Monday, July 26, 2010

JLit Book Group Discussion: 'Battle Royale' by Koushun Takami

Welcome to the Japanese Literature Book Group Discussion of Battle Royale, the novel, by Koushun Takami.

About the Author*

Koushun Takami was born in 1969 in Amagasaki near Osaka and grew up in Kagawa Prefecture of Shikoku, where he currently resides. After graduating from Osaka University with a degree in literature, he dropped out of Nihon University's liberal arts correspondence-course program. From 1991 to 1996 he worked for the prefectural news company Shikoku Shinbun, reporting on various fields, including politics, police reports, and economics. Although he has an English teaching certificate, he has yet to visit the United States. Mr. Takami is currently working on his second novel.

About the Book*
From the back cover:
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller envisions a nightmare scenario: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it became a runaway best seller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and [barely] alive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Battle Royale, completed after Takami left the news company, was rejected in the final round of a literary competition sponsored by a major publisher due to the critical controversy it provoked among jury members. With its publication in Japan in 1999, though, Battle Royale received widespread support, particularly from young readers, and became a best seller. Battle Royale was serialized as a comic, made into a feature film in 2000, and has been translated into ten languages including English. A decade after its initial release, Battle Royale continues to be a cult favorite in Japan and in other countries around the world.

*Author and Book information from the Haika Soru (an imprint of Viz Media) paperback edition [ISBN: 9781421527727]

Discussion Questions**

The questions below are simply a guide to get the discussion going. Feel free to pick and choose, and answer those ones that interest you. Plus if you have any other questions or thoughts on the book, please don't hesitate to bring them up. For anyone who hasn't yet read the book, please be warned that the comments may contain spoilers, so please proceed at your own risk!

What did you think of Battle Royale? What did you personally like or dislike about the book? What kind of person would you recommend this book to?

What did you think of the translation? Did it read smoothly?

Do the characters seem real and believable?  To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?  Did you empathise with them and their plight?

How do the characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? 

What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?  Would the book have been different if it had taken place in a different time or place?

Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable?

What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?

Have you seen the film? Or read the manga? If so, how do they compare? If not, would you like to?

Have you read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins? If so, how do they compare?  How are they different? Do you prefer one over the other?

How does Battle Royale compare to other books in the dystopian genre that you've read?

Did the book end the way you expected?  Were you satisfied with the ending?

**Some questions taken from The Reading Club and's General Book Club Questions for Study and Discussion.

Battle Royale has been reviewed by:
My Friend Amy
S. Krishna's Books
Medieval Bookworm
Polishing Mud Balls
Novroz' Favorite Things
Let me know if you've also reviewed it and I'll add your link here.


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  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Maybe a little reminiscent of The Hunger Games, too?

  2. Battle Royale made me feel uncomfortable, but in a way that was productive. It began with so much violence, and though I don't enjoy reading that in literature, I understood that there was set-up going on.

    I really liked that the book was commentary on the educational system and being young in Japan. It can be cut-throat.

    As for comparison to Hunger Games. I felt like Battle Royale was better, more real with a better and stronger message behind it. It irks me when a book with a political, educational message is copied in a way that just emphasizes romantic triangles.

    I appreciated that Battle Royale did have love involved, but nothing where the root of the novel was love.

    I really wasn't expecting the ending, but I loved it. Near the end of the novel, I was almost positive that they'd all die, so the happiness of the ending worked well for me (and caught me off guard)

  3. I read the first 40 pages of this book and found it too disturbing for me to continue on, knowing it was only going to get more disturbing. I have nothing against the violence or the theme -- I just have trouble reading about this kind of thing, esp when it's happening to kids. The writing was good and those 40 pages did stick with me for a while, the way a good book does, so I can only imagine how much it would've stuck with me if I'd read on! Already, I'd started caring about the characters, another sign of a good story for me.

  4. I thought that I was not going to be able to complete this book in time because I just received the book from the library last Thursday. Wow! I was wrong. I was definitely absorbed into the read. It really shocked me with the horror of the game, and I thought I knew what I was getting into since I read Hunger Games. I was wrong.

    I think Hunger Games is not the same story as Battle Royale. Sure, the premise of the game is the same but beyond that, these two books are very different. HG is almost like a "bubble gum" read as compared to BR. Don't get me wrong, I really liked HG.

    I posted my review of Battle Royale, if you want to read more of my thoughts you can take a look Here

  5. I loved Hunger Games, and I loved Battle Royale as well! I think they're each good in their own way, even with the elements they share.

    I reviewed Battle Royale here:

  6. I have reviewed Battle Royale last year ( ) and it's instantly became my most fav book of 2009. It was brilliant. I love everything about this book. And if I have to choose amongst all J-Literature I have read...I will also put Battle Royale on the top list.

    It's gruesome but lovely at the same time. It's not merely about violence and blood...there's an element of truth in there (as I already wrote in my review).

    As for Hunger Game...I don't want to read it...I sort of hate that book.

  7. Sorry that I flaked on the discussion. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the book.

    Leeswammes - The basic idea of students forced to play a "game" of killing each other is the same but otherwise the two stories are quite different, at least I think so.

    Lena - I know what you mean. The violence at the beginning made me very uncomfortable too, but like you said, it was violence that was showcasing the underlying message of the book.

    I agree with you about the comparison to The Hunger Games. I think Battle Royale is a much deeper, more psychological story whereas The Hunger Games was like a glossified reality show. Perhaps that's the point but I liked that BR wasn't yet another YA love triangle.

    I liked the ending too. It was satisfying and still fit the story. I kind of thought some of them survived at the end from watching the movie many years ago. But I'd totally forgotten the details, and I don't know how much the movie differs from the book. I've now got my hands on the DVD so am looking forward to seeing it again soon to see just how it does compare to the book.

    Teresa - I can understand not wanting to read this kind of violent story. It is pretty disturbing, to say the least. I totally came to care for the characters, and think that the story will definitely stay with me for a while.

    ibeeeg - I know! It totally sucked me in too and I kept picking it up every spare moment I had. The pages flew by! LOL. "Bubble gum" is a good analogy for The Hunger Games. BR is definitely a darker, more "real" story. I finally read Catching Fire a couple of weeks ago, after BR, and enjoyed it. More than HG I think. It seemed less angsty. :P

    sumthinblue - I agree, the basic story is the same but how the story is told is very different. Thanks for sharing your review.

    Novroz - Wow! Your favourite JLit book! I like how you said, "It's gruesome but lovely at the same time." That's so true. It might be weird to say that I loved a book with so much violence in it, but it was a great read.
    And LOL about refusing to read HG. The first book kind of annoyed me but the story and the characters grew on me after the second. Still doesn't compare to BR though. :)

  8. I'm a bit upset that I didn't join you in the group read this time :( But reading is rrrrrreally slow at the moment and I needed to change my palate for a short while ;) Still, it sounds like an interesting book so I might add it to my wish-list. You never know -- I might actually get to it someday! LOL


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