Thursday, December 06, 2012

Book Review - Battle Royale

I reviewed the film Battle Royale a while back, and after I watched it I really wanted to read the original novel. I had an eBook version, so a lot of my criticisms I had to pull back because I don't know if the formatting was messed up. I don't know what it is about eBooks but even ones I've bought recently have had some really screwed up formatting going on.

There's also a challenge in reading a book that was originally written in another language. You can never tell if the problem you have is actually in the text or in the translation. Now, this is far from the first time I've read a translated book. The Ring cycle by Koji Suzuki are some of my favorite books. But it doesn't seem like Viz really spent a lot of time on the translation of Battle Royale.

There are plenty of pros to the book version over the manga or the film. There's a lot more story so that it's easier to actually believe the character development and the time frame for everything. Some of the characters are better established and more interesting. Especially when it comes to the main three characters.

The problem is that the characterizations of the villains and their motivations are very, very weak. Both of those villains were better fleshed out or treated in more interesting ways through other iterations of the story.

But the problem was that the writing style was very pulp, which is what lead me to wonder about the translation. It just felt unrefined and a little weak. I know that the original novel wasn't really fancy literature, but this felt even a little more unrefined than I expected. The reading level was just a little low, and that made it less fun to read. Not that it's a particularly fun to read a story about the brutal murder of teenagers by their classmates, but you get my point.

The other problem was that the story was very basic when it came to talking about the characters, or their motivations, or even feelings. But whenever there was a gun involved, it suddenly got very detailed and started sounding like a manual. It's one thing to be concerned about getting the details right but this is over the top.

Overall, I've already talked about the story itself and what I think of it, and it still holds up in the novel. But of the three versions of the story, I'm not sure it's the strongest. Despite the excessive gore and disturbing nature of it, I'd say the manga is probably the strongest version, but the movie and book would be up to personal opinion.