawada confronts Kitano, and is soon joined by Shuya and Noriko. Kitano reveals that he has an unhealthy obsession with Noriko, and begs for her to kill him (as he is extremely unhappy, having been rejected by his family). Noriko refuses, but when Kitano raises a gun, Shuya shoots Kitano. Dying from his wounds, Kitano engages in a final, bitter conversation with his daughter over the phone, and then passes on.
The trio escapes the island on a boat, but Kawada succumbs to his wounds and dies. Shuya and Noriko make it to land, where they become fugitives, wanted for murder.
Difference between the book and the film
Difference between the book includes (though is not limited to):
- The program administrator's name and personality are different - the subplot of Kitano's family and his love for Noriko is not present in Kinpatsu Sakamochi - the equivalent character - in the novel. Additionally, Sakamochi had no previous relationship with the class, and is significantly more sadistic than Kitano.
- Kazuo Kiriyama is a transfer student in the film (playing voluntarily), whereas in the novel he was a member of the class. He also occasionally smiles sadistically, which his novel and manga counterparts are incapable of, suggesting the brain-damage preventing him from emoting in the novel is not present. Kazuo in the film does not, however, speak on any occasion, though he does in the novel. In the movie, one gets the impression that Kazuo is only a cold-blooded sadistic killer, while in the novel several things imply that he is suffering from pseudopsychopathic disorder due to the brain-injury he got from a car-crash/in utero (in the manga/novel, respectively). His inability to emote, empathize or project morality are some things that suggests this theory. For example, in the novel he says that he let a coin decide when ever he should fight back against the government or participate in the game.
- Mitsuko's killing of Hirono Shimizu in the film - as opposed to Toshinori Oda killing Hirono in the novel - replaces a scene in the book in which Hiroki confronts Mitsuko over Chigusa's death shortly before he locates Kotohiki, though she escapes him.
- In the film, Kazuo does not kill Mizuho Inada, and Hirono does not kill Kaori Minami. Instead, Mizuho and Kaori form a team and kill each other over a life-preserver.
- The film depicts the students as residents of the Kanagawa Prefecture, as Mimura's postcard reveals a mailing address in the name of "Mr. Sinji Mimura" in Kanagawa Prefecture. With the exception of Shogo Kawada, most students in the film speak Kantō ben, the dialect of the Eastern Kantō region, which includes Kanagawa. The novel and manga set Shiroiwa in the rural Kagawa Prefecture, on Shikoku island.
- Various students start with different weapons and die in different manners. Almost every student is given a back-ground in the novel, whereas only the significant characters receive them in the film.
- The 'victory' dead-line is changed from the book; in the film, the students are given three days to win, while in the book, the only dead-line is that at least one student be killed every twenty-four hours. Further, only one class participates per year in the film, whereas it is fifty in the novel.
- In the film, the "police state" overtones are toned down (but are still notably present), while the idea of a major social and economic up-heaval being the cause of the story's events is introduced in the beginning.
- The school-uniforms featured in the film differ from the ones featured in the novel.
- In the book Kazuo is killed by Noriko and Shogo after a large shoot-out and car chase (the latter being fully absent in the film), while in the film Shogo Kawada kills Kiriyama.
- The Battle Royale logo is never described in the book.
- There is no "introductory video" in the novel. The rules of the Battle Royale are simply read out in the class-room by Sakamochi.
- Shogo mentions he was not with Keiko Onuki during the previous game in the book, also he makes no mention of killing a friend so they could both survive.
- Noriko is shot in the leg in the book, but is shot in the arm in the movie.
- The film portrays Mitsuko's coldness as having stemmed from her youth during which she inadvertently kills a man to avoid being raped after she is pimped by her mother for money. In the novel, Mitsuko is unable to escape several incidents of rape in which she is a brain-washed and love-starved participant.
- In the film, the Battle Royale act is introduced to deal with widely spread delinquency in young citizens. In the novel, the participants are initially told that the Battle Royale is a simulated battle-exercise used to obtain data for use by the military, and the mandatory entry is a replacement for conscription. How ever, a character is later told that the true purpose to keep the totalitarian government in control, by inspiring citizens to fear and distrust each other.
- In the novel the character Hiroki Sugimura is adept at martial arts and utilizes this skill in several scenes; no mention is made of it in the movie.
