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Battle Royale

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For related entries, see Battle Royale (disambiguation).
Battle Royale
File:Battle royale pochette.jpg
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Produced by Kenta Fukasaku
Kinji Fukasaku
Kimio Kataoka
Chie Kobayashi
Toshio Nabeshima
Written by Novel:
Koushun Takami
Screenplay:
Kenta Fukasaku
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara
Aki Maeda
Taro Yamamoto
Takeshi Kitano
Masanobu Ando
Music by Masamichi Amano
Cinematography Katsumi Yanagishima
Editing by Hirohide Abe
Distributed by Toei
Release date(s) Japan: December 16, 2000
Running time Theatrical Cut:
114 min.
Director's Cut:
122 min.
Country Japan
Language Japanese
English
Budget $4,500,000 (estimated)
Followed by Battle Royale II: Requiem

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru rowaiaru?) is a film released on December 16, 2000, in Japan — based on the novel of the same name — released on April 22, 1999, in Japan. The film was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and stars 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 music soundtracks for both movies were composed, arranged and conducted by Masamichi Amano, performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra 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.[1]

PlotEdit

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 fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted the school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act AKA: The BR Act. .."

(It should be noted that for a Japanese audience, even in the late 1990s, after decades of very low unemployment and usually lifelong work with a single company, a 15% unemployment rate would have called to mind a collapsed society)

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.
File:BR1 Yoshitoki Shuya Noriko Classroom.jpg

The film centers around Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), 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, Yoshitoki "Nobu" Kuninobu (Yukihiro Kotani), attacks their teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano), but runs away before he can be identified. Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda), a sweet, reserved young girl who happens to witness the incident, hides the knife that Nobu has just attacked Kitano with. Kitano, frustrated, resigns.

File:BR1 Shogo Kazuo BagExchange.jpg

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, kidnapped, and taken to an isolated island, and fitted with metallic collars. 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, they have been selected as participants in Battle Royale, a game created by the Millennial Educational Reform Act (better known as the Battle Royale Act) where the students must kill each other until only one is left. One class from the country per year is selected to participate in the program. If, after three days, a winner is not declared, everyone dies by way of the explosive collars attached to each student's neck, which also prevent the students entering certain areas of the field of participation, the idea being to force students to encounter one another. (These instructions are delivered by a cute, smiling girl via a video, who behaves like a kindergarten teacher and refers to herself as their "big sister". After killing a student, Fumiyo Fujiyoshi, for whispering, thus proving his seriousness, Kitano detonates Nobu's collar, killing him. One by one, each student leaves the school, having been provided with survival packs and a random weapon. Then 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, the object of Nobu's affection. The pair eventually team up with Shogo Kawada (Taro Yamamoto), a seasoned warrior with an agenda (he reveals that he is out to avenge the death of his girlfriend, who sacrificed herself for him in a previous game). Elsewhere, class president Yukie Utsumi (Eri Ishikawa) gathers up a group of girls and decides to hide in an abandoned lighthouse, while junior revolutionary Shinji Mimura (Takashi Tsukamoto) gathers his friends and plans to blow up the school (along with Kitano), thereby liberating the students.

File:ShuyaandNorikotogether.jpg

Some students are all too willing to play the game. They include a mute boy named Kazuo Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), who has signed up for fun and kills without remorse, and a troubled femme fatale named Mitsuko Souma (Kou Shibasaki) who has taken it upon herself to win the game, using everything she has at her disposal, especially her sexuality.

Still other students accept their fate. While some commit suicide, a student named Hiroki Sugimura (Sousuke Takaoka) decides to make the best of his final hours, and seeks out his best friend, Takako Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama), and the girl he loves, Kayoko Kotohiki (Takayo Mimura).

One by one, each of the students die, until only Shuya, Noriko, and Kawada are left after a final battle between the two transfer students. 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 is unsurprised to see that Shuya and Noriko have survived, having realised Kawada's plan. He reveals that he had hoped that Noriko would survive, as his daughter, Shiori, hates him - he sees Noriko as the daughter he never had. Not wanting to return home, he orders Shuya to kill him, which he eventually does when Kitano threatens Noriko with a gun, which is revealed as he falls to be a water pistol. Following a final conversation with Shiori, in which he tells her one must accept the consequences of hating someone, he dies.

