Review: Battle Royale: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)

Anchor Bay finally gives Kinji Fukasaku's brutal masterpiece Battle Royale (and it's misguided sequel) an official stateside release with this complete collection Blu-ray!

  • Director: Kinji Fukasaku / Kenta Fukasaku
  • Starring: Beat Takeshi, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda 
  • Year: 2000 / 2003
  • Runtime: Theatrical: 114 / Director's Cut: 122 / BR II: 133
  • Company: Anchor Bay
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: BD: 3 - 50GB / DVD: 1
  • Video: 1.78:1 - 1080p - AVC
  • Audio: Japanese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 & 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Region: A
  • Released: 3/20/2012

  • Battle Royale
Battle Royale is a masterpiece, but that's nothing you didn't already know. When the late Kinji Fukasaku set his sights on adapting Koushun Takami's novel into a feature film no one could have anticipated the impact it would have on audiences or an even bigger arena; cinema. Released in Japan at the tail end of the new millennium year, Battle Royale would go onto become one of it's country's highest grossing films despite it's battle with the censors for it's display of extreme violence. With no proper distribution set in the United States, eager cinephiles only legal means of watching the film was through importing DVDs from over seas. Finally after 12 years Battle Royale is officially getting it's stateside due thanks to Anchor Bay, allowing a whole new generation to experience this beautiful and violent classic.
The opening prologue tells us that thousands of students have rebelled against school and Japan has essentially become a teenage wasteland. Desperate and frightened, the adults with the help of government aid set a new law into motion called the Millennium Educational Reform Act (aka The BR Act) which randomly selects a high school class and pits the students against one another for three days on a deserted island. Catch is, only one can make it out alive. Through a maniacal instruction video the students learn the cruel rules to surviving and are each given a survival bag before being set out to kill or be killed before a proximity detonated collar around each of their necks explodes. 42 students, 3 days, 1 survivor. Welcome to Battle Royale.
At the center of the story is Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), a lonely kid who's trying to deal with the recent suicide of his father when he and his classmates are gassed on a fake field trip, forcing them to participate in Battle Royale. By Shuya's side is his trouble making best friend Nobu & Noriko (Aki Maeda), a girl Nobu has a major crush on and attended the field trip due to her request. After Nobu becomes the first victim of the aforementioned detonating collar, Shuya's sole goal becomes protecting Noriko and surviving the game at all costs.
It's here that the film adds a layer of humanity from the orchestra of teens brutally offing each other into a relatable look at something we all go through; growing up. Throughout the carnage are defining character moments from dozens of the students that are grim, touching and even down right evil. Many embrace the vicious nature of the game, killing with ease and delight. Some opt for suicide with their loved ones, taking their own lives and retaining purity instead of participating. There's even a pass at losing virginity before dying. Despite the harsh conditions the students are thrust into, they are still simply teenagers at that fragile point in life chocked to the brim with hormones and emotions.
The grand guignol performance comes from Takeshi "Beat" Kitano as the students ex-teacher and current honcho of the Battle Royale game, Kitano. Beat Takeshi is a powerhouse, injecting heaps of sly humor and stealing every scene he is in with a stone faced presence. Aside from the macho theatrics Kitano is also quite somber and shows that adults can be just as lost as rebellious teenagers, tying in with the overall theme of loneliness. It's a nuanced, nonchalant role with a fair share of insanity that truly connects and completes the film.  Battle Royale is truly special, a gem of modern cinema that is wholly ambitious, smart and entertaining till the last scene.

  • Battle Royale II: Requiem 
Set three years after the events in the first film, Japan has since become a target of terrorism after a series of bombings from a group of survivors from past Battle Royale games known as the Wild Seven. Led by Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara again reprising his previous role), the rebels aim to abolish the Japanese government and put an end to Battle Royale once and for all. Unbeknownst, a new class of students have been selected for Battle Royale consisting of outcast kids, including Kitano's daughter Shiori who's signed up voluntarily to personally make Shuya pay for killing her father.
The students learn the rules of the game have changed, instead of killing each other till one stands they've been tasked to storm Wild Seven's island headquarters and dispatch Shuya and his rebel team within 72 hours. To ensure their cooperation the students are fitted with the games trademark explosive collars that are linked between assigned pairs, detonating if a partner escapes, refuses to participate or dies. Armed with an arsenal of firepower, Shiori and the delinquent group race to the island via speed boats which turns into a war zone once they reach the shore, leading to an unexpected pact that could destroy Battle Royale for good.
Now, doesn't that sound like a solid follow up to it's groundbreaking predecessor? A potentially dazzling sequel which serves as a tribute to honor the late Kinji Fukasaku after succumbing to prostate cancer shortly after filming a single scene from his son Kenta, further expanding on an already established world while creating a new death filled game that pits it's unfortunate participants through another death filled scenario. Yeah, I fell for that too. Battle Royale II: Requiem is one of the worst films I've ever had the displeasure of watching. Useless, unnecessary, repetitive and abysmal are choice words that come to mind. Not even throwaway cameos from Takeshi Kitano and Sonny Chiba can keep this train fro derailing. To bluntly address my thoughts on this without further divulging my hatred for this film, I'll simply say: Avoid at all costs.

  • Video
Anchor Bay has exceeded my expectations for the North American home video debut of Battle Royale with their solid Blu-ray release. Offering both Theatrical & Directors Cut of Battle Royale and the original cut of Battle Royale II: Requiem (each on their own Blu-ray discs) with a sole DVD containing the Bonus Features. I opted for the Theatrical Cut of Battle Royale (not a fan of the drawn out Directors Cut) which looks quite nice in HD, offering a warm and detailed transfer that takes the edge over Arrow Video's UK soft and muted transfer release. Battle Royale & it's sequel are not lavish looking films but both are given a fantastic picture quality boost thanks to Anchor Bay.
  • Audio
Included are three audio options, spread across the various cuts and sequel.
  • Battle Royale: Director's Cut - Japanese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 & English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Battle Royale: Theatrical Cut - Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Battle Royale II: Requiem - Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
The 5.1 TrueHD for the Theatrical Cut is loud and dynamic with plenty of booming bass throughout that I'm sure the 7.1 TrueHD mix in the Director's Cut expands upon with even more surround channel action. Dialogue is always crystal clear in both Japanese 5.1 tracks along with the action and effects which is quite immersive. Without a doubt the best these films have ever sounded.

Bonus Features
Anchor Bay, as you can see, has included a generous wealth of Bonus Features for their inaugural Blu-ray release. Housed in a sleek bound book styled package with photos and art from the film adoring the disc sleeves, it's undoubtedly gorgeous. Some supplement's overlap between this and Arrow Video's Limited Edition UK release but both contain exclusive features and physical trinkets that completist's will no doubt want to own for completest sake.
  • Documentary - "The Making of Battle Royale" 
  • Featurette - "Battle Royale Press Conference" 
  • Featurette - "Instructional Video: Birthday Version" 
  • Featurette - "Audition & Rehearsal Footage" 
  • Featurette - "Special Effects Comparison Featurette" 
  • Featurette - "Tokyo International Film Festival 2000" 
  • Featurette - "Battle Royale Documentary" 
  • Featurette " Basketball Scene Rehearsals" 
  • Featurette - "Behind The Scenes" 
  • Featurette - "Filming On Set" 
  • Trailer 
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