Kitano could have taken 'em all on.
Pay close attention to the piping on Kuriyama-chan's jacket. On the US and UK masters it has a secondary, digital contour - essentially a smarter, more modern form of edge enhancement - while on the Austrian transfer it's softer and fades, quite naturally, at the edge. There's also more visible grain, implying that the Arrow transfer was hit with noise reduction first, and then had the edges sharpened after the fact to try and make up for the temporal processing. In short, the Austrian transfer almost looks like... well, it looks a lot more like 35mm film than the flat, digital presentation found on the UK release, and while I'm still convinced we're looking at an HD master cobbled together no later than 2002, at least we're looking at the scan without any digital manipulation.
The US transfer, however, has the exact same edges as the Arrow transfer. There's really no doubt in my mind that Anchor Bay took Arrow's pre-processed HD master and then tweaked the colors somewhat, boosting the contrast on certain scenes and shifting the color balance away from green, which has resulted in a more natural white balance at the cost of overly ruddy flesh tones and the expected loss in shadows (which were already a murky mess to start with). Anchor Bay's handling of the same exact material is overall superior, but... not by a lot. Arrow's HDCAM source materials were always the problem, and the early comparisons posted by DVDBeaver were - once again - about as useful as tits on a fish. This flick doesn't need a coat of digital paint, it needs a new scan from the ground on up... and in light of Battle Royale 3D, that isn't going to happen any time soon. Probably not ever, at this rate. This is what we're stuck with, and I for one am none too pleased about it.
The Austrian BD transfer remains the best presentation of the "original" 2000 Theatrical Cut of Battle Royale. Anchor Bay also managed to fuck up one of the few good instances of CG - a subtle fix when Kitano wrenches a knife from a dead girl's face - on the extended 'Special Version' by swapping it with the less convincing practical effect from the original cut. So, god help us, one of the few things the 2001 cash in got right is not even available on the US Complete Collection. Goddamn, guys, just... goddamn.
To draw this to a close, the two advantages Anchor Bay bring to the table are an English Dub for the Special Version, and the Theatrical Cut of the film's horrible sequel... oh, yeah, and the bonus features are now on an NTSC DVD. Y'know what, fuck Anchor Bay; for once, I'm NOT going to bother buying a movie I love again and again (and again). Were that less-terrible and not-English subtitled Austrian transfer less than $40 for the cheaper release - before international shipping! - I'd at least have considered it... but Fukusaku is dead, and the only thing here properly honoring him is a Scrooge McDuck pile of PG-13 money that isn't actually going towards his name. I'm as through with Anchor Bay as I am ready to punch a baby in the face with pure, unbridled hatred for the world around me.
That said, Austria ain't out yet. XT Video just got real...