Are you excited for the new Hunger Games sequel hitting theaters this weekend The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? If you are you might be surprised to know that The Hunger Games is a ripoff of a 2001 Japanese film ‘Battle Royale.' What is the plot of Battle Royale? In a dystopian future a class of kids are put on an island and forced to kill each other until there is only 1 sole survivor. Sound familiar? Yeah I thought so but maybe Suzanne Collins, the writer of The Hunger Games trilogy, doesn't agree.
To have a bit of fun for all the people going to see the movie Catching Fire this weekend I thought I would do a match-up and head-to-head comparison of Battle Royale and Hunger Games. We will compare character similarities and differences, plotlines, character, and how each originated into a movie.
Battle Royale vs Hunger Games
*I should let people know that I will be revealing what happens in both Battle Royale as well as The Hunger Games movies. I will try to not have too man spoiler but it's envitable if I am going to do a comparison. So If you haven't watched either movie then you might want to stop reading. Of course why would you stop reading an awesome article on one of the best blogs on the internet? 🙂
If you want to watch either movie they are both currently available on Netflix.
First off let's examine how Battle Royale and Hunger games got made into movies. Each started off getting onto the silver screen in a similar way, books.
Battle Royale Book
The Battle Royale movie was based off a book by Koushun Takami. The novel first debut in 1999 but was completed in 1996. The book has been translated into many other languages which includes Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Norwegian, and Hungarian. The book was published in English in 2003.
The book Battle Royale spawned a Japanese manga series, which are comics with a specific Japanese drawing style, and several movies which includes Battle Royale 2: Requiem and Battle Royale 2: Revenge. In total that means there are 3 Battle Royale movies. Sound like another series?
There was also an adaption of Battle Royale on the stage in the Philippines by students. There were talks to make Battle Royale into a TV series on the CW Network but talks were canned after the 2012 release of the The Hunger Games movie as it would have just been seen as a ripoff and not the other way around.
The Hunger Games Series
The Hunger Games is a science fiction novel by Suzanne Collins which was first released in 2008. After that a second book in the The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, was released in 2009 followed by the third book, Mockingjay, in 2010.
The first Hunger Gamess book has been translated into 26 different languages. The rights for publishing the book have been sold in 38 territories across the globe and it's obviously been a major sales success for the publisher Scholastic. They said that when the first movie was released there were 26 million Hunger Games books in print which includes movie tie-in titles. The books have done exceptionally well on the Amazon kindle and Amazon announced in March of 2012 that Collins was the best-selling author on the Kindle platform of all time.
The movie starred Jennifer Lawrence as the main character, Katniss Everdeen. Josh Hutcherson (The Kids are All Right) also was in the movie as Peeta along with a star studded cast that included Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, and Kiefer Sutherland. The movie was co-produced by Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games movie was directed by Gary Ross.
Now that you know that Battle Royale and The Hunger Games started of as books first let's compare the plotlines and stories.
Battle Royale Plot
Battle Royale premise is that Japan is ruled by an authoritarian government known as the Republic of Greater East Asia. The Battle Royale Act was enacted essentially so the government could keep the public in control so there is not uprising. It is also to make sure that kids learn to treat adults with respect.
Each year the government randomly select a class of students to compete in the “Battle Royale.” Junior High School Students from Shiroiwa, a made-up town, are chosen and taken onto a bus assuming they are going on a field trip. The bus and is gassed so everyone passes out and they are taken to an isolated island.
The students then learn that are required to fight the other members of the class to the death. The game stops when 1 sole survivor remains and that student is declared the winner. There are 21 boys and 21 girls in the class when the games starts. The kids movements are tracked on the island by metal collars that contain tracking devices and microphones. If anyone tries to escape the island a bomb detonates in the collar killing the wearer. In addition if a student enters or is in a forbidden zone, which are randomly selected at the hours of 12 and 6, both a.m. and p.m, the bomb will automatically detonate. During the announcements of the forbidden zones students who are killed are announced. The Battle Royale lasts for 3 days and if every collar will detonate simultaneously and… nobody wins.
Each student is given a bags with compass, map, water, and a different weapon which can vary from good to bad. Some receives guns or body armor while others just get a teapot lid.
The first Battle Royale was held in 1947 and 50 other junior high school classes were selected (prior to 1950, forty-seven classes were selected) annually to participate for military “research purposes.”
Hunger Games Plot
The Hunger Games focuses on 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who happens to live in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem which is in North America. (You know so everyone speaks English.)
Panem consists of the wealthy Capitol which is a technologically advanced metropolis. Surrounding it are 12 poor districts united under the Capitol's control. (Hey, this just sounds like Washington DC.)
The Capitol exercises political and military control over Panem in many different ways. One ways is The Hunger Games, an annual event in which 1 boy and 1 girl aged 12–18 are selected randomly in a lottery from the 12 districts to compete in the games. The selected kids are known as “Tributes” and they must fight to death until only 1 remains alive. (Yeah, Battle Royale ripoff.) The Capitol broadcasts the Hunger Games on national television for entertainment and as a reminder of who is in charge.
