I have had this argument so many times on the internet in the last month, I felt I needed somewhere to compile all of my thoughts and arguments against the idiotic masses.
The idiotic masses look at Hunger Games and say: “I liked it better when it was called Battle Royale. What a ripoff.”
I look at them and say: “Clearly you have never read the Hunger Games or you wouldn’t be making such a comment.”
To sum up the truth of what is being said, it’s like saying that Star Wars is a ripoff of Star Trek because they both take place on ships in space.
So let’s begin shall we? Standard spoiler alert here.
Point 1: Suzanne Collins never read Battle Royale. You can take this as truth if you want, but honestly there is no way to prove it one way or the other. She says she didn’t. However, it is a point in her favor that many many people have never heard of Battle Royale. It wasn’t released in the US. If she isn’t a fan of Japanese anime and writings, she wouldn’t have had a chance to be exposed to it.
Point 2: She has a completely believable story of where she came up with the initial idea. Flipping back and forth between channels and seeing reality tv and soldiers in Iraq. Add to this her father’s experiences in Vietnam and her own love of Roman and Greek history and mythology and you have all the components required to make Hunger Games.
Point 3: There is prior art before Battle Royale that sets up the idea as well. Running Man, Lord of the Flies, even back to the Roman gladiatorial games.
Point 4: The Roman Connection: even before really thinking about it, I remember being surprised at the very Latin names giving to characters. Cinna, Seneca, Cato, and dozens of others. I know enough Roman history to recognize the names. I was surprised to say the least. After reading the second and third books, I was convinced that the true basis for the idea was the Gladiatorial games and the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur where 7 men and 7 women, even called Tributes, are drawn by lots, and sent to die to the Minotaur every year. There is a parade of chariots. The entire world watches the arena, as the entire world watched the gladiators. We find out in book 2 that Finnick was “sold to stud” much as the Roman gladiators were. Battle Royale is very Japanese. It doesn’t have a single Roman connection or reference.
Point 5: The pageantry. Oh and was there pageantry. The costumes, the stylists, the interviews, the dresses, everything has been turned into something for the audience to revel in. There is tradition and ritual in everything. This all ties into the sponsors and earning the assistance of outsiders in the arena. Unlike Hunger Games, Battle Royale has their competitors chosen in a very sneaky and sudden way. They aren’t trained, interviewed, paraded, or even televised. They are simply taken. This really shows the reality show influence Collins used in telling her tale.
Point 6: Yes, they are both stories about kids, but the relationships are different. Imagine, for whatever reason, you had to push a button, knowing, a 1000 miles away, it would kill someone. But if you didn’t push that button, instead your whole family would be killed. How hard, really, would it be to push that button? Hard, yes, but not as hard as say, if instead it were, you have to push that button and kill a friend, your close friend, who has spent years at your side, to save your family? That defines the largest difference between the children in Battle Royale and the tributes in Hunger Games. The tributes do not know one another. Katniss feels little pain when many of the tributes die in the initial bloodbath. Why should she? She’s never met them. They mean nothing when compared to Prim. The chances of even having a person chosen in your own district you didn’t know was likely. The kids in Battle Royale are a single class. They have been together all year. They are close, with rivalries, friendships, relationships. It’s a very different sort of combat. This is why Katniss doesn’t want to make friends. She doesn’t want to be friendly with Peeta. She knows that will make it harder to kill them later.
Point 7: Collins works very hard to make all of her characters connectible on some level. Even Cato and the other careers, we come to learn they are simply indoctrinated into the belief that they are fighting for glory and honor for their district. We find sympathetic ways of viewing them all. In Battle Royale, most of the characters just go immediately crazed. It is like they all received a high dose of PCP and were let loose on each other.
Point 8: Books 2 and 3. Battle Royale was a single book. It dealt with the one event, the one group of people, and ended in much the same way as Hunger Games, right after the victors managed to make it out alive (which isn’t a ripoff but rather the logical ending point to such a charged story). But Catching Fire and Mockingjay are where the story really comes to deeper waters. It shows that each part of this world was designed for a purpose. Collins thought it out. There is also the fallout from the events that happen inside the arenas. Collins knew the effect war had on people and wrote it into her book. We never see the fallout in Battle Royale. In Hunger Games we literally have two books that are steeped in the emotional baggage Katniss has built up and carries with her from the first games. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the reaction to being told she has to go back in, even Katniss’ realization that she could never be with Gale, even if she were free to, because the arena changed her, and she just can’t be with someone who doesn’t understand the deep effect it had on her psyche.
One thing creative people have to accept is that there are going to be similar stories told. These things are deeply wove into our culture and resonate with many people, thus many people are going to tell these stories. The Hero’s Journey and the Mono-myth exist for a reason. This is nothing new. Clearly the idea that reality tv and the very televised glorification of violence and war in Iraq could lead to people fearing this kind of event and possible horror. Taking the time to read both clearly shows that while both have a similar idea that saying Hunger Games is a ripoff is a very narrow and absurd conclusion to reach.