1:00 pm EDT, June 26, 2012

Book Deathmatch: ‘The Hunger Games’ vs ‘Battle Royale’ – Part 1

We’re trying something new on Hypable! Following the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games everyone has been asking one question – was it stolen from Battle Royale? Warning: Spoilers abound.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the source material in this literary battle to the death.

In our first part, let’s get started by checking out those wonderful characters.

SHUYA VS KATNISS

Although he is certainly the leading man, we see Shuya more as the lens through which we can share the experience he has been thrown into. It’s difficult to gain a deeper understanding of his character because we don’t spend a whole lot of time with him. We do know he is popular and slightly rebellious, and we do see some maturing during the story.

“You’ve always had this positive force”

– Noriko, BATTLE ROYALE p124

As readers we have an advantage when considering Katniss due to the first-person narration. We can feel first-hand her loyalty and desperation, and her constant determination to survive. While we may understand aspects of Katniss that she herself is unaware of only because those around her do, we also have the chance to really care about what happens to this Girl on Fire.

“She has no idea. The effect she can have”

– Peeta, THE HUNGER GAMES p111

Verdict: Different

There is no way to compare these two, as they are in totally different situations. Katniss has readied herself for a fight, she understands what she must do if she ever wants to see her sister again. She is a hunter and a fighter; she is trained. Shuya is scared, he wants to save his classmates and only really kills in the process of defending himself.

We could never see Shuya taking the offensive action as Katniss did when she blew up the Careers’ supplies. In fact the only similarity we see is the dedicated way they both are protective of the people they are with, Katniss of Rue, and then Peeta; Shuya of Noriko and Shogo. Given their characterization, this is totally understandable. Plus, we really love Katniss, while as readers, we hardly get the chance to care about Shuya.

NORIKO VS PEETA

It’s difficult to form any real attachment to Noriko because we don’t get much backstory or spend much time with her. We get that because Shuya cares about her, we should, but her only really interesting moment is when she challenges Shogo’s defeatist worldview. We wish we got to see more of the qualities that everyone seems to admire in her.

It was poetic. Pure poetry. And then Shuya thought, oh. These are Noriko’s words. And words along with music had an incredible, holy power.

– BATTLE ROYALE p560-1

Now Peeta is a different story. While it becomes pretty clear to the reader what Peeta’s motives are, one of the interesting parts of The Hunger Games is watching Katniss learn the things we already know about him. He would die to save the girl he loves but hardly knows, but his intelligence, strength, and his way with words still makes him a formidable opponent.

This perplexing, good-natured boy who can spin out lies so convincingly the whole of Panem believes him to be hopelessly in love…

– THE HUNGER GAMES p379

Verdict: Similar

Noriko and Peeta do share two major similarities. Most superficially, they both act as love interests to the protagonists. More interesting to us is the way that they represent the reader in these situations. As the moral compass of the story, they often question the pragmatic and pessimistic outlook and actions of Shuya and Katniss.

Both characters are established to have a way with words so they can convey these deeper emotions, as seen in Noriko’s challenging of Shogo, and Peeta’s rooftop confession. They are the idealists, and provide balance to the story and to both Shuya and Katniss, although Peeta is more effective in both these roles than Noriko due to his more fully developed charaterization.

SHOGO VS HAYMITCH

A past winner who has already lost everything – his classmates who he was forced to kill, and his family, who have all died. We can’t help but like Shogo, out of all of the Battle Royale kids, he is the most fully developed. We don’t know if he is telling the truth, or just playing the game, but he does it well and without him we know Shuya and Noriko wouldn’t have stood much of a chance.

“Now I get the chance to save you guys”

– Shogo, BATTLE ROYALE p190

Drunk, condescending and unscrupulous – what isn’t to love about Haymitch? He doesn’t play the game, but he knows how to work people. Above all people, Haymitch sees Katniss’ potential, and despite their rocky relationship, he does everything he can to save her. Did we mention we just really love Haymitch?

