How Battle Royale became the ultimate Japanese teen film

Films about teenagers make up the bulk of Japanese cinema in the nineties, The period between puberty and adulthood is even more romanticised than in America. Yet at the end of the century one film came out that was to change the face of Japanese cinema and bring about new Asian influence in American cinema.

Battle Royale managed to subvert the typical high school film by giving the youngsters a panoply of weapons. The idea of children turning feral goes back to `lord of the Flies’ in literature, but ‘Battle Royale’ was more shocking in showing the teenagers still wearing their school uniforms while massacring each other.

Directed by Fukasu, battle Royale turned out to be the last film of a director best known in the west for directing ‘Battles Without Honor and Humanity’. HE managed to achieve a film that was far more successful than he could ever have imagined. Certainly, it was helped by having a great starring role from Takeshi Kitano, and a very charismatic cast of actors.

The violence was incredibly well-choreographed, stylish and sometimes beautiful, and it was set to the backdrop of the standards of classical music. By the time it came to be released in the US, fears of the film inciting another school shooting were enough for it to be delayed indefinitely, and when it was finally released, people were watching the Hunger Games, sometimes not aware of how much that film had borrowed from Battle Royale.

Yet it’s Battle Royale that has had a much stronger cultural legacy, with the film as highly regarded now as it was on its first release in the year 2000.

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