I am a little touchy about the topic of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The books are excellent* however, a few months after having read the Hunger Games I was introduced to Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and I very quickly recognised a lot of similarities between the two books, to the extent that if Twilight and Battle Royale had a love child, the child would be squeezed out with a Mockingjay on its soft, newly-born front cover. Suzanne Collins, in my mind, has taken Battle Royale, transplanted it unashamedly into a slightly different dystopian environment, supplemented it with more teen romance, removed some of the gore, added a bit of media spin and produced a smash hit – kudos to her, but I feel this is a bit unfair to Battle Royale.
Battle Royale is literary genius. It looks at issues of government control and rebellion in ways the Hunger Games couldn’t even dream of – unless it dreams of Battle Royale, obv. The character development is also exceptional and it’s delve into the psyches of those forced to fight for their own lives makes Katniss’ love drama look rather unwarranted. For those who try to argue that the Hunger Games and Battle Royale are nothing alike (I imagine those people are actually few and far-between and consist mainly of those people who havn’t actually read both books…) I have compiled a list of similarities, and an explanation of why Battle Royale did it better in pretty much every case.
Dystopian Government Control.
The Hunger Games: The US (Panam) has been split up into various ‘districts’ who are under central control. The Capitol maintains strong control over the lives of those in the outlying districts, keeping them in relative poverty and with rigid laws and censorship of speech.
Battle Royale: The Republic of Greater East Asia (alternate timeline Japan) is an authoritarian state that strongly controls the lives of its populace, limiting importation of foreign products and ideas, including rock and roll music. Political opposition is not permitted, nor is criticism of government decisions or practices.
Why Battle Royale is better: Battle Royale actually backs up it’s dystopia with historical precedent, using an environment very similar to those of other (real) authoritarian states to create a reality not that dissimilar to some real-life places. The Hunger Games on the other hand uses comparatively unbelievable politic figures and unrealistic Capitol populace, although their apparent lack of care for those forced to battle it out does give some interesting insight into selfishness and not caring for things that do not directly affect our lives. That said – Battle Royale is far more realistic, and their power is far more scary, the Capitol almost seems friendly in comparison.
The Hunger Games: the Capitol runs yearly ‘Hunger Games’ where it televises 24 young people, two from each district, fighting till the death until only one teenager survives. The children are picked at random, although some have more tickets in the lottery than others. This is seen as a way for the government to breed fear into the populace, with the constant terror that one of their own might get picked to participate in the games and also a way of constantly reminding the districts that they were defeated by the Capitol. The Games are televised, with the districts forced to watch their own children die – just to rub salt into the wound. The competitors are often bet on by viewers.
Battle Royale: Every year 50 3rd Grade Junior Highschool classes (classes of 42 16 year olds) are abducted and forced to battle to the death under a government ruse of weapons and strategy testing. This keeps the population under control and in constant fear that their children might be picked. If anyone (such as teachers or parents) argues back about their children’s abductions they are imprisoned, raped or often killed violently – no one messes with the government. The experiments are not televised, but they are monitored and recorded, with many of the government officials gambling on which children may win.
Why Battle Royale is better: The chances of being abducted by the government in Battle Royale are far more likely than in the Hunger Games. In Battle Royale approximately 2100 students a year are slaughtered by their peers, whereas in the Hunger Games that is a measly 23. Puts it into perspective a little doesn’t it. On top of those 2000+ killed are also the families, friends and teachers of the kids, which makes, assuming you have 1 sibling, 2 parents and ignoring friends, over 8000 affected vs under 100. Put on top of that the fact that in the Hunger Games you are fighting against tributes from other areas who you may never have met before whereas in Battle Royale you are fighting against your classmates – your girlfriend, boyfriend, best mates, kids you have known your entire life and have grown up with – that you are now forced to slaughter in order to stay alive.
Reward for Winning
The Hunger Games: The winning child wins goodies for his/her district for a year as well as gaining security for life. Later in the series we learn however that often the winners are abused by the system – emotionally destroyed and are never really free of the games.
Battle Royale: The surviving child lives. They do not gain amnesty from future tests – as we discover from Shogo, who is actually in his second Battle Royale after having had to repeat a grade.
Why Battle Royale is better: Well, it generally sucks more for the surviving kid, there are no rewards and once again it is a far more realistic scenario. I guess the Hunger Games does gain points in that the children never really leave the games – the Capitol still uses them even after they have left the arena but still, you get goodies!
