When The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, first came out, it received a lot of criticism about being really similar to Battle Royale, a 1999 Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami. Due to all the comparisons, I actually set out to read Battle Royale for myself after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I found the books to have a similar approach with a survival game, but there were also a lot of differences between the two novels.
The governments’ games: Both The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are based on kids being forced by the government to fight each other to death. In The Hunger Games, the survival game created by the Capitol is called, obviously, the Hunger Games, and is an annual event that is highly publicized througout Panem. In Battle Royale, third-year high school classes are selected annually to participate in the Program for a “military research project.” Since the Hunger Games are publicly announced, the people knew the drill and were already somewhat prepared for the worst. By publicizing the Hunger Games each year, I think this gives the tributes an advantage, since they basically know what to expect. On the other hand, the students in Battle Royale have no idea that they were chosen to participate in the Program, completely taking them by surprise.
Also, the players in the Hunger Games were continuously being watched by hidden cameras, while the students in Battle Royale were being tracked by the government by metal collars. In the Program, the rules stated that if no one were to die within 24 hours of the last person who died, every single collar would be set off and kill all the students at once, ending the game immediately.
The “players” and alliances: The Hunger Games acts as a big factor that may affect the children of a family each year, giving them fear and anxiousness as their children grow closer and closer to the minimum age to be a tribute. The selected tributes in the Hunger Games are varied in age and skills, and are mostly strangers to each other, being from different districts and all. This makes it a bit easier to attack each other, since the tributes aren’t very closer to each other. However, the 46 students in Battle Royale are all classmates and are extremely familiar with each other. I think the fact that most of them were close friends made it harder for the students to turn against one another during each encounter.
In terms of alliances, they were pretty similar in both cases. The tributes and students all had to decide on who they could and couldn’t trust. Eventually, the almost all members of the alliances would turn against each other for their own sake. I think the only major difference was that the students had no time to discuss alliances and friendships on the line when the game started; they had to risk waiting for each other on the expense of being attacked by another classmate.
The battlefield: Tributes in the Hunger Games had to fight in a dangerous outdoor arena specifically created and controlled by the Capitol filled with different obstacles that could be altered at any time. There were different horrors and mutations, like the tracker jackers and mockingjays. I really liked how Suzanne Collins came up with the mutations and what role each of them played in the Games. There was the possibility of food and water in the arenas, but the tributes had to be cautious in case they were not edible or were dangerous. On the contrary, the students were unknowingly brought to an isolated and abandoned island where there was close to no food or water.
Both the Hunger Games and the Program had announcements at the end of the day to let other players know who had died that day. This helped the players keep track of who was left in the games. Something majorly different between the two novels was that the Program in Battle Royale included forbidden zones. Each day, there were forbidden zones or parts of the island that the students were not allowed to pass through. If someone went into a forbidden zone, or was in a zone when it became forbidden, a bomb would go off in his or her collar, killing them instantly.
Weapons and skills: The distribution of materials and weapons among the players of both games were pretty similar though. In the Hunger Games, tributes would grab what they could at the Cornucopia and run off. For example, a lucky tribute could end up with food, water, a weapon, and some other device to defend themselves if they risked fighting with others over it. In Battle Royale, the students were to choose a survival pack that contained food and water, a map, compass, flashlight, and a random weapon or item. The weapon or item a student received before heading out was entirely based on luck. The skills of the players in each game were quite different.
Most tributes had a skill and knowledge based on which district they lived in, since they were trained and had worked since they were young. On the other hand, most of the students in Battle Royale were completely unprepared and had no prior experience with weapons whatsoever.
Overall, both stories were exciting, intense, and enjoyable reads. The writing styles of each novel was different, as the Japanese Battle Royale was more complex in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure than The Hunger Games. If you loved reading The Hunger Games, you should most definitely give Battle Royale a try!
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