Battle Royale (|バトル・ロワイアル, Batoru Rowaiaru) is a novel written by Japanese author Koushun Takami. It was first published in Japan in April 1999, and it is one of Japan's best-selling and most controversial novels. It later formed the basis for a cult film (which spawned a sequel), and has been adapted as a 15-volume manga series, later adapted into English by Keith Giffen and published by TOKYOPOP, which itself now has a sequel.
The Viz book was re-released in 2009 with over 50 new pages, special features (including interviews with the original Japanese author & movie director), and some revised text (cleaning up translation issues mainly).
Battle Royale takes place in an alternate timeline; according to the book's prologue, Japan is a police state, known as the Republic of Greater East Asia (大東亜共和国 Dai Tōa Kyōwakoku). From time to time, fifty randomly selected classes of secondary school students are forced to take arms against one another until only one student in each class remains. The program was created, supposedly, as a form of military research, though the outcome of each battle is publicized on local television. A character discovers that the program is not an experiment at all, but a means of terrorizing the population. In theory, after seeing such atrocities, the people will become paranoid and divided, preventing an organized rebellion.
Under the guise of a 'study trip', a group of students from Shiroiwa Junior High School (城岩中学校 Shiroiwa Chūgakkō), a junior high school operated by the fictional town of Shiroiwa (in Kagawa Prefecture), are corralled onto a bus and gassed, only to awaken in a school on an isolated, evacuated island, wearing metal collars around their necks. After being briefed about the program, the students are issued survival packs (along with a random weapon or a tool) and sent out the island one by one. While most of the students receive guns and knives, some students acquire relatively useless items like boomerangs, some common dartboard darts, or a fork. In some cases, instead of a weapon, the student receives a tool; Hiroki Sugimura finds a radar that tracks nearby students, and Toshinori Oda receives a bulletproof vest.
To make sure the students obey the rules and kill each other, the metal collars around their necks track their positions, and will explode if they linger in a 'Forbidden Zone' or attempt to remove the collars. The Forbidden Zones are randomly chosen areas of the map that increase in number as time goes on, re-sculpting and shrinking the battlefield and forcing the students to move around. The collars secretly transmit sound back to the organizers of the game, allowing them to hear the students' conversations, root out escape plans, and log their activities.
The students are also given a time limit. If twenty-four hours pass without someone being killed, then all of the collars will be detonated simultaneously and there will be no winner. It is mentioned that only 0.5% of Programs end in this fashion.
In the end, only four students remain: Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, Shogo Kawada, and antagonist Kazuo Kiriyama. There is a car chase and shootout between the three main characters and Kazuo. Kiriyama is killed, and soon Kawada succumbs to his wounds and dies, as well. Heeding Kawada's advice to "show no mercy," Shuya and Noriko board a nearby ship, kill the soldiers on board, and escape to the mainland, where they become fugitives.
|1||Yoshio Akamatsu||1||Mizuho Inada|
|2||Keita Iijima||2||Yukie Utsumi|
|3||Tatsumichi Oki||3||Megumi Eto|
|4||Toshinori Oda||4||Sakura Ogawa|
|5||Shogo Kawada||5||Izumi Kanai|
|6||Kazuo Kiriyama||6||Yukiko Kitano|
|7||Yoshitoki Kuninobu||7||Yumiko Kusaka|
|8||Yoji Kuramoto||8||Kayoko Kotohiki|
|9||Hiroshi Kuronaga||9||Yuko Sakaki|
|10||Ryuhei Sasagawa||10||Hirono Shimizu|
|11||Hiroki Sugimura||11||Mitsuko Souma|
|12||Yutaka Seto||12||Haruka Tanizawa|
|13||Yuichiro Takiguchi||13||Takako Chigusa|
|14||Sho Tsukioka||14||Mayumi Tendo|
|15||Shuya Nanahara||15||Noriko Nakagawa|
|16||Kazushi Niida||16||Yuka Nakagawa|
|17||Mitsuru Numai||17||Satomi Noda|
|18||Tadakatsu Hatagami||18||Fumiyo Fujiyoshi|
|19||Shinji Mimura||19||Chisato Matsui|
|20||Kyoichi Motobuchi||20||Kaori Minami|
|21||Kazuhiko Yamamoto||21||Yoshimi Yahagi|
Every year since 1947, fifty 3rd year Junior High School (15 year olds) classes (47 classes were chosen before 1950) are chosen to participate in The Program. Each class is isolated, and its students are required to fight to the death until one remains. The survivor is the Program's "Winner". Of around 2,000 participants per year, 42 students - one per class - survive. To ensure students obey, an explosive metal collar is fixed around each student's neck. This collar will explode, killing the student, if they try to escape, or break certain rules. Students are also given a time-limit. If twenty-four hours pass without someone dying, then all collars will be detonated simultaneously and there will be no winner. It is mentioned that 0.5% of Programs end in this fashion. A Program supervisor announces new deaths every six hours.
