Battle Royale, the 2000 cult Japanese franchise, may become a CW television series. It has a similar premise to Hunger Games, the project CW really wants to make. This news has the potential to make certain sectors of the Internet angry, especially those that have the “adaptations suck” mantra in their minds at all times. While it is a sound theory, it is also inaccurate. If they are done correctly, adaptations can honor the source and still be unique.
Look at the BBC project Being Human. The original version is about three supernatural beings living together and all the problems they have blending in to society. The American version expands upon that premise. When crafting the North American series, the writers preserved the important storylines from the original, and also made several uniquely American changes to it. It works as an adaptation because it honors the original and still goes its own way. A Battle Royale adaptation is just as easy to pull off, if three ideas are kept in mind.
First thing is to embrace the violence. Battle Royale, in all its iterations, is ultra violent and is filled with murder. The writers should not hide from the ultra violence and embrace it. Make sure the characters die in elaborate ways. Clever writers can get around broadcast limitations by implying horrific deaths off camera. If it remembers to dwell on the sounds a few seconds, the viewer will create their own horrific events inside their head. To appeal to an American audience, a few of the deaths need to be heroic sacrifices. Americans are suckers to this kind of death, if it is not overdone.
The second thing is to remember what kind of story it is. Battle Royale is not Survivor. There will be the temptation to make this series into a band of strangers overcoming adversity, but that would miss the point of the source. At its core, Battle Royale is about doing horrible things to people you know just to survive. If it goes the Survivor route, it takes away from the drama of the situation. Justifying the murder of a stranger is easy. Justifying the murder of a class mate is a lot harder.
The last thing to remember is to make it American somehow. Battle Royale appeals to a Japanese audience because it is written for them. What works in Japan does not work in America. Americans value overcoming adversity, individualism, and intuitive solutions to complex problems. A successful adaptation needs to keep those concepts in mind when bring over the material. It also should not be afraid to go into avenues that the original writer would not dream of. In Japan, the event is organized as a science experiment. In America, entertainment works as a better reason. In Japan, children as young as 14 are appropriate fodder. In America, young adults are easier prey.
That is what should happen in order to make a successful Battle Royale adaptation, if the CW wants to entertain that possibility. In all likelihood, the CW is looking to make Hunger Games the TV series and nothing else. It is what’s popular right now and the company can be forgiven for going that route. But, it should at least make the effort to adapt the source properly. It would be the right thing to do.