EDITORIAL: Battle Royale vs Hunger Games

Are they really the same story? Which is better? Can they even be compared? [SPOILERS]

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By Tainted87 - 4/23/2012
I'm sure you guys are pretty burned out on Hunger Games - and to those who haven't seen the movie or read the books, I bet it's as if seeing all these news reports on Lady Gaga. Well for your consideration, I've waited a pretentious amount of time to publish this editorial (13 days) in reference to Mockingjay (the most hated book of the trilogy).

The goal of this editorial is to ATTEMPT to wipe away the initial criticism that is associated with Koushun Takami's "Battle Royale", its movie companion, and Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" series.

In order to do so, unfortunately, there will be SPOILERS for ALL of the material in question, including the books "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay", so be warned.

Starting in chronological order...
Battle Royale (published in 1999 at 576* pages, adapted into a live-action film and manga in 2000)
This story (told from a third-person omniscient narrative) is about 42 students from the same 7th grade class who have been drugged and kidnapped by the government to participate in the "Program" on an abandoned island. Waking up with explosive collars that will detonate if tampered with, or if they are inside the grid-like "forbidden zone"... they are told by a sadistic instructor that they are to kill each other until there is only one left. If in 72 hours there is not a single "winner", then all collars will detonate. Each student is given a bag with a random "weapon" and a negligible survival kit and sent on their way to kill their childhood friends and rivals.

Life is a game. So fight for survival and see if you're worth it.


Hunger Games (published in 2008 at 374 pages, adapted into a live action film in 2012)
This story (told from a first-person narrative) is about Katniss Everdeen, a girl who has been doing everything possible to keep her family scraping by since she was 10, who has just volunteered as tribute for her little sister in the "Reaping" to participate in the 74th annual "Hunger Games". From her district, she is taken along with a male tribute to be groomed at the Capitol, where they will have to play politics to acquire "sponsors" before entering the titular event known as the Hunger Games - where she is to kill 23 other tributes on national television. But the Games are rigged with all kinds of "weapons" for the enjoyment of the Capitol viewers, and if they don't satisfy their demands, the Gamemakers might just kill them with the arena.

Not only is your life in their hands, but you have to make them like you.


While it looks as though I am favoring Hunger Games, truthfully (as far as the books are concerned) I enjoy Battle Royale more. The thing is, they couldn't be more different from each other, especially their movie counterparts. While Battle Royale is a pretty straightforward story of survival, starting the killing off of students the Program 35 pages into the book*, Hunger Games starts the bloodshed 151 pages into its book. Do the math here 541 out of 576 is 94%, while 223 out of 374 is 60%. That's a pretty big difference, especially if you consider that Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy, and while yes, the Hunger Games do take place in "Catching Fire" (and that is only after page 270 of 391 - 30%), they are completely removed from "Mockingjay".

The Hunger Games is a plot device used by the "Capitol" to control the 12 districts of "Panem". The higher the number, the poorer the district. Food is strictly rationed and the stock is heavily guarded, while theft is considered (no pun intended) a capital crime. With the Hunger Games coming every year, the children of these districts have an "opportunity" among them - enter your name in the lottery (Reaping) more than once and for each additional entry your household is given an extremely small increase in grain (that year). These entries are not emptied, so every year your chances of getting picked grow higher and higher. As Gale remarks at the beginning of the movie: he has entered his name in 42 times to take care of his siblings. The reason children are used (between 12 and 18 years-old) is for the Capitol to demonstrate their power - their ability to take away loved ones and essentially, their future. In the movie, President Snow comments that the Games have a victor to give the districts hope, not a lot of hope as that would be dangerous, but enough to get by.

(Leaning ever-so-slightly on the fourth wall)


Eventually the Games and Katniss' defiance of them become fuel for a rebellion. Katniss involuntarily becomes a symbol (although she just wants to be left alone) of the resistence, and is used (sometimes against her will) for the benefit of the rebellion. I'm going to go right out and tell you that the trilogy, feels more like a rip-off of Star Wars than Battle Royale. The Hunger Games is the Capitol's Death Star. Even still, I've only described the thematic setting and not even the entire backstory for Suzanne Collins' books. Ceasing the comparison to the books, I'll start describing the differences between the movies Battle Royale and Hunger Games.

