A controversial Japanese movie that features a series of fights to the death between junior high school students opened Saturday at cinemas nationwide.

The public debut of “Battle Royale” comes in the wake of Education Minister Nobutaka Machimura’s appeal to a government film commission and a group of cinema owners to voluntarily refrain from screening the movie, so that the graphic scenes of killing would not adversely influence juveniles.

Politicians have widely criticized the film, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, as being unsuitable for the nation’s youth.

Before the film opened, the government consulted with Fukasaku and said it would consider introducing a bill to regulate information deemed as unsuitable for young people.

The Administration Commission of Motion Picture Code of Ethics has banned those aged 15 or under from seeing the movie.

The film is about a group of truant junior high school students that is sent to an uninhabited island, where they are told to kill each other. The story takes place at a time when Japanese society is beset with crimes committed by juveniles and a breakdown in classroom order.

The students are given weapons and food rations and are made to wear a collar that explodes if they disobey. They have to continue killing each other until there is only one left.

About 600 young people had lined up Saturday morning outside the Marunouchi Toei cinema in Tokyo’s Ginza district. To cope with demand, the theater had to get extra tickets printed up the previous day.

Some 800 stood outside the Shinjuku Toei cinema in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

A 17-year-old high school student from Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward said, “It doesn’t matter (to me) if adults have a problem with those violent scenes. We won’t be influenced.”

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