Battle Royale by Koushun Takami


Based on the best-selling novel, the manga follows the story of a Shiro Iwa Junior High School Class as they are selected to take part in ‘The Program’, which involves them being shipped to an island and forced to fight until only one survives. Most people will be familiar with the plot from the cult film that came out in 2000 (the same year the manga began publication). Due to the form the manga is able to follow the novel much more closely, includes more details, both on the world that the story takes place in, and spends more time with each of the characters. There are a huge cast of characters, with 42 students in the class, plus the instructor and various side characters who we see in flashback (such as friends and family) and the manga does a great job of making all of these children instantly identifiable, through their appearance or character quirks. The manga is far more grotesque and sexually explicit, including scenes of rape and graphic scenes of shootings, stabbings and all manner of other deaths. Some of this is due to the events being depicted visually (as opposed to the book), and being able to have the 15 years old protagonists shown engaging in sex and violent scenes (not possible with the young actors in the film). I found that my reaction to the manga was different from both book and film. In the book, there is the sense of a puzzle that needs to be solved (how will they escape from the island?); the film is more like an action script (being thrilled at every narrow escape, or shocked at every death); while the manga really brings home a sense of futility, and revulsion at the acts of the government. Things really do seem hopeless at times, and each death is made to hurt.

The story moves seamlessly from one character or group to another, and with flash-backs throughout to show their motivations, or further emphasize something about their character. The art style is very detailed, especially on the characters faces and scenes of blood spattering or gore. There are many scenes of characters bawling, or screaming, with snot and tears flowing freely. One of the things I liked about this version of the story was the ability to include dream sequences (not present in the other versions). One such stand out moment sees Shuuya envisioning his classmates as monsters, with sharp teeth and claws coming to get him. If you are a fan of the film and want to find out more about the characters, or like the book and want to see it represented visually, this is a great read.


Cyber City Oedo 808

Cyber City Oedo 808

Three violent criminals serving out multiple life sentences on an orbital penitentiary spaceship are given a final chance for redemption: help the police track down criminals on earth in exchange for shortened prison terms. The show pulls you in immediately with this concept. You are almost forced to root for these bad guys, as they in turn work to outrun more bad guys. They are equipped with collars that will explode if they do not complete their mission within an allocated time period. The idea is simple, but the execution is brilliant, with a fun soundtrack, lots of sci-fi elements such as cities run by machines, the evolution of technology, as well as some horror elements with references to vampires and lashings of blood and gore on top.

The main characters are likeably rude and violent, contrary to the typical image of a hero. Most of the action is set in Oedo, a futuristic Tokyo, which has been entirely overtaken by computers, everything is run by machines and there is a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of metal walls and towering structures.

There are only three episodes of this show, with each episode following one of the main character on a mission. Worth watching, with some great animation, music, and fast paced action scenes.

The Chasing World (2008)


People with the surname “Sato” are unexpectedly dying across Japan. Student Tsubasa Sato is transported suddenly to a parallel world where “Satos” are being chased by masked figures by order of a malevolent king. When caught they are killed, their deaths correlating with a death in the first world. Ai Sato, Tsubasa’s comatose sister, and his alcoholic father are represented by doppelgangers in this new world, where they must run while Tsubasa attempts to discover the reason for the King’s contempt of that family name.

The film is low budget, and many of the special effects are noticeably so, however the design of the masks is original and the direction competent. While the story is weak, veering away from the source material excessively, there are a number of jump scares and creepy instances making it a decent action film. It feels, for the most part, like a cross between “The Twilight Zone” and “Doctor Who”, with the concept perhaps stretched at feature length. The acting is of varying quality, but passable for the most part as the story is largely action- rather than emotionally driven.

The film hints at ideas of duality and totalitarianism without making any definitive or stunningly revelatory point. Concepts such as the parallel worlds were interesting, though a number of plot-holes were occasionally distracting. A wasted concept, but shallow fun nonetheless.

Based on a novel by Yusuke Yamada.