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Battle Royale: Angel’s Border

Welcome to the latest review at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Battle Royale: Angel’s Border, but first some news items and things that caught my eye during the week.

 

 

And now onto the featured review of Battle Royale: Angel’s Border!

Battle Royale: Angel's BorderBattle Royale: Angel’s Border
Written by Koushun Takami (with N-Cake), Art by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma
Viz, 280 pgs
Rating: T + (Older Teens)

Created in 1999, Battle Royale was the debut novel of Koushun Takami. It’s a brutal tale set in an alternate authoritarian version of Japan which holds a yearly contest known only as “The Program.” Once a year a 9th grade class is picked to take part in “The Program” which forces the students to fight to death until only one remains. Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, Koushun Takami returns to his international sensation with Battle Royale: Angel’s Border. This single volume manga’s a collection of two short stories set around the events of the original Battle Royale novel. In Episode I, Toushun explores the friendship between Yukie and Haruka, the two girls who helped organize the all girl group that hid inside the lighthouse in the original novel. Episode II likewise takes a character from the all girl group, Chisato, and expands upon her relationship with the athletic computer genius, Shinji Mimura.

The opening story, Episode I, jumps back and forth between the ultimate end of the all girl group and scenes of Yukie and Haruka prior to their arrival on the island. A large of chunk of the tale is given to exploring their friendship. Takami also touches upon Haruka’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality and the fact that she’s in love with Yukie. It’s mainly narrated by Yukie and it may surprise some modern American readers to see a strain of self loathing within Haruka as she comes to terms with who she is, constantly referring to herself as “not normal” or “dirty” for having feelings for Yukie. He does a fantastic job at getting across how close their friendship is though and even manages to touches upon the ultimate purpose for “The Program” in the first place. Bother characters are incredibly likable and knowing their ultimate fate didn’t really soften the climax of the story. Episode II is nowhere near as engaging or emotional as the first story, though it does give Takami a chance to explore the world of Battle Royale a little more by touching upon things such as the secret police, anti-government activities and the way the oppressive regime affects the lives of its citizens beyond “The Program.” Unfortunately Mimura’s never been one of my favorite characters, being a little too perfect and capable in the original novel, and despite being featured here Chisato’s not really developed or fleshed out enough to be terribly engaging or memorable.

Battle Royale: Angel's Border

A panel from Ohnishi’s Episode I

Mioko Ohnishi’s artwork in Episode I is lovely. It’s wonderfully expressive with a hint of sadness and longing that goes beyond simple facial expressions. There’s an almost dream like quality to the images at times thanks to Ohnishi’s skilled use panel borders and toning. Ohnishi knows when to remove backgrounds and let the emphasis on the characters take center stage, something that helps reinforce sad, dreamlike quality of the story. Youhei Oguma’s artwork is a bit of a departure from the almost languid visuals of Ohnishi. It’s far more detail heavy and not just with backgrounds, but with clothing, accessories and the like. It also feels a tad stiffer in places as well, with his characters facial expressions lacking the emotional impact that marked Ohnishi’s work.

Battle Royale: Angel’s Border is literally split down the middle. Episode I is a solid, enjoyable and emotional read, while Episode II is interesting but lacks the heart of the first half of the book. The biggest problem facing this manga is the fact that it’s going to be pretty inaccessible to those who haven’t already read the original novel. It tries to bring newcomers up to speed, but without having read the book certain characters and events will simply fall flat, or worse, be nearly incomprehensible. That said, Battle Royale fans should definitely give the volume a look, as it’s surprisingly cheap, has a surprisingly powerful first story, and also includes some nifty little extras, such as an afterward by Koushin Takami and his scripts for both stories.

Battle Royale: Angel’s Border is available now from Viz.

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