Originally released back in December 2000, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale went on to become one of the most controversial Japanese films, ever. At the time, the then Education Minister, Tadamori Oshima, asked that cinemas not show the film, and Democratic Party member Koki Ishii launched a campaign to ban it. Given an R-15 rating (restricted to 15 years and over), director Fukasaku responded by encouraging the youth of Japan to try and see it.
For those who have never heard of Battle Royale, the film presents a dystopian future of Japan. With the nation crumbling, and millions unemployed, students begin boycotting school. Fearing the youth, the government passes the Millennium Educational Reform Act – Battle Royale. A random class of 42 high school students are chosen and placed on an island. They have three days to kill each other till there is only one left. If after three days there is more than one survivor then the explosive collars around their neck will explode, and they all die.
Based on Koushun Takami’s novel, since the films release there has been a special edition, with newly filmed scenes and CGI enhancements, and a sequel, Battle Royale II: Requiem, directed by Kinji Fukasaku’s son, Kenta Fukasaku, after his father died from prostate cancer. There has also been a successful manga adaptation, which ran to 15 volumes and offered a backstory on each of the students.
Back in the summer it was announced that Toei would be re-releasing Battle Royale in Japan in 3D, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Given the poor quality of 3D conversions, as news of this began to surface, comments from fans were largely disapproving, believing Toei to be cashing in on the 3D craze. However, Kenta Fukasaku has personally overseen the conversion process himself.
The short trailer released shows that audiences can expect CGI blood and bullets flying towards them, which also suggests that it’s the special edition that has received the 3D conversion. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwox-dMmtrk&)
The 3D film will also include a new theme song by Anna Tsuchiya, titled ‘CHECKMATE mash up’ and includes a collaboration with rapper ANTY the Kunoichi. Part of it can be heard playing in the new trailer. The song is a modern reworking of Verdi’s Requiem Dies Irae, which has become somewhat synonymous with the film, after it was used in the opening scene and the original marketing trailer.
Battle Royale is re-released in Japan in 3D on November 20th.
Toei took the 3D version to the American Film Market earlier this month, and it appears that the film is finally getting an official release in America, after Nippon Cinema announced that Anchor Bay picked up the rights to Battle Royale.
Although there were festival screenings, the film was never banned, with numerous stories as to why it was never officially released across America. Some highlight Toei’s high licensing fees, alienating smaller distributors, while the distributors that could afford to market it weren’t going to touch a film of this nature while still so close after the Columbine high school shootings. The main one appears to be that despite many buyers, Toei simply refused to offer the rights to anyone, never fully explaining why.
After screening at the American Film Market, the film received widespread attention from up to 50 distributors across 13 countries. It was revealed that Anchor Bay offered up the highest amount that any Toei title has ever received. They now have the rights to screen both the 3D and standard 2D versions of the film across America, as well the sequel. No date has been set, but it’s expected to be early 2011.
So far, no 3D release is planned for the UK, however Arrow Films are releasing a limited edition 3-disc set of the film on DVD, and for the first time in high definition on Blu-Ray, later this month.
Including both the theatrical cut and the special edition, the list of extras is huge. The theatrical disc will include The Making of Battle Royale: The Experience of 42 High School Students and Conducting Battle Royale with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra. The special edition disc includes an Interview with Takeshi Kitano, Shooting the Special Edition, The Correct Way to Make Battle Royale and Tokyo International Film Festival Presentation.
A third disc full of extras includes Opening Day at Muru No Uchi Toei Movie Theatre, The Slaughter of 42 High School Students, The Correct Way to Fight in Battle Royale, Royale Rehearsals, Masamichi Amano Conducts Battle Royale and Special Effects Comparisons.
Extras exclusive to this limited edition include a 16-page booklet that contains concept artwork, 5″x 7″ postcards and a foldout reversible poster, and a 36-page book with articles ‘A Battle Without An End’ by Tom Mes, and ‘Today’s Lesson Is… You Kill Each Other’ by Jay McRoy, as well as an excerpt from Takami’s novel.
The full list of specs can be found at Cult Labs Forums, where an extra surprise is yet to be announced, and it was confirmed that both the DVD and Blu-Ray set would be region free, which is good news for fans overseas.
However, these are likely to sell out. Each individually numbered, it’s limited to just 5,000 DVD sets and 10,000 Blu-Ray sets (after a surge of pre-orders Arrow Films doubled the Blu-Ray figure).
The DVD and Blu-Ray of Battle Royale is released in the UK on November 29th.