Secretly I’m wondering if Haymitch sobered up long enough to help Peeta and me because he thought we just might have the wits to survive.

– Katniss, THE HUNGER GAMES p372

Verdict: Similar

This comparison might be an odd one, but we see two mentors here. The way Shogo teaches Shuya about the Program was reminiscent of Haymitch’s “Stay alive,” just more sober. Shogo is more critical in the role of protector because Shuya isn’t as useful or skilled as Katniss is. Still, they are both relied upon and prove to be essential in enabling their survival.

Interestingly, both choose to help when they have no incentive to; Shogo could just as easily have killed them all, and Haymitch could have drunk his way through the Games just as he had done for the previous District 12 Tributes. In this way, they are the antiheroes, and they sure keep things interesting.

KAZUO VS CATO

Now here’s something new, a boy who literally decided to murder all of his classmates based on a coin toss. Kazuo was scary because there was no way to gage his reactions or anticipate his actions, because there was no basis for speculation. He did things, just because. He killed most of his classmates in a calculated fashion because he decided, why not? Now that’s scary.

“A hollow man. …There’s no place in his heart for logic or love, no. For any kind of values”

– Shogo, BATTLE ROYALE p524

Crazy, crazy Cato. We know he was strong and deadly, but he was worrisome because he was also a little unhinged. Or a lot, maybe. Still, our perception of Cato grew with Katniss’, and despite everything he had done, we still felt that terrible pity for him after the Mutts had mauled him. He was scary because he was ruthless, and because he had marked out Katniss right from the beginning.

His rage is so extreme it might be comical – so people really do tear out their hair and beat the ground with their fists…

– THE HUNGER GAMES p270

Verdict: Different

At first glance, they might seem like the same boy killer, but there’s a world of difference between the two. Cato is the counter to Katniss, someone who she rightly identifies as sharing several traits, such as their temper, but who reacts in a totally different fashion. He is also the antithesis of Peeta, a boy who would sacrifice everything for someone else.

Kazuo is terrifying because we have no idea about what he will do – but doesn’t that also feel like a bit of lazy storytelling? We know more of his backstory than we do Cato’s, but the thing that makes him so terrifying is also the thing that makes him less believable (because these books are really realistic guys). We feel the repercussions of Cato’s actions. Kazuo is just going through the motions, and as a reader you become desensitized to it.

SAKAMOCHI VS THE GAMEMAKERS

On one hand we have a sadistic stranger with no qualms about killing children. On the other we have a group of faceless, sadistic strangers, with no qualms about killing children. And honestly, do we care much about either of them? Not at all – we only dislike them because they are the Big Bad, the one-dimensional mean guys putting our heroes through hell.

Somewhere, in a cool and spotless room, a Gamemaker sits at a set of controls, fingers on the triggers that could end my life in a second.

– Katniss, THE HUNGER GAMES p212

Verdict: Same

You won’t find us calling many things about these books the same, but in this case it’s pretty unavoidable. The thing is – neither of these characters matter. They are both mere plot devices, ways to inform the reader about what is going on and to keep the action moving.

Both tell us who has died so we can keep track, and Sakamochi’s listing of forbidden zones works exactly like the Gamemaker’s fireballs and mutts – to keep up the pace, keep us interested, and keep our characters running.

OUR VERDICT

So what’s the total now we have finished our character breakdown? Sure, there are some similar characters in both novels, but they work in totally different scenarios, and this makes all the difference. Superficially we can see there is a boy, a girl, a mentor and a bad guy. Hello, this is one of the most common character breakdowns in literature.

The Hunger Games is an establishing novel in a series and features wonderful character development. Battle Royale is a reactionary novel, juxtaposing the different reactions of characters placed into the same situation. In Battle Royale, the horror of the situation takes over everything – in The Hunger Games, the characters shine.

What do you think of the different characters? Do you believe they were copied?

Thanks to Camden Remington for the photo illustration!

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