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Review – Battle Royale by Houshun Takami

Battle Royale
by Houshun Takami
624 pages
Published February 26, 2003
Fiction, translated

I picked up Battle Royale by Houshun Takami because I heard rumors that The Hunger Games basically copied its idea from Battle Royale. I also heard Battle Royale was fanfreakingtastic, so I would be sleuthing and having merriment all at the same time! Huzzah!

Battle Royale is about 42 kids, 21 male and 21 female, all the same age, all in the same junior high class, who get taken by the government and taken to an island for a government program. The program is that they have to kill each other until there’s only one kid left. The story takes place in a futuristic fascist Japan, so there’s certainly some commentary on fascism itself, and how much control a country needs over its citizens to keep them under control.

With 42+ characters, the beginning can be a bit confusing. But the characters that the author wants you to focus on really come to life as you learn their history, their feelings, their hopes, and their dreams.

There’s a certain amount of “What would I do in this situation?” that begs to be asked while you’re reading this book. Would you become someone who hunted other classmates?

I just decided to take instead of being taken. It’s not a question of good or bad, wrong or right. It’s just what I want to do.

Most of you have probably read The Hunger Games, and while there are quite a few similarities, Battle Royale is a COMPLETELY different book from The Hunger Games. You can’t even compare the two, so don’t even try. Yes, The Hunger Games probably stole some ideas from Battle Royale, but who cares? They’re both fantastic in their own way.

This book is exactly what Stephen King said it would be: “…an insanely entertaining pulp riff…”. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was wondering what would happen next. Yes, the translation wasn’t the best, but after the first 100 pages, I didn’t even notice it. I’ve seen a newer translation of this book, and folks have said the newer translation is better.

I loved the questions this book asked, the reasoning the government had for doing this program, the ideas why the program continued to run despite the fact that the people didn’t want the program to continue, and the groups that banded together to try and survive.

One of the things I think the author does well is remind us that this isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. The book is FUN, and the author certainly has a sense of humor. For example, each kid, before they’re released onto the island, is given a backpack with one weapon and some supplies. One kid’s backpack only has a fork as the weapon, and another kid has some darts and a dart board. Unfortunately for them, other backpacks have guns.

It’s really interesting to see people’s morality and humanity break down. A common problem that the kids have is who they can trust. Can they trust their best friend? Can they trust the kid they’ve never talked to? More than having to kill each other, this is what drives most of the kids crazy.

Yes, there’s gore and there’s violence. But don’t let that stop you from reading this “…insanely entertaining…” book. The gore and violence can be skipped over, and they don’t go on for pages and chapters. Rather, you’ll skip a couple of paragraphs and be on with the story. In regards to violence, I wanted to point out a paragraph from Jessica’s review of Battle Royale.

First, horror tends to be heavy on the morals.  Any character who exhibits hubris, stupidity, lust, greed, vanity, or other vices is guaranteed to snuff it – and this is usually at least somewhat funny.  Second, there is always going to be an unstoppable dark force that just keeps coming at you, even past the point of credulity.  Horror is definitely not supposed to be believable!  If it’s a scary story and it seems completely plausible, it probably falls under suspense or drama.  Horror tends to have elements of fantasy, dark comedy, and occasionally steamy romance.

I loved this book. If the gore won’t bother you or if you can skip the gorey parts, make sure you read this book!

Rating: 95 out of 100

Other reviews:

Medieval Bookworm

Bermudaonion’s Weblog

My Friend Amy

Steph Su Reads

Book source: I bought this book myself.

And one more thing? If you click on one of the Battle Royale links and buy something from Amazon, I’ll make a commission!

You can thank the FTC for this disclosure!

27 comments »

27 Responses to “Review – Battle Royale by Houshun Takami”

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)

    You liked this better than I did, but I’m glad I read it. Thanks for the link love!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Of course! I especially like reviews that don’t mirror my own feelings. 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. raych

    My library doesn’t have this, so I’ve been on the look-out for a copy at the used book store. I’ve been wanting it for the same reasons you did: for sleuthing purposes, and because it gets romping good reviews.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Maybe a copy will land on your doorstep with a thud! Who knows!

    [Reply]

  3. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    LOL you almost make it sound it sound like a light fluffy read which isn’t exactly how I’d characterize it. 🙂

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    No, it’s definitely not light and fluffy. But I did love it! 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Pam

    I have really been meaning to pick this up. I don’t mind gore so much.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I think you’d totally love it!

    [Reply]

  5. heidenkind

    I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for YEARS. Some day I’ll get to it….

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Move that book up in the priorities, lady!

    [Reply]

  6. Lenore

    The real question is: Have you seen the movie?

    I have (though I haven’t read the book yet) and it is brutal, yet infused with wacky japanese humour.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I haven’t! Obviously I must do that soon. 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. Sandy

    I think someone called this a “rated R Hunger Games”, but it sounds like a bit more than that! The clincher for me was when you issued a quote from Stephen King, my go-to guy for the most gut-wrenching reads!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Yeah, like I said, I wouldn’t compare it to Hunger Games, though I can see why some would do that. And I totally think Stephen King has great taste. I mean, he loved Hunger Games!! 🙂

    [Reply]

  8. Beth F

    Hanging my head in shame — I must get back to this one!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    LOL!! Gosh, if I’d known I would have called you out! 😉

    [Reply]

  9. Amber Stults

    I never read the book but saw the movie and loved it.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Oohh!! Another vote for the movie! Obviously I need to rearrange my priorities and see the movie! *laughs*

    [Reply]

  10. Cam (epiBloguer)

    Cool… never heard of this book. I really loved the Hunger Games (like everyone else I guess), so this would be an interesting “variation” sounds like.

    I did see an interview with S. Collins where she explained how she got the idea, Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” style, so I totally think it’s legit. =)

    Awesome that there’s a movie too… have to check that out. =)

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I’ll have to look for that interview with Suzanne Collins. Would love to hear the story from her mouth!

    [Reply]

  11. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    You read this book for EXACTLY the same reasons I almost read it. I checked it out from the library over the summer, but ended up having to return it unread. I should go find it again.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    You totally should! I think you would definitely like it. 🙂

    [Reply]

  12. Jeane

    I haven’t read Hunger Games yet, but they both sound really intriguing! I had no idea it had taken ideas from a Japanese story. For some reason, when I read your review I started thinking of Lord of the Flies…. except they didn’t get handed weapons there.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Oh, this book has definitely been compared to Lord of the Flies, and I think that’s a fair comparison.

    BUT, you MUST read The Hunger Games!! It’s so so awesome, and I promise you you’ll be asking yourself why you waited so long to read them.

    [Reply]

  13. Kirsten

    I read this before reading The Hunger Games, which definitely tainted my appreciation for the latter the first time around. A second reading (during the last readathon, actually) made it easier for me to separate them and appreciate them as two completely separate works. Glad you loved Battle Royale; I’d place it in my top ten books of all time, if not top five!

    [Reply]

  14. zibilee

    I’ve heard conflicting things on this book, so I am very glad to hear that it was such a great read for you! It does sound like something that I would really like, and I am looking forward to getting the chance to read it. Great and exuberant review! Your enthusiasm for the book is contagious!

    [Reply]

  15. Clover

    I bought this the other day and I swear the book is leering at me from my bookshelf. I’m dying to read it, I think it’ll be great fun. But it is kinda chunky. Maybe after the readathon..

    And I will definitely be looking out for the movie when I’m finished!

    [Reply]

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