I love books and I love movies, I also love examining them to see what they tell us about a society at a given time (Example: Lord Of The Rings is about WWI/WWII in Europe). It can be interesting to see how a common narrative gets built up and developed over time, for example, the narrative of children killing eachother in gruesome ways.
In 1954, William Golding turned heads with his revolutionary book, Lord Of The Flies, about a group of adolescent boys who end up marooned on a deserted island. The book explores the boys downward spiral from civilization and order into savagery and chaos. It is the first book published I have come across where the plot can be summarized as ‘a group of children in an isolated place killing eachother.’ It was so thought provoking that it was later made into a movie by the same name, and even remade.
In 1999 the genre of children killing eachother in remote places had the novel Battle Royale added to its roster, bringing a new movie with it, including a sequel. While it is possible to believe that the remake of Lord of the Flies inspired Battle Royale there are numerous differences between the plots. Both books feature students, but the highschool class in Battle Royale is randomly selected by lottery in a society well aware of the death games played by adults; Lord Of The Flies is random in that the students are randomly marooned. The key difference is socio-cultural. One society has children growing up with the expectation that they may be called to battle and maybe die against their will; the other society is comparable to WWII era England with no such pervasiveness of death. Another difference is the addition of women and a female protagonist to balance the male protagonists (one main, one supporting).
2008 brought us the Hunger Games triology, which took the same general plot of Battle Royale, made it more Western and expanded it into three books (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay). The books have caught fire with the public and have quickly been turned into movies; Catching Fire is currently in theaters and Mockingjay is in production. You can currently see The Hunger Games on Netflix. After many silly protests I finally caved and saw The Hunger Games last night, and I’ll admit it is much more than just a Westernized remake of a Japanese film), it is a whole new twist to this half century old plot.
First off, The Hunger Games has more character development than Battle Royale and Lord Of The Flies combined. As someone who cares about plot development I appreciate this greatly. Second, while Battle Royale does involve a totalitarian government of sorts and has some anti-government themes it does not hold a candle to the anti-rich/anti-government sentiments present in The Hunger Games. Third, while every kid in Battle Royale is given a backpack with tools and weapons in them, none receive any training in personal combat. Fourth, though they are being monitored in Battle Royale and can be killed at will for bad behavior it is nothing compared to the 100% full control the government has of the forest in The Hunger Games. They can even craft new animals and summon them at will. Tied into point four, The Hunger Games is a game, a TV show; Battle Royale is televised but not to the same degree.
As someone who went to school for politics and loves plot development I have to say that the Hunger Games is my favorite of the three. As someone who has read Lord of the Flies twice, seen the original film, seen Battle Royale numerous times, and now seen The Hunger Games I feel I have a pretty firm basis of comparison. I need to read Battle Royale and the Hunger Games Trilogy to truly be sure.
I will add that there are some elements of Battle Royale that don’t fully make sense to me, that would probably have a deeper impact if I was Japanese, or at least spoke the language. Some things definitely do get lost in translation.