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Announcement: “The Hunger Games” Versus “Battle Royale” – A Critical Analysis of Two Similar Works – A Special 3-Part Feature coming this week!
Late last year, I decided to read Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” I’d been hearing massive amounts of positive hype about the book for years, and with a major motion picture on the horizon, I knew I’d have to experience the story sooner or later. Despite all the publicity, I really didn’t know a single thing about the story, except that, since Jennifer Lawrence had been cast in the film adaptation, the main character was a girl. I like going into stories cold, and that’s such a rare opportunity these days that I thought it would be best to read “The Hunger Games” before movie trailers started arriving and ruining everything. So with lots of time to kill on a road trip from Colorado to Iowa, I bought the novel on my Nook and started reading, eager to see what all the hype was about.
A little while later, I was confused. “The Hunger Games” wasn’t new to me at all. I already read this book. In fact, I read it a long time ago, years before “Hunger Games” was even published. Back then, it was an English translation of a Japanese novel called “Battle Royale,” written by author Koushun Takami, but there was no mistaking it: I had already read this book.
But let’s back up a moment for those unfamiliar with these two novels. “The Hunger Games” is about a dystopian future where the tyrannical government demonstrates its control over the people by hosting an annual event, the titular Hunger Games, where 24 children, aged twelve to eighteen, are randomly selected from across twelve districts to compete in a battle to the death, where participants must kill one another until only one adolescent survives. “Battle Royale” is about a dystopian, alternate-history Japan where the tyrannical government demonstrates its control over the people by randomly selecting a class of 42 high school students, aged fifteen, to compete in a battle to the death, where participants must kill one another until only one adolescent survives. The core difference between the two stories is that “Battle Royale” was published in 1999 while “The Hunger Games” was published in 2008.
After discovering the premise to “The Hunger Games,” I posted my concerns on Facebook, where I was immediately flamed by fans of the novel for being unfair, despite the fact that none of them had ever before heard of “Battle Royale.” But I was enjoying “Hunger Games,” and gladly finished the novel. It was fun. A really engaging page-turner. But try as I might to ignore all the parallels to “Battle Royale” I had discovered, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a watered down version of a superior novel. Hence the following Facebook message: “‘The Hunger Games’ is the dumb American version of ‘Battle Royale.’” More outrage, this time even more heated. Hmm. Perhaps Facebook was not the proper forum to report my findings, and I vowed to explain my argument in my own particular idiom.
So here we are. Four days away from the release of “The Hunger Games” film adaptation, and I’ve prepared a rather lengthily exploration of how Suzanne Collins’ novel compares to Koushun Takami’s work, the cultural implications therein, and my overall thoughts on the effectiveness of both works. It will be presented in three parts, one per day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as we await the premiere of the “Hunger Games” movie. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday, March 20th: Comparing “The Hunger Games” to “Battle Royale”
Wednesday, March 21st: Why “The Hunger Games” is the dumb American version of “Battle Royale” – A Cultural Analysis
Thursday, March 22nd: My final thoughts and conclusions on both works
Sounds like fun, right? I think you’ll be reading some of my very best writing over the next four days, and I’m very excited to share it with you….