The competition itself
The Hunger Games: The children are set against one another after having collected a variety of weapons at the beginning of the games. Some children have good weapons and others have none, depending on what they managed to collect while running for their lives. The same goes for survival gear- water, food, sleeping bags etc. As the competition progresses conditions become more and more harsh – with traps being set off to up the tension when the games get boring. As the children decrease in number the landscape becomes tougher in order to push them together into a smaller area and increase the chances of encounters. Eventually if the games continue long enough they are herded together for this purpose. Every so often announcements are made informing the remaining contestants of the casualties.
Battle Royale: The students are told to fight one another to the death. Many of the children refuse, only to be killed by those students who have agreed to play the game. If no student agrees to play and no death occurs within a certain time limit, all the students will be killed, forcing the students to fight or die. At the beginning of the battle each student is provided with a pack, each of which contains a different weapon – immediately giving each student a different chance of survival dependent on the usefulness of their weapon – some have guns, some knives, some poison, some barely anything useable. As the fight progresses, more and more areas of the arena are made off limits – venturing into a zone that is illegalised will result in immediate death. This forces the students to evacuate their areas and move to new ones fairly often – increasing chances of encounters and narrowing the playing field. Every few hours guns are fired to inform the remaining students of any new deaths, although who the deaths are is not announced.
Why Battle Royale is better: The increasing amount of off-limit territory in Battle Royale means that the children can never bunker down while the excitement happens elsewhere, they must constantly be on guard in case their zone is illegalised. Whereas in The Hunger Games each contestant has had a bit of time to analyse the situation they are going into, in Battle Royale the students are thrown in there with no warning and no idea of how the others may react. Some students want to band together, others play the game, but there is no pact making beforehand and no way of communication with possible allies. Each child is alone with the fear and the knowledge that if someone doesn’t die they all do. Within the Hunger Games the contestants are faced far more with the known, and can be provided with some (although minimal) outside help.
Monitoring of the battles
The Hunger Games: Cameras and speakers are installed throughout the arena allowing the game-makers to monitor and control the unfolding massacre. Each player is chipped so that their pulse and stats can be monitored, as well as their location. The arena is installed with traps and other devices which the games makers can control to influence the game.
Battle Royale: Each student is equipped with a collar which monitors their vital statistics and contains a microphone to capture all conversation. It is also suggested that there is some video equipment monitoring them. The collars can detonate at any time if told to do so by those watching the students.
Why Battle Royale is better: The Hunger Games sends its contestants in knowing that they will be monitored and they can therefore use this to whatever small advantage they can glean. Within Battle Royale the students do not realise that there are microphones in their collars and so believe that they can discuss survival tactics without being overheard. The fear of immediate death from those in control is also not as prevalent in The Hunger Games, whereas in Royale the students are constantly in fear of both their peers and those in charge.
The characters as a whole are not that similar – Battle Royale obviously has a lot more of them. As with most novels, there is the hero, the love interest, the are-we-sure-we-can-trust-them guys and the baddies. Comparisons can be drawn I am sure, but that goes for pretty much every book, ever.
The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen is stuck in a love triangle throughout most of the three books between herself and Peeta Mellark (the other games contestant from her district) who is kind, loving and an excellent baker and Gale, a tall, dark, handsome friend who secretly loves her. Throughout the books Katniss has to deal with her feelings for both boys and the problems it creates. There is much drama as expected within teen novels and each of the main characters is loveable in their own way. Are you team Gale or team Peeta?
Battle Royale: Our main romance is between Shuya – our main character – and Noriko; the crush of his newly murdered best friend, who he feels responsible for and attempts to keep safe during the slaughter, as tribute to his friend. Love triangle number one: Shuya, Noriko and dead BFF****. During the ordeal of the games Shuya is forced to face his growing feelings for Noriko as well as for other girls in the class, several of whom also have a bit of a thing for him and are slowly killed off. An apparent love triangle also forms between Shuya, Noriko and Shogo, although understandably the students are still more focussed on not getting killed. Eventually a very sweet relationship begins to form between Shuya and Noriko but things are never simple throughout the book.
