Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 25th, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2000 (Battle Royale), Japan, 2003 (Battle Royale II: Requiem)
Directors: Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale), Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku (Battle Royale II: Requiem)
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Masanobu Ando, Takeshi Kitano, Tarô Yamamoto, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sosuke Takaoka, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yûko Miyamura, Kô Shibasaki (Battle Roayle), Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shûgo Oshinari, Ayana Sakai, Haruka Suenaga, Yûma Ishigaki, Miyuki Kanbe, Masaya Kikawada, Yôko Maki, Yuki Ito, Natsuki Katô, Aki Maeda, Riki Takeuchi, Sonny Chiba, Takeshi Kitano (Battle Royale II: Requiem)
BluRay released: March 20th, 2012
Approximate running times: 114 minutes (Theatrical Cut), 122 minutes (Director’s Cut), 133 minutes (Battle Royale II: Requiem)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive (Both Films)
Sound: TrueHD 7.1 Japanese, TrueHD 5.1 English (Director’s Cut), TrueHD 5.1 English (Theatrical Cut), TrueHD 5.1 Japanese (Battle Royale II: Requiem)
BluRay Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $49.99
Battle Royale – At the dawn of the 21st Century with unemployment on the rise and rebellious youth becoming more difficult to control. The Japanese Government pass a law called Battle Royale Act. This new law has been created to help reign in a rebellious youth culture that threatens the status quo. Every year as part of the Battle Royale Act one ninth grade class is randomly selected as participants in a game called Battle Royale. 42 participants are out on a secluded island and given three days to kill all the other participants. At the end of these three days the last person standing with the game and gains their freedom. If at the end of these three days there is more than one person still alive. Then everyone left alive dies.
With a film career that spanned five decades and a filmography that is as diverse and as accomplished as any director past or present. Kinji Fukasaku would achieved his greatest international success with the controversial film Battle Royale. From the moment of its arrival Battle Royale has been a film that has divided its audience. There is no middle ground. Either you love this film or you hate this film. And while some of this can be attributed to the film’s subject matter. Which was adapted from Koushun Takami’s novel also titled Battle Royale. A lot of the credit as to why the film resonates with its audiences. Falls squarely on the shoulders of its director Kinji Fukasaku, who puts the focus on the characters and their emotions.
Content wise Battle Royale treads familiar ground that has been covered in other films like The Most Dangerous Game and Lord of the Flies. Fortunately the end result is far enough removed from any of these aforementioned films that any similarities quickly become a moot point. There are many themes at play during the film with some of the more prominent ones being, youth vs. adults, poor vs. rich and outcasts vs. popular kids. And while there are a few participants who try to work together. As the game progresses tensions grow and allies become enemies. Also to shake things up two delinquent transfer students are thrown into the mix.
When discussing Battle Royale the one area that often draws the most criticism is its graphic depiction of violence. Sure the killings are graphic and often verge into nihilism. What did they expect? After all this is a story about 42 students participating in a game of death. Without giving to much of the plot away. Let’s just say that the film’s bloodiest moment is the result of a misunderstanding and not at the hands of one of the more sadistic participants that are only out for blood.
From a production stand point there is not a single area where this film is lacking. The direction, the pacing and the score (which is mostly made up of classical music) are all pitch perfect. With the most powerful merging of visual and music being a bloody shoot out in a warehouse. Laid over-top the ensuing carnage is Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Air’ from Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068. Another area where this film excels is its cast which includes many actors in their very first roles. Some of the more notable cast members include Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine), Tatsuya Fujiwara (Death Note), Aki Maeda (Linda, Linda, Linda), Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill Volume 1) and Masanobu Ando (Sukiyaki Western Django). Ultimately Battle Royale is a provocative film about the darker sides of human nature. That over the years has not lost any of powerful and relevance.
Battle Royale II: Requiem – A new group has been selected for another round of ‘Battle Royale’. This time around there have been some slight alterations to the rules and the objective it to take out a terrorist origination and its leader.
Following the success and international acclaim of Battle Royale, it was only a matter of time until a sequel came calling. For Battle Royale II: Requiem Toei Company would bring back director Kinji Fukasaku, who unfortunately would pass away before completing the film. His son Kenta would be given the task of completing his father’s swan song.
