Battle Royal High School
Hey! I've got no nipples!
All images © Tokuma Japan Communications
Cynthia Ward · December 12, 2003 | I'd wanted to see the anime Battle Royal High School for years, since I love its fellow battle-choked high-school parodies, Project A-ko (1986) and Prefectural Earth Defense Course (1986). They are funny and intelligent and insane, and if Battle Royal High School were a quarter as good, I'd have been well entertained.

I should've kept waiting.

The most immediate (if mildest) problem is the pedestrian animation. Battle Royal High School looks rather sketchy, as if made in a rush or on a small budget; the impression of careless haste is worsened by continuity errors along the lines of the Hulk's self-repairing shirt. I'm not opposed to primitive animation; heck, I'm a South Park fan. But in South Park I can tell the characters apart. In Battle Royal High School, four different men look alike (one varies mildly from the template by being long-haired and pointy-chinned). Two of these four fellows actually are the same person, from different dimensions. When the other two important males showed up, I thought they must also be the same person as the first/second guy(s), but I didn't know. Uh-oh.

As this confusion suggests, the plot has some clarity problems. The hero, Hyoudo Riki, appears first in a realistic tiger mask that initially made me think he was a tiger-man. The over-large cast is bewildering, but that's probably because the anime is adapted from a lengthy manga titled Shinmajinden (Legend of the True Devils). Additionally, the plot changes genres almost as often as a chameleon changes colors. At first, the anime seems to be about a high-school love triangle; then it appears to be fantasy (that tiger mask); then it turns into a non-magical martial-arts movie; then it changes scenes to a horror-movie "Dark Realm"; then a spaceship suddenly appears. It's possible to blend romance, martial arts, fantasy, horror, and science fiction in the same movie, but the key word is "blend"; in Battle Royal High School, the genres are a series of jarring changes.

The biggest problem with the plot may be that it just isn't compelling; it's little more than a flimsy excuse to string together fight scenes. As a result, the climactic battles nearly put me to sleep. And I like fight scenes.

Battle Royal High School
AnimEigo, 2003
Originally released in 1987
60 minutes

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So, what is the plot? Hyoudo Riki is the best martial artist at his high school, but he doesn't want to be on the karate team any more, because he can't fight members of other teams and become the best in the world (Riki's me-first selfishness is the most interesting part of Battle Royal High School, since his attitude is considered a heroic virtue in America and an appalling vice in Japan). To quit his school team, Riki defeats every member, including the Karate Club captain, who reacts to Riki's triumph by resigning. As fellow students deride or praise Riki, the mysterious tiger mask opens a dimensional portal, and the Riki of another world merges with the Riki of our world.

Riki's otherworldly double is no mere high-schooler; he is Byoudo, Master of the Dark Realm. Byoudo's transparently treacherous pal, the (female) Fairy Master, has persuaded Byoudo to possess Riki and attempt to conquer this new world. The resulting "hyper-psycho-kinetic-wave" attracts the violent attentions of demon-slayer Toshimitsu Yuuki and space-time cop Zankan, and the fight scenes grow ever more bloody....

If you watch movies for the fight scenes, Battle Royal High School may be your cup of gore. If you prefer the fight scenes to serve the plot, look elsewhere.

DVD Extras: storyboard video stream.
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