Tokyo conservatives warn violent film will spawn copycats

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The Independent Online

For days before Battle Royale opened, Japanese conservatives issued warnings about it. The film is a violent, near-future fantasy, a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies in which armed schoolchildren are sent to a desert island with instructions to kill one another. Only the survivor may go home.

For days before Battle Royale opened, Japanese conservatives issued warnings about it. The film is a violent, near-future fantasy, a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies in which armed schoolchildren are sent to a desert island with instructions to kill one another. Only the survivor may go home.

Within hours of its opening at the weekend, in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, a boy aged 17 seemed to have proved the conservatives' point. He beat a young woman with the baseball bat he had just bought. Then he set about a 32-year-old man in a public lavatory. And within eight minutes he had attacked half a dozen more.

There was no evidence that the boy had seen or even had an interest in Battle Royale, but the coincidence of the film's opening with the Shibuya clubbings serves as a reminder to the Japanese of what seems to be a terrifying new vein of violence among the young.

The bat-wielding youth has not been named in the media, but by yesterday the Japanese already knew a lot about him; he is a loner who dropped out of school after several years of being bullied and ostracised.

In other words, he sounds much like a growing list of maladjusted teenagers who have committed horrible crimes across Japan in recent years.

Last June, a 17-year-old beat his mother to death with a baseball bat because, he said, he wanted to "know how it felt". In the same week, another 17-year-old hijacked a bus and stabbed a passenger to death.

The grimmest crime of all was in 1997 when a 14-year-old boy in Kobe killed and decapitated an 11-year-old playmate and deposited his severed head in front of the victim's school.

As the producers of Battle Royale have pointed out, their film looks less like a provocation to violence than a timely reflection of a troubled country.

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