Battle Royale Ch3

Now for some details about this Program of childmurder games.

We’re told that the Program, which every schoolchild knows about, involves fifty classes a year since 1947. So that’s forty kids a class, times fifty, times fifty: 100,000 kids have died so far.


Hm. 2000 kids a year actually might be possible. I mean Japan’s pretty overpopulated, and if they’ve annexed other countries, they’d have a much bigger population.

Let’s see. Currently, Japan is mostly old people, with very few kids, but that’s for a number of factors, including prosperity. In the past, they had about a third of their population as kids 0-14. Assuming they have low child death rates, let’s say those are about equal amounts for each year of kid. So, 2000 times 15 is 30000. Times three is 90,000. So, a population of 90,000 would have all their fifteen year olds killed each year. Japan’s current population is 128,058,000… 1422. So, even if that’s too charitable an explanation, we’re looking at maybe one out of every thousand kids getting picked. That seems pretty manageable  It’s right around the amount where it’s a distant chance of it happening to you, but still too high for comfort and where there’s a reasonable chance you’d know someone who was impacted.

The idea is to use the data from a bunch of scared fifteen year olds killing each other to know about ground defense. I guess when you’re a dictator you can say that kind of stuff without the pundits jumping all over it.

The survivor gets a lifetime pension and a card autographed by The Great Dictator. So it’s not that bad! I mean, you get a signed card.

In reaction to protests and agitation caused by extremists

Yup, protests are totally the result of extremists. Widespread agitation? A tiny minority. Good job, propaganda department.

I can already see why America’s version of this is the toothless Hunger Games.

This prompts the April Speech by the 317th Great Dictator. Uh. So, if eight year terms, it’s been around for 2536 years by then. And dictators usually don’t have term limits.

So how long has Japan been doing the crazy dictator thing? Dictators are not really a long lasting government system.

Everyone has to read the speech when they start junior high school.
Here are some excerpts:
“My beloved comrades working for the Revolution and building our beloved nation. [Two-minute interruption for the 317th Great Dictator due to applause and cheers] Now then. [One-minute interruption]

This is glorious. You can tell a place has a legitimately happy populous when you’re so defensive about the subject you make sure it’s recorded in official transcripts.

Like most dictatorships, they like to play up how everyone’s against them.

Given this dire circumstance the No. 68 Program experiment is absolutely necessary for our nation. Of course, I grieve at the thought of thousands, tens of thousands of youths losing their lives at the ripe age of fifteen. But if their lives serve to protect our people’s independence, can we not claim then that the flesh and blood they shed shall merge with our beautiful soil passed down to us by our gods and live with us in eternity? [Applause, a surge of cheering. One minute interruption] As you are all aware, our nation has no conscription system. The Army, Navy, and Air Special Defense Forces, all consist of patriotic souls, young volunteers every one of them, passionate fighters for the Revolution and the building of our nation. They are risking their lives every day and night at the frontlines. I would like you to consider the Program as a conscription system unique to this country.

Which is actually an interesting way of looking at it.

I mean, okay, there’s the hideous pointlessness of the murder, but you think of all the pointless deaths caused by wars with drafts… Or in current America, otherwise strongarming people into the military. You can see how someone could twist that into an argument that childmurder games aren’t such a big deal either, as long as you accept the deaths are somehow helping whatever your cause is.

We learn that Shuya’s parents died when he was a little kid and none of his relatives wanted him, possibly because his parents may have been anti-government. Maybe this is why he makes such a big deal about not judging people based on rumors? When he was five, the orphanage’s superintendent (?), a high schooler who was the daughter of the former superintendent, turned on the news and it was about the Program.

Unlike the manga rewrite or the Hunger Games, the games are not televised and only reported after the fact.

The winner emerged after 3 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes. Furthermore, with the retrieval of the corpses and autopsies conducted today, the causes of deaths for all 38 students killed have been determined: 17 from gunshot wounds, 9 from knife or blade wounds, 5 from blunt weapons, and 3 choked to death…”

So guns kill more people than knives. That’s the sort of vital information you get when you murder two thousand kids a year.

a girl clad in a tattered sailor suit uniform came on the screen. Pressed between two Special Defense Forces soldiers, she looked back at the camera, her face twitching. Under her long messy hair, some dark red substance stuck to her right temple. Shuya could still clearly recall how her twitching face occasionally formed what appeared to be, strangely enough, a smile.

So, that’s how the childmurder games go down.

