Anda di halaman 1dari 14

Po '(colonial Studies, Vol, 6, No, 3, 2003

11 Routledge

~ T""Idr&FtlnchCtwp

Killing kids: recession and survival in twenty-first-century Japan


Today' les on is on killing one another.

Life is a game, Get desperate am! fight. Become an adult of value.'

Deeply engrossed in their private conver ations, the thirty- i junior-high students of Class B fail to notice the military pre .ence along the highway on which theirexcursion busi traveling. That this L no ordinary school outing becomes . hockingly apparent a' th bus, entering a long tunnel, fill with knockout gas, and the. tudent. 3\ aken orne time later confined in an abandoned schoolroom on a deserted island. The sound of helicopter. u 'h r in their newly armed homeroom teacher. flanked by military per onnel. He introdu e the, tudents of

lass B to the h rrific capacities of the exploding collars now secured around their necks, and to the fact that the are to be the participant. in the annual go ernrnent nforce I urvival game, out of which only one may emerge alive. Created under the auspice of [he "New Century Education Reform Law' (Shillseki Kyoiku Kaikakuhr"j), thi .. urvival game is known for short in Japan as the "BR Law' or 'Battle Royale'.

This officially contracted and legalized killing of kids by their peer. i the shocking focus of the A I m. Bartle Royale, which became both scandal and blockbuster hit during the inaugural year of the twenty-fir. t century in Japan.' Paralleling the horrific hi-tech annihilation of the youthin the film is the equally terrifying futuristic projection of Japan' s relentless recession turned de. pcrate (unemployment hit 15 percent). Th Inal collapse of the financial sector reveal. the vulnerabilities of 'Japan. Inc.,' a di integrating families, collapsing sch 01' and hopeless youth cast a long shadow on Japan's fate in the global struggle for competitivene ., The film. projects the lengths to which the government is prepared to go to restore C ntrol-sacrificing the young as it once did in the last, la .t-ditch effort to preserve the integrity of the nation.' At the beginning of the (went" -fin t century this sacrifice eern. inextricable from the new dynamic, of survi val (and battle) in the global marketplace,

Objection to the film came from ariou: quarters, but most virul nt among them were the protests of member. of the Japane: e Diet t the portrayal of til recent (real) education reforms. and other reces 'i nary-moti ated reorganization of po er, as indicative of a return to pa I repres ins, Their qualms about the film put the release or Battle Royale in jeopardy for a . hort time, though in th end the deci: ion was made [0 restrict entrance to [hose over the age of 15 (in other word junior-high students). A' 1 will argu . however, the repre: sion and overt violence in the film-the source of such concern to the member' of the Diet=-conversely acts to render manageable (and thereby ultimately more

ISSN 1368-8790 printllSSN 146fi,1888 onlind03fQJ0367-iJ If:) 2003 The tU'UIUIC or Postcolonial tudies 001: 1 U, 1111101 t 368~7c,10320()O J 62~ t I


crowd-pleasing) the more abstract violences of the rece: sion, and the larger geopolitical forces of globalisation against which Japan feels increasingly vulnerable.

This article explore the connection between these various vision (and potentials) of violence and battle in Battle Royale .. I examine the way that the trope of battle, survival, and the figure of the schoolchild. reflect and refract social anxieties about the Japanese future in an era of globalisation and neoliberal reform. and the enduring historical conundrums of Japan' twentiethcentury past." My analysis tacks back and forth between the economic and social plight of new century Japan, the real social anxieties about this plight. and the sci-f projection of thee e ill the film.

I consider the popularity of the film and its audience effect. How can a film about the mutual slaughter of kids be so moving (kando surui. as advertisements for Battle Royale so boldly proclaim? The answer is 1.0 be found in the blending of realism. futuristic fears. and the seeming promise of resistance and recovery rendered in the survival conditions of battle and war in the film. In Boule Royale, the (harder-to-combat indirect) violences of neoliberal reform are converted to the (directly discernible) violences of physical battle .. sacrifice .. and singularity of purpose, neatly eliding the close connection between economic. and warfare, and paving the way. as I argue, for its popularity among the young.

I begin by discussing the geopolitical realities that provide the realistic (and futuristic) backdrop of the 11 Im, exploring [he various . igns of collapse of the recessionary period, I discuss how the promises of prosperity, stability and security of the once famous Japanese 'economic miracle' have turned into a Japanese 'fear of falling' (accompanied by an international fear of following Japan down its less than envied path of debt and deflation). I focus here on how the terror: of decline and collapse have culminated in a discourse that has shifted the spotlight of concern from the flagrant oversights of political and financial institutions to the home. school and the haples youth-the failed sites of socio-cultural reproduction.

My conslderatlon of this discourse of national collapse moves into a short. discussion of how the 2002 education reforms (kyc)iku kaikaku) gained much of their legitimacy from this aura of anxiety or moral panic surrounding the youth. The image of a failed progeny has provided fertile ground for the argument for a different approach to schooling. and a new relationship between the horne, school and State, which I argue seeks to relieve the State of the costs and moral burden of social management. without relieving it of its ultimate authority or power.

Moreover, the image of the schoolchild, as victimizer and victim, strange and estranged-the once promised and now failed site of national reproduction-is. I argue. critical to how the phantasmagoria of overt violence in the film converts the terror of increasingly indirect violences into the ultimately popular .. cult-like object that Battle Royale has become.' The sometime monstrosity of the

choolchild (within the film and without) is powerful precisely for the way it evokes the current problem of national reproduction (both social and economic) in light of the close calibration between Japan's education system and the



e onomie sector' pu h for parity with western nations over the course of the twentieth century,"

This image of the s ho lchild is taken a step further in the streams of neonationalist thought that tee the ruination of youth as the result of the di abling postwar peace. foisted on a defeated Japan. In the present piece, I am concerned principally with the r sonances between Bailie Royale and the Discourses OIZ War tSensoron I, /I and, soon to be. 1If) of comic artist Kobayashi Yo hinori.' In the fir I tw v lurnes of the eri., a: J di. cus: at m relength below. the young protagonist (<I much younger and more dapper Kobayashi) discover, that the forced peace ha; created a youth that ha 10 t the ability to die or sacrifice themselves for anything out ide themselves.

