Battle Royale

Dom Robinson reviews

Battle RoyaleCould you kill your best friend?
Distributed by
Tartan Video


  • Cert:
  • TVD 3457
  • Running time: 117 minutes
  • Year: 2003
  • Pressing: 2004
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 24 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
  • Languages: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Widescreen: 1.85:1
  • 16:9-Enhanced: Yes
  • Macrovision: No
  • Disc Format: DVD 9
  • Price: £19.99
  • Extras: Trailers, Teaser trailers, Filmographies, Film Notes,Asia Extreme Trailer Reel, Pang Brothers documentary, Making of documentary


      Kinji Fukasaku

    (Battle Royale, Tora! Tora! Tora!)


    Akio Kamatani, Tetsu Kayama, Masumi Okada & Masao Sato


    Kenta Fukasaku (based on the novel by Koshun Takami)

Original Score :

    Masamichi Amano

Cast :

    Shuya Nanahara: Tatsuya Fujiwara
    Noriko: Aki Maeda
    Shougo: Taro Yamamoto
    Kazuo: Masanobu Ando
    Mitsuko: Kou Shibasaki
    Mr Kitano: Beat Takeshi

Noriko and Shuya learn about the politics of school life.

The Battle Royale Actto wipe out unruly teenagers – literally, and this Special Edition gives you an extra 8 minutes ofviolence as well as a DTS soundtrack.

Teachers were getting fed up of children being disrespectful on a daily basis, andone of them in particular, Takeshi Kitano (celebrated action director Beat Takeshi), quit the job after hewas sliced in the leg at school. Hence, a law was passed that, once a year, one classfrom one school picked at random in the country, would be transported to a deserted islandand forced to play each other off. Only after all but one of the 42 children were dead wouldthe winner be allowed to return home. If there’s more than one left alive then they’ll findout just how deadly the necklaces can be that they found to be wearing after they all cameto from the knockout gas.

The film concentrates initially on male classmates Shuya and Nobu, who ended up in the samefoster home when the father of the former killed himself, and the girl Nobu admits to havinga fancy for, Noriko.

Along the way are lots of little stories in which the students fail to attempt to resolve issuesfrom the past, whether it’s from a crush that didn’t work out or from two separatecliques that never would’ve passed the time together outside of a situation likethis. Many mind games are played, and when push comes to shove and someone dies,there’s an extreme amount of violence but it’s always the times when someone staggersinto shot with an arrow through their neck that makes you flinch the most comparedto someone trying to remove their necklace and it exploding and causing theirjugular to spew out all over the place.

Interspersed throughout are six-hourly reports from Kitano, detailing who’s dead and wherethe next ‘danger zones’ are, i.e. places not to be unless you want a million volts down yourneck. However, as the film progresses, you’ll be able to keep score when each death is shownand the number remaining is displayed.

LikeSeries 7: The Contenders,this is a kill-or-be-killed scenario with a number of frightening moments as once-good children aremade to take each others lives in horrific scenarios, but it does have one or two lulls in it too whichcould be trimmed.

I think I’ll need to watch this a couple more times to be fully conversant with it as it can see a littledisjointed at times as it cuts between scenes but maybe it’ll seem more well-rounded after then. However,you do still feel the necessary empathy with the characters as they die one by one.

The classroom struggle.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen frame is filled with shots that are pleasing to the eye,but the print could be better on occasion, but then maybe it’s going for thegrubby-jungle look.

The special effects are loud and occasionally well-used in terms of split-surround effects.Musically, the use of classical music is made very poignantly throughout, be it soft as someone dies,or blaring out the Radetzky March or Blue Danube when Kitano wants to make an announcement.

There are copious extras to this disc which are as follows:

  • The Making of Battle Royale (50 mins):Brief interview snippets with main crew and several cast members, interspersed with plenty of on-locationfootage. Bear in mind also, that as they get to grips with what they have to do, this is the first timea lot of them have acted.

    However, for something that goes on for so long and covers many major scenes in the movie, how come it’snot broken up into chapters?

  • Battle Royale Press Conference (9½ mins):Line up director Kinji Fukasaku, actors Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Beat Takeshi and others all givingtheir thoughts on making the film to a waiting audience of press – one of those extras that’s most welcomeon a DVD like this as it’s not the kind of thing you normally see.
  • Instructional Video: Birthday Version (3 mins):A spoof of the video seen in the film, but once again it’s drummed into us that this is the director’s60th film and that he is now 70 years old. We know. Well done, mate. Now let’s just get back to thecountless murders, can we?
  • Audition and Rehearsal footage (7 mins):Does exactly what you expect.
  • Special Effects Comparison Featurette (4 mins):One of my favourites so far – several gory death scenes shown in original image, composite and final shotversions, all set to classical music from the film. Plus that lovely sunset…
  • Tokyo International Film Festival 2000 (4½ mins):Rather like the press conference, but on a larger scale. Another perfect little extra that wouldnormally get left out of most DVDs.
  • Battle Royale Documentary (12 mins):Like a more flashy ‘making of’ with interview snippets and a cast list run-down of the main ones.
  • Bastketball Scene Rehearsals (8½ mins):with loud, noisy cheering.
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette (10 mins):A lot more work-in-progress footage. More Japanese schoolgirls in uniform… if that’s your thing,of course. I couldn’t possibly comment 🙂
  • Filming On-set (11 mins):And even more. You’ve probably stopped reading these because there’s not many different ways I candescribe the same kind of thing, however good it is to see plenty of violence.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (90 seconds):While all the rest of the extras have been in 4:3 fullscreen, this one’s in 16:9 anamorphic.
  • Special Edition TV Spot (30 seconds):Trailer for this extended version, in letterbox 16:9.
  • Special Edition TV Spot: Tarantino Version (30 seconds):Don’t get too excited, as this just intersperses a few basic comments from QT into the trailer.
  • Director’s Statement:Three brief pages of text about why the director makes such violent films and why they’re so personal to him.
  • Filmographies:for director Kinji Fukasaku and actor Beat Takeshi.

Okay, so there’s clearly some filler amongst the above but a lot of it is the kindof thing that completists will be very happy with.

There are subtitles in English only, plus the option to remove them which isgood as a video would have to have them burned into the print, 24 chapters,and a short piece of the music on the main menu.

Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2004.