Title: Battle Royale
Author: Koushun Takami
Page Count/Review Word Count: 623
You’d be forgiven if you heard about Battle Royale because of the movie adaptation – after all, that’s where I first heard about it, too. And if you’ve seen the movie then you know what to expect – the essential plot is still the same, even if the book does differ from the movie throughout in terms of how the students fare along the way, and so you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Put simply, Battle Royale is like a mixture between a Roman coliseum and Lord of the Flies, but with modern technology thrown in for good measure. It’s also a bit like The Hunger Games, only more original. In it, we follow what happens to a class full of schoolchildren when they’re forced to fight each other in a hellish game for survival, where there can be only one winner. The participants are each given a weapon and some basic supplies, and they’re fitted with an explosive neck bracelet which can kill them for any number of reasons, including failure to participate and attempting to escape. It’s not the best situation to be in, really.
Now that you know the plot, let’s get into the writing. Takami’s style is a lot of fun, and the translation of it (by Yuji Oniki) is carried out with verve and aplomb, although it’s hard for me to say whether he was able to convey all of the nuances from the original into the English language. Translations are always weird, because I never know how much to credit the author and how much to credit the translator – in many ways, a translated book is the perfect hybrid of two different authors with distinct styles, and something that can’t easily be replicated.
Either way, the writing here is of a top quality, and it’s easily readable throughout, despite the relatively long length of the novel. Oh, sure, it’ll take you a good old while to read it, but what’s the problem? As long as you’re enjoying yourself along the way, then who cares about the length of the journey?
One of the interesting things to note about Battle Royale is the way in which, despite the large cast of characters who are all destined for eventual death by the end of the novel, Takami has done a great job at the characterisation. They come alive in front of you and start to feel like they could be classmates of yours from your own schooldays Or maybe that’s just me.
Either way, this is the sort of book that everyone should read, but that very few people actually do. It’s like a secret that you want to share with people, but that you also want to keep to yourself, and I can’t imagine what it must be like in its mother tongue. In many ways, I don’t want to – it was vivid enough as it stood.
I still have a hundred words to fill out, and I can’t think of anything else to say except that I think you should go read it. It’s a bit like Japanese Irvine Welsh, only easier to understand – it’s hard to draw too many similarities between this and western literature, because they’re both raised on a completely different set of influences. Because of that, it’s a little bit like cuisine – you should read this, because you’ll taste something that you’ve never tasted before, no matter how many imitations you’ve read. But it’s a delicacy – it’s not for everyone.
For me it was a 9/10, and the only reason that it’s not a ten is because I can’t read it in Japanese.