Battle Royale II is very much a different creation from its predecessor. Set three years after the events of the first movie this film moves the film mythology forward. Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda) have made their escape, and Shuya has now started what the rest of the world calls a terrorist organization, Wild 7, that is targeting the countries that are pushing their children to war, and punishing them for the mere act of being young.
To take him on, the government changed the conditions of the Battle Royale event. This year’s captured class, the first under the new roles, is collared and given the directive of hunting down and killing Shuya in the next 72 hours, or they all die.
They are given a series of missions, survive the initial landing, gather ammo, and then lead the assault. Along the way, classmates will fall, this time in pairs, a new twist. You’re partnered with your opposite number, you die, or get too far away from your partner, and they die.
The blood gets amped up a touch for this installment while also attempting to incorporate a stronger message about war, child soldiers, and the fight for freedom.
Noriko is missing from a large portion of the film, but Shuya seems to fit easily into the role of weary, and wary leader of a movement that shouldn’t have had to happen. But will he and his fighters recognize that the assault currently taking place is a new wrinkle in the Battle Royale program?
There’s also a callback to the first film with a new character, Shiori Kitano (Ai Maeda), the daughter of the teacher, Kitano. She wants to understand her father his fascination with Noriko, and why she couldn’t connect with him.
Throw in a young student, Taku (Shugo Oshinari), who slowly comes to realize what is really going on, and how he can be involved in it.
There are some interesting sequences throughout the film, and while I recognize the need to move the story, and the world it inhabits forward I miss the small nature of the first film. And I do like the way the narrative progresses, and the allusions to ‘that country’ which is keeping an eye on things, and is threatening to destroy Shuya’s island completely if Japan won’t police their own.
So there’s something bigger here that could be explored further, to date it hasn’t, but the film does remind us that freedom is there for those who are willing to take it, fight for it, and hold on to it.
In the end, both films are loud, explosive, bloody, fun, and tucked in amongst them, is an actual message. I was more than happy to revisit these films.