A class of students wake up on a remote island to find they are expected to fight to the death as a warning to delinquent children around the country. Only one can survive, or they will all die. Welcome to Battle Royale.
In the near future, Japan is now a fascist state: the economy is on the brink of collapse and the students have revolted against their parents and teachers, causing havoc around the country. In a desperate bid to regain control of the youth, the beleaguered Japanese government enforces a radical new law – the Battle Royale Act. Its purpose is to reassert the authority of the government by making an example of a randomly selected class of students who are taken to a deserted island, given one weapon, and three days to fight to the death. Only the last one standing will survive. If they refuse to fight, they will all die.
Battle Royale won Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing and the Popularity Award at the 2001 Japanese Academy Awards, while actors Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda (the two played the main roles: Shuyu and his love interest, Noriko) won Newcomer of the Year. In 2009, Quentin Tarantino stated that Battle Royale is his favourite film released since 1992.
It has its fair share of gore and flying guts, but what really makes it gripping is its Lord-of-the-Flies-with-machetes scenario, with a Big Brother element thrown in just to increase the tension (the students are tracked and monitored via microphones and chips in their collars). The movie alludes to perceived societal problems in Japan at the beginning of the new millennium, specifically rising youth violence.
The film follows the fates of one ninth-grade class who were nominated by one of their teachers, flashing back to the pasts of the main characters to show how adults have at some point let them down and encouraged their rebelliousness. It focuses on student Shuya Nanahara, who has been abandoned by both his mother and father and left in state care.
He and his fellow classmates find themselves on the island after they are gassed on the bus during a school field trip. They awake in an old school facility on a deserted island where they learn the rules of the game. They have three days to kill each other until only one is left, or else everyone will be automatically killed by the exploding collars secured to their necks. Armed with a pack containing one random weapon, ranging from grenades to pan lids; and food, water and blankets, the students are released to battle it out. Daily updates inform them of who has been killed, and which areas of the island are restricted, to force them to encounter one another. The rest of the film sees the class splitting into groups for protection, or deciding to play solo, brutally attacking their old friends for a chance to save themselves.
Battle Royale was released in 2000, based on the 1999 novel by the same name written by Koushan Takami. Its sequel, Battle Royale II: Requiem, was released in 2003, but criticized for being a bloodier but far less successful film. Both scripts were written by Koushan Takami, and the novel itself was adapted into both a film and a manga series.