The Two Cents Class Survives BATTLE ROYALE!

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Hello, everyone in Class B! You are the lucky class chosen for this week’s Two Cents Battle Royale!

Each year in a totalitarian dystopian version of Japan, a class of middle schoolers is dumped onto an island and forced to participate in a last-person-standing deathmatch. That premise is certainly one of violence, but also an exploration of teenage angst, relationships and sexuality, and survivalism.

Like the novel and manga that preceded it, the film was hugely controversial — so much in fact that rumors abounded that it had been banned in the United States. This wasn’t exactly true, but nonetheless without a US distributor it was nearly impossible to watch. In fact it wasn’t until 2012 that Battle Royale and its sequel finally made their official US home video debut. As many of our reviewers indicate, the challenge of just trying to watch this film has become an important part of the fabric of its story.

More recently, the megahit Hunger Games franchise has drawn plenty of comparisons for copping liberally from Battle Royale‘s playbook. Not only is the dystopian setting and “children’s deathmatch” plotline similar, but other commonalities abound: the battle zones have similar rules of engagement, the final contestants have a romantic subplot, and the films’ respective sequels follow the protagonists as post-Games freedom fighters.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Come on you Apes, you wanna live forever?! Continuing on the theme of wide-eyed youths being dropped into battle by a fascist government, we’re following with Paul Verhoeven’s controversial, violent, campy, and incredibly fun action-satire Starship Troopers! Join up now; service guarantees citizenship!

Would you like to know more?

To be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

Our Guests

Len Carmichael:

F**K your Hunger Games… This is the real deal, kill’em all spectacular. I was turned onto this movie in 2002 by a friend, and I never looked back. Raw, gritty and rough. Love it. The score is perfect, the production is just right. 100% enjoyment! (Len Carmichael)

Nick Spacek:

The build-up to seeing Battle Royale might be the longest-tailed amount of hype with which I’ve ever had to deal. It got insane levels of geek love via Ain’t It Cool, but was impossible to actually see. I was in the Midwest and, as this was before online video piracy made film ever readily available, I basically had to wonder when the hell I’d ever get a chance to put eyes on it. Despite efforts at cons and Asian markets, it wasn’t until it randomly popped up used at a store one day that I got to see it. Strangely, it was beyond what I expected. I’d never really seen anything quite like it. It was feral and visceral, yeah, but was also so absolutely on-point regarding the teenagers that the surrealistic situation seemed completely believable. Battle Royale is a film which brings you in with hyped promises of gore and action, and that works. It gets revisited, however, because of the way in which it explores the dynamic between teenagers — as well as teenagers and adults — in a surprisingly realistic and thoughtful manner. Despite all the killing and blood, there’s real heart here. (@nuthousepunks)

J.C. De Leon:

Battle Royale is one of those rare movies that truly does have it all. Funny when it needs to be, great action all throughout, and great use practical effects. The biggest thrill in Battle Royale is seeing Chiaki Kuriyama years before she was in Kill Bill. It’s easy to see why her Gogo Yubari was one of the more iconic characters in the Quentin Tarantino classic.

It’s also easy to see how this can draw comparisons to The Hunger Games, which has a very broad story by comparison. That small scale story is a major advantage that Battle Royale holds over Hunger Games — it’s just pure unadulterated action and gratuitous violence. It starts out at 11 and never lets up on the gas pedal throughout. (@jcdeleon1)

The Team


Many films have been inspired by it, but none have come close to touching the power of Battle Royale. I remember having to be coaxed into watching the film 10 years ago and found myself instantly hooked. The premise is still one of the most ingenious ever conceived. Even those who shy away from films of stark brutality and violence cannot be helped but be pulled into the film’s unfolding of who will die and who will be the lone survivor.

Aside from the film’s undeniable and involving Darwinian nature (it literally IS survival of the fittest), the reason for Battle Royale’s strong relationship with audiences is its relatability factor. There isn’t a single person watching the film who cannot picture themselves in that very situation with those very individuals. The questioning of one’s survival instinct along with the idea of one’s own mortality makes Battle Royale one of the most excruciating and enlivening movie experiences of all time. (@frankfilmgeek)


“So today’s lesson is… you kill each other off ’til there’s only one left. Nothing’s against the rules.”

In the Fall of 2001, I was at a party at a college friend’s apartment. His roommate, a cinephile and collector of all things genre, began to rave about this Japanese import VCD (yes, VCD, because the DVD was not available in Region 1 at the time) that he’d gotten a few weeks prior and had already watched 5 or more times. After hearing the premise, I immediately threw it in the DVD player. However, as the viewing was taking place in the midst of a college party, I was forced to keep the film on mute while music was played for the rest of the partygoers to enjoy.

Luckily, for me, the choice of music was Andrew WK’s debut album and my initial viewing of the film was accented with an added element of partying hard. All subsequent viewings have failed to live up to this experience, though each of the half dozen or so times I have watched my import copy and the 2 to 3 times I have watched since it has been added to Netflix (including this current viewing) has been a fulfilling experience. (@thepaintedman)


Like many of our reviewers this week, my first experience watching Battle Royale was the culmination of a long search. The knowledge of a controversial and well-loved film being almost completely unavailable was catnip to many a young cinephile, and my own first viewing was an appalling low-quality rip on Google Video (remember that?). I greedily snapped up the limited edition Blu-ray as soon as it came out for a proper watch, and was fortunate enough to catch a theatrical screening last year (I wrote about it here).

Battle Royale is weirdly compelling. Besides the obvious violence and thematic weight of its teenage death match, there’s just a lot of crazy shit to it. A flashback shows us a boy who comes home to find his dad hanging from the ceiling with his pants around his ankles. And the teacher played by Takeshi Kitano has such a weird role in the tale — previously stabbed by a student, he takes his revenge by forcing his entire class to murder each other. And is he a pedophile?

Master filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku finished his impressive career with the Battle Royale series before passing away in 2003, ironically spending his final years as an elderly man telling the stories of rebellious youth — what a way to go! (@VforVashaw)


It’s been kinda hilarious to read all the different entries of folks describing the arduous and frustrating experience of tracking down grimy, blurred bootlegs of this legendary cult film, where here I am casually watching the thing on Netflix while eating post-Thanksgiving apple pie. The times they are a-changing. Someone should write a song about that.

Anyway, Battle Royale. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how strangely fun the film is, moving with a propulsive momentum and finding many spots for both bone dry gags (mostly thanks to Takeshi Kitano) and big broad slapstick jokes. You wouldn’t think a movie about the government-mandated slaughter of children would be a high energy blast, but there you go. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

Get it at Amazon:
 Battle Royale 1 & 2 Collection [Blu-ray] | [DVD]
 Battle Royale [Blu-ray] | [DVD]

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