The "Program" is officially a military research program. At the end of the story Kinpatsu Sakamochi states that the Program is actually a means of terrorizing the population, with the idea that routinely witnessing such atrocities will cause people to become too paranoid and divided to stage an organized rebellion.
There are a few students who seem to have known about the program:
- Early in the story, in a flashback, Yoshitoki Kuninobu and Shuya Nanahara (along with the other children from the orphanage) witness a broadcast of the winner in the program before Shogo Kawada's.
- Shogo Kawada was the winner of the last program. Unfortunately, he was held back in the ninth grade and was selected to be in the current program.
- Sakura Ogawa is seen telling Kazuhiko Yamamoto that she bet on a girl in the last program, who died the next day.
Each Battle Royale student is fitted with an explosive metal collar identified as the Guadalcanal-22. Its likely namesake is the Pacific island of Guadalcanal, the focus of a decisive battle between the United States and Japan during World War II. This collar will explode, killing the wearer, if:
- someone tries to remove it.
- the wearer lingers in a Danger Zone.
- a special signal is sent to it.
Secondary functions include monitoring life signs and allowing the organisers to listen in on students via a built in microphone. The collar also emits a tracking signal, allowing the organisers and the student given the tracking device (Hiroki Sugimura) to monitor student positions.
The Guadalcanal-22 directly influences Battle Royale's narrative on two occasions:
- Kazuo Kiriyama lures Sho Tsukioka into an area shortly before it becomes a Danger Zone. Through deception, Kiriyama is able to escape unseen and exit the Danger Zone, while Tsukioka waits. Tsukioka notices the deception too late, and is killed when his collar explodes.
- Shinji Mimura's plan to hack the organisers' computer system is thwarted when he is overheard discussing it with Yutaka Seto. The organisers are able to block Mimura's attempt, forcing him to develop a new plan, while alerting him to the built in microphone.
The collar more subtly influences the narrative, by making escape tangibly impossible.
Each Battle Royale student is issued with a map divided into a coded grid. Danger Zones are randomly chosen grid-sectors which are declared off-limits to students.
If a student enters a Danger Zone, or fails to leave in time, their collar will explode, killing the student. Once an area becomes a Danger Zone, it remains for the rest of the game. Consequently, the number of Danger Zones increases as the game progresses, forcing students to move around in an ever shrinking battlefield.
- The school headquarters are declared a permanent Danger Zone as soon as the last student leaves the area it's in. This makes it impossible for students to circumvent the game by attacking the headquarters.
- Shinji Mimura and Yutaka Seto are forced to accelerate their attack on the school headquarters when an adjoining zone is declared an impending Danger Zone.
- Sho Tsukioka is tricked into lingering in a Danger Zone, and is killed when his collar explodes.
- Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa are attacked by Tatsumichi Oki as they are exiting a Danger Zone; this leads to a series of fatal confrontations.
Takami describes the characters in the novel version as possibly being "kind of all alike," being "all the same" despite differing appearances and hobbies, and being static characters. Takami used the descriptions in contrast to the manga version, co-written by himself and Masayuki Taguchi, which he believes has a more diverse and developing cast.
B-R-U.net developed a free Internet game Battle Royale Ultimate with PHP and Perl in Japanese. This site distributed a game and it has been translated into both Simplified and Traditional Chinese by the community.
The English-language official Battle Royale site stated that it had a Flash mini-game in development.
There have been a number of adaptations into other media which themselves have spun off sequels. These include:
- Battle Royale — the film adaptation, directed by Kinji Fukasaku
- Battle Royale II: Requiem — the film sequel, directed by both Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku
- Battle Royale — the manga adaptation
- Battle Royale II: Blitz Royale — the manga sequel
- Battle Royale: Angel's Border- A manga based on the original novel
- Battle Royale — a US remake of the film.
- Battle Royale - a television series. It was announced in July 2012 that The CW has been considering developing the franchise into an hour-long dramatic series.
- Battle Royale fan website
- Official English-language Battle Royale film website
- Battle Royale Trading Card Game
- Battle Royale preview at Mangareviewer.com
- Battle Royale at The PPN