Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale

One of the most popular stories of our times is The Hunger Games. It is destined to become a classic, the first book is already a movie, and even the more casual readers could have a long discussion on its impact in society. Yet despite how great it is, there is a dark cloud looming over it. Many people are saying it is just an imitation of the story Battle Royale. battle royale with cheese

 I have read both books, and have seen both movies. It would be stupid to say that they do not at least invite comparison. In fact if you have read Catching Fire, there is even more room for it. While I do believe there is plenty of room for both stories in our world, I do feel a need to address this idea of Hunger Games just being Suzanne Collins version of a story that has already been done, and if so, does it deserve the praise and accolades it receives.
First, we will look at the basic premises. Hunger Games is a dystopian future in which children are chosen from twelve distinct districts to meet in an arena where they must fight to the death. Once a year each district holds a public “reaping,” where one boy and one girl are chosen at random by drawing their name out of a hat (or glass bowl if you want to get technical.) At this point, another child may volunteer to take his or her place assuming the volunteer is the same gender. This option to volunteer becomes a major plot point for both the protagonist and some antagonists.

Battle Royale also takes place in a dystopian future in which children are chosen at random to go to the arena and fight to the death. There is no public reaping. Instead a class of students are chosen by the government. They are kidnapped and taken to the secrete arena while they are unconscious. There is no volunteering, and you are giving no warning. blow up blow up

In the case of the Hunger Games, the reason for the tournament, or pageant as they like to call it, is to keep the districts in line. They pay this penance for rebelling against the capitol many years prior. In Battle Royale, there is no real set reason for it. The beginning of the book mentions experiments run by the government. The movie talks about a law that was passed to try to weed out who, in the government’s eyes, are week. I have read rumors about population control coming into play. The truth is there is no real logic behind it. When it comes to premise, I say Hunger Games get the nod.
love that

Next, let us compare our two protagonists. First, we have Katniss Everdeen, a young woman from the poorest district who struggles to survive while taking care of her younger sister and mother. She volunteers to participate in the Hunger Games when her sister is chosen. Battle Royale we have Shuya Nanahara. He does not volunteer. He is there because his class is. He does care about his fellow classmates, many of the girls have a crush on him, but in the end, he is just there to survive. If not for an alliance he forms, he would probably be dead. Point goes to Hunger Games. thank you

Now lets look at some antagonists. I guess you could call each respective government the real antagonists. The immediate threats though are the people who the protagonists have to face in their respective arenas. In Hunger Games, Katniss must go up against volunteers who have been training their whole life to compete in the game. They are known as “careers”. To be honest, they are not the real threat they could be. They die quickly and when two of them are allowed to team up, they do not take advantage of it.
 lover boy

Battle Royale is about kids that are all from the same class. They have known each other for most of their lives and they had time to form friendships, relationships, and rivalries. The most dangerous classmate though is Mitsuko Souma. Oh shit She is the beautiful mean girl that takes her game up about ten notches and kills a good portion of the class before she is taken out. Two students have been through the program before the story takes place. One is Shuya’s ally; the other is the most feared male antagonist who dies last. In the book, it is his first tournament. All of these enemies are far more threatening than anything the Hunger Games has to offer. The point goes to Battle Royale.
no whisper everyone kills
The Hunger Games has a love triangle in it…. Yeah okay, point to Battle Royale on that one.

I think what it really comes down to is which is really the better story? I think one needs to look at the two authors and ask which one did what he or she set out to do. Suzanne Collins is a television writer, so she has extensive knowledge on how television stories go. She is also an American. Many Americans think the Hunger Games is where we are headed, or at least could see us going there. The Hunger Games are televised for all of the districts and the capital. It is made public so there is a lot of pageantry and forced drama. Are today’s television shows very different? Nobody actually dies in them, but with shock value becoming more sought after, and yet harder to come by, real deaths may be the path we are headed down. Koushun Takami, the author of Battle Royale has a background in journalism before he became a novelist. He has lived in Japan his whole life. In his personal interview at the back of the book, he talks about how Japan has always felt constricting to him and how nothing ever changes because nobody ever demands it. The government makes a law that nobody likes, the people do nothing about it. Keep in mind these are the opinions of the author and not me. He has actually lived in Japan though and I have not. I guess his point was that traditions are going to lead to people being sacrificed by the government for no discernible reason. He also has a great history of being a horror fan. He is a fan of both Stephen King and HP Lovecraft. Battle Royale may not be a scary book, but it is dark and Takami is not shy about violence. As far as my original question of does the Hunger Games deserve to escape the shadow of Battle Royale, let me ask a question. How many of you would have heard of Battle Royale if not for this controversy. scarred face

Yes, Battle Royale did have a following before the Hunger Games came out. Yes, I am sure it was very big in Japan and that particular region of the world. Hunger Games though has reached a world audience. It is because of that sphere of influence that people are comparing it to Battle Royale. While Battle Royale, may have a deeper meaning, and more of an emotional impact as far as how the characters are effected, the Hunger Games is better written, is better at holding a reader’s attention, and has a more focused premise. Battle Royal may have done it first, but Hunger Games did it better.


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