- In the film, Shogo initially runs off after saving Shuya from Kyoichi and they meet later when Noriko is ill. In the novel, they stay together after this encounter and travel to a medical clinic when Noriko is ill.
- In the film, Shogo immediately returns after leaving saying that he was given the wrong day pack and receives a new one. His exit is not mentioned at all in the novel.
Status of distribution in North America
Despite rumors to the contrary, the film is not banned within the USA or North America, as such a ban would be illegal under the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Rather, there has never been a distribution agreement for the film, due to its controversial nature and reportedly unreasonable distribution terms specified by Toei (specifically the price of distribution being somewhere between 1-2 million dollars and that it must be a wide release on the order of wikipedia:Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). This, incidentally is not the first of Toei's controversial moves in regards to its properties and the western market. These two stipulations put it outside of the range of most smaller film distributors, and the larger distributors would not handle the film. Therefore, technically the film is not banned, but neither does a local distributor for it exist. It has been exhibited at film festivals in North America. Nonetheless, 'bootleg' copies of the film imported from China and Hong Kong have widespread availability on the continent, and the Special Edition DVD was carried to a limited extent by retailers such as HMV in Canada and Tower Records in the United States; the legal status of this edition is not clear. Also, the film's UK distributor, Tartan Films, has released an all-region NTSC DVD version of the film that is available in North America from speciality outlets. One widely available Hong Kong import is a special edition that contains both films, although it lacks English subtitles.
Issues regarding translation
There are some minor issues with subtitling in the film. Perhaps the most apparent is that the subtitles are often grainy and difficult to see on some editions of the film, particularly VHS and VCD versions. The situation is slightly better on some DVD copies, where the subtitles are programmed in rather than burned in. There are also some issues with poor translation on the Korean Starmax release, where it descends into Engrish at times.
One place where the subtitles lose some of their meaning is the lighthouse scene, where the breakdown of civility is conveyed using levels of politeness of the Japanese language known as keigo.
Characters And Cast
Boy #1 Yoshio Akamatsu - Shin Kusaka
Boy #2 Keita Iijima - Ren Matsuzawa
Boy #3 Tatsumichi Oki - Gouki Nishimura
Boy #4 Toshinori Oda - Shigehiro Yamaguchi
Boy #5 Shogo Kawada - Taro Yamamoto
Boy #7 Yoshitoki Kuninobu - Yukihio Kotani
Boy #8 Yoji Kuramoto - Osamu Ohnishi
Boy #9 Hiroshi Kuronaga - Yuuki Masuda
Boy #10 Ryuhei Sasagawa - Shirou Gou
Boy #11 Hiroki Sugimura - Sousuke Takaoka
Boy #12 Yutaka Seto - Yutaka Shimada
Boy #13 Yuichiro Takiguchi - Junichi Naitou
Boy #14 Sho Tsukioka - Shigeki Hirokawa
Boy #16 Kazushi Niida - Hirohito Honda
Boy #17 Mitsuru Numai - Yousuke Shibata
Boy #18 Tadakatsu Hatagami - Satoshi Yokomichi
Boy #19 Shinji Mimura - Takashi Tsukamoto
Boy #20 Kyoichi Motobuchi - Ryou Nitta
Boy #21 Kazuhiko Yamamoto - Yasuomi Sano
Girl #2 Yukie Utsumi - Eri Ishikawa
Girl #4 Sakura Ogawa - Tomomi Shimaki
Girl #5 Izumi Kanai - Tamaki Mihara
Girl #6 Yukiko Kitano - Yukari Kanasawa
Girl #7 Yumiko Kusaka - Misao Kato
Girl #8 Kayoko Kotohiki - Takayo Mimura
Girl #9 Yuko Sakaki - Hitomi Hyuga
Girl #10 Hirono Shimizu - Anna Nagata
Girl #12 Haruka Tanizawa - Satomi Ishii
Girl #16 Yuka Nakagawa - Satomi Hanamura
Girl #17 Satomi Noda - Sayaka Kamiya
Girl #18 Fumiyo Fujiyoshi - Aki Inoue
Administrator of BR Kitano - Takeshi Kitano
A director's cut has been released (referred to as "Special Version" in most markets), which has eight extra minutes of running time. Inserted scenes include:
- Flashbacks to a basketball game which is used as a framework for the entire story.
