Friday, June 8, 2012
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Battle Royale is set in “present day” Japan (it was written in the late 1990’s). I would call it an alternate universe Japan, in which a fascist government rules Asia as if Japan had won WWII, but did not conquer America (it is not said how the government came into power). Every year, in each region, a class is chosen to have a fight to the death with only one survivor. The stats and winner of the game are televised, but the entire event is not. This book focuses on the Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School class that consists of 21 females and 21 males.
Shuya Nanahara is a member of the class, a popular musician and athlete that is an orphan. His best friend Yoshitoki Kuninobu was killed in the first moments of the game for trying to defend the honor of the woman who raised both Shuya and Yoshitoki at an orphanage. Shuya teams with the girl Yoshitoki loved, Noriko Nakagawa. Shuya and Noriko run into and then team with the mysterious “brute” named Shogo Kawada, who turns out to be so much more than they knew. Shuya is the main character of the novel. He starts with the thought that no one in his class would reduce themselves to violence, but soon learns this is not the case.
Shinji Mimura, is an athletically gifted smart guy who learned computer hacker skills from his uncle. Although student cell phones are non-functional, Shinji worked his way around it and created a sophisticated plan to bring down the game. When he runs into and saves his friend Yutaka Seto, his plan starts to unravel.
First of all, Battle Royale is a book with non-stop action. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Although the book was very violent, the deaths were not gratuitous. There was a back story given for all of the characters, some more in depth than others. Each one of their deaths meant something to the reader, and really made one realize how morally corrupt their government was for putting them in such a situation. Speaking of which, I kept wondering, what is the point of this program. I thought this quote did a great job of summing it up.
Battle Royale is also a book about acceptance and for not judging people by their outward appearances.
Shinji says to Yutaka when Yutaka wonders why Shinji is friends with him, “I am who I am. And you’re you are. Even if I’m pretty good at basketball or computers, or popular with girls, that doesn’t make me a better person. You can make people laugh and you’re kind. When you’re serious, you’re a lot more sincere than I am. Like with girls. I’m not resorting to that cheap cliché about everyone having something to offer, but I am saying there are a lot of things I admire about you. I like you. We’ve always been buddies. You’re an important friend. My best friend.”
The friendships were wonderful in this book, which made it all the more terrible when friends were killed.
Source: The Kewaunee Public Library