Koushun Takami (story),
Masayuki Taguchi (art)
• Tokyopop (2003–2006)
• Akita Shoten (Young Champion, 2000–2005)
• Seinen, Suspense, Action
• 18+ (language, graphic violence, nudity, sex)
Koushun Takami’s novel Battle Royale scandalized a nation when it was first published in 1999, but just as remarkable as its shock value is the sadistic elegance of its basic concept, a lethal reality show in which an entire class of junior high school kids is turned loose on an island with instructions to kill each other until only one survives. This manga adaptation, co-created by Takami himself, hews more closely to the original novel than did Kinji Fukasaku’s movie version. Thanks to its abundance of flashback scenes it functions almost as an expanded remix of the novel, shedding more light on the complex web of loyalties and petty resentments that drive the life-and-death decisions of the game’s unwilling participants, while downplaying the novel’s heartfelt but pointless denunciations of the imaginary fascist government that controls Japan in this alternate universe. Taguchi’s art shifts fluidly from cutesy romance to goresplattered ultraviolence to bug-eyed psychodrama, while somehow managing to give every one of the game’s forty-two players a distinctive look and personality, and Keith Giffen’s lurid English-language dialogue adds to the over-the-top pulp atmosphere. Although the series loses some of its momentum in the final volumes, thanks to overlong martial arts duels and gun battles and huge chunks of sentimental blather, the brutal logic of the death game keeps everything ticking along toward the conclusion.