Battle Royale has been a hit since it was first released in 2000, receiving rave reviews around the world. Based upon the book by Koushun Takami, the story has been adapted to manga, western comics, and the big screen. Now both the first and second films are getting a gorgeous 4K Ultra HD release from Arrow Video, allowing audiences the chance to see this genre-defining piece in amazing quality.
Battle Royale tells the story of the children of Third Year Class-B Shiroiwa Junior High School, who are the latest group of teens to be selected to take part in the BR ACT, an initiative passed by the Japanese government to try to combat the growing number of unruly and disruptive young people in their country. Having been selected as this year’s participants, the class are taken to a remote island where they will be forced to fight and kill each other until only one remains. To ensure the kids take part, every student has been fitted with a special collar with an explosive device. If they try to fight back against those behind things, or if they enter any forbidden area the collars will detonate, killing them.
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The second film, Battle Royale 2: Requiem, picks up three years after the events of the first movie, where the survivors of previous games have come together to form a resistance group, The Wild Seven, to try and fight against the government. In response, the government has adapted the BR ACT, forcing those chosen to compete to fight together as a strike force against the rebels on their island fortress, pitting innocent children against desperate freedom fighters in a battle to the death. Much like the first film, anyone who refuses to fight will be eliminated by the government.
It’s clear to see how Battle Royale inspired a plethora of dystopian stories, especially things such as The Hunger Games, but it’s also one of the most realistic of these films, presenting a grim future that’s not too different from our own. This isn’t a world where a tyrannical government is using their advanced technology to cow those under them, keeping people in rigid caste systems or anything like that. The world presented in Battle Royale is one where a desperate government put something in place as the only solution they could see, and people went along with it. The first film presents a very bleak story where no one would ever dream of standing up against such a thing, whilst the sequel shows how hard and futile such a rebellion would probably be.
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The first two discs of this set are given over to the original film, with a theatrical and director’s cut that have both received 4K transfers from the original film negatives, making these the sharpest quality versions of both films to date. Having seen the film on both DVD and regular Blu-ray I can say that there is a definite difference here, and whilst some of the darker scenes do have a slight bit of grain to them, overall they look fantastic. The sequel doesn’t fare as well as the original in terms of visual quality, but still looks incredibly good, and like the first one comes in both a theatrical and director’s cut.
Alongside these updated versions of the movie are a whole host of fascinating extra features, including some new ones just for this set. The first film gets a new audio commentary from film critics Tom Mes and Jasper Sharpe, who are able to offer a lot of insights that are unique to these kind of retrospective commentaries from film critics and historians. There are also a number of behind the scenes features for both movies, showing how the films were made, and the impact that they had. The fifth disc in the set is also a soundtrack CD, so you can pretend that you’re being hunted by your classmates if you listen to it whilst out for a run.
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The new set also comes with a 120 page book, a booklet filled with essays and articles, a set of cards, and a reversible poster, just to give you a little extra bang for your buck. Whilst these items didn’t come included with our review copy, I know that Arrow put a lot of care and attention into these little extras, so I’m sure that they’ll be great quality too.
As someone who’s been a fan of this film since it first came out, and has owned multiple copies of the book, it’s a set that I’ve been excited about for a while. And it didn’t dissapoint. Even though I’ve got other special edition versions and limited sets for this film this one is able to offer something new and exciting, and I loved every minute of it.
Battle Royale is out now on Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray from Arrow Video.