The Battle Royale Slam Book: Essays on the Cult Classic by Koushun Takami

The Battle Royale Slam BookEditor: Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington
Publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421565996
Released: April 2014

Battle Royale has recently seen something of a revival in North America in recent years. Koushun Takami’s controversial novel was originally published in Japan in 1999. Both the novel and its manga adaptation illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi first appeared in English in 2003. The novel was released again with a slightly revised translation and additional supplementary material in 2009 by Viz Media’s speculative fiction imprint Haikasoru. (This tenth anniversary release was my introduction to Battle Royale.) However, it wasn’t until 2012 that the film version of Battle Royale and its sequel Battle Royale II: Requiem received an official release in the United States. And now, in 2014, we’re seeing the releases of a new English translation of Takami’s novel by Haikasoru, the recent Battle Royale: Angels’ Border manga illustrated by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma, and The Battle Royale Slam Book: Essays on the Cult Classic by Koushun Takami, which is also notable for being Haikasoru’s first foray into nonfiction. Takami’s original novel left a huge impression on me, so I was very excited to read all of these new Battle Royale releases.

The Battle Royale Slam Book, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington, collects sixteen essays (seventeen including the introduction by Mamatas) which examine various aspects of the entire Battle Royale franchise. The core of that franchise is of course Takami’s original novel, but The Battle Royale Slam Book also explores many of its manga and film adaptations as well. The contributors to the volume include award-winning writers, academics, fans, and many others from around the world—the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and even Japan itself are particularly well-represented. I was specifically excited to see an essay by Toh EnJoe included in the volume, but the rest of the lineup is great, too: Nadia Bulkin, Carrie Cuinn, Raechel Dumas, Isamu Fukui, Sam Hamm, Masao Higashi, Brian Keen, Gregory Lamberson, Kathleen Miller, Konstantine Paradias, Jason S. Ridler, Adam Roberts, John Skipp, Steven R. Stewart, and Douglas F. Warrick. All of their essays were written specifically for inclusion in The Battle Royale Slam Book.

The Battle Royale Slam Book includes several types of essays ranging from academic ruminations to literary and film criticisms to the authors’ more personal experiences with Battle Royale in all of its iterations. The topics of the individual contributions are also varied, though some recurring themes do emerge. Many of the essays focus on some of Battle Royale‘s most controversial aspects, such as extreme violence and the deaths of school-aged youth, gender portrayals and sexism, and so on. Other essays position Battle Royale within a greater context, exploring its place within and relationship to not only Japanese popular culture but Western popular culture as well. School literature, professional wrestling, teen films, and other similar subjects are all addressed. The volume also examines the historical context of Battle Royale and its themes. The Battle Royale Slam Book shows how the Battle Royale phenomena has been influenced by, uses, and challenges literary and genre conventions in addition to showing its impact and continuing influence on individual people.

Several assumptions are made with The Battle Royale Slam Book, primarily that the readers are adults already familiar with Battle Royale, have a basic understanding of the novel’s premise, or have been exposed to at least one of its adaptations. It’s also helpful but not absolutely necessary to have some grounding in literature and film, and especially with speculative fiction and horror. The Battle Royale Slam Book will probably appeal most to those who are already interested in or who have already experienced Battle Royale in some form. Though the contributors don’t hesitate to point out the flaws and challenges presented by the Battle Royale novel, manga, and films, it is very clear that they are all either fans or are fascinated by the material and the responses to it. There is criticism to be found, but in general the volume tends to take a positive approach. The Battle Royale Slam Book was written for people like me who want to learn more about Battle Royale, its influences, and impacts. I found The Battle Royale Slam Book to be utterly fascinating and would highly recommend the volume to similarly minded individuals.

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  1. […] Border. In addition to a new translation of the original novel and The Battle Royale Slam Book (which was great), the manga makes the third Battle Royale release from Viz this […]

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