Battle Royale is an extremely low-budget splatter film with zero stunt doubles, 43 death scenes (41 of which depict child actors), and will at times take a dip into some extremely black comedy. The action scenes are surprisingly well-choreographed (maybe not too surprising, considering this was the director's 70th film) albeit extremely unrealistic, and are used to move the movie forward. The violence is at the forefront of the picture, with weapons such as a sickle, an Uzi, a shotgun, a crossbow, and a hatchet utilized in particularly gruesome ways. In Hunger Games, director Gary Ross adapts Suzanne Collins' style with the violence - it is there, but it is brief and almost non-descript. So many characters are killed off screen, while those who do face their deaths on camera are somewhat censored by different angles and the often-criticized shaky camera. The violence is not the main event, not something to be depicted with style, awe, or aspiration - but a tragic event.



Apart from the backgrounds (which is only slightly explored in each movie) being extremely different, what definitely sets Battle Royale apart from Hunger Games is the characterization. Of course, there's no time for an in-depth exploration of all 42 seventh graders, but you would be surprised at how much personality these characters have in Battle Royale. Director Kinji Fukasaku knew these kids weren't all going to give exceptional performances and therefore "encouraged" (polite way to put it) them to exaggerate everything. Nanahara's cries of angst and despair (which do get annoying), Kawada's severity and gruffness (which do not get annoying), Kiriyama's sadistic passion for killing, Mimura's cool-headed intelligence (probably my favorite character), Mitsuko's predatory style of killing, and so much more... these characters have depth even on screen. In Hunger Games, the characters truthfully are not very interesting, and some of the actors seem to fail with their performances. While, like the book, there isn't a whole lot to work with considering it is all told from Katniss' perspective and she is not good at making friends - there is that empty feeling as we are pretty much forced to not care about anyone but Katniss.

(The Careers are more of an embarrassment than a menace)


And that is where the comparisons end. One rebels against violence, the other revels in it. I honestly think that once Catching Fire comes out, the uproar will be about the similarities between it and Empire Strikes Back, Mockingjay and Return of the Jedi (with PTSD). Battle Royale will be all but forgotten, and then I think those who swear Suzanne Collins' ripped off Koushun Takami will be scoffed at all the more.

*The version translated in English
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16 Comments
CorndogBurglar - 4/23/2012, 1:02 PM
Battle Royale is about a hundred thousand times better.
BIGBMH - 4/23/2012, 1:34 PM
I didn't read most of this because I don't want to know any spoilers about the second 2 books. However, from what I understand, Battle Royale is completely focused on this kids killing each other concept, while in Hunger Games, it's surrounded by a larger story at work. I feel like a lot of the hate coming towards Hunger Games is from people who just dismiss it without giving it a chance because of their natural disdain for anything involving teenagers. Hunger Games was a pretty kick-ass book. Better than Battle Royale? Can't judge. I've never read it. That's the stance people need to take until they know the source material.
marvel72 - 4/23/2012, 2:11 PM
battle royale takes a dump on the hunger games,i got bored with the hunger games in places but i loved every minute of battle royale.

Tainted87 - 4/23/2012, 3:10 PM
Apples and oranges. I like em both, and the themes from Suzanne Collins' books are fresh and interesting, while the character depth from Koushun Takami's Battle Royale is impressive. Judging by the movies alone, however, I liked Hunger Games more.

You may get bored with the book and the movie, but then you may be looking for something resembling a knockoff of Battle Royale. Claiming that one is better than the other is like suggesting that Batman is better than Mass Effect, or the Expendables is better than the Godfather. They are different.
TheMyth - 4/23/2012, 3:11 PM
I feel the backlash on this is like the backlash on Twilight. Don't get me wrong, the Twilight movies suck, but there is a large amount of people who hate it just on the basis that it is 1)based on a novel targeted at teenagers and young adults 2) It's wildly popular in that demographic. So just like Twilight, Hunger Games will have an entire online community that hates on it just because it's cool to do so.
BigK1337 - 4/23/2012, 6:07 PM
Hunger Games in short is pretty much a toned down version of Battle Royale in terms of premise of children placed in a fight to the death.