Both scandalous and scandalously attractive. Battle Royale brings a violent dyslopic vision of the future of Japan together with the seeming potential of iolence to suture the battle Ior economic survival or the pre .ont onto the larger frame of battle or war as a means of uniting with the past of the nation.

Miraculous un-doings or how not to follow Japan

The unprecedented (f r a non e. tern nation) po rwar ri e of Japan to the tatus of world economic power cau: ed what became known as 'the Japane: e miracle' LO be studied, codified. and abov all envied, During the latter half of the twentieth century. the .ccmingly unanimous conclusion across th academy. both inside Japan and abroad, was that the country". unparalleled economic trajectory was due to the reo ilience of its cultural repository. The traditional values at the foundation of this repos itory of Japanese culture were presumed to have .urvived the massive reorganizations of li feways coincident with the emergence of statehood. the totalitarian expansion and brutality of the Sec nd World War, and the defeat. ccupation and the major reorientation of the nation to 'double-digit' gro th."

In establishing 'Japanese cultur , as the vital or r the seemingly

unflappable Japanese economy. the focu of worldwide curi sity at the time fell on the assumed origins of the e highly envied I'e ult -the overall system of Japanese socialization from home to schools." he bursting of the Japanese economic bubble and the protracted recession that has followed. however, opened up these naturalized linkages between economic pro we 's and culture to scrutiny. causing doubts to be shed (and ultimately new anxieties to emerge) about cultura.l continuity, identity and the legitirnac of tate policies.

The dis. elution of the miracle al: 0 brought forceful r treats from thi previous praise for Japan's unique cultural endowment. a the 'learn from Japan' decade of the 1980. wa succeeded by the 'fear of [0110 ing Japan' decade of the I 990s, 1(1 With the drastic decline of property value" and the revelation of enormou: bank debt. the era f feared Japanese global domination (remember the any Lake-over or Universal Studios) was revealed to be the product of unrealistic forecasts, and a 'hollowing: out' of the dome tic economic front. I I

While the 'catch-up' economy of the early I 960s to late 1970s had produced . ufficient revenue LO support the growing number of non-competitive dome tic industries, from the 1980s on. the economy could no longer maintain the e at its



then stable, but less than fantastic. rate of growth. The government inevitably put off confronting mandatory reforms to thi system at the lime, counting in, tead on a rather wi hful return to phenomenal growth on the one hand. and on a tinkering with the cap!'; on the credit-debt ratios for lenders, so as to facilitate the large number of domestic development projects of the ] 980s, on the other. These. of cour e, generated provi: ional revenue. but ha e . ince resulted in the staggering bank debt that plagues Japan', economy through the pre em."

By the fir t year of the twenty-fir t century a the reces: ionary new turned into the more palpably frightening 're tructuring' (riSHtnra). downsizing of

alarics, and the growing absence of the promi cd 'c .calator to a company job for college graduates. sur i al (national and indi idual seemed more a battle than ever. I 'Revelation of the less than miraculous miracle, coupled with these very real effect of the bursting of the bubble economy, led to a deluge of discourse on the impending 'decline' isuitai) and 'collapse' (hfJkai) of the nation. In her 'Roadmap to Millennial Japan: Tomiko Yoda lays out cogently why thi aura of col lap c should be .een as the final deterioration of a . ystern or social manag merit rather than. a the Japanese Mini. try f Education bas insist d. the sudden downfall of intact sy 'terns that are now in drastic need of reform and require drastic change. to do so.

During the fin .. t years of the twenty-fir. t century, the focus shifted dramatically in the Japane e media onto what became known as the collap ing cla srooms (gakkya hokai). failing home (kalei hokai; and strange kid' (lien da kudvmv) of the new millennium. These descriptions of decline were filled with the details of the frightening deficiencie of academic ability. physical strength and social skills among t.he young, n the one hand, and their execs es of de ire for commodities and death 011 the other." As examples in the media of the mora] and physical decline of the youth preoccupied national intere L a new credence wa lent to government proposal for the need to strengthen and revitalize the populati n.15

In many of the. e accounts. the moment or collapse is set somewhere between the cultie felonies of Aum Shinrikyo in 1995 and the Kobe .y uth A' killing and wounding of elementary sch olchildren incident in 1997.1f, Aurn Shinrikyo was the infamous cult whose antics included placing poisonous gas in the packed subways of Tokyo, with the clear intent or the annihilation of million .. Profusely written about and interpreted, the cult's action. have left their most enduring mark on society a a sign of the madly competitive education sy tern, whose be t and brightest (many of Aum': adherents had attended Japan' top universities) turned our to be not only bullie .. but murderers.

