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Battle Royale II: Blitz Royale – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Supplementary material towards a body of work usually becomes the result of two things; either legitimate and thoughtful expressions towards their respective source material or are quite literally cashing in on the popularity of that source material. Inspired by the 2003 Japanese film Battle Royale II: Requiem, Battle Royale II: Blitz Royale is one such supplementary manga adaptation that was released within the same year of that film, with author Hitoshi Tomizawa taking the charge of both illustrating and writing the story of the manga. While the manga oddly does very little in terms of complementing the background of Battle Royale II: Requiem in any sufficient way, it does offer a rather interesting take on the governmental role in which the infamous “program” is utilized for more obscure purposes, a proposal that does much to elevate the reasonings surrounding the program itself, and unfortunately, not much else.

For those readers who have read through the likes of the original Battle Royale (2000) manga by Masayuki Taguchi, Battle Royale II: Blitz Royale will come off as a significantly more pragmatic look into how the program is utilized throughout specific governmental departments, in this case that of the navy. With a focus on how the navy compartmentalizes their version of the program over that of the military’s – whose version can be appropriately seen within Taguchi’s manga – we see how different interpretations of the program are applied and executed, with the navy viewing it along the lines of establishing self-defense preparedness and teamwork more so than individualism and darwinistic pronouncements. This contrasting approach returns the Battle Royale universe as one more akin to the original novel by Koushun Takami, bringing about a plausible exploration and subsequent application of the program that is eerily reflective of a standard contemporary combat exercise rather than the overly dramatic fortitude of Taguchi’s adaptation.

This realistic approach is one that many will appreciate considering that the franchise – most notably through the first manga adaptation and Requiem – has at times leaned too far to the side of choosing to be outlandishly violent and chaotic for its own good, burgeoning itself with sophomorish social commentary, or worse yet, very little commentary at all. This is not to say that the Battle Royale universe should subscribe to either or, but both the original novel and Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 film adaptation provided a fantastic combination of both, grounding them as genuine explorations of governmental suppression and violence – as well as being brutally honest when it came to the devastating emotional and physical nature of those members participating in program itself. Tomizawa follows suit with such an approach here, removing much of the overdone sensationalism of past adaptations and exploring the motivations that reside behind the program and the intricacies that exist between the departments of the navy and military, even hinting at their rather bitter rivalry between one another for proving which of their programs are effectively “better”. Gone are the times of the John Woo-ish shootouts and sexually promiscuous teenagers of Taguchi’s manga, with Tomizawa remaining fervent on presenting his addition to the Battle Royale universe as one attempting to resolve some of the mystique surrounding the scope of the program itself.

It is this approach towards the development of Blitz Royale’s narrative that has us rearranging our own thoughts and assumptions surrounding the essence of program, bringing about a very intriguing concept of why the program is enforced onto young students and how it fits within the authoritarian society as viewed in the universe of Battle Royale. Unfortunately, while this approach is undeniably complementary of the source material, its increasingly unfocused narrative easily leaves much of what we discover about the program as simply underdeveloped and rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. With much of the revelatory information concerning the background of the navy’s implementation of the program being haphazardly dropped about midway through, it results in an anti-climatic conclusion that leaves an overall sense of disappointment as to what could have been. Also, practically none of the motives for the actions of the characters – specifically that of the teenagers themselves – are thoroughly explained, and if they are, they are slopingly introduced and subsequently thrown away within the next several pages. The premise of the narrative is very promising to say the least, it is just that Tomizawa stumbles in how to promote such ideals.

It becomes quite obvious that Tomizawa wanted to expand upon the story found here, but he sadly did not. The only logical derivation is that the manga adaptation works more as an outlet in which to promote the then upcoming film Battle Royale II: Requiem than working as a stand alone work. While it does a rather sufficient job in enlarging the already immense scope of the Battle Royale universe and all it entails, its faltering narrative delivers a significant blow towards the manga being an effectively memorable work that can stand alongside both the original novel and, to some extent, even that of Taguchi’s manga adaptation. Perhaps due to the rather confounding nature and critical backlash of Battle Royale II: Requiem, Tomizawa may never had had a chance to see that his manga became a solid entry into the Battle Royale franchise like its predecessors, and although Blitz Royale does attempt in many ways to exceed and elaborate on the premise of Battle Royale, it ultimately succumbs to a nonsensical narrative that damages much of its true potential.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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