Shuya feels a bit upset by this, although he’s too young to have any idea what’s going on. He asks and the woman just tells him it’s nothing but seems sad about what happened. He goes on with his life, but every two years there’s another local report of a Program in his area, and he realizes what it means as he grows up.

From the sounds of it, that’s probably how most kids learn about it, unless their parents go through effort to try to keep them insulated until the official lesson in fourth grade. Which is possible – I mean, think of stuff like Santa, parents can do a lot to influence what their kids know.

From a pool of all third-year junior high school students, fifty classes were issued an annual guaranteed death sentence. That was two thousand students if each class consisted of forty students, no, more accurately, that was 1,950 students killed.

Look, the book does math too! <3 book.

Shuya explains that the worst part is they have to kill each other, and that there’s nothing anyone can do because, you know, dictatorship.

So Shuya decided to give in. That was how most of the third-year “reserves” from junior high school dealt with it, right? Okay, our special conscription system? The beautiful homeland of Vigorous Rice Plants? How many junior highs were there in the republic? The birth rate might be declining but your chances were still less than one in eight hundred. In Kagawa Prefecture that meant only one class every other year would be “chosen.”

I wonder what this would do to the birth rate. I’d think people would be encouraged to have more kids just in case, but you could also have people not having kids instead. Maybe it’s ended up a mix of the two.

But this seems to suggest that Japan doesn’t have any other territories, since this is a similar number as I guessed. That does explain how they’re able to function without falling apart to constant rebellion, but I would guess means they never went to war at all, because I can’t see the other countries not attacking them after what they did during the invasions. Once the tide turned, Japan would be destroyed. But that may not be something a Japanese author and audience would consider, I’m pretty sure they’re still saying none of that happened.

Put bluntly, you were just as likely to die in a traffic accident. Given how Shuya never had the luck of the draw, he figured he wouldn’t be chosen. Even in the local raffle he’d never win more than a box of tissues. So he’d never be chosen. So fuck off, man.

The book periodically has these lapses into directly speaking to the reader. I’m not sure if that’s a standard thing in Japanese that sounds better, or if it’s just that the original author was good enough to pull it off, but it’s quite clumsy when it shows up here.

But I do like how this is presenting things. You just don’t think about it because it’s horrible and there’s nothing you can do.

Shuya says that sometimes, someone will mention a relative or someone they know was taken for the Program, and he’ll be scared and also angry at the government for making the person so sad. But they get over it, and Shuya gets over it as well, and it’s forgotten about until the next time.

But the vague distrust and powerlessness he felt towards the government nonetheless remained.

I wonder how older kids feel once they’ve dodged the bullet? Is it easier to think it’s not such a big deal now that it’s over with and you and your friends made it through okay?

Or perhaps this kind of attitude is the point.

So anyway, everyone in his class, they all assumed they were safe, because what else could they do?

And now they’re all having a breakdown.

One of them says this can’t be right.

It was Kyoichi Motobuchi, who was the male class representative. His face was beyond pale. It had turned gray, providing a surreal contrast to his silver framed glasses, resembling one of those silkscreen prints by Andy Warhol illustrated in their art textbooks as “the decadent art of American imperialists.”

There’s something nice about these wandering descriptions.

But rather than make a speech about how the government can’t expect them to kill each other, he just says his dad’s an important guy: a director of environmental affairs in the prefectural government. I’m thinking that’s not nearly as important as he thinks it is. He’s not exactly throwing the rest of them under the bus when doing so, I should mention, he says his class shouldn’t have been picked and that must be the mistake, so this is weaselly but it’s not exactly terrible.

Sakamochi explains the glory of equality. No one gets special privileges!

Listen up, everybody. You all have your own distinct personal backgrounds. Of course some of you come from rich families, some from poor families. But circumstances beyond your control like that shouldn’t determine who you are. You must all realize what you’re worth on your own.

I wonder how true this actually is.

Is Japan really well-mixed? Is it feasible for there to not be any areas that are largely rich or poor? If not, how do we know this is true and that it’s not deliberately avoiding the kids of the wealthy and important? Besides this kid, the only one we know of who’s important is Kazou, who rumor has it is illegitimate so who knows how much his dad cares.

The kids don’t react, so Sakamochi shouts for some Special Defense Force guys to come in. You know, that’s odd. Japan has a defense force rather than an army because they’re not allowed an army, which happened because America beat them in the war, which doesn’t seem like it happened here at all. Maybe it’s just because that’s what the average Japanese person thinks of when they think of the military.

They’ve all heavily armed.

One of the soldiers was tall with strangely kinked hair, giving the impression of someone frivolous, the other was medium height, with a handsome, boyish-looking face, and the last one wore a slight grin, but was eclipsed by the charisma of the other two.