Why Battle Royale is better: Granted the Hunger Games is far more romance focussed – but that is part of the genre. However in many respects the romance is unrealistic, giving teenagers unrealistic expectations and in honesty NO ONE ACTUALLY ACTS LIKE THAT*****. If YOU were fighting for your life and against evil government control you would be worrying far less about the romance and far more about NOT DYING. Peeta however is lovely, and he gains many points for the Hunger Games. He needs Hugs. Battle Royale however, as with everything else, demonstrates an incredibly real series of romances and crushes. Not everything is about ARE THEY THE ONE?!?, it is about testing out feelings, acting or not acting on crushes and protecting what is important to you. A few of the standout romancy bits which really warm your heart are a couple who were dating in the class, find one another and decide to end their lives together rather than fight and eventually lose one another as well as a guy who spends the entire games trying to track down the girl he is secretly in love with, just so that he can protect her and keep her safe. Now THAT is love and real. How is it that Battle Royale, which is NOT a romance novel, manages to do such brilliant romances while the Hunger Games is stuck with the typical teen love triangle?
Fight against the Tyrannical regime
The Hunger Games: In the two sequel books, we see Katniss fighting against the rule of the Capitol, eventually succeeding in overthrowing the Capitol and helping put in place a decent government. In the second book we see Katniss and crew fighting to overthrow the game they are currently participating in, eventually managing to break out and go on the run.
Battle Royale: various students during the battle attempt to break out of the fighting or fight back against those who have captured them. We see various escape plans and plots, which to different levels are successful. Eventually Shuya, Shogo and Noriko are successful in breaking out of the game and begin “sticking-it to the man” although they do not succeed in overthrowing an entire political regime 😦
Why battle Royale is better: once again – far more realistic. I like that lots of the plans fail miserably so you are never sure what is going to happen until it actually happens.
Ending [LOTS OF SPOILERS – LOOK AWAY NOW!]
The Hunger Games: In the first book, we see Peeta and Katniss both survive the Hunger Games, although in very rough shape. In the series we see Katniss and gang overthrow the Capitol and eventually Peeta and Katniss settle down and try and distance themselves as much as possible from the Games.
Battle Royale: In the end both Shuya and Noriko manage to escape the island and with Shogo’s help manage to overthrow the boat which those who captured them were running – slaughtering the main military antagonist. Shuya and Noriko then manage to escape abroad where they agree to live their lives and try to distance themselves from the Battle Royale.
Why Battle Royale is better: Even to the last minute Battle Royale had me not know how it was going to end, whereas the Hunger Games ends of kind of a flat note. I AM a Hunger Games fan, however I was severely disappointed with the ending and so for me Battle Royale is the stand out in this category. It is nice that Peeta and Katniss get together – it makes me happy, but the ending is just so….bleh.
So there you have it – my essay length comparison of the two books. See the similarities? Yes? You see the similarities?? Rip off right?!? Granted, both of the books are exceptionally good, however you might have noticed that I hold a bit of a torch for Battle Royale. Basically, I have decided that there are two types of Hunger Games fans – those that like it because it is like Twilight and those that like it because it is like Battle Royale. Obviously if you are a member of the latter group, The Hunger Games may appear like a slightly more glamorous version of Battle Royale and you should certainly give it a read if you have not already. If you are a member of the former then you will probably have hated this article and disagree vehemently with every statement I made. Those of you who like The Hunger Games for the teen romance side of things and don’t like most of the killing bits should probably not read Battle Royale as it contains far less of the teen and far more exploding heads and disgusting and very graphic gore, however you could give it a go – some of the relationships in it are genuinely lovely.
In conclusion: Battle Royale could be real, The Hunger Games could not – ergo – Battle Royale = better.
*the first exceptionally so, the second two are a little bit weaker, but still good**
** The films are shit***.
***Paul thinks it is good, he is such a chick.
**** granted a slightly weird one….
***** Also – slight rant. Why does no one ever TALK to each other about things in these books? So many things would just resolve themselves if people were sensible and talked about their feelings and what was going on, rather than going all moody and angsty and creating problems for themselves. Also, no one ever THINKS about the other person’s point of view, they just get moody and persistently fail to understand ANYTHING. EVER. These are not good examples to set for our youth – except Peeta who demonstrates a great amount of forgiveness and unconditional love, but even he frequently gets rat-arsey and refuses to talk about things. Jeeze. GROW UP AND LEARN TO COMMUNICATE!! I speak this to the world in general also… rant over.