But honestly, they are good works by the way they were written with their characters and settings.

Pretty much they are like Green Arrow and Hawkeye. Battle Royale is Green Arrow for being the original and having cult following among its fans. Hunger Games is like Hawkeye for its popularity and giving people an interest in its style of story telling.

@EsseXFactor
A common thing that happens to all popular young adult novels that are adapted to movies. Lets hope none of the actors get hated for their associations with the movies like the last ones.
wedontdie - 4/23/2012, 6:21 PM
the running man beats both but Battle Royal interested me a lot more than the hunger games when I first heard of them...
headlopper - 4/23/2012, 6:59 PM
Good editorial ,and very informative.
I like my bad guy's in film deserving death, like Howard Saint in 'The Punisher' or Cunningham in 'Rob Roy'.

claybo4131 - 4/24/2012, 10:36 AM
I find it weird that when the Hunger Games movie was announced, all the handful of Battle Royale fans came out of the woodwork and were claiming it was a rip off. Battle Royale isn't original anyways so lets stop it there. It isn't the first last person standing or kids killing each other book or movie.

Hunger Games has a lot of depth, shows the corruption of The Capitol. Also the thing about it being like Twilight is an insult. Twilight is a straight romance mumbo jumbo bull**** want you to rip your eyes out torture fest. Katniss Everdeen cares more about surviving than her first kiss or boyfriend (To be honest, Gale Hawthorne is really a non factor until halfway through Mockingjay).

I just think Battle Royale fans are jealous of the mega success of Hunger Games. They troll boards just like the people last year who kept saying "I thought Green Lantern was Black" stuff, it gets annoying.

I didn't like Battle Royale the movie at all (didn't read the book, don't care to now) just an excuse to show blood & guts and had zero character development.

Hunger Games was a 9/10 for me, and it was well cast as well.
Tainted87 - 4/24/2012, 11:06 AM
@claybo4131
Battle Royale (the movie, not the book) can be a hard movie to like. The English subtitles are not translated properly and make the dialogue seem incredibly stupid. I admire the film not just because of its boldness in adapting such a controversial story fairly accurately, but because of how much of an undertaking the production was. Not even $5 million budget, all of these child actors (some in their first roles) doing their own stunts, and how short a time (with that budget) they managed to film the entire movie. It has a large cult following because of this.

It was also the first Japanese movie I saw all the way through, and I have to admit that it was because of Kill Bill volume 1. I had not read Hunger Games before hearing about the movie, and when I read about the uproar and accusations that Suzanne Collins plagiarized Battle Royale... I thought "no way, there's no way Schoolastic would publish a book that violent."

If I were to compare the four (books and movies), it would look like this:
1. Battle Royale (novel)
2. Hunger Games (movie)
3. Hunger Games (novel)
4. Battle Royale (movie)

Like EsseXFactor and BigK1337 have said, the comparisons to Twilight stem from it being aimed or revolving around teenagers. It's pretty ridiculous, as like you said, Katniss has very little interest in romance - in fact it is more accurate to say that there IS no real romance in the book, just affection. I feel the same about the Running Man comparisons. That movie was just an action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger and had precious little to do with the book. Even the idea itself for the book was merely an alteration of Stephen King's previous "The Long Walk".

The biggest difference (and one illustrated by claybo4131) is that Suzanne Collins' books do not embrace the violence, but oppose it. Sure, the descriptions do grow a bit more vivid in Mockingjay, but that is a war story. Someone who loves Hunger Games for this will hate Battle Royale because it does just the opposite.
claybo4131 - 4/24/2012, 11:52 AM
Note: Jennifer Lawrence & Josh Hutcherson did ALL THIER STUNTS in Hunger Games. When you see Jennifer running, climbing, falling, that is ALL HER, no double.
claybo4131 - 4/24/2012, 11:55 AM
What I am getting TIRED of are all the people saying Battle Royale is this all great original thing that Hunger Games ripped off. I never heard of Battle Royale till AFTER I read the books, this coming from a guy who spent time in Japan in the US Navy and I had NEVER heard of it at all, so if it was so popular, why are people hearing about it now after Hunger Games makes 350 MILLION dollars at the US Box Office?

