Manga Monday will be a dedicated feature here at avidbookreader.com. I am somewhat of a new manga reader and have collected quite a few titles from the past year. I am making the effort to go through them and review them. If manga is not your thing, then please check back on Tuesday for the newest review on romance, fantasy or mystery title. As usual, all reviews on this site is open for suggestions/criticisms/opposing opinions/commentary from readers.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Msayuki Taguchi (vol.1), copyright 2003, publisher TokyoPop, rated M for mature audiences and it is clearly not appropriate for children. If I had one word to describe this manga it would be: brutal. It is not for the faint of heart.
Japan has a state sponsored reality TV show that is a hit with viewers and it is called “The Program.” The show works like this: 3rd year Junior High students are chosen randomly to be on the Program; it’s dubbed “the worst game in history” for a reason.
The Program is a competition for the survival of the fittest with dire consequences for those who don’t succeed. You see, the object of the game is to kill or be killed and the game is set up to ensure participation and follows a set of rules.
First and foremost, all students are fitted with a bomb collar to prevent escape and collusion. Second, each student is given a bag full of gear (weapons) to use in the game. Third, the island where they are competing is completely isolated with danger zones that move daily.
Hiding is discouraged as every place is outfitted with security cameras;and most importantly, the first elimination must happen within 24 hours after the game has started or the bomb collars all detonate, killing everybody instantly.
The story opens with a flashback of two orphans who grow up to be best friends – Shuuya and Yoshitoki, who goes by Yoshi. One day, the boys actually see a clip of The Program when it interrupts their regular TV show to broadcast a “winner.” What they see horrifies, as the winner is a young girl who looks like death warmed over.
The contestants for the show are picked via the lottery. Many fear being picked for this reality show and the two boys foster mother assures them that such a fate would never befall them but it does.
Flash forward to the present, the two boys are in junior high and each kid seems to have a promising future ahead of him. Yoshi has a crush on a young girl and Shuuya is a budding musician. One day, under the guise of a graduation trip, the two young men along with several other high school students are gassed and redirected to a deserted island where they are told that they are the new contestants for The Program.
A confrontation erupts after this bit of bad news, leaving one contestant severely injured and one contestant dead. One of the men behind the scenes of the Program is a brute of a man who is a sadist, with not a care in the world for human life.
Shuuya thinks that he can convince the other players to work together but that theory quickly dies with the first kill. Paranoia sets in for many of the other players and it becomes a matter of who can trust whom. We see some backstabbing and a couple of crazy lunatics who look forward to winning this game. It’s like releasing a wild animal into it’s natural habitat.
Shuuya and a young girl he has vowed to protect, are in it together but for how long? The story ends with the reader wanting to learn more – like who will survive this game? The series is completed at 15 volumes. I’ll have to check my local library for the rest of the series.
There is a lot of back story that fleshes out these characters to make you feel sympathetic for a society in which humanity has little to no value. There is PLENTY of graphic violence to shock even the most hard-hearted out there. There is implied rape, torture, vulgar language, verbal abuse, sexual innuendo, etc and so forth.
As shocked as I was at the level of violence, I still kept turning the pages. Just to let you know: I am usually not bothered by such violence in fiction. It just doesn’t bother me. As shocking as this story was, I was captivated by it. The artwork was pretty detailed and realistic or as realistic as an artist can achieve on paper.
Initially, I was very put off with the concept of this story. Watching these students plot and craft their game plan for survival wasn’t all that fun to read. Also, there’s the paranoia and fear and the lack of trust that grips these students that felt real as hell. Who do you trust in a game like this? The short answer to that is: no one. I would have been the first victim, hands down. No way would I have participated in this. And yes, good thing this is fiction.
Searching online I discovered that Battle Royale series was adapted from a film of the same name. Needless to say that I will pass since my imagination works just fine. Battle Royale is a page-turner. The best way to describe reading this type of fiction is like this: it’s a train wreck and you can’t help but watch. I bought this title a very long time ago, not knowing what I was getting into story-wise. I veered off the recommended list with this impulsive buy.
After arriving at the end, I kind of want to see how the students fare because there are some serious crazies in this group who are more than happy to participate in this game of do or die. Despite the graphic nature of this storyline, it is gripping and a page-turner, so I’d have to rate it an A based on my grading criteria. I just couldn’t put it down no matter how shocking or offensive I found the story. However, it’s not a novel I enthusiastically recommend to anybody. Battle Royale is a well plotted story that is completely readable even if it is not all that likable.