They’ve carrying a weird black sack and open it up to reveal their teacher’s corpse.

Only half of his large black glasses that earned him the nickname “Dragonfly” remained. What could you expect, only the left half of his head remained. Underneath the remaining lens the marblelike, crimson eyeball gazed absently at the ceiling. Gray jelly, what must have been his brains, clung to his remaining hair. As if relieved to be released, his left arm, still wearing a watch, poked out of the bag, dangling in front of the lectern. The ones sitting in front might have actually seen the second hand ticking away.

That gets everyone’s attention again and some of the girls start screaming.

Sakamochi tries the clapping thing again to get them to quiet down with the screaming, but it doesn’t work for some mysterious reason, like the fact there’s a corpse dripping blood in front of them.

So, the boyish soldier grabs the body and shoots it in the head a few more times.

The high powered bullets tore apart his brains and bones which formed a bloody mist and splattered all over the faces and chests of the students in the front row.

And that’s how you quiet down a class.

Males
1 Yoshio Akamatsu: “the biggest kid in the class, the timid type, the kind of kid who’d always end up the target of pranks and insults. “
2 Keita Iijima
3 Tatsumichi Oki: jock, handball.
4 Toshinori Oda
5 Shogo Kawada: Looks older than the rest, has facial hair already, transferred in, scarred.
6 Kazuo Kiriyama: Awesome.
7 Yoshitoki Kuninobu: Shuya’s friend since childhood, they grew up in the orphanage together.
8 Yoji Kuramoto
9 Hiroshi Kuronaga: Part of Kazou’s gang.
10 Ryuhei Sasagawa: Delinquent. Part of Kazou’s gang
11 Hiroki Sugimura: Tall and knows martial arts. Seems tough but is actually shy, likes Chinese poetry. Shuya’s friend.
12 Yutaka Seto: Class clown.
13 Yuichiro Takiguchi
14 Sho Tsukioka: Part of Kazou’s gang
15 Shuya Nanahara: Main character? Minor but utterly harmless teenage rebelliousness.
16 Kazushi Nüda: jock, soccer.
17 Mitsuru Numai: Delinquent. Part of Kazou’s gang
18 Tadakatsu Hatagami: jock, Shuya’s friend when they were younger. ‘Shuya had started playing electric guitar, which was considered an “unpatriotic” activity. Tadakatsu’s mother was uptight about that sort of thing.”
19 Shinji Mimura: Shuya’s current friend. ‘short hair and wore an intricately designed ring on his left ear’, highly athletic, knows a lot of information, particularly about the outside world.
20 Kyoichi Motobuchi: Class representative, dad’s a government official.
21 Kazuhiko Yamamoto: Sakura’s boyfriend.
Females
1 Mizuho Inada
2 Yukie Utsumi: class representative, braided hair, Haruka’s volleyball teammate. The first one to speak after their abduction.
3 Megumi Eto
4 Sakura Ogawa: Kazuhiko’s girlfriend.
5 Izumi Kanai: ‘the preppy whose father was a town representative’
6 Yukiko Kitano
7 Yumiko Kusaka
8 Kayoko Kotohiki
9 Yuko Sakaki
10 Hirono Shimizu: Part of Mitsuko’s group.
11 Mitsuko Souma: Delinquent group leader. “Even though Mitsuko had the gorgeous looks of a pop idol, she always wore a strange, listless expression on her face.”
12 Haruka Tanizawa: Yukie’s volleyball teammate, exceptionally tall;
13 Takako Chigusa
14 Mayumi Tendo
15 Noriko Nakagawa: She has a crush on Shuya he’s unaware of and Yoshitoki has a crush on her she may be unaware of. She’s nice and likes literature.
16 Yuka Nakagawa: Yoshitoki says she’s fat. Class clown.
17 Satomi Noda : “model student who wore wire-rimmed glasses which suited her calm, intelligent face”
18 Fumiyo Fujiyoshi
19 Chisato Matsui: always quiet and withdrawn
20 Kaori Minami
21 Yoshimi Yahagi: Part of Mitsuko’s group.

16 Comments

  1. Morieris says:
    Somehow I didn’t catch it was more than one class that got picked each year, let alone 2000 kids worth…I wonder what this does to their population.
    1. Guest says:
      2000 deaths a year out of a population of 128 million is nothing. In Japan, Influenza kills more people each year than that (although they are mostly elderly and the immunocompromised). If they didn’t have vaccinations for schoolchildren, there would be extra 10-12 thousand deaths a year. 

