Battle Royale Volume 13 removes one more villain from the board

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You can always count on the Battle Royale manga for two things. It will always dump a load of backstory on you and it will find an excuse for Mitsuko to get her boobs out. Both of these things happen in volume 13 of the manga. With just five students left in The Program, it is time for them to start wrapping up some of the dangling plot threads.

Battle Royale finally cuts Mitsuko loose

Battle Royale Volume 13 My Face

Like many other volumes of Battle Royale, there are really two stories going on in this volume. Kawada spent much of volume 12 talking about how broken both Kiriyama and Mitsuko are. Of course, we already know this because we’ve seen both of them murder their way through the rest of their class, but that speech was just to set up Shuuya’s counterpoint in this volume.

Once again, Battle Royale is taking advantage of the smaller cast to slow the pace down and delve into philosophical arguments. Shuuya argues that people aren’t born evil, and he’s right. Something has to happen to make them evil, but that doesn’t excuse the evil things they’ve done. We know that Mitsuko has a tragic backstory and in a just world, she would get the therapy and treatment she needed to become a healthy individual.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t live in a just world. She lives in the Battle Royale world, so she runs into Kiriyama instead.

This is another moment where the content of Battle Royale made me deeply uncomfortable. Instead of killing Mitsuko immediately with the kind of cold efficiency that he’s displayed with all his previous victims, Kiriyama seems to be toying with her. Injuring her several times as she offers her body to him in a bid to save herself. It borders on torture porn in a way that I didn’t expect their encounter to.

We get yet more backstory about Mitsuko, but, in an almost anti-climatic moment in the manga, she is dead within moments. I suppose it makes sense; Battle Royale had done as much with her character as it could, revealing her to be a broken, tragic monster. As Kawada puts it, it feels like a mercy kill.

The gore of Battle Royale has never been subtle, but here it is presented in easily the most interesting manner. The page layout accentuates the brutality of the subject. It isn’t for the faint of heart but it does elevate the manga in a way. There is an indulgence in how the violence is paced, forcing the reader to confront it and linger on it longer than they’d like. I respect the artistry at play here even if makes my skin crawl.

Kiriyama takes her death with all the indifference we expected, performing surgery on himself to make his trigger finger tighter and making him a faster shot in the climax that is to come.

The rest of the volume is dedicated to Kawada. Finally, 13 volumes into Battle Royale, we get to see what happened the last time he was in The Program. We’d seen hints and glimpses but never got to see what actually went down until now.

As expected, it ends in tragedy. Kawada had a sweetheart. We knew that and we knew that she was in The Program with him. In the flashback, we see Kawada dive deep into the heart of the game, becoming one of the most efficient and brutal players in its history. He took down a total of 13 of his classmates, all in an effort to protect Keiko. He intends to kill everyone else until just the two of them remain and then kill himself, giving her the victory and a chance at life after The Program.

It is presented as a noble sacrifice, but this is Battle Royale so we know something is going to come along and screw it up.

That something is another player showing up, forcing Keiko to pick up a gun. In the confusion, Kawada’s instincts kick in and he shoots her dead before confronting the intruder. Despite heavy injuries, he is declared the winner and evacuated.

This was all easy to predict, though it is laid out well enough that I don’t mind. It does do a good job of showing how conflict like this dehumanises people, forcing them to see others as something less than a person. How else could they perform such acts of violence? Just like soldiers on the battlefield, former friends become mere obstacles to overcome. Nothing more than things.

What is more interesting is the aftermath. Kawada slips into an understandable depression. The doctors of The Program get him hooked on painkillers and send him out into the world where he hits rock bottom almost immediately. He goes back home to his father’s clinic to end his life but a long-overdue gift from Keiko gives him the resolve he needs to accomplish one final task.

Kawada intends to dismantle The Program so that no one else has to suffer the way Keiko has. How he knew he was going to get thrown back in is a question that hasn’t been answered, but it is clear that he plans to help Shuuya and Noriko survive, depriving the government of the winner they so desperately need.

We still don’t know the details of his plan of how he’s going to accomplish that, but he clearly isn’t including himself in that equation. We don’t know if he’s planning another noble sacrifice or if he’s resigned to the fact that he’ll have to face off against Kiriyama soon. Even Noriko, in the most impassioned speech she’s given in the entire manga, doesn’t do much to dissuade him from this fatalist outlook on their situation.

Like us, Kawada is genre-savvy. He’s been here before and knows that Battle Royale isn’t the place for happy endings.

The final pages of volume 13 show that Kiriyama has recovered and is out hunting his final prey. There are only two volumes left before we reach the climax, so I’m expecting the next set of chapters to focus on laying out Kiriyama’s backstory and showing us how he became so broken. Everyone gets a tragic backstory before they’re killed, after all. Like at the end of volume 11, I’m hoping this manga has at least one more surprise up its sleeve.

Just two volumes left and four students left to go.

Looking to get your hands on Battle Royale Volume 13? It is pretty tough to find these days but you can always try your luck on Amazon.

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