People are quite volatile on both sides of the “Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale” argument, and frankly I’m tired of it. Being a fan of both books – and adaptations – myself, I genuinely do not see why Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are constantly compared. So here, today, and in this article I shall present my own personal opinion of why I don’t see both books should be compared and argued over so aggressively, especially as they both aim to convey completely different messages.
Admittedly, I read Battle Royale first; in fact I had seen the film first too. It was a late night on Film4 and it was showing, it took me completely off guard and I found it to be a spectacular film. Battle Royale is extremely unique, and graphically violent, it does not hold back in anyway and I appreciate this. Koushun Takami holds an original form of writing, he is so brutally honest that I found myself disgusted and – quite frankly – traumatised on many occasions during the book. Its major strength is the fact it is set in third person, so you’re never stuck with one view point for too long, you connect with each character even if it’s for a small amount of time. What Battle Royale did is convey just how afraid these children were, just how sick it was for a Government to throw this on a fifteen year old. All these students are classmates all placed on a coach with the impression that they are heading on a school trip. Obviously, this is not the case.
They awake, disorientated and with tight metal braces around their necks to trace their every move, with their teacher telling them they have 3 days to kill each other or they all die. Think about that for a moment. You’ve spent your entire life growing up with these people, you’ve shared secrets or made jokes, you’ve shared your homework or had petty little fights and made up with them; you’ve socialised and probably had parties or sleepovers with these kids in the room. All just as scared as you, all just as confused. And you all have the looming pressure of surviving hanging over your heads. It’s more than just fight or flight; it’s an internal conflict of your basic morals and humanity. Can you really kill your best friend? Can you refuse to do this and wait for the 3 days to end and have your neck brace explode and kill you?
Can you look someone you once knew in the eye, completely unprepared, and take their life away?
That, my readers, is Battle Royale’s reason for being so fantastic.
What more, is that it doesn’t mask the program as a form of televised entertainment, the class are never made aware that they have been picked until they awake in their isolated area, and the Government are rather instrumental in stating that this is necessary and unchangeable. It’s stated that the program was created to reduce the overpopulation of Japan, and to control the youth as their amount of disrespect grew for the system. There is no façade; there are no glorious winners or tribute parades. It is what is it and they have to accept it.
But that’s its strength, and where it lacks The Hunger Games exceeds! I’d read The Hunger Games about six months later, and it was a few months before casting began. I’d read the entire trilogy within two days, it was sensational and extremely moving. I love Katniss, she is probably one of the most inspirational, and strongest female heroines I have found in YA literature. That’s the best thing about The Hunger Games, it was set in first person, allowing you to love and understand Katniss on such a personal level. You explore and experience these things with her, you’re right there along the ride, you’re more emotionally involved.
What The Hunger Games did – that Battle Royale didn’t – was explore the political structure, to delve deeper and out of the isolated arena, to understand the entire world that was created more. It became so much more than just a plot of kids killing each other for entertainment, it became a revolution and a war, and it became a journey where a young teenage girl had no choice but to accept that everyone looked to her for guidance. It taught you to stand up for what you believed it, it taught you to never give up, it taught you that life is hard and you lose people, but to keep on for the end result. It taught you to believe in what is truly right.
Suzanne Collins’ strength was her descriptive writing, her ability to explain things so vividly that you could close your eyes and imagine everything from scenery to the emotions Katniss felt. Her ability to describe not just romantic love, but the love between friends, and family, and touching you to the core where it becomes unbearable to endure anymore. Suzanne Collins is well and truly a phenomenal writer.
Both pieces are so vastly different that there really is no room to compare, you compare when everything is the same. In this case, the plot is the only aspect that has a similarity. You simply cannot compare if there’s nothing to compare it with, they both did their jobs to their respective readers, and that should be that.
Here is where it becomes difficult, with the release of The Hunger Games; Suzanne Collins stated that she had never before heard of Battle Royale until handing in her final draft. This, I personally believe, is a white lie. And I will explain why. She had stated that she done quite an extensive amount of research, and I simply find it impossible that she had never come across Battle Royale at any point. Can you see where I come from? During the publication of Battle Royale, it caused extreme controversy, the adaptation itself was banned in the US and parts of Europe for quite some time until they deemed it acceptable. Even certain people in Japan had fought for this book to be denied publication, Battle Royale and its entire ordeal made worldwide news. So how was it at all possible for Suzanne to have never heard of it during her research? It isn’t. That’s a fact.
I understand why she denied that she had ever heard of it; admittedly it is an extremely stressful subject to endure, the debates that continue now prove that and it’s easier to ignore. She’s perfectly within her own right to continue to do so, I don’t hold it against her, and I never will.
I don’t understand why this statement is taboo; it’s said with many other forms of fiction and entertainment and it needs to be said once more. Battle Royale came first. People must accept this and move on. But didn’t Lord of the Flies come before Battle Royale? And 1984 before that? Hasn’t J.K. Rowling said many times that she took inspiration from various amount of other previous fantasy fiction? The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Ender’s Game being only a few. And does anyone question it? No. So what I fail to comprehend is why it is such an issue with THG and BR.
Was there any major conflict between Michael Grant and Stephen King over Gone and Under the Dome? No. In fact, from when I personally went to Michael Grant’s talk, he stated they’re actually friends.
The same could be said for film, how many romantic comedies have the same basic premise? Is it ever a problem? Inception – one of Christopher Nolan’s most critically acclaimed and successful films – was inspired by the Japanese animation Paprika, and has never once suffered any backlash over it. Why should it? It’s the same idea, yes, but had spiralled into a completely different direction.
Here is something I have always thought to be true, and in this case it is extremely relevant; Any idea, no matter how original you think it may be, already has been – or is in the process of being – thought up by another.
It’s the way in which you execute your idea which truly establishes its originality, which I believe both authors did extremely well. So there, my argument for why I believe there’s no valid reason for comparison. I know it may not make any difference, but I’d at least feel a little less wound up to get my own opinion out.