      Yeah. That’s right.

      Childmurder games are actually less harmful to children overall than refusing to vaccinate them. :D

      1
      1. Farla says:
        Well, isn’t that as it should be? This is more about terrorizing your population than crippling your workforce.
        1
    2. Farla says:
      It can’t be helping anything to kill off older kids that have been nearly educated to usefulness, but I think the main impact would be indirect. How does it impact the adults? Is the concern about it enough that people make sure to have at least two kids, or do people think having more kids is just tempting fate and increasing the chance that it’ll happen to one of them? 
      1
  2. Rachel says:
    Wait, they’re fifteen? That makes the back story of Mitsuko and her gang in the manga rewrite that much more horrifying.
    1. Farla says:
      I think that’s the idea. There was that side story about the guy she sleeps with and then calls him to say she’s fourteen, getting him to commit suicide over it. If she were older, she’d be the standard trope of the evil woman who uses sex to manipulate and destroy men for fun, but in her case, she’s so young that no healthy person would behave like this no matter what she was getting out of it.
  3. actonthat says:
    Maybe I am completely insane, but for some reason I got the impression from the movie that the Program went after failing classes and was theoretically put in place to stop kids from cutting school. Also, I don’t think it was 50 classes a year in the movie.
    1. Farla says:
      Hm, it might just have been part of the adaptation, for a movie you need a snappy explanation and with how obsessed they can get with school, that’s an okay dystopia exaggeration.
      1. antialiasis says:
        Yeah; I rewatched the movie recently and in it it appeared the Program was instated pretty much to intimidate Japanese youth into submission because they didn’t respect their elders or the rules of society. They made a point of establishing at the beginning that the class was unruly and basically nobody showed up for school anymore.
        1. Farla says:
          Huh, that’s somewhat victim-blamey but on the other hand it makes sense that it’s what you get exaggerating Japan’s social issues. They’ve got one of the worst adult/child gaps, so lots of angry old men demonizing the kids today.
  4. Leonera says:
    On the many dictators: I’ve heard of cases (mostly fictional) before where a new emperor or other ruler will declare himself the 100th emperor in his line or something, even though he was born non-royal. That way, as his descendants take the throne, they’ll have more legitimacy as this dynasty that supposedly stretches back for millenia. Maybe something like that?

    On the declining birth rate: I know, as someone born in the early nineties, that my generation, the one before it, and the one after it are all suffering from the Baby Boomer generation indirectly. A huge population spurt means that, as they get older, more money is going to be directed toward facilitating the elderly population, and less toward schools, daycares, resources for young adults… I’ve heard teachers and others claim that this is going to cause difficulties, down the road.

    So maybe that’s part of it. You talk about population trends all the way back to when you were born and a little before it. So if the birth rate was lower than normal when Shuya was born, that means a smaller pool of fifteen-year-olds in the current year, and a greater chance that he’d be picked. And if it keeps dropping, the chances get greater and greater for each succeeding year.

    1. Farla says:
      That way, as his descendants take the throne, they’ll have more legitimacy as this dynasty that supposedly stretches back for millenia. Maybe something like that?

      That’s an idea. I have to admit that age is basically how I judge whether or not I take a religion seriously. Plus it’s nice to not have a number that reminds people how possible it was to overthrow the previous ruler.

      I’d guess the birth rate is because Japan’s birth rate has been going down for a while and the author wants to make this a mirror Japan rather than changing all sorts of stuff.

  5. Michael says:
    I read on TVTropes that the thing in the manga about the games being televised was a translation error.

    And that use of “you” looks to me more like the impersonal “you” than directly addressing the reader, but again I don’t know what it’s like in the original.

    1. Farla says:
      What? No, no, they hired a novelist to rewrite the translation to punch things up, and that was part of it. In their defense, if you only have access to the first few books it’s not immediately obvious that this wouldn’t work. On the other hand, what sort of idiots look at a massive manga series and assume that they only need to read the opening to know if a rewrite is feasible?

      The “you” part starts off like that, but then it goes on to So he’d never be chosen. So fuck off, man. The book does that kind of thing a lot, where it says something, then starts going into the character’s thoughts on the matter and ends up with them expressing those thoughts directly to the reader like they’re talking.

  6. Chlobo says:
    Do you know where I can find a digital copy of this novel? I can’t seem to find it anywhere other than a French audiobook. I already have it in paperback.
    1. Actislazyandwontlogin says:
      I would try zlibrariers, archive.org, and libgen fiction. If it’s not on one of those, it probably hasn’t been digitized.

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