by Mike Favila, Editor
Having only read the classic novel Battle Royale last month (shame, I know) I was very excited to see that Viz was also releasing the side story, Battle Royale: Angels’ Border. Though Battle Royale is Koushun Takami’s only novel released so far, it’s a doozy. When I heard that Battle Royale: Angels’ Border was also out, I wanted to see what new stories could be told.
To some degree, Angels’ Border is truly for the initiated. It seems like it would be a wasted opportunity to jump into this story directly without having first read the novel or the matching anime adaptation. (I already said you should read it, didn’t I?) That being said, Takami makes a decent attempt to bring new readers up to speed in regards to the BR universe. There are numerous references to the structure and plot of the original story, though it’s never meant to replace the original. Rather, the book is fulfilling for old readers, while still interesting enough to make new people curious enough to read the full novel.
If you’re familiar with Hunger Games, Battle Royale is the predecessor. The story is based in the Republic of Greater East Asia, a type of fascist dystopian Japan. Each year, one school class takes a ‘field trip’, drugged, and then wake up to find themselves on an island. Their government tells them that they must fight to the death, unless they want to be killed themselves. Battle Royale: Angels’ Border focuses on the six girls who survived together in the lighthouse on the island. The first story is told from Haruka’s perspective, as she goes through the story of her hidden love for class leader and volleyball partner Yukie. The second story revolves around Matsui and Shinji Mimura, as they have an elicit adventure.
One of the benefits Battle Royale: Angels’ Border has over its parent story is it’s ability to revel in the slowness. I could probably cover the entire story of the two episodes in one paragraph, but that would be missing the point. Battle Royale covered so much plot that it was hard to take time to absorb all the human moments. To some degree, that frantic energy was probably intentional, in order to immerse the reader in the panic that the children felt. Battle Royale: Angels’ Border is a chance to go deeper with the story and really explore the characters as complete beings, as opposed to being simply canon fodder. The results are a delight. These stories provide a mission dimension to the characters, while feeling like they were always there to be told. While I can appreciate Takami’s unwillingness to overexploit his novel, the stories here are a good proof of concept that the BR universe can be expanded.
The art by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma is consistent and convey a great deal, even without filling the panel with words. Reading the provided scripts for the two stories only emphasize the collaborative process. There are a number of details in the art just aren’t specified by Takami’s script. Consequently, this provides the artists space to really interpret the work. I also noticed that Max Collins did the translation again this time, which provides a little continuity in the wording and phrasing.
Just like the interview in the back of Battle Royale, Takami is funny and disarming in his Afterword. Just reading it makes me feel like I’m talking to somebody I knew from grade school that’s gotten an opportunity to write something in a public forum and can’t believe his luck. It’s conversational and direct. He covers a little about the genesis of Battle Royale: Angels’ Border, but his final comments expose the true heart of the story. As Battle Royale (and consequently Takami) is often associated with death, he talks a little about the passing of his mentors, 9/11 and the tsunamis in Japan. Though each death carries a meaningful weight, he implores us to focus on the fact that we still continue to be alive, and the significance of that fact. While so many died before the game finished, the last image in Battle Royale is of the escaping couple, on the way to a new life. Battle Royale: Angels’ Border expounds of the lives of the characters whose stories have ended, but somehow manages to still come off as an affirmation of the hope in the original work. I can only hope that Takami has more of these vignettes in store for us.
ComicsOnline.com gives Battle Royale: Angels’ Border 5 out of 5 girl fights!
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