Content wise, though Battle Royale II: Requiem recycles many of the things that made its predecessor so memorable. This sequel is anything but memorable. When it is not aping its predecessor, Battle Royale II: Requiem is slow moving narrative that often lacks focus. And while some of this could be shifted onto the shoulders of Kenta Fukasaku, a first time director that was thrown into the near impossible position of directing a sequel. For what is arguably one of the greatest film in the history of Japanese cinema.
Besides the convoluted narrative, other areas in which this sequel is often lacking, include its flat direction and its mediocre special effects. The crudeness of the special effects time and again call attention to themselves. Thus hindering the impact of any of this film’s action set pieces.
Performance wise, the majority of the cast are more than adequate in their respective roles. With the film’s most enjoyable performance coming from Riki Takeuchi (Deadly Outlaw Rekka) in the role of the teacher, who’s class has been chosen to participate in the ‘Battle Royale’. Also fans of Sonny Chiba (Street Fighter), don’t blink or you might miss him in his glorified cameo, that last only a matter of minutes.
In closing, while no one is ever going to say that Battle Royale II: Requiem is great or hell even a good film. And if there is anything can be taken away from this film, it does offer some resolutions for things that were left unresolved in Battle Royale.
Battle Royale comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay (both versions included with this release). The theatrical and director’s cuts are both presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Much has been made over the years about how Battle Royale has never looked flawless on home video and while this presentation is not without its short comings. At least any of these issues are due more to source and have nothing to do with the encoding of this transfer. It is hard to imagine this film looking much if any better than it does for this release. Battle Royale II: Requiem comes on a 50 GB dual layer Bluray. The film is presented in a 1080p progressive anamorphic widescreen. As a cruel twist of fate, this film looks better than either version of Battle Royale that has been included with this release.
Audio options for this release are as follows, TrueHD 7.1 Japanese, TrueHD 5.1 English (Director’s Cut), TrueHD 5.1 Japanese (Theatrical Cut) and TrueHD 5.1 Japanese (Battle Royale II: Requiem). The TrueHD 7.1 audio mix in Japanese sounds excellent and it is easily the best this film has sounded to date on home video. Not only are the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack well represented, the score sounds appropriately robust, dialog comes through with crystal clear clarity and low end frequencies often sound impressive. On the other hand, the TrueHD 5.1 mix in English is yet another laughably bad ‘dub’ track that should be avoided at all costs. The one audio option that comes with the theatrical version of the film is a strong audio mix that compares favorably to the lossless audio mixes that were included as part of Arrow Video’s BluRay release. The audio mix for Battle Royale II: Requiem is a solid audio presentation for this film, that has dynamic range, dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Also included with this release are removable English for both version of Battle Royale and Battle Royale II: Requiem.
Extras for this release are all located on a fourth disc (a DVD) and the extras include a trailer for the film (1 minute 51 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), Special Edition T.V promo (32 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), Tarantino version promo (32 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Filming on the Set’ (11 minutes 2 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Behind the Scenes Featurette’ (10 minutes 10 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Basketball Scene Rehearsals’ (8 minutes 40 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Battle Royale Documentary’ (12 minutes 10 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Tokyo International Film Festival Presentation’ (4 minutes 28 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Special Effects Comparison’ (4 minutes 18 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Audition & Rehearsal Footage’ (7 minutes 12 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Instructional Video: Birthday Edition’ (3 minutes 4 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘Battle Royale Press Conference’ (12 minutes 3 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a lengthy behind the scenes documentary (50 minutes 24 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles). The majority of the extra content from Arrow Video BluRay release has been ported over for this release. Though there is a wealth of extra content here, the bulk of it is made up of onset footage and clips from the film. With that being said, what comments that there are from the cast and crew provide some much welcomed background info about the making of this film. Overall Anchor Bay gives Battle Royale is strongest home video release to date, highly recommended.
Note: The title card and screenshots 2, 3, 5 and 6 are taken from the directors cut, while screenshots 4 and 7 are taken from Battle Royale II: Requiem.