Fans of Japanese cinema will probably already know the controversial horror flick – Battle Royale. The film was met with very mixed reviews when it was released in Japan, and recent news stories meant it was really poking an area that was very tender for Japan at the time.
The storyline for the 2000 movie was adapted from a 1999 novel that carried the same name. It is set in Japan, where a new law has been introduced to try and control the rebelling youth masses. Every year, one Junior High class is selected to compete in a battle royale. The class in the movie is selected, and on a bus going to what they think is a field trip, the class is gassed. When they wake up, they are in a classroom, and have been fitted with electronic collars. Their principal tells them they have been selected to fight to the death, and each is given a pack and sent out onto the island. Throughout the story, we see how the different students handle this strange situation. Some commit suicide, some ignore what is happening, and some, well, they go full force in a bid to win.
Although it became a hit worldwide, when the movie was released it hit Japan hard. The main theme of the movie, school violence, was an issue that had been appearing more and more in the media. Sadly, there had been some extreme acts of violence performed by school children soon before the movie was released. In 1997, a school boy strangled and decapitated an 11-year-old girl, and placed her head on the gate outside their school. This incident really brought student on student violence to the forefront of the Japanese media. With a story like this still tender in the nation’s hearts, a movie depicting such gory, and realistic levels of violence was hard to swallow.
The movie did help to propel one of its actors into Japanese cinematic history. Actress Chikai Kuriyama had been acting from childhood, but it was when watching Battle Royale, that Quentin Tarantino decided he had discovered his Gogo Yubari, for the movie Kill Bill. He wanted to find the perfect mix of cute schoolgirl, and creepy sadist, and Chiaki’s acting ability in Battle Royale showed him she was able to perfectly portray this. Her iconic role in Kill Bill is many people’s highlight of the movie, as she plays a delay schoolgirl who battles with the main character, played by Uma Thurman.