A . hort two year later, an incident. which became the mo. t dramatic one of the decade in 01 ing a youth, Look place in the city of Kobe. What became known as 'the Kobe wounding and murdering of children incident' (Kobe rcnioku S(US/U) jikell) consisted of a third-year junior-high student at the time (the same age as the member. of the doomed Class B in Battle Royale), Shiinen A (Youth A), wounding and murdering a series of elementary-aged children. decapitating the final victim." Youth A accompanied his heinous deeds with chilling taunts to the authorities (hey, the game .tarts now-sa gel1lu no hujimari desui. and explanations of his monstrous transf rmation (I just want to kill-




koroshite mirai) that indicted the education system for the invl ibility of hi: existence (tome ina sonzai). The proclamations of revenge issued by Youth A were accentuated by the results of a survey of attitudes toward these crimes done by the Ministry of Education following the discovery that the culprit was not, as

uspected, 'a man in a black sedan.' but a junior-high student.' ited throughout the media at the time. the sur ey showed that over fifty percent of the secondary students. urveyed sympathized and identified (though did not necessarily admit to can idering similar actions) with the plight of Youth A. When in the yea.r 2000 a series of new juvenile crime incidents took place involving 17-year-ol.ds, who all seemed Lo come from solid middle-class 'tack like the boy from Kobe, Youth A's pronouncements of 'killing as. a game' (and the perverse pleasures he derived from ill. revenge. and hi. en e of invisibility became trong frame for the failure of inculturation and the loss of moral foundation amongst youth. 1 S

Reform in an age of 'roll out' (neollberallsm)

111e Ministry of Education began to publicize its plans in earnest for the current overhauling of the education system. starting shortly after the Kobe event. The underlying impenn behind the move to implement significant reforms was that this new era of social collapse called out for a different approach to education. During the 19808. the Nakasone government had put together a proposal for the wide-ranging reform of the education system, but lacking the financial exigency and social anxiety of the present recessionary era, these nascent plans were len uncompleted. As the political atmosphere congealed around the current reforms, problems of school refusal (ti5kiikyohi). bullying (ijime), inner-school violence (konai boryoku), fatherless homes. and others-that had been dealt with through recourse to a top-down bureaucratization of school lift: during the previous decade-were now integrated into the new rationale of reform that called for a changed relationship betw en horne, school and State. I')

In an unusual show of tram paTency on the part of the Ministry the current reforms have been accompanied by a nationwide explanation campaign-s-a sort of hard sell of the reform catch-phrases (zest for living: 'end of competition,' 'education of the bearn-which combines instruction of the official position with a revised view of the postwar education pas1.20 Conspicuously absent in all of this is mention that the changes being implemented correspond closely with the view that a major shift in the requirements for a 'labour force has occurred as a result of the accelerated globalisation of markers, To remain in step with the pace of these changes. Japan needs LO alter its means for producing this labour force, which ha: rested throughout the latter half of the twentieth century on the close calibration between the education system and the market. The long. drawn out recession. however, changed the need (and practical possibilities) for top-down management, and demonstrated the necessity for the government to adapt its systems to the pressures and heightened competition of globalisation,

The spoke men for the Ministry of Education maintain that the PUI'PO, e of the present reform. i. to relieve the pressure on the child and home, by creating a system that shifts the balance of responsibility between the school, home and tate,


The current reforms call for the final elimination of school on aturdays, and a ignificant (thirty percent) reduction in the current elementary and junior high school core curriculum. The e hours are replaced by a new course or uudy, called 'comprehensive study' (.HJ!jorekina gakusln7), which is independent and individually centered, though themes for the study are chosen by grade level and by individual schools. The directives of the Ministry of Educaii n Slate that this

rudy should help stud ems de elop the necessary 'zest for life' (ikiru chikorai a' well as the social tie, and national allegiances that are sorely mi sing among the youth. The reform program also includes a wider-ranging set of proposals for how to deal with tudent _ who do not accept the proper re: pon ibiliry for their learning (and/or continue to make trouble). including a mandatory term of 'service to the nation (hoshi katsudoi, and the even wider-ranging possibility of th se reforms as the springboard to the rcvi ing of the 'fundamental law of education' (f.. .. voiku kihonho), the basis of Japan' postwar democratic approach to education. or equal significance, this set of education reforms is informed by a larger overall governmental trend to reorganize the relation hip between the citizenry and the Stale. Tn Ii hat the member' or a committee on 'The Structure of Japan in the Twenty-Fir. t Century' concluded. Japan j ripe for a new form of 'governance', one that tran 'fer, the responsibility (though not necessarily the mean of power) for more or school and local management to the individual and indi idual community. thereby reducing the financial burden (and blame for problems in the system) on the federal government."

These effort coincident with the reform plan to reorganize the relationship between government and the individual are heavily articulated with what Thoma Lemke, Jamie Peck, Adam Tickell anti others call the logics of neoliberali m. According to Peck and Tickell, neoliberal reform. particularly in its 1990 inflection of 'roll-out' (vs, roll-back) neoliberalism, involves a changed relation hip between the government and the indi idual. Thi relationship i, prerni ed upon the transference of responsibility from the one to the other, which doe not ·0 much repre: em a hif] inc ntr I Ir III the government l U1e individual, but a discharging onto the individual (and indi idual community) of former re: pon. ibilitie: for education. the child, and the home. This is often effected through the rhetoric of empowering the individual. or. as in the case of new century Japan. of identifying a lack in the individual (a in youth generally) and offering LO remedy this deficiency through the impl mentation of a new knowledge (often of the body or the psyche). what Foucault called a 'biopoli .. tics. '22 Moreover. neoliberal reform seeks to re rganize the applications of power through discourse' of 'biopolitics' (like the 'zest for living' tikiru chikara))_ such that the burden fur social management rests with the individual and individual communuy"

Kids, killing and the meaning of urvi al

Terse white titles and the orchestral sounds of dread announce a drasticall worsened financial and social situation in new century Japan. They serve as our only introduction to the 'new century education reform law'. represented by the enormous red seal of the 'B.R. Survival Pr gram'. that accosts the. creen in the



opening scene of Battle Royale,!4 Just as abruptly we are swept into the atmosphere of the education reform's 'survival program." The sounds of helicopters overhead and microphones on the ground announce the return of the lone survivor of the previous year's 'game.' Surrounded by military escort, the . ur ivor of the murderous ordeal, a junior high school girl return covered in blo d. but as the media announcer and the camera take great pains to tell and show, 'smiling' (waraneimosui. We lind our 'elve' asking. what is the meaning of survi al under the. e conditions? What ar the pot ntialities that are being 'ought here. and what is the right stuff of sur j <1J in the grid of eri i and capitalization that now engulfs the society?

