Ultimate Dystopian Showdown: Battle Royale vs. The Hunger Games

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!

aa          VS.         bb

Harshest Dystopia

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.

Panem:

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.

Scariest Thunderdome

Island:

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.

Arena:

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.

Winner: Tie

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.

Deadliest Arsenal

Survival packs:

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.)

Cornucopia:

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.

Mature Content

Battle Royale:

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

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31 thoughts on “Ultimate Dystopian Showdown: Battle Royale vs. The Hunger Games

  1. Shit, why can’t I double like…..got a hold of BR in ’06, then I watched the movie, so I was one of those “it’s a ripoff!” fanboys fresh off the line. I thought I was the only one that had this idea!!!!

  2. If I remember, Bruce Springsteen was illegal and the character’s albums were contraband. I can’t for the life of me remember the book’s explanation for WHY they made highschool kids fight to the death (or the explanation just didn’t make enough sense to stick in my mind). There were a lot of times and places that I really wanted to like Battle Royale, but I feel like the English version must have suffered from a mediocre translation. I’m willing to give the original text the benefit of the doubt, but the writing in the 2003 translation was pretty stale.

    1. They made the junior high kids (yes, jr. high) fight to the death and then show the winner’s face on live TV to sow distrust in the nation. Can’t mount a full rebellion against the Great Leader if you think it’s possible you’ll be killed by a friend like in the Program. When I read that explanation, it hit me that it was as clever a reason as it was sinister a Program.

  3. As a writer of a dystopian trilogy and a huge fan of dystopians and sci-fi, I was rather hoping Battle Royale would win. You’re right, Takami doesn’t candy-coat a single thing, the plot keeps twisting and turning, and most of the characters re given characterization to make them real to the reader. Hunger Games though…let’s just say I have a lot of problems with the trilogy in general.

  4. It’s a shame Battle Royale it’s better know to the masses that love the Hunger games. It has a beautiful quizzically sick humour which lingers in the mind. Novel post, thanks!

  5. In the book, they also allude to the Program being punishment for a previous uprising as well. You have to think that there is the unmentioned possibility that the Program targets areas where the hints of uprising may be sown as a deterrent.

  6. Having read a translation of Battle Royale before seeing the film adaptation of The Hunger Games, I prefer the former. Sure, Panem might be a harsher environment than the Greater Republic East Asia, but the regime of Battle Royale is much more plausible, because a similar regime ran Japan for much of the early 20th Century. All Takami needed was to mention State Shinto.

  7. Thank you!! I’m a Battle Royale fan as well as a fan of Steven King’s The Long Walk and The Running Man which the author draws influence from. I remember hearing a coworker at work telling me about the Hunger Games and all I said was “that sounds just like Battle Royale”. I haven’t read The Hunger Games yet and after hearing about all it’s hype I don’t know if I want to.

  8. Fantastic breakdown and I mostly agree. Battle Royale wins for me as well. I also think the idea that it is an entire class that go to the island, that they all know each other makes it more intense. The preparation of the class was horrifying and much less Hollywood then The Hunger Games’ arena parade. BR is gritty and gruesome, I truly cringed during it and had to stop a few times to take a break for a day or so before picking it back up.

    By the way, the Battle Royale movie was insane. I currently live in Japan and since watching that movie, some of the girls that pass me on the street in their school uniforms look just like those characters. I have to pause sometimes.

  9. I feel the same way, i got to read the battle royale first and then the hunger games came out and i thought it kinda have a similarity. Except that in battle royale all students got their own story to tell, but hunger games has also a great story to tell. Love ur article

  10. Reblogged this on Read by Kevin and commented:
    I loved both The Hunger Games (books and films) and Battle Royale (the great Japanese movie long rumored to have inspired The Hunger Games). This blogger has a great comparison of the two. What I’d add: while The Hunger Games is great, Battle Royale is better in two ways — it’s not as cartoonish as The Hunger Games, which makes it even scarier; and the “contestants” in Battle Royale have known each other all their lives, which makes the deaths that much more impactful.

  11. As a fan of both franchises, I do have to agree that Battle Royale will always win for me. The Hunger Games seems to take the base idea (teenagers killing each other) and break it down into easily digestible, bite size pieces. That’s why it was able to be more popular than Battle Royale, which wasn’t even released by American publishers until after Hunger Games came out.

    Battle Royale forces you to face the horrible truth of teenagers killing each other, especially teenagers who all know each other (by taking fifty classes a year according to the book) and don’t know they’re going to participate until they are in The Program. No training, no sponsors, just “Here you go, hope you have a good weapon, hope you live longer than the other 41.”

    And with the movies-I had no trouble watching Hunger Games (admittedly this was a few years after watching Battle Royale), but it took two tries to be able to watch Battle Royale. The movie had disturbed me so deeply (which is what I believe a movie should do) that I had to stop. Hunger Games did make me think, but only for a short time compared to Battle Royale.

    In short-I’ve read the Hunger Games a couple times, normally reread before a movie comes out. But Battle Royale stuck with me so well that I’m still rereading it a few times a year, 9 years after I first read it.

  12. Thank you for the fair assessment. I hated The Hunger Games personally. Then again, I dislike most YA books because they’re too watered down. On the other hand, I thought Battle Royale was good enough that it should be considered required reading in high school. The themes it addresses such as oppressive government, sexuality, death, trust, and honor are all worthy of exploring in this text.

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