Day 14: Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?
My favorite book of all time is and forever will be Battle Royale by Koushun Takami . I don’t even know how many times I’ve read it. Unfortunately, I leant my copy to someone in college and it was never returned, so it’s been a few years since I last indulged.
I’ve always been drawn to the weirder, more disturbing stories when I read, watch, listen to something (I’ll refer you to my true crime podcast obsession), and BR definitely takes the cake. Not only is it dystopia (one of my favorite genres), but it also involves a lot of terrible murder. I discovered it at a time when I was heavily interested in Japanese culture and media and hating high school, so it was the perfect story to latch onto.
For those unfamiliar, BR is a story of a Japanese high school class of 40 students, who think they’re going on a fun class field trip. But they’ve actually been selected by the government mandated lottery to participate in the annual Battle Royale. The students must kill each another on a secluded island until one is left standing – both to keep the people in Japan in line and for the entertainment of the citizens. (Does this sound like The Hunger Games? Yeah, well, I think Hunger Games is a big fat ripoff of this story, thank you very much.) Each student receives a pack with bread, water, compass, map, and a random weapon. Weapons range from machine guns and sickles to pot lids and megaphones, so it’s all a gamble. Each student is equipped with a collar that will explode if tampered with or if a student lingers in an off-limits area. Limiting the areas encourages students to encounter one another more frequently and thus, kill each other.
I really enjoy characters and character development in stories, so with 40 students and the teacher, there were a lot of backstories and motivations to discover. And some develop in interesting ways throughout their experience on the island, as we discover their motivations to kill or remain passive. Some commit suicide, some go insane on murderous rampages for fun, some finally get to exact lifelong revenge scenarios, and some just want to find their significant other to wait it out. It is truly fascinating to uncover what can tip the scale for the most innocent person in a life-or-death situation. Plus, there’s the underlying message that asks how we can fight the system and get out from the government’s thumb. A good question to ask in these upcoming dark days, but I digress.
Additionally, there’s nonstop action with people fighting for survival or fighting to kill, the story is full of twists and turns, and you may get very attached to the characters that do manage to stick around to the bitter end. I got very attached to Takako Chigusa’s character. Maybe because of what she does to her sexual attacker or maybe because Chiaki Kuriyama plays her in the movie version (and GoGo is my favorite character in Kill Bill). Either way, something about her character’s backstory and motivations really spoke to me. Plus, my handle on many websites was/is “chiigusa” thanks to her and she was my first official cosplay.
Yes, bonus: there is a film. It is fantastically gruesome and sometimes hilarious. (For example: a guy takes an axe in the head and someone asks, “Are you okay?” No, Shuya, you idiot, he’s not okay!) It gets a little creepy in the end and some of the characters are obviously not as fleshed out as they are in the 650+ page book, but it still gets the job done and makes for an enjoyable viewing experience that I made several of my high school friends watch. I wonder if they thought it was a threat… Anyway, if that’s not enough for you, there’s also an incredibly violent manga series that follows the books a little too closely. Some things I just really didn’t need visuals for, thanks! But I collected all of those, as well.
If you haven’t read Battle Royale, I….cautiously recommend it. Then again, everyone loves the murdery, violent The Hunger Games and this is a better story. So, I will amend to say that if you like HG, check out BR because it’s a million times better.
Man, I really want to read and watch it again now.