Battle Royale

    (Viz, 2003)
TM and (c) Viz Communications, Inc.

This novel, which spawned the controversial movie of the same name, has finally been translated into English, thanks to the folks at Viz Publishing. The basic premise: Give 42 junior high students 42 weapons, desert them on an island for a weekend, and demand there be only one survivor. As disturbing as this sounds, the execution is doubly so. The kids are encased in neck collars, programmed to explode if they try to leave the island (or step into one of the “forbidden zones”). Some students are granted a submachine gun, while others are given an ordinary pair of scissors. They’re left to their cunning and ability to lose all traces of civilized life in order to survive.

Battle Royale belongs on the same shelf as 1984, Brazil, and other dark works of dystopian futures. Think of it as a blending of “The Lottery,” “The Most Dangerous Game,” and Lord of the Flies. The novel moves at a breakneck pace, making the massive tome fly by quicker than you might expect. In fact, you might be a little shocked at how quickly the concept seems to gel in your brain. If you’re intimidated by the immensity of this book, hold out for the manga version, which is due out later.

It’s hard to imagine a novel like this being published in today’s world. With all the controversy surrounding violence in schools, domestic abuse, and child vs. child crimes, it would seem the topic is almost forbidden from the entertainment world. Takamie has taken a controversial topic and crafted one of the most suspense-filled novels you’re likely to read this year. That is, as long as you can find it on the shelves.

— Scott Semet

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Text novelKoushun Takami