Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What Do They Call a Big Mac in Japan, or Thoughts on Battle Royale バトル・ロワイアル

If you find yourself weary of watching teens fall in love in the midst of killing each other off in dystopian futures, the Japanese movie Battle Royale (2000, バトルロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru) is to blame.  Based on author Koushon Takami’s 1999 novel of the same name and from director Kinji Fukasaku of Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Battle Royale takes place in an alternate Japan where the most popular TV show is the country’s annual teen murder lottery.  A class is selected, gassed, fitted with exploding GPS collars, dropped off on an island, and ordered to fight to the death.  The students are also given a variety of weapons ranging from crossbows to frying pans.
The movie has slasher violence mixed with martial arts action and (these are teens, remember) a number of romantic sub-plots that end up in suicide or murder.  Unlike a Western slasher featuring a supernatural entity like Freddy Kreuger or unstoppable killers like Michael Meyers or Jason and his hockey mask killing teens, in true Japanese efficiency Battle Royale eliminates the middleman and just has them kill each other.
Battle Royale appeals to adults because, let’s face it, grownups hate teens, and to younger audiences because it is essentially a live action video game.  There are tasks, problems to solve, goals to achieve; the entire movie is structured like a game down to the televised death notice/score cards.  And when hasn’t high school been a life or death situation in terms of drama or young romance?  All this movie did was take it literally.

Battle Royale’s influence on western cinema is vast, from a movie poster in Shaun’s flat from Shaun of the Dead (2004) to Chiaki Kuriyama reinterpreting her role from Battle Royale as GoGo Yubari in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003).  And most significantly, there are those three movies about that girl with the bow and arrow who was always hungry.  I suppose all of these movies can be interpreted as a broad metaphor for the draft or national conscription; feeding on the teen paranoia that we all want to get rid of them.  What are we to do with this surplus of young people what with their apps and dubstep and crazy text lingo?  The answer is elegantly simple (at least in Battle Royale):  kill them off.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).