Like Battle Royale, the tributes are offered packs and weapons at the beginning but they must run to get them under a tent once the clock starts.
Katniss sister, Primrose, is selected is to compete in the 74th annual Hunger Games during what is known as “The Reaping” but as she is being taken away Katniss volunteer to be a tribute in her place. Peeta, a guy from District 12, is chosen and later you learn that he has had a crush on her Katniss from awhile.
Katniss doesn't buy this as she believes it is a ploy for Peeta to get sponsors which can supply food, medicine, and tools to tributes they like during the games. She later uses this to her advantage.
We've already discussed some of the characters in The Hunger Games but lets get into a bit more detail and compare different roles in both movies (and books).
*There will be some spoilers here.
Shuya Nanahara – Battle Royale's Male Protagonist
Shuya Nanahara is the primary male protagonist in Battle Royale. The character in the beginning of the movie has a lot of trouble during his life. His committed suicide but it is implied that that authoritarian government might have killed him for opposing the regime which made it difficult for him to get a job. Nanahara's mother died while he was in third grade.
Shuya does not want to take part in the Battle Royale game and tries to his his wits and trust of other students to help him and others survive. He forms an alliance with Noriko Nakagawa and Shogo Kawada. He wants to help people escape but the pressure to kill other students to survive makes his group efforts futile. He escapes death several times in the movie and Kawada helps him quite a bit since he was already this was his second Battle Royale.
He survives the contest and escapes the island with Noriko.
Peeta Mellark – The Hunger Games Male Protagonist
At home he was the some of a baker which supposedly makes him strong and able to paint well since he decorated cakes. That means he can camouflage himself in the woods by painting on himself. (Kind of lame?) Later this comes in handy when he has to hide from other tributes.
Peeta shows he is into the game from the moment they get to the Capitol even though it's clear he doesn't think he will win and does not want to participate. Like the character of Shuya Nanahara he forms an alliance with other people to survive and takes advice from Haymitch, a District 12 winner from years ago. Similarly Nanahara takes advice from Kawada in Battle Royale.
Peeta along with tributes he allied has a chance to kill Katniss. Since he obviously wants to get with her he “saves her” by saying they should wait until she comes down from a tree. Later Katniss helps him when he gets wounded.
Peeta makes it out of The Hunger Games alive with Katniss. His fight is not just to survive and win but for love as well.
Noriko Nakagawa – Battle Royale Female Protagonist
At one point in the story she falls ill since she was shot by another student. Nanahara takes her to a medical clinic on the map to find Kawada hiding out there. He helps treat her fever since he claims his father is a doctor.
She manage to keep everyone sane during the Battle Royale game. Noriko Nakagawa and Shuya Nanahara are the only ones that survive and escape the island.
Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games Hero
Katniss Everdeen is The Hunger Games main character and hero. She volunteers for the games so her sister, Primrose, didn't have to go compete since she surely would have died. Katniss has good hunting skills and her weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. (Archery is really big now because of the movie and book btw.) In addition she has good survival skills as she hides from other tributes.
During the games Katniss forms a friendship and alliance with Rue, a 12-year-old girl from the agricultural District 11. The implication is that she reminds her of Primrose. Rue is killed in the story by another tribute in the games, which Katniss then kills. Katniss spreads flowers over her Rue's body.
Since Katniss and Peeta are seen as “star-crossed lovers” a rule change is announced during the middle of The Hunger Games, which allows 2 tributes to win and they can originate from the same District. The rule change was influenced by Haymitch after convincing Seneca, the head game master.
After this surprising announcement Katniss begins looking for Peeta. Using his baking skills he is hiding camouflaged style. Since Katniss sees Peeta as a friend but more importantly a way to win The Hunger Games she nurses him back to health. She pretends to fall in love to gain favor with the audience and sponsors.
When Peeta and Katniss are the two remaining tributes in the games they believe they both can go home alive. However… the rules switch again so that there can be only 1 winner. Katniss, being very smart a sly, is aware that they gamemakers rather have 2 victors rather that none at all. She gets out poisonous berries called “nightlock” from her pouch and tells Peeta that they both will eat them, which would result in death for both of them. (Nightlock is probably supposed to be like Hemlock which killed Socrates.) Seeing that both are intent on committing suicide they are announced the winners of the 74th Hunger Games.
After the games are over it is clear that Katniss is just well… not that into Peeta. He realizes it was part of an elaborate plan to gain favor with the audience and to win. Even though he has clearly express feelings for her.
Although she survives the ordeal in the arena and is treated to a hero’s welcome in the Capitol, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a political target after defying her society’s authoritarian leaders so publicly.
Shogo Kawada – Battle Royale's Mentor
Shogo Kawada is the Battle Royale mentor to Nanahara and Nakagawa in the movie helping the on the island to survive. He is quiet, stoic, and portrayed as a loner within the class. He was put into the class shortly before they were taken to the island to compete in the Battle Royale as a transfer student.