- A flashback that explains Mitsuko's actions.
- Three epilogues (referred to as "requiems"). The first is an extension of the basketball scene. The second is a vision of Nobu telling Shuya to take care of Noriko. The third is a scene between Kitano and Noriko, who talk casually by a riverbank.
- Extra blood added using CGI.
In June 2006, Ain't It Cool News website reported that New Line Cinema along with producers Neil Moritz and Roy Lee intend to produce an "Americanized" adaptation of the film. The remake rights have been bought, with release tentatively set for 2008.
- Hirohito Honda, who plays Kazushi Niida, is the only actor from this movie to make the transition to Tokusatsu. He appeared in Kamen Rider Faiz, episode 26-45 as an antagonizing Orphenoch. The others came from Battle Royale II: Requiem.
- A Battle Royale fansite , reported that the creators of the sequel postponed the release of the DVD (originally scheduled for June 9, 2004) to later that year, due to 'current events' which at the time was the killing by an 11-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, known as Nevada-tan, of her classmate Satomi Mitarai. The killer was a fan of Battle Royale.
- American director Quentin Tarantino wrote the characters of Gogo Yubari and her sister, Yuki, for his film Kill Bill Vol. 1. The role of Gogo was given to Chiaki Kuriyama, who plays Takako in Battle Royale. According to a fan website for Kou Shibasaki, who plays Mitsuko, Kou was invited to appear as Yuki but was unavailable, resulting in that character being eliminated from the film. Interestingly, in both these movies, Kuriyama has shown a trademark of always stabbing a person of the opposite sex in the genitals. Takako in Battle Royale stabbed Kazushi, while as Gogo she stabbed a barfly hitting on her.It is more than likely that he made the roles specifically for Chiaki and Kou as Tarantino even stated in an interview that his favourite film was battle royale. Also in Kill Bill, there are many references to Battle Royale made by Gogo.
- Quentin Tarantino stated, in an interview, that he was told by Kinji Fukasaku that when Koushun Takami wrote the lighthouse scene of the original novel, Takami was influenced by the final stand-off in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (which was itself influenced by Ringo Lam's earlier Hong Kong film City on Fire). In turn, the tavern scene in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds may have been influenced by the lighthouse scene in Battle Royale.
- A reference to Battle Royale appears in Shaun of the Dead. When Shaun and Ed are being attacked by a zombie in their flat, a stylized poster from Battle Royale is on their wall. Another reference that occurs later on is when Shaun uses his tie to secure a wound he received when he got a dart in his head, the wrap looking much like the head wrap for Kawada in the film. Most American viewers would see the appearance of the tie wrapped around his head being a reference to the Rambo character from First Blood, but Simon Pegg himself states that it was a reference to The Deer Hunter. At one point in the film, a few seconds of Pegg wearing the tie, cigarette in mouth, checking a switch in semi-darkness almost exactly parallel a few from Battle Royale.
- Box office gross: ¥16,950,701,800. No. 8 in the 10 highest grossing Japanese films of all time.
- In the movie Accepted, when Bartleby Gaines asks what the organisers of the fictional "South Harmon Institute of Technology" should do about the 300+ students, Glen replies "Battle Royale."
- The animé series School Rumble Ni Gakki features a spoof of "Battle Royale" in episodes 2 and 3. The main characters of the series all engage on a 'survival game' to determine what the theme of their gig for the year's culture fest is going to be. They capture the spirit of the film with School Rumble's unique comedic air, down to characters revealing their love for one another before dying and characters committing suicide mid-game.
- Battle Royale is referenced in Thank You For Smoking, where the Boss's nickname is "BR". The exact quote is, "The name, BR, came from the tour he went to in Vietnam. Everyone who knows it's meaning is dead." The only mistake is that Battle Royale isn't Vietnamese, but Japanese. During the narration of this description a black and white photo of BR's squadron is shown with red crosses parodying the class photo displayed during the ending credits of Battle Royale.
- The Latin Spanish Translation of Battle Royale is known for having many dialog mistakes as well as sound censor during battles, instead of listening to blood spill and stabs, thrusts and vomit, the sounds were replaced by battle music.