I haven’t read that much manga and what I have read so far has been mostly unfinished series or a few volumes long. I say that as a disclaimer – maybe there are many great long manga series out there and the heaps of praise I intend to write for Battle Royale would be an expression of my relative inexperience as a manga reader. But I can’t help it, this manga has affected me too much, so I have to write down my impressions.

The premise of Battle Royale is simple, if extremely brutal and disturbing. In a totalitian ruled Japan the greatest entertainment show is simply called The Program. Every year a random (or not so random as it turns out) school class is picked, delivered to a certain location and told the rules of the game. Every student receives a random weapon, they are all in a restricted area and they have three days to win the game. How does one win? By being the last man standing. Literally. So the choice is kill or be killed. And if they don’t want to fight – they all die. So we have 42 ninth-graders (or third year middle school students if you want the Japanese system) battling it out to the death, TV ratings soaring with each juicy murder or rape attempt, plot twists are in abundance – treacheries, alliances, plans, detailed action scenes with their own twists – it’s not easy to guess what comes next, even for people like me, obsessed with guessing exactly that. And now I know why the final third of Mai-HiME is so often compared with Battle Royale and as much as I love Mai-HiME, I think Battle Royale is better, not least because it doesn’t have the an ending that ruins everything but also because it is even more brutal to its characters. (more…)