During the movie you realize that he is intelligent and knows what he is doing. As it turns out Kawada competed in the Battle Royale 3 years earlier and survived. He had to kill his girlfriend Keiko though.
He forms an alliance with Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa and it isn't clear whether they can trust him. He supposedly knows a way to escape from the island and Battle Royale.
It is revealed that he deliberately transferred to the school, including another student, in hopes of participating in the game. The reason? To avenge Keiko's death by killing the controller of the game, Kitano. He succeeds by making it seem like he is the last one left and that he killed Norkio and Shuya. When in reality it was trick so that they would go into the school and kill Kitano.
Kawada, Nanahara, and Nakagawa then escape on a boat. Since Kawada is injured he dies on the boat but the other escape and survive.
During the story he remains a bit of a mystery. Whenever he is asked about how he knows how to do something he replies, “My father is a doctor” or “My father is cook” etc. Despite this it's clear he is the most skilled and smartest person in the movie which is why he won the game twice.
Haymicth Abernathy – The Hunger Games Mentor
Haymitch Abernathy, played by Woody Harrelson, is the mentor to Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. He was the winner of 50th Hunger Games when he was 16 and he gives advice to both of them about how to survive and win.
In the movie he is a bit difficult and eccentric, like Kawada, but he knows what he is doing. (Part of the reason is that he is an alcoholic.) He is the one of only 2 winners from District 12 in the games history. He has a disdain for the Capitol and the games but mentors his proteges in an uncanny way so that they can win. A bit similar to what Kawada does in Battle Royale.
Kitano – Master of Battle Royale
He is the announcer that tells the students who had died and what forbidden zones they can't enter or be in. Essentially he controls the map and where students can in addition to being able to blow-up the collars with a remote. In the movie he is portrayed as having a tumultuous relationship with his daughter.
In the movie Kitano has a weird affection for Noriko Nakagawa. He saves her during the game once scaring off another student and giving her an umbrella. At the end he reveals a picture showing her the winner.
Kitano is killed in the movie by Shuya Nanahara with a machine gun avenging Keiko.
Seneca Crane – The Hunger Games Head Gamemaker
Since the Capitol has advanced technology this allows them to control the map by throwing fire, creating vicious animals, and even make it day or night. The gamemakers can also announce who has died with by broadcasting onto the dome covering the map. A boom, symbolizing a tree falling, is set off when a tribute dies.
Seneca is dies The Hunger Games but not quite like Kitano. He is forced to commit suicide since he let both Katniss and Peeta live and was outsmarted. Guards throw him into a room that is beautifully decorated and on a table there i an elegant bowl of fresh Nightlock berries. (He isn't shown eating them but you know what happens.)
Battle Royale vs Hunger Games Conclusion
If you've gotten this far thanks for reading the entire Battle Royale vs Hunger Games comparison. As you can see there are a lot of similarities but differences. Here's quick reference and refresher list;
- Both are set in a Dystopian future.
- People are forced to kill each other.
- Kids are randomly selected.
- They are tracked and monitored with devices.
- They all need to kill each other.
- There's a love story.
- Masters of the games are killed.
- People who have played the game give the 2 main characters advice.
- Battle Royale is much more bloody than Hunger Games (it is a PG13 movie).
- Hunger Games focuses more on Katniss than any other characters.
- Battle Royale focuses on different characters throughout the movie on Nanahara and Nakagawa.
- The part of the movie showing “The Hunger Games” is short, about only half.
Basically the core idea of the both stories is the same and if you were to ask me it seems like The Hunger Games is a ripoff.
To be fair to Suzanne Collins it is hard to come up with a completely new plot in this day and age and find something that hasn't already been done before. However, she said in an interview, “I'd never heard or seen Battle Royale.” Mmmm, I kind of find that hard to believe but I'm pretty sure the publisher of The Hunger Games series told her to say that. (You know how lawyers are.) She claims that the idea came from watching reality TV and the Iraq war and she merged the two.
Erin Morgenteson who wrote the book “The Night Circus” admitted that her book was inspired by the 2006 movie “The Prestige” directed by Christopher Nolan and starred Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. (The Prestige was a book first as well.) The Night Circus follows two young magicians that are pitted against each other but from a young age but I think they fall in love. (I haven't read it.) I give credit to Morgenteson that she was able to openly say she borrowed an idea from somewhere else.
Someone else should just come clean too. Who wants to get reputation like Carlos Mencia? (He steals jokes from other comics in case you didn't know.) Of course with so many Kindle books sold I don't she cares. 🙂
There are differences in The Hunger Games as it is a more gladiatorial plot and the story is better. Personally if it's a choice between Battle Royale vs Hunger Games, even if I think it's a ripoff, the Hunger Games is a better movie.
Well in any case if you haven't seen Battle Royale or the Hunger Games I'd recommend you watch both and see if you agree or disagree with my comparisons of the characters and the plot. I hope you have enjoyed this Battle Royale vs Hunger Games head to head comparison. Do you have anything to say? Let me know below. I'd love to hear from fans of each movie thoughts and opinions.