Battle Royale

You’ve probably read the books or seen the movies Hunger Games. But did you know there had been a very similar novel by Koushun Takami published in Japan back in 1999 called Battle Royale? It has also been adapted on-screen a year later, and I would like to talk about it in this article.

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The story takes place in Japan of the future. Teenagers have had a rebellious behavior and turned against authority. In order to keep the power over them, the government, with the help of school leadership, have decided to take measures. Each year, they would send a whole random high school class on a desert island with weapons and a minimal survival kit. The students would have to battle to death until one survives. Only the winner would be able to return back home. Grown-ups have decided to keep the control over the youth with fear.

I really recommend the movie, as it has a deep social background. A Japanese friend of mine told me about it when I told him I wanted to watch it. He was about 15 when the book came out – the same age as the students in the story. Japanese society is really complex and a lot different compared to the western culture, especially when it comes to education. I am no expert in sociology or whatsoever but I would like to explain the social aspects as my friend told me.

Since World War II, the Japanese have had a general feeling of guilt and collective consciousness. This has had a heavy impact on the organization of education.
The will of putting back on feet the nation was really strong. In order to do that, authorities created a strict school system, with a very little place for creativity and students’ liberty. Teachers would force pupils to learn and learn and learn again. However, a child has his limits. In the early 90s, high school students started to become mad and some began to act uncontrollably insane. At around the same time the novel came out, a shocking event happened that shook the whole country. A high school student had murdered one of his classmates without any apparent reason, beheaded her, and put the head on the school main gate during the night, so that everyone could see it on the next morning. It was a sudden realization. This system was not adapted. Koushun Takami’s novel appeared then as a perspective of the future if nothing was immediately changed.

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Painting review

I am no arts specialist, but we had to write a review of a painting in class. Since I chose The Great Wave by Hokusai, I thought I would post it here.

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The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is one of the most famous paintings from Japan. It was woodblock printed by the artist Hokusai between 1830 and 1833, during the Edo era. This technique is typical of the ukiyoe genre, which literally means “pictures of the floating world”, and was considered as the modern style of painting during its time. The Wave is the first of a long series of paintings, which all include a view of Mount Fuji, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. The painting is ostensibly simple and can be divided into three different parts: The mountain, the boats and the waves caused by a storm on the sea.

Mount Fuji has always been a symbol of beauty and has been considered holy by plenty of Japanese civilizations through the ages. It is no wonder that several artists, including painters and writers, got inspired by this enormous creation of nature. Its size in this picture make it seem like a detail. However, the mountain is crucial to this scenery, and this is why; First, it is the only visible land behind those high waves and situated right in the middle of the hollow formed by the sea. This accentuates the beauty and greatness of Mount Fuji. Secondly, the amount of snow on the peak implies the cold context of the picture and is enough to give you a shiver just by watching the poor men on the sea. Although very light, the colors in the sky create a perfect balance with the depth of the waters.

The three boats and the men on them are the elements that make the scenery so lively. This is just a picture, and yet, we can feel the movement and the passionate anger of the sea, the supposed cold and fear in front of the great wave. The fishermen bring a traditional touch into this modern painting for its period.

The sea is indeed drawn in a modern style. The shades of blue and the accentuated contouring of the waves make the painting so unique and alive, especially compared to Hokusai’s other views of the mountain. The foam formed by the waves looks like claws wanting to grab Mount Fuji.

Finally, we can tell that the strength of the Great Wave Off Kanagawa resides in its astonishing colors and breathtaking scenery. We understand without doubt why it made his work so famous and popular.