The Hunger Games VS. Battle Royale (warning: slight spoilers involved)

As of March 23, 2012 3AM EST, I have watched and read the movies and books of Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games” and Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale.” Despite the concept of sending teenagers to a remote location and having them kill each other until one lone survivor remains, the two stories are surprisingly different. Sure, if you have never read/watched either of the stories, then, yes, you’d probably think HG is a “rip-off” of BR. That’s certainly what I thought when I was introduced to HG for the very first time. I thought “damn, another American rip-off of a great Japanese film...” Oh, how I regret saying or even thinking of such a judgement. Let me tell you, HG is a very well thought out story. Suzanne obviously took a lot of time and, most importantly, writing skills to create the world of the Hunger Games.

   So, what are the similarities? Let me point them out in list-format –

  • 20-30 teenagers are sent to a remote island to off each other until one lone survivor remains
  • In the end of the story, more than one survivor walks away from the game
  • Suzanne and Koushun-san has taken a great amount of skill to create and develop each of the characters in their stories.
  • Trackers are forced onto the students in order to track their whereabouts.

Overall, the similarities are material and physical.

What are the differences?

  • Battle Royale is involved with pointless killing. The survivor goes home to his/her typical everyday life. They aren’t treated in any way special. In HG, survivors are crowned victors and given expensive gifts. They are elevated to almost capitol-level. Most importantly, the concept of the Hunger Games is to remind the 12 districts of past uprisings against the capitol. It is the capitol’s tool, used to control the people of each district.
  • There is near zero emotional investment involved from the readers towards any of the characters in BR (I say near zero because a VERY smart part of me roots for Nanahara Shuya’s survival. HOWEVER! I have also rooted for other characters in BR. For example? Mitsuko Souma who is a seductive, manipulative, and purely evil character). For HG, we are very much investing our emotions towards Katniss Everdeen. We want her to win, to survive, and to have a happy life.
  • Battle Royale is all action and violence. Unlike HG, you WILL see severed limbs and leaking entrails in BR. Sure, you see a little bit of blood in HG. However, in BR, you see full footage of exploding heads and victims being hacked to pieces. The reader/watcher of BR is more focused on the strategies and techniques used by each killer which is the essential elements that defines BR. In HG, we are concerned with the people of Panem. We are in love with the idea of creating a better place for the 12 districts. We can relate to the people of Panem because there are certain elements of the government that are corrupt and we want to change it for the people of Panem. Why do we want to see Katniss survive? We want her to become a symbol of rebellion and hope. She is the key to bringing peace and happiness to the 12 districts. For BR, the title of survivor is meaningless. The end results is simply a lone survivor who goes back home as an average-joe.
  • In BR, the program is secret and the deaths/survival of the selected students cause zero to no impact to the Japanese society. These students could just as easily die from a car accident or natural causes and no one would know. HG is a worldwide, public event for all of Panem.
  • BR is not based on a first person perspective. The novel is told in 3rd person but most of the time it is told from the perspective of a single student per chapter (http://www.ratracerefuge.com/bookreviews/takami-battle-royale.html). Unlike HG, the reader does not become absorbed and emotionally invested in one protagonist (Katniss Everdeen). BR zooms in on the minds of each killer/student and helps us to relate to each one.

Neither of the lists are at all conclusive. Please feel free to point our any similarities/differences that I am missing.