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August 23, 2004

{     Koushun Takami's Battle Royale vol. 1 - published by Tokyopop     }    

In 1999, Japanese author Koushun Takami published his first novel, entitled Battle Royale. The storyline centers around "The Program", a combination game-show reality-TV survive-a-thon that pits 42 teenagers against one another in a 3 day battle to the death. One twist, among many, is that the kids all know each other- they are all from the same 9th grade class. Many of them are friends. As a lot of you reading this probably know, the novel was picked up for adaptation into film, and the controversy surrounding its theme of teens murdering each other grabbed attention on an international level, becoming a bit of a cult phenomenon. While the film arguably lived up to the hype, it fell short on the backstory and characterization that made the novel so compelling, relying instead on visceral imagery to carry it from scene to scene. The film lacked depth but the novel lacked visual impact. Was there no middleground? Enter the manga. Bloodier and gorier than the film and every bit as involved as the novel, this medium is the perfect synthesis of the written word and the visual image. Takami-san even undertook the writing duties, re-scripting some of the events in the film and book versions to give them further depth and enlisting Masayuki Taguchi to bring it all to life on the page. Taguchi uses a blend of styles to create the world of Battle Royale, and communicates the action taking place in a fluid and realistic manner that conveys a true sense of motion and speed of movement. The manga is a whole new animal, combining the best elements from the previous versions into something exceptional and transcendent. I know a lot of you out there aren't necessarily into the whole manga thing. Trust me, I've heard all the arguments before, and until I really found one that grabbed me (Parasyte) I wasn't much of a fan either. Sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) of over-the-top violence and gore to realize how unbound manga is. There are no limits to what can be expressed in this medium- it's wide-open. Battle Royale epitomizes this, telling a story that is too graphic for the movie screen and contextualizing it in a meaningful way by giving us the space and freedom to get to know the characters involved. Tokyopop gets mad props for doing an excellent job of making sure the US version is translated effectively, enlisting the aide of comic-scribe Keith Giffen to smooth things out. They have maintained the traditional right-to-left format as well, meaning that once you get your eyes trained to follow the action everything comes across without any of the hitches or problems associated with a "flopped" translation. I also have to give them credit for just having the balls to bring this to the US, for putting it out there. They have put a lot of faith in the fact that we are ready for adult-themed manga, and with Battle Royale, have brought us one of the finest.

     » Tokyopop

By Adam in Reading

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