Battle Royale: life is a game, take part | Nerd League

What makes a film a real “cult”? The definition varies, but what counts, we can say, is the influence and affection towards it by a sufficiently large niche of the public. Beyond the commercial success, they are beloved, studied films that serve as a reference for a genre and inspire filmmakers to come. Among these, surely, we can include Battle Royalea work that faces the new millennium directed by Kenta Fukasaku scripted by his son Kenta starting from the original novel by Koushun Takami.

Battle Royale finally in Italy

Twenty years ago the distribution of Japanese cinema was rather sporadic, in Italy (and everything in the West), beyond a handful of authors, and in addition the intense violence – graphic and conceptual – of the work made it difficult to digest. among the general public and large retailers, resulting effectively banned or heavily censored in many countries, but reaching fans through subtitled home video, in a way that is not always legal.
There was an attempt, about fifteen years ago, to bring the title to our country, but it resulted in a very limited distribution in rental video stores, only to disappear again into oblivion.
At least until today, when CG Entertainment – which is courageously and with quality dedicating itself to the recovery of worthy works in equally deserving editions far from the logic of the mass market and very close to the wishes of fans – decides to distribute it first in the hall and then create a campaign. crowdfunding for a luxurious box set at a very popular price, containing both 4K versions of the original film (theatrical and director’s cut) and of the second chapter (completely unreleased in Italy) with lots of new dubbing, as well as numerous extras (here all the info, this is the official page of the project).

A cult to be rediscovered

blankBattle Royale is a cult film, we said. He directly or indirectly inspired many famous works that came out later, even in the West. Quentin Tarantino has taken several elements from Battle Royale (and Fukasaku cinematography in general) for Kill Bill, and the modern dystopian universes in which slaughter games are contemplated (from Hunger Games to Squid Game) are directly and blatantly inspired by it, whatever the authors say.
Battle Royale is also an emblematic case of a better adaptation of the original: if those who deem the film execrable read the novel or browse the manga inspired by it, they would shudder at the pulp potential of Takumi’s work, which deliberately exacerbates the tones and themes to maximize the messages he wants to send out to the public. Fukasaku calms the excesses, using a fair measure that only in a couple of cases explodes into parody, leaving only the tragedy and the epic.

Kitano x 42 students

blankBut what is Battle Royale actually about? We are in a dystopia in which Japan, in the early years of the new millennium, has become a totalitarian country with enormous social and economic problems: the recession has produced unparalleled unemployment and the youth crime rate is skyrocketing. Among the exemplary measures taken to assert one’s authority and as an insane deterrent to the wave of generalized disobedience, the government authorizes a project that involves the drawing of a compulsory school class that is forcibly taken to a place sufficiently secluded and equipped to give life to a survival game in which young people will have to slaughter each other: only the winner will be able to go home.
Shuya Nanahara is a 15-year-old like many, quite popular with other high school students but still quite naive. His class is chosen and here he is, along with his classmates, on a desert island for what, in theory, had been sold to them as a school trip.
Alliances will make and break repeatedly as the Battle Royale rages before the eyes of their former teacher, Professor Kitano. What is the role in the affair of the two away students? Who will finally survive?

Run to survive … and above all to live

blankBR is a rich and meaningful film. A mature and characteristic work that showcases the qualities, style and themes dear to the Fukasaku, starting from a controversial but in its own way important work.
What is important is not so much the staging (very traditional in the technique), but the meaning of the same, assisted by a partly and very good cast: the boys are almost all extraordinary and each perform their role perfectly (after all, Tarantino himself took one of the film’s performers to insert her in Kill Bill Vol.1, so to speak).
The characters are partly reworked compared to the original for obvious reasons of condensation: the novel consists of almost 700 pages, while the manga of fifteen volumes. In less than two hours, the Fukasaku manage to do justice to more than forty-three characters, an improbable operation on paper, drying the events effectively and never hurriedly and maintaining their basic sense. The only character whose appeal you actually feel less is Mimura, an important figure in the film but less enthralling. Kiriyama undergoes a real transformation: from an evil genius to a simple killing machine, but the character retains its value in the story, although it is less fascinating in itself.

Speaking of re-elaborations, we then have Kitano, very natural in showing all the weaknesses of his character, who is a negative figure but not as evil as in the paper version. He is at the same time teacher, mentor, protector and executioner, embodying all the failures of modern adults (Japanese and otherwise), unable to guide the new generations towards a change for the better by limiting themselves to servility, bullying, favoritism and selfish reactions of all kinds.
In every single student, in every single death, there is a hidden meaning, which has its roots both in the exploration of the adolescent world and in the fierce criticism of the world of adults and of today’s Japanese society, so formal, rigid, framed and competitive, as well as hypocritical. The generational conflict, a great classic of young adult stories, is represented here in the most bloody and visceral way, but there is a keen eye that scrutinizes the entire corporate fabric, its contradictions, its false scaffolding. Noteworthy, for example, is the merciless portrait of the Japanese army, a sore point in Fukasaku’s life and filmography.

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Battle Royale

Review by Marco Lucio Papaleo

You could write rivers of ink on Battle Royale and, in fact, more than twenty years after its release, there always seems to be something new and interesting to (re) discover within the story conceived by Koshun Takumi and brought to the screen. by the Fukasaku. It is, in a certain way, the Japanese equivalent of A Clockwork Orange, in terms of themes and meanings, obviously translated to a different geographical and historical context.
If you’ve never seen it, don’t miss the opportunity to do it now, with the arrival of the brand new Italian edition; if you already know it but haven’t seen it for a while, take the opportunity to do it again in the best way … surely you will catch new ideas … Battle Royale is one of those works that speaks differently to different age groups.


  • Extraordinary content density in just two hours
  • Endless emotions
  • Young performers good and in part


  • Technically and artistically a little dated

Battle Royale: life is a game, take part | Nerd League