With the popularity of its movie series, the infamous rumour has resurfaced that Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a (*cough cough*) rip-off of Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale. Rather than nitpick all the similarities (of which there are many), however, let’s just pit them against each other in an ultimate showdown!
Republic of Greater East Asia:
At first glance, Battle Royale’s future Japan and its unforgiving, authoritarian police government seems like a breeding ground for complete terror. However, life actually doesn’t seem too bad for the main characters and, even though many activities are prohibited, people have found ways to enjoy their lives. Shuya Nanahara, the protagonist of Battle Royale, plays the electric guitar and likes Bruce Springsteen, for crying out loud.
Okay, let’s be honest here. Panem sucks. A lot. Unless you come from the Capitol, life is definitely not in your favour. Sure, District 1 and 2 get it a bit easier because of their loyalty to the Capitol, but two of their children still have to die every year. The District system was specifically created to maintain the status quo, ensuring that Capitol civilians can continue lavishing themselves while the districted stay dirt poor.
Winner: The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games wins this round for being the worst place to live—truly a world gone wrong. Both places are abysmal to begin with because they are run by oppressive government systems that exploit fear to prevent rebellions. However, I would much rather live in the Republic of Greater East Asia than in Panem, because I’d take suppression over starvation, poverty, AND suppression any day of the week.
The evacuated and isolated island in Battle Royale is the perfect setting for a massacre game. Except for the administrators of the game, there is no contact with the outside world, eliminating any possibility of getting external help. To further generate paranoia and fear, participants wear a metal collar that tracks their location and records their dialogue. These collars will blow up if the wearer attempts to escape, remove the collar, or linger too long in the “Forbidden Zones.” The number of Forbidden Zones increases as the game goes on, forcing the students to move closer together, and thus closer to their deaths.
The Arena changes every year depending on the reigning Gamemaker’s taste, but the 74th Hunger Games Arena undeniably favours Katniss’ skill set. Despite the looming dangers of the flora and fauna, the woods are brimming with camouflage and nourishment possibilities. Would Katniss have survived Arctic tundra or the desert? She’s a tough one, but environments and weather are tougher.
While the landscape of Battle Royale seems a bit more forgiving—the participants can hide in houses, and the administrators of the game cannot really control the environment—there are no wealthy sponsors to help the students. In Battle Royale, it doesn’t matter how well-liked participants are because the game is not entertainment fodder, unlike the Hunger Games. Yet the Arena is equally as difficult to survive, as the Gamemakers make the competition more exciting by constantly manipulating the Arena to make it more deadly.
The participants of Battle Royale all receive a survival pack with vital necessities to begin with. Each pack has a different weapon, ranging from a boomerang to a submachine gun. (One person actually got a shamisen, which is sort of like a Japanese banjo. Needless to say, that person did not win.)
Unlike Battle Royale, nothing is given to the tributes, and they must fight for supplies at the Cornucopia.
Winner: Battle Royale
Okay, I totally get Suzanne Collins wanting to show the Cornucopia as a bloodbath, because having the well-trained tributes kill all the weaklings and getting all the good supplies exemplifies the unfairness of the situation. But so many people end up dying in the first ten seconds of the game that it seems like a bit of a cheapshot. Conversely, Koushun Takami describes almost all forty-two students’ deaths—which, on the one hand, is slightly perturbing, but on the other, makes the dystopian world of Battle Royale all the more vivid and realistic. Each student gets his/her own story and voice, and the reader consequently becomes emotionally attached to more than just the main characters.
Battle Royale is undoubtedly the adult version of The Hunger Games, and it explicitly tackles violence, gore, and sex. Takami doesn’t candy-coat anything, and the novel explores darker situations like teen prostitution, drugs, and rape. As the ultimate master of description, he eloquently (almost poetically) depicts guts and eyeballs and penises flying around in harmony to symphonically orchestrated spurts of blood. And it’s beautiful.
The Hunger Games:
I understand that the novel isn’t supposed to be rated R, but if you’re going to talk about a violent game where children are forced to kill each other by any means possible, go big or go home. In this sense, The Hunger Games is hands-down, no-question-about-it, absolutely a super watered-down Battle Royale. Snore.
Winner: Battle Royale
The various tributes’ tactics for surviving and winning aren’t nearly as clever as those depicted in Battle Royale. One of the girls, Mitsuko Souma, uses her sexuality to her advantage and slaughters people mid-coitus. Katniss just shoots arrows, gets a lot of help from people, and hopes for the best. Also, by having to kill off 42 students instead of 24 tributes, Takami gets creative, and the absurdity and preposterousness of Battle Royale is what makes it so exciting, and so terrifying to read.
ULTIMATE WINNER: Battle Royale
I love you Jennifer Lawrence, but I’m sorry The Hunger Games—the odds were not in your favour today.
-Contributed by Janice To