Again, jU~1 as suddenly. forty-some uniformed uudents of junior-high third year. Class B. appear on the creen ping for their class picture, as the focus move' to two of the member in particular, the young hero and heroine, Nanahara Shuya and Nakagawa Noriko. From this scene of the opening of the school year and seeming order. Nanahara returns to the cramped apartment that he and his father have shared since his mother's departure from the family

everal years earlier. The entrance, where shoes are rcmo ed, i, just a brief . pari: 1 remove from the one and only main 1'00111. As anahara looks LIp from the entrance, he is aghast to see that his father ha: hanged himself with an electrical cord. out of desperation at remaining unemplo ed. The father' lifele body i draped in a suicide message. Under the condition' f the prolonged recession of the 1990-. thee message draping the drained bodies of the older male generation have become the ail-tao-familiar markers of the incapacity to adapt to the collapse of the miracle in which the past generations were so heavily invested,

'Everything i twi .ted: there i no one to show us the way.' grieves an ahara, a: he departs from the final remnants of the famil , This scene of familial depiction i ' [allowed by the setting of the junior high sch 01. where guidance i ab: ent a well, Class B is not call ened due La une xplained circumstance, and battle among students and students and teacher. reign in the hall, The head teacher. Kitano (Beat-o Takeshi) is caught in th mid. t of one of the e skirmi: hes and has hi. leg 51a, hed by a stud nt, lip 11 wh m he later take revenge. Our introduction to the world of the collapsing ch 01 i. through thi junior-high plagued. by lawlessness, and upon which the wrath (or violence) of the law turn" as the lack of guidance that confronts an ahara and others i as umed to be the cau: e rather than the effect of economic breakdown.

The cene again shift. [0 what appears at first to be a regular school outing ere it nOI f r the huge military presence on th sid s of th highway along which the bus is traveling. s the bus emerge from a long tunnel, it rudent occupants lie unconscious in their seals. The outing, we realize. i none other than a preten e for th if abduction to the deserted island that serve as the etting for th survival program of the 'baul royale law'.

Helicopter now u 'her in the beginning of the, urvival game. Landing outside the command center where the students have been sequestered, they carry the military command and the teacher who will oversee the three days of prescribed battle. The program b gin' with instructions LO th students of the rules, ai rns and proper conduct of .urvi val. Accordi ng La til dictate: of the BR Law' the



students are forced to murder their peer- within a period of three days, or face total annihilati n. An in ongruously cheery 'video gal: who cuts an ironic figure

ornewhere between kindergarten teacher and executioner walk the kids through the process. Her explanation includes a sudden graphic demonstration of the explosive collar, tbakuvaku kubiwas secured around the students' neck .. These stylish Seiko-like collars, bizarre depictions of the outcome of Japanese industrial innovation. are equipped with an ultra-sophisticated tracking and monitoring device that enables the command center t constantly track the whereabouts and survival rate of the students at the same time a they are capable of decapitating heads.

At [LIst, the student appear dumbfounded. challenging the teacher and refusing to take this presentation of raw power. eriou 1y. But. within the dictate. of this game of urvival .. di re pect [or authority (of the teacher and the Stare) i' met with swift and violent retribution. (Two of the kids are slain before the game even begins.) At which point, the class representative a. ks how ha thi happened [0 their cla s. The teacher replies that the participants are cho en randomly through an annual lottery of the 43,000 junior-high cia, ses nationwide. and that the aim or the game is to produce a resolute adult population. 2.~

The survival game roll-call commences, This is the final moment before the

tudenrs head off on their own to become each other's rival in the game or life and death. As they leave the ro rn, they receive a bag of supplier which include. a map, compass, 'orne sustenance for the three day' and most importantly various implement. of de truction (these vary from era sbows to rapid-fire machine gun .. poison, pistols and knive of all SOIt·).

But, what does it mean' to be a victor in battte royale't Th .tated aim of the new century education reform act at the center of the film is to produce a pool of sound tkenzen) adults. who as a result of their, trength of conviction (the wartime resonance are not lost 011 u here) will be unambiguous about how to prepare the new generation for the demands of the new century. The scenes of slaughter and brutality seem to reinforce the idea that urvival is a violent process, and the survival of the individual is predicated upon the unified resolve of the nation. Yet. as the desp rate opening scene of Nanahara and hi father for efully portray .. the . urv i al of the nation does not guarantee individual furur _, presaging suicides and the heightened competition for what is now perceived a. the shrinking access to the places at the top."

One i reminded here of the le s obvious kinds of battle for survi val or 'e arnination war' tjuken sensa) kids in which Japanes e have been invol ed for several decades. In the post-bubbl economy. despite the rhetoric of the end of competition, in education reform, the new reality of .urvival is that no! all will reach the top, but tho e who do, like the kids in the film, will have to engage desperately thisshi ni) to become worthy competitors for Japan in the amorphous battlefield of the global economy.

