The first few chapters of Battle Royale reminded me a lot about The Hunger Games and obviously the entire concept is similar. The main difference though? - The Hunger Games is a good read, Battle Royale isn't.
Here are my annoyances with Battle Royale:
First off, it's been incredibly poorly translated. Initially I shrugged it off as just incorporating the Japanese cultural style (if you ever watch an anime with the original voice actors you can very clearly pick up on the way of acting and speaking to each other - quite different from the more relaxed/disrespectful way of Europe/US), but it soon became clear that the translator messed up. Towards the end I even found direct errors that suggests it wasn't exactly proofread too hard. Here are some examples of the typical writing style:
Secondly, the characters. Everybody loves the main character. He's amaaaazing. He's good at everything. He's so good looking. He's a sport star. He's a rebel. He plays the guitar. A few characters managed to have a bit more to them, but mainly they were all either insane or incredibly naive.
Thirdly, the plot. It's filled with what can best be described as Hollywood clichés and it's always very obvious what will be happening next and you don't have to bother ever feeling the least bit worried for the MC & co.
Fourthly, and this one is obviously pure subjective, but I'm not a fan of gore and don't like reading very descriptive passages about how somebody is literally having their eyes clawed out *shudder*.
Fifthly and lastly, as mentioned above I didn't like the writing style much, but another thing that really irked me was how the characters would constantly stop whatever they were doing and have incredibly deep and insightful conversations about the government and the psychology involved in getting class mates to kill each other (and remember they are all supposedly 15 years old or so, attending Junior High School). Furthermore they'd often discuss happenings in the game, predicting how some things had gone down, without possibly being able to know that.
I must also confess that the Japanese character names confused me constantly. It starts out with 42 characters and they all have very long names in a language. I was okay during the individual's chapter (and their point of view) but when a character started talking about other characters I had no way of remembering who was who.
Furthermore what is never spelled out in the book and I had to go to Wikipedia to find out: Battle Royale takes place in 1997 in an alternate timeline—Japan is a member region of an authoritarian state known as the Republic of Greater East Asia. This would have been nice to know as I was constantly trying to figure out if this was supposed to "be real" or completely fake, so it was hard to understand the context.
All in all, I'll say that I can completely understand those who say Suzanne Collins copied the concept for her Hunger Games trilogy. But in my honest opinion, hers work so much better. I would be willing to reread Battle Royale written by a different translator as obviously that will have a big influence on how the book is perceived, but I don't think it would really change the fact that the book has so many other flaws that shouldn't be caused by translation.
(Original title: バトル・ロワイアル [Batoru Rowaiaru])
617 pages / published in 1999
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2013
I just saw the film. It's horrible. Like ridiculously bad, Quite hilariously bad. It also strays quite far from the book and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.