The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Battle Royale

Title: Battle Royale
Genre: Action/Drama
Director: Fukasaku Kinji
Format: Movie, 114 minutes.
Dates: 16 Dec 2000

Synopsis: Nanahara Shuya and his classmates think they’re on their way to a school trip, but when they wake up after being gassed on the bus, they find themselves in a classroom surrounded by armed soldiers. Here they are told they’ve been selected for this year’s “Battle Royale” a free-for-all fight to the death between the students in the class. They are told they are on a deserted island and have three days to find a victor, a sole survivor, or else they will all be killed.

The Highlights
Pacing: Relentless; doesn’t let up until the end.
Intensity: Confronting and, at times, frightening.
Characterization: Few true characters in a massive cast.
Ending: It just “ends”.

Now that was insane. It’s easy enough to have a fair idea of what to expect of Battle Royale by reading the synopsis, but I can tell you with near certainty even now: expect to be surprised. To say this movie is a rollercoaster ride is an understatement; it’s bizarre, frantic, frightening and more. But, most of all, it’s intense.

Once the pleasantries of the introduction are done and the setting and rules of the game are established, Battle Royale virtually doesn’t stop to come up for air until the very end. Moving at a frenetic pace from action sequence to action sequence, the intensity and unsettling atmosphere refuse to let up for more than a few moments at any time throughout the movie. But Battle Royale isn’t just an exercise in violent fight scenes; if it were, I wouldn’t have so much praise for it. It’s more an analysis of primal human nature in distressing, almost disturbing circumstances. It’s fascinating to see how the characters behave when the very fabric of friendships and alliances work as an almost fatal diversion, when no one can trust anyone and everyone’s potentially out to kill you. This is portrayed with almost startling believability.

In the rare moments when Battle Royale does slow down, it takes the opportunity to give a few of the characters some brief background, which is not only welcome for adding an extra dimension to the story, but also cleverly executed. But, with a cast of over forty and a death rate of over one every three minutes, only very few characters receive any sort of characterization, and even less receive anything that can qualify as development. The ending also feels uninspired. While it isn’t a bad ending, it lacks the qualities of a good ending, such as an ironic twist or a profound commentary on the way the characters have developed. It merely acts as a way for the movie to come to a close and signal a conclusion for events, but does little more.

Shocking, and horrific, Battle Royale is a movie that can be, at times, difficult to watch, but it’s a movie that refuses to let you look away. It has more than its share of gruesome moments and bloody deaths, but it’s a film that offers far more than that by candidly showcasing humanity at its worst. There’s no question that Battle Royale is certainly not for those with a weak stomach, but if you can handle it, this is one trip to hell you should sign yourself up for.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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