The entrance-examination cram _ chools tshinguku juku) have tailored their entreaties to anxious parents for thi. new era of reform and survival." Making 'global excellence' their keyword for the new century, these. chools have found the new dir ction of 'governance' (i.e, the transfer of responsibility for education nto the parents) (0 be their departure poi nt. t thi ' critical juncture,



when the nation eem: less invested in the idea of social homogeneity, with it qualified certainties of personal sur ival, the cram school's promise to ensure that children have what they need (and what the . chools seem increasingly unwilling or unable to provide) to compete successfully jn the international. market for excellence has become increasingly in demand by anxious parents. ~R

Through the de. igns of director Fukasaku, Battle Royale takes the survival game trope a step further." Thrust out into the jungle r battle, the students do not en masse turn to the deliberate destruction of their peers. While scene. of carnag predominate. there are also poignant moments f refusal LO participate.

tudent. take their own live', other attempt to ubvert (with some degree of .uccess) the central control. and in a final hawing of true selfles mes . one of the remaining three iacrifices himself for the remaining pair .. Moreover. even the bloodier cene (oF kniving., poisoning and shooting') are punctuated by the expression of connection (even if only through the communication of resentment ) between the students, pointing to the strangely .atutary effects of the c war-like conditions,

This life and d ath .truggle (complete with it compulsion from above) i. meant La evoke the atmosphere of battle that director Fukasaku eperienced a an ado I cent at the end of the econd World War. Fuka .aku see: thi: film in terms of his own youth in the do ing years of war. when death was everywhere. 'IT the war had continu d one more year. I'd have been sent to the front line .'. Dismayed by the discrediting of beliefs for which they wer prepared to die (from the transcendence of the emperor to the fact that Japan had gone LO W,IJ' to secure peace [or . greater Asia') their camaraderie. says Fuku aku, was all they had left, Comparing him. elf to the young hero of Battle Royale who lost his family and hi, way, Fuka iaku de cribe the unbearable feeling of emptines: that a companied th end of the war for his generation. Hi generation, howe er, had the advantage of the wartim {. enyi'i) friendship', connection that traver .cd all barrier' and time'.

Of thi hi iixueth f lrn, Fukasaku says that he wanted to relate how he aw this story as a venue through which to 'how and graphically at that) that life gains it meaning from the conviction that one would be ready to die for something larger than the. elf if necessary. Looking at the situation among the young today at home and in chool, Fukasaku finds this common cause (this unity of purpo e) lacking, and iay he wanted La make a film that dramatized the importance of rediscovering this Tight-to-the-death cau e. Because of their wartime experiences. the youth of his generation knew the precious meaning or the bonds of friend hip in de} at. For Fukasaku, the e trernes of life and death experienc d in a battle to the end .uggest a way La recover the phy leal and moral bonds of society that seem t have c me so unglued. but were available for hi gcn ration.

Fukasaku i , of caul' e, not alone in his anxiousnes about the void of contemporary life, and the lack of attachment of the young to anything. In hi fantastically popular series on the war, Sensoron (Discourses on War). Kobayashi. Yoshinori takes the c concerns a step further to compare the youth of the pa t-hi' model is the kamikaze pilols-to the young of today. who are eith r lackluster or 'imply . elf hly violent, and are no longer able to die for


anything." In the first volume of Discourses on War, Kobayashi bemoan the fact that Japan's peace has created a youth with no sense or belonging to the nation. They are consumer shohisha), rather than citizens (kokllmil1), writes Kobayashi. Without the opportunity to experience t.he 'moving feeling of individual acrifice' of battle for the nation. the young are doomed (and so by in inuation i the nation) to live out a life of irreparable psychic. plit tbunritsus between the individual (ko) and the public (ko).

Tomiko Yoda underline how these longings for the return of an imagined past unity obscure the reorganizations taking place under the guise of the real education and social reform acts of the year 2002. While purporting to case up the pres me-cooker-like education system, they 'are in fact creating a sy. tern that can openly round up and e pel it lowe. t (or unruly) performers, while creating a eparate accelerated track for the high performers' .~I

Surviving the nation

In terms of cinema attendance, Battle Royale wa a huge hit. Up to this day, the film continue, to be in high demand in video rental. , and has produc d a number of website , chat group, and accessories (toy replica of the tools, weapons of the battle, action figurcs=.sometirnes in their dismembered form-of the members of Class 8):11 There are even opportunities on the web now for fans to enter into the battle of battle royale, pleasurably having their own dilemma, of survival converted into the direct tactics and violences of urvival in the game."

Boule Royale has also been popular with youth outside of Japan, The fa cination with the film abroad seems not unconnected to the as sociation of war with camaraderie that re senate with Japane e youth. However. I want to ernpha ize that the specific kinds or identification and enjoyment that arc d ri ed from the viewing f Battle Royale. as well as the interchanges that occur on the internet about the film and its meanings, are not generalizable to youth in different countries. Which i to say that the associations of militarization and total war in the film evoke for Japane: e youth the themes and tropes of war and defeat [hat continue to permeate Japanese society, as in the animated series n the war (Sensoron) by Kobayashi .. [ would argue that thi broader attraction of the film has rather to do with th uggestion of resistance to the more insidious forms of indirect violences perpetrated upon individuals, and the young, as the particular object of programs to raj e national output and manage the population. whether in momenr of high growth or rece .sion.

A Anne Allison, writing of 'cyborg iolence in fi lrns like Robocop, argues. we 100 quickly condemn the popularity of cinematic violence among children, on the grounds that it leads (directly) to violent action on their part. without a careful consideration of the complex meanings that children con truct [rum these portrayals of violence. Moreover. we fail to look at the way that their viewing enjoym nt (and imaginative play) c peak of the tensions experienced by children under the conditions of late industrialization and globali ation and their attempt to construct subjectivities however partial, under these conditiona."

