I suppose that I'm using all of this as a qualifier for my own experience with the two franchises. My ignorance about The Hunger Games stood in stark contrast to my long-enduring love of Battle Royale. I saw the movie for the first time in 2004 and have watched it a dozen times since, in addition to reading the book and sitting through its piece of shit sequel. I don't say this in some bid to sound savvy or enlightened, but simply to demonstrate that cultural awareness is colored by a number of factors that we aren't necessarily in control of: generation, milieu, aesthetic preference. My friends and I had eight extra years between the release of the Battle Royale movie and The Hunger Games to apprise ourselves of this hyper-violent Japanese phenomenon. If the film was ever particularly obscure, it certainly isn't anymore; it has 70,000 votes on IMDB, made a tidy sum of money in Japan, and received numerous bootleg releases in America through retailers as large as Hot Topic. I even have more friends on Facebook who like Battle Royale than The Hunger Games, a telling if not anecdotal indication of each franchise's social significance to me.
With this in mind, I went to see The Hunger Games and found it to be a very good movie. Assessed in terms of craftsmanship, it objectively beats Battle Royale in just about every way imaginable.
Then there's the question of the actual people in this world. Jennifer Lawrence proves herself vastly more capable of carrying a movie than Tatsuya Fujiwara. "Thank you for your consideration" says more about her character than every action Fujiwara ever takes manages to. Character-wise, there's no doubt in my mind that Katniss Everdeen out-performs Shuya Nanahara in every conceivable way, be it charm, personality, combat prowess, or personal ethics. Shuya is a dull kid who never deserved to win the Battle Royale, stumbling his way through simply by virtue of allying with Shogo; Katniss' victory is both entirely understandable and worth celebrating. This is not to say that Battle Royale is totally without its advantages, among which are a much clearer sense of geography (so important in these Most Dangerous Game scenarios) and less jittery camera work (presumably because it feels no need to avoid the violence of its subjects' deaths), but to pit the two against each other brings out its deficiencies in an extremely unflattering light.
And yet, after all of this, I still prefer Battle Royale.