Watching ‘Battle Royale’ is like getting fingered by Fritz Graner
I have no taste for Japanese things. I don’t like anime or manga, I’m not overly attracted to Japanese women, and to be completely honest Japanese food kind of sucks. But like a brush with certain death at the hands of one of John Kramer’s ingenious traps, Battle Royale‘s bloody teen-on-teen violence is good enough to make up for its shortcomings.
I knew what to expect coming into the experience; after all, there was much hullabaloo concerning The Hunger Games‘ supposed hack job of Battle Royale‘s themes. Overall, however, I feel that Suzanne Collins did better than a blatant ripoff, since Hunger Games is largely a superior product. And besides, it’s not like these concepts haven’t been explored in great detail in other media (see: Gamer, Death Race, The Condemned, Lord of the Flies, etc). Sure Battle Royale might be the first and the bloodiest, but like Margo Stilley in 9 Songs, just because you’re more graphic does not mean you’re better.
Just like getting fisted by Popeye the Sailor Man, Battle Royale both succeeds and fails in certain aspects. I have a few general nits to pick, which, when put together, almost sink the film. But that’s just from my lame perspective. Who really knows.
First, and really the most annoying, is that these teens have absolutely unlimited ammunition for their weapons. I might have been on drugs when I watched the picture, but even then I noticed that only once or twice did a character run out of bullets; all other times they simply kept shooting, like a party with Andrew W.K. and a tub full of amphetamines.
Secondly, never did bullets make holes in anyone’s clothing. It seems like a small oversight, kind of like forgetting to mend the hedges before getting laid, but with the sheer amount of gunplay and blood present in Battle Royale, it quickly becomes irritating. Everyone’s shirts and trousers are splattered healthily with blood, but there’s no tearing or gashes visible. It’s fucking irritating.
Third and perhaps most important: there’s no sense of the larger impact of these “games.” Only once was there any mention of the bigger picture, and even then it was fleeting, just like my erection while I watched this video. I wanted desperately for Battle Royale to feature some narrative framing, but I was let down. The plot is tightly focused, which in my opinion was the wrong move.
But it’s not all bad. The major theme, I suppose, would be adults vs. children, which is presented very well. There’s a clear dichotomy between the two groups, with the adults pictured as fear-mongering megalomaniacs and the children as suicide-prone young ‘uns with about as much tactical sense as shouting that you’re “balls-deep in the butt pussy” while hammering your girlfriend.
Secondarily, senseless murder takes up position as an obvious trope. Even the main characters bite the bullet with about as much brouhaha as fapping while listening to The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could. It’s actually fairly satisfying to see characters die, because there’s a certain absurdity to it. I was never quite sure who was going to get shot, stabbed, or hang themselves next; I was constantly on edge, taking mental gambles on who was the next victim of the Battle Royale games.
It’s likewise fascinating to wonder how I would have handled the situation. Some characters make alliances, some are bloodthirsty lunatics, and others hurl themselves off lighthouses. I’d like to believe I’d be a reckless slaughterer in it only to win, but when pitted against friends, I can only guess. And that’s what is so bewitching with Battle Royale; every character seemingly has different objectives. Some are taciturn killers, some are too wrapped up in teenage melodrama to realize just how perilous their situation is, and some are simply attempting to survive.
Overall, Battle Royale doesn’t hold up so well against contemporary cinema. I didn’t find the violence all that graphic, and the pandemonium surrounding its acerbic savagery was lost on me. In a world post-Hunger Games, I don’t think any film with this same concept is going to be surprising or even good. I fully understand that Battle Royale outpaced Hunger Games by more than a decade, but that means little to me. If you’re looking for senseless gore and a thin take on teens vs. adults, you’ll probably have a good time. Otherwise, hunker down with your waifu, grab a bottle of lube, and jack it to your favorite anime.
Conclusion: Outdated. 2.0/5.0