In The Cinematic Body. Steven. haviro pair the 'hock of cinematic viewing or 'the violence of the sensation that p werfully engages the eyes and body of



the spectator inviting them to stay within the orbit of the sen e .' with the thrill that i often derived from violence on the screen.' . afely di tanr, but gari hly immediate: violent film, according to Shaviro, 'concerns rescuing the possibilir of life from the encounter with death'." This rescue, however, i never quite the meeting of survival with triumph,

Here loa is wher Battle Royale leaves us. The battle has ended. All but two of the students have met iolent end .. Mutual .acrifice (along with the cyber-

abotaging of the command headquarter. by one of their peer prior to his wn death) has earned rhe pair the right to remain aliv . BUl their cheating of the , tate i only partial. The .'UI ivor: are destined t live a partial life, on the run. without the mooring' uf family r friends. In the final scenes, their di placement from the rest of society. on the one hand, projects their survival as resistance (and a hope for recovery in the future). On the other, however. their statu as Fugitives suggests the struggle for personal survival in an era of increasingly le: s direct forms of coercion. where triumph is always qualified by the demands of the global market.


I HOlijirslf 110 jlJl{)'O. koroshuti. Jinsei 111(1 ga-mu desu. Hissht III nate, uuukuue. Kuchi gll <1m otona ni nurimasho. lnstructionx given to the students uf Class B. by (him teacher Kitano \pl!lyed by rhc contemporary icon of dissidence and VIOlence Kil:IIlO lBiiro) Take .hl).

! Bmtle Rovate (Baton! Rownlaru; wu, directed by (the recently deceased) Fukasaku Kiuji of gangster l\'akll.\'II~ tlick (lime, and based on the flrst-time novel or the same nurne by Kilshun Takami.

3 I am referring in particular LO the It'ikkmai (more colloquially known as the kalllika~e) pilots of [be Second World War. Reading the personal diaries of these ymmg pilot», Emiko Ohnuki.Tiemcy. in K{IIlIikCl;;e. Cherry Blossoms and Natianatisms: Milirtll'i:llli"n o( At'.,/helics i" J(I/nlIW.I'1' Nislr>r.l'. hicago: University of Chicago Press. 1002. has provided U penetrating account of the ambivulenccs these yOllng pilo expcrienced, U' they headed off 10 their deaths. mel rhe e~tCI1I io which the. ymb lie ,truClllr'eS of wartime idcok gy were succewlul ill il"lIuging their sacrifice.

4 M} sense of the 'neoliberal' and the ncolibcralivrn f the current education reforms in Japan and elsewhere is informed b) 1110ma' Lemke" 'The Birth IIf Biopoliucs- Michel Foucuult» Lecture at the College de France 011 Nenliberul Govcrnrncmality'. Jamie Peck and Ad3l11 Tickclls ' eoliberalizing pace', Pierre Buurdieu' •. 'The Essence of Ncoliheruusrn. and the volume, FOIJ(,(III/r and Pn/iriul/ Reason, edited by Andrew Barrv, Thomas Osborne and ikolas Rose.

~ Battle Ro.l'U/; enjoyed huge box office success, has produced chat sites. slmulution games, and, il would appear. the possibility of new lonns of identification for 'real schoolchildren.'

• 1 have written in more deiull about thi~ relationship between industry. government and cduc.uion, Japan's recent education reforms. the child as victirniver and victim. lind (he relation between home and ehool in rccessionary J"1'1I11 in my dlsscrtatlon. 'Reccsvionary Effects: The C'ri,i~ or the Child ,1110 the Culture of Reform in Contemporary Japan.'

7 Aaron Gerow argues thai Kobayashl's animated volume, have been particularly popular among the young.

Longer and more focused di scussion-, or the (rejappearances of neonarionalism within the mainstream or Japanese media and popular publi all n can be f lind in Aaron Gerow's 'Consuming Asia, Consuming Japan: The lew Nconationalistic Revisionism in Japan'. in L. Hcin and M. Seldon. eds, Censoring History:

Citizen. hip and Memory in Japan, G('rfllUlI,l' and the United States, Armour. NY: ME. Sharpe. 2000. pp 7 95: Yurniko Iidas 'Between the Technique of Living an Endless Routine and the Madness of Absolute Degree Zero: Japanese Identity and the Crisis of Modernity in the 11190. '. P".~;IiIJ/I.\. 8(2). 2000. pp 421 6-1; and Marilyn Ivy'~ 'Revenge and Recapuarion in Rece vionary Japan', in Snutt: Arfwrt;!" QUllrtt'rly. ':19(4). 2000. pp ~ 19-1I40.

~ 11 is precisely the dedication and sucrillces of this first post-war generation. together with the larger ideological tuundations 01 P()Sl-W~r .Iapan AS a nation or 'peace and prosperity,' lilut arc at Slake in this era of recesxion and fear; or decline and national collapse.

~ I ha e shown elsewhere how lhi, Juscinaticn with the socialization or the. Japanese child in the home and ihe ichool emerged out of the Al11l!nCHn cultural anthropology of FrwlL Boa and hi, students. whose



concept of the rehulvity of cultures elevated the study of the distinctive traits or 'personnltries' of different 'cultures' ttl the status 01" a scicrultlc endeavor.