The remaining trio escapes the island on a boat, but Kawada succumbs to his wounds and dies after teaching Shuya how to pilot the boat. As he dies, he reveals that in Shuya and Noriko he accomplished his goal of discovering why Keiko sacrificed herself for him - she, like he now, had finally found true friends and was willing to give up her life for them. Shuya and Noriko make it to land, where they become fugitives wanted for murder. Together, they go on the run. Template:End spoiler

CastEdit

File:ShiroiwaClassB.jpg
Actor Role
Tatsuya Fujiwara Shuya Nanahara
Aki Maeda Noriko Nakagawa
Taro Yamamoto Shogo Kawada
Sousuke Takaoka Hiroki Sugimura
Kou Shibasaki Mitsuko Souma
Masanobu Ando Kazuo Kiriyama
Chiaki Kuriyama Takako Chigusa
Takeshi Kitano Kitano

For a complete list of characters see List of characters in Battle Royale

ProductionEdit

Most of the film was shot on Toei's soundstages or in nearby Tokyo. The island itself was Hachijo-Kojima, one of the Izu islands.[2]

Differences between the original book and the filmEdit

Differences between the original book include (though are 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 neither had any 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 feeling emotion in the novel is not present. Kazuo in the film does not however speak on any occasion, though he does in the novel.
  • Mitsuko's encounter with Hirono Shimizu - in which the former kills the latter, as opposed to Toshinori Oda killing Hirono as in the novel - in the film replaces a scene in the book in which Hiroki confronts Mitsuko over Chigusa's death shortly before he locates Kotohiki, though she escapes him.
  • Various students start with different weapons and die in different manners.
  • The 'victory' deadline is changed from the book; in the film, the students are given three days to win, while in the book, the only deadline is that at least one student be killed every twenty-four hours. Further, only one class participates per year in the film, where as it is fifty in the novel.
  • In the film, the "police state" overtones are toned down (but are still noticeably present), while the idea of a major social and economic upheaval being the cause of the story's events is introduced.
  • The school uniforms featured in the film are different than the ones featured in the novel.
  • In the book Kazuo is killed by Noriko and Shogo after a large shootout 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 seen in the book.
  • 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.

DistributionEdit

Status of distribution in North AmericaEdit

Despite rumors to the contrary, the film is not banned within the USA 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 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 movie 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 a 'Special Edition DVD' of the film 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 specialty outlets. One widely available Hong Kong import is a special edition without English subtitles that contains both Battle Royale and its sequel.


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.[3]

Issues regarding translationEdit

There are some minor issues with subtitling. 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, although the translations on the Special Edition DVDs varies greatly, for instance between the UK Tartan release and the Korean Starmax release.

In the lighthouse scene the breakdown of civility is conveyed using varying levels of expressed politeness in the Japanese language (keigo), however English lacks an equivalent and the subtitles fail to convey the subtle meaning.

Special VersionEdit

A special version of the film was released after the original which has eight extra minutes of running time. Unusually, the extra material includes scenes newly filmed after the release of the original. Inserted scenes include (but are not limited to):

  • 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.
  • Additional shots of the lighthouse after the shootout
  • Additional reaction shots in the classroom, and extensions to existing shots.
  • Extra CGI throughout the film

ReceptionEdit

Battle Royale was labeled "crude and tasteless" by members of Japanese parliament and other government officials after the film was screened for them.[4] The film created a debate over government action on media violence.

Battle Royale grossed ¥3.11 billion domestically.[5]

At the 2001 Japanese Academy Awards the film was nominated for best film, best direction, best script, best starring actor (Tatsuya Fujiwara), best soundtrack (Masamichi Oshima), and best sound recording (Kunio Ando). The film won best editing (Hirohide Abe), Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda won rookie of the year, and Battle Royale won the audience popularity prize for a film.[6]

The film has a 78% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The detracting critics point out the plot holes and that there is nothing but action. Critics note its relation to the increasingly extreme trend in Asian cinema and its similarity to reality television.[7]

RemakeEdit

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 book. The remake rights have been bought, with release tentatively set for 2008. In a July New York Times article, Lee assured Battle Royale fans of his respect for the original work, and stated that despite earlier concern the characters would still be young teenagers and that he would draw additional plot elements from the novel.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Director's statement at the Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2006-12-30.
  2. Battleroyalefilm.com. Retrieved on 2007-01-02.
  3. Japan schoolgirl killer 'sorry'. BBC News. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  4. Leong, Anthony (2001). Battle Royale Movie Review. Issue 33 of Asian Cult Cinima. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
  5. J. T., Testar (June 2002). Japan Goes to the Movies (PDF) pp. 1. The Journal. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
  6. 24th Japanese Academy Awards (in Japanese). Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  7. Korsner, Jason (2001-09-13). Battle Royale (2001). BBC. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.

External linksEdit

Template:Battle Royale

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