Netflix’s Squid Game definitely took the world by storm. With a flashy teaser and a mixture of colourful but unsettling aesthetics, the unsuspecting title did little to prepare viewers for the gruesome nature of the critically acclaimed series which currently sits at 100% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. The show follows 456 people who are in massive financial turmoil in a death game based on several children’s games where the last man standing will walk away with 45.6 billion won (basically a lot of money, if you didn’t already convert it). The show is bloody, relentless, gripping, and unsettling as it plays with a myriad of your emotions and keeps your eyes glued to your screen. Upon finishing it, no one can dismiss Squid Game as being anything other than an exciting but bloody gem of a show.
Be that as it may, Squid Game isn’t the first show to be about a game where a group of people are locked away in a place and ordered to kill each other for a prize. In fact, there have been many series that are based on this exact premise, each with their own unique twist on top of the core premise that is called “battle royale”. Battle royale is a premise in media that refers to people killing each other in a game of sorts to attain either freedom and/or a handsome prize. Some examples aside from Squid Game that makes use of the battle royale premise are the recent hit Alice in Borderland, Hunger Games, and Anime such as Btoom! and Danganronpa. But before everything else was able to be influenced by the battle royale concept, what was the piece of media that started the battle royale boom and blazed the trail for many other bloody works to be made and enjoyed? The answer is in the name, as the idea of battle royale was first conceived by the novel “Battle Royale” in 1999.
Battle Royale is a novel written by Takami Koushun in 1999 and tells the story of a world where Japan emerged victorious in World War 2 and became known as the Republic of Greater East Asia which rules with an iron fist. The government controls every action of the people and quells entertainment such as rock music. The dystopian novel follows a class of 42 students being whisked away to a remote island to undergo the Battle Experiment No. 68 Program, a secret programme where the kids are made to kill each other until one student remains. The brutal game left them with no option but to at least kill one person a day lest everybody’s heads are blown by via chokers that were already placed on them as soon as they woke up from being gassed during their bus trip. Each student is provided unique weapons as they are forced to go on a murdering spree for the sake of their own lives.
What follows this cruel arrangement is a horrific 3-day murdering spree that tests the morals and characters of each student, as the kind and weak get picked out and murdered in the most terrifying way imaginable (shot in the mouth, thrown off a lighthouse, and even destroyed by a sickle) and the strong and demented are given a free pass to do whatever they wanted, and, essentially, go crazy.
Battle Royale certainly made a big splash on its debut as the glorification of people discarding their values to go on a killing rampage was viewed as immoral and wrong by some but viscerally entertaining by others. Many people in the entertainment industry then tried their level best to prevent Battle Royale from becoming excessively successful, but their efforts fell short as Battle Royale continued to gain steam as a manga series and multiple movies about the series were made. Battle Royale soon became the template of the “battle royale” sub-genre and would continue to inspire many pieces of media that aim to recreate the bloody affair between gore and game, Squid Game being one of them. If it wasn’t evident enough, even director Hwang Dong-hyuk claimed to have drawn inspiration from Battle Royale as he was creating the world of Squid Game that seemed to have inherited the bloody nature of Battle Royale.
Battle royales continue to be a very popular sub-genre to horror and with the immense popularity of Squid Game and Alice and Borderland, it looks to remain relevant in many years to come. Perhaps this would bring back the glory of Battle Royale itself, the original work that gave birth to the sub-genre. If not, then you should just do yourself a favour and watch or read Battle Royale already, it will definitely keep you sleepless. Take it from me, I felt sick in the stomach reading it.
Hartwick is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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