10 Prominent in the 'learn from Japan' genre are volumes such us: H. Stevenson and 1. W. S!igler"~ Th« Learning Gop, New York: T nrchsione Books, ]9'.14; Merry White'S The Japanese Education .. 1 C/mlll'lIge, New York: Free Press, 1987, and Catherine Lewls's Edllnrlil1g Hearts and Mililis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1995. The e works 011 education parallel a long! of writings on the successes of the unique form or cuplralism managed by [he Japanese a~ .1 result Ill' thelr unique system of socializarion tread largely as schooling and childrearing). By the late 1990,. however. the economists had come full circle to retreat from this view, though il could be argued that tili, retreat has not included a probtcmutizing of their OWI1 desire to believe in the ptb,ibility of what Slnvoj Zizek has called n rcapitalism without caprtalisrn'. By the late 19905. a number of noted economists. among them Paul Krugman, began making their VICW~ widely known concerning the danger or r(ll1mving Japan lruo the quagmire of debt and defluuon,

II 'Hollowing oiu' i, II term used concurrently by ~onullli~t~ to poiut lU the emptying or weakening from the inside out uf <Ill industry or company. and by ,(l~illl theorist» like Eric Sanrner 10 describe the waning of an ideology 01' structure of authority. such as he analy~~, in My 011'11 Private Germany: Danie! f'tII~1 Schreber'» S<'CH't History "~l Mot/emily. Princeton: Princeton University Press, ]996.

12 Richurd Kut7.·~ Japan: 'I1r(' Rise (mil Ful! ur the Japanese Economic Mirucle: The SYllCfJI thu: Sourvd.

Armour. NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998: Bal Gil'S Japuu '3 EC<JJtOmic Dtlenun«: 771<' Iiwirl!liol1oi Odgli'l.s of Prusperitv (Ilid SllJglllrtirm. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer£ity Press, 2(]01; Gnvan McCormack', Thl! Emptines: of Japanese Affillf'lJce. (revised edition). Armour. N.Y.: M.E Sharpe. 1001.

1.1 ] am referring here to the fuct ihat life prior III lhe recession, while the model of capitalist existence lor much 01 the rest of the world. was hardly without Its struggles, violences and sacrifices . Many of these were subsumed within the larger ideological framework (>1'" 'homogeneous narinn", behind which stood the batik for lnclusion within this homogeneous race UJ1l1 das;. structure. epiromized by the exam W;Jr~ and single-minded devotion uf the Jurnily resources to entrance [0 an elite university, and a good company

tJ These depictions range widely rrorn bi7:IITC crimes and the lack oremotlnnal control or 'quick en frustration" kinds or classroom disturbance known <IS kirem (sundered, and mukatsuku (frustrated). LlI the burgeoning numhers of '~c11O<l1 refusers' or the schoolgirl prostitution, euphemistically known as 'financed dating' lefljl) k6l'lli).

t5 During the period of 111)1 fieldwork in Tokyo and Kobe. I \V:L~ continually engaged (by othcrv) in ccnvcrsarion about the conncctlon between ruuional collapse and (he dire situation among youth. Several limes. complete strangers 011 the train. looking over at an article r 1V1l~ reading, would hegm to question me about what I thought the cause was and where it would 311 lead.

I~ I. conducted Illy fieldwork ill Japan from early :1000 to fall of 2001 in the greater Tokyo and Kobe: areas (the laucr the sue some two years earlier (1997) of the 'Kobe ~erial wounding and killing or elementary children incident' also known a.~ the 'Youth A' {SMIIt'11 A) incident].

11 The name or the Juvenile perperrtnor of these ac!!' HgilinM hi> peers cannot be divulged in public according to Japanese juvenile 11IW, ,0 as 1.0 prm~cl the juvenile's identity (as well as that of his parents) and their future reputation. However, due to the various bizarre uspccrs of the crime. as well as its timing ill 111C midst of the concerns over naiional decline, the lack of information about hi. identity seemed [0 Iuel the desire for Information all the more. Moreover, in the case or Youth A, the crimes Were com milled close enough 1(1 home (and school) such that the idcntiry or the youth und hi> fUlilily was known to all in the area-in fact on 1I fieldwork trip 10 Kobe. I was guided by [0,:,11 residems 10 the now deserted home where the lamily once lived.

I~ I have written about the punic ol' 'unknowability' that accompanied the Kobe Youth A crimes. a. the demand for information about Youth A seemed ro 11C insatiable. and numerous special issues were devoted If) e ploring the dark uno unknowable recesses or the ',:hild'~' psyche tnuimeu, kokomt. See my "The Wild Child of 1,990:; Japan", South At/wllie Qrwl'lerly. 99(4). 2000. pp 841-863. [ also wan: to add here that the image created in the media of youth, during both or these events, W,1~ not a singular one by any means, For that 11I<1Il~r. neuher has the J'OCUb on the young been restricted to seeing them as victimizers.

" In the first instance of the disciplinization of the I 98Us. one recalls the regulation of school life down to its most minute details, a~ well as a number of Incidents. such as the 'school gate killing' at u high school in Kobe in the early 1990s. in which a female student. who was late to school. died when her head w~~ smashed ill the iron school gall:' by a teacher whose ff1cu~ was more Oil the punctual closing or the gate than the student 11'yinll. tl) enter it,

c{i Embedded withi~ these reforms i~ a strung 'moral education' component. While coking to strengthen the emotional ties between U1C individual and the nation, much like the moral education (shushin kyoiku) or the past, the 'education of the heart' of the current reforms i~ linked strongly with the Iorwarrl-lookmg ueolibcral program to develop a new, more compctulve iuthvidual.

II The report nil 'The Structure of Japan in [he Twenty-First Century' was the product of i1 special prime minister's cumrnhtee .. set up by the past prime minister Obuchi, uuder the directorship of past director of the International Center for the Study of Japanese Culture. Kawai Hayao.




2~ ce Barbnra Cruikshank's article. 'Revolutions Within: Self-govcmment and . ell-esteem.' in A. Barry. 1'.