Battle Royale isn't original, so people need to stop at that. It isn't as popular as Hunger Games thats all I am saying.
wedontdie - 4/24/2012, 4:38 PM
@Tainted I took an international film course at my college that I go to and what I learned about Battle Royale from my teacher was that the film had a lot of anime influences like the sound effects in the film, how some of the characters were dieing but always had enough time to live to do one last thing, and how they had girls with high pitched voices. It was basically a live action anime that had a pretty original story. I mean the whole reason they put kids on an island to kill each other was because the military felt like the youth of Japan was acting like brats? This is why it interested me a lot more than the Hunger Games. It isn't that serious but at the same time it is.

@Claybo it might not be popular in public terms but in film, anime, and sociological terms it is. It might not be as serious as the Hunger Games but it sure as hell is original. It's a live action anime film that's about a serious issue but it also makes fun of it. This is why I prefer Battle Royale than the Hunger Games.
Tainted87 - 4/24/2012, 9:07 PM
@claybo4131
I read that about the stunts and I thought it was pretty neat. If you're comparing that bit to Battle Royale's cast of over 50 actors where at least 43 had speaking parts, performing their own stunts, then I'm at a loss.

Look I'm not saying that Battle Royale is a masterpiece in filmmaking - I just appreciate all the little things put into the project. It is for that reason that I rank Hunger Games (movie) above the book itself, even though as a narrative, the book is superior - the movie simply has a lot more to offer. Sure, anyone with imagination can picture these characters without having an actor portray them, but considering how perfect the majority of the cast was - well I saw them as I read the rest of the trilogy.

Woody Harrelson IS Haymitch, Donald Sutherland IS President Snow, Jennifer Lawrence IS Katniss. Stanley Tucci IS Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks IS Effie Trinket. That said, I didn't particularly care for Josh Hutcherson or Liam Hemsworth (I hate when he calls her Catnip, it just sounds like he's talking to the audience, not her) - and the Careers from 1 and 2 are unbelievably bad (especially Clove when she's in Katniss' face).

What I really love about the movie though, is that it does not concentrate on the violence, nor does it go out of its way to sell you on Peeta/Katniss - in fact as a deviation from the book, you get the impression that Katniss doesn't have any feelings for Peeta apart from the obvious determination to keep him alive. While as a whole, I do like the Hunger Games trilogy better than Battle Royale's story, I would not rank the first book above the latter.

No one is doubting the success of Hunger Games - it reigned supreme at the box office for four weeks straight and has grossed over 7 times it's budget. Just as I would mention this if it was a DCvsMarvel debate, the success of both films is good for business. It draws attention to the source material, so that more and more will pick up a book and read.

Where I live (Tampa) there is only one corporate chain of bookstores (Barnes & Noble) with the smaller stores dying out because there's so little demand to keep them open. No mall has a bookstore in Tampa, and there are four. Barnes & Noble, by the way, has a pathetic selection, and half the store is made up of board games, calendars, and toys. And if these books weren't best-sellers, chances are Barnes & Noble wouldn't carry them.

choo29 - 7/13/2012, 1:59 PM
It would not be a rip-off if there's just one or two similarities in the plot. But hell, there are too many. This writer even enumerated nine, and they are not minor at all.

Read for yourself and decide.

http://www.squidoo.com/9-reasons-why-the-hunger-games-is-a-rip-off-of-battle-royale
Tainted87 - 7/16/2012, 10:51 AM
A lot of these are either erroneous or extremely generalized.

"Both writers created governments that not only paranoid, but are screwed and merciless too."

"The setting is in the future."

By that logic, Hunger Games must be ripping off of every movie with a dystopian future.

Read the books and you'll catch the differences.

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