Osborne and N. Rose (eds), Foucault and Politica! Reason: Liberalism, eolihcralism and Rationalities o] Govl'rnmel'lt. Chicago: University of Chicago Pres . 191,16. for an excellent example of the rype of 1990s 'roll-out' neoltberal reform,

~l There are strong resonances here with the conflicted issue or chihl'x rights (and other seeming child protection plans) that begun in the late 1990. When Japan joined the treaty on child's right, in the rni(l-1990>, it was required to create it. own domestic plan for the Jmplemcntaticn oft.he child's righb treaty. The ity of Kawasaki, on the outskirts of Tokyo, where I resided during uic period of my fieldwork. became the !ir,t municipality in the country to create such a plan. known us the child' rights initiative tkodomo IW kenri Jarei). As de cribed to me by its main drafter in the Kawusaki munlcipaluy, the rationale of the local go ernrneru In drafting uch a plan was linked to the sense that the nev em of recession required a new approach to governauce. The experience of the late 1980s lind curly 199()s. WIth violent outbreaks among youth, and the local government's unsuccessful attempts 10 deal with them by means offorce, had convinced the authorities of Kawa aki, who govern an urea tha; is strongly diverse. .ocio-economically. u" well as racially. that they would have to look for another solution, They found this solution in the idea of making local families and children themselves 'responsible' for their own uctions. by giving them 'right • .'

N In total. these opening uues read: 'At the beginning of the new century, one country li!lds itself in a state of collapse. A~ unemployment reaches fifteen percent, the value ystcm break clown. and along with it the home and the chool. Why is it wrong lu kill ..... onder the kids? AdulL~ havlng IIl~t their power me unable to provide an answer. Kids begin ttl detest adults, und adult, to lear children. With their confidence snauered. the udult popuhuion begins to live in fear of the young. and ras~c. n hill-the new cnrury education law- to restore authority, and create a lrong Japanese people for rhe future.'

2.< ln the originul novel. Barril! Royale, junior-high tudcnts live in con-aam fear of their class being chosen [or what b. known as 'the Program.' Under the dictates of 'th", Program,' fOil I cia 'es a year are sent to slaughter each other. The novel, in comparison to the screenplay. emphnsizes a pencerian type of survival-of-thefiuesl of the future aduh population. In the lilm. as [ discuss shortly. the ernphusis is rather on the important effects of the life and death struggle for survival,

16 A striking contra I 10 thc 'killing of kids' in B<IIlJe RO_\'CI!t, i. provided by Miyazaki Hayac's nCWC\1 blockbuster hit, Spirhed Away. in which the young heroine. Chihiro, a lackluster ltl-year-old girl at the beginning of the film, emerges as the perfect example of recovered 'Inner strength' tikiru chikuru) by the conelu. inn of the film. Read both as physical endurance and moral fortitude. hihirc'» battle i" symbolically, with the detritus of the p~,l post-miracle degeneration that hu overcome the older generation (anti much or her own as well),

~1 The Japanese juku or supplementary schools come In U variety of forms, from remedial clusses de igned to help student" at all levels keep up with the rl1~t-puced general curriculum of Japanese chool. to the high-powered and highly competitive ranks of the entrance examinatir n schools. These also divide into smaller and larger nationwide chain e,t.abli hrnenrs. During the period or my fieldwork. I made observations at me of the larger chain schools. pccializing in junior high school entrance cxnminations.

~. Despite the fulling salaries. lay-offs and uncertainties of employment in rhc future. the entrance-exam cram schools have experienced one of the largest peaks if! enrollment the mid·199 • on.

~9 Thi is one of the main points m Which the screenplay diverges Irom the novel by llrst-ume author Takarni Koshun. Takami seems to have intended to rows D tile ]XISI several decades. hi own generation. and to enact a parody of romumlc views uf 'thi> gen ·ration. like the TV drama tKinpucn! sensei] about how one reacher singlc-handedly lakes on the range of problems that crop Lip In the everyday l f the junior high school. and miraculously by the conclu iOll of each program has found a. solution for [hem. Director Fukasaku, on the orher hand, interpreted [he story of Barrie Royale as a Slur)' of hi, own adolescence during the Wilt. and, moreover. a way [0 reconnect the y!lunger generution with Japan's past and the brutality but aim the unifying powers 01' bailie and war,

3(1 Aaron Gerow in his article on the Sensnron series points Out thai Kobayashi' s greatest fans are the young.

Gerow argues that the very 'disconnectedness or the youth lies behind K(lbayn~hi'~ popularity.' According 10 Gerow. Kobaynsahi' powerful State provides the y uth with a place for identity formation. when the more local in uuiuons of Iamily und school have ceased to function.

31 Tomiko Yoda, 'Roadmap to Millennial Japan'. South Atlantic QU(II'Ct'rly, \19(4), 2000, pp 865-902.

,2 An even greater sign of ib popularity is the appearunce during the summer of ~()03 ul' a sequel, Battle Royale II, in which the remaining two students tum 'terrorists'. joining forces with other past 'vicrors,', [0 try to subvert this despotic game.

~, In the various interviews that director Fukasaku has given. he notes ihut above all the 111m for him was H way of showing the youth the irnportunce (,f real friend. hip nd the meaning of their sharco Japane e pU,I. something Illat all the terrible youth crime, with irs announced di regard lor lire ami pleasure .11 death, suggests to him is missing.

J.I Acne Alli on, 'Cyborg Violence: Bursting Borders and Bodlcs with Queer Machines", 01/1111'01 Anthrup%gy 16(2). MllY, 2001, pp B7-2M.

JS Steven Shaviro. 7111! Ctnemctic Bod)'. Minneapolis: University of Minnesmu Press. p 49. J!! Shaviro, The Cinematic Bod}. I) 99,

Copyright of Postcolonial Studies is the property of Carfax Publishing Company and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.