Katagiri found a giant frog waiting for him in his apartment. It was powerfully built, standing over six feet tall on its hind legs. A skinny little man no more than five-foot-three, Katagiri was overwhelmed by the frog’s imposing bulk.
“Call me ‘Frog,’” said the frog in a clear, strong voice. Katagiri stood rooted in the doorway, unable to speak.
The first word that comes to mind after reading this collection of short stories is “audacious.” Reading Murakami’s writing is like looking at a work of modern art. The writing is so strange and otherworldly. Yet the style is visually bold and immediately captures your attention; and you find yourself beginning to accept it. The writing becomes intriguing and you want to discover more.
On the surface, the unifying theme for these six stories seems to be the aftermath of 1995 Kobe earthquake. But the characters in these stories share more than that common element. Each of the main characters are incomplete in one way or another, yet they aren’t actively seeking a way out of their current situations. The stories place these characters at a crossroads, where they’re given the chance to seek what was lost and gain a sense of completeness and fulfillment. Not every story ends the same way; some protagonists seem more successful than others. Murakami provides interesting contrasts rather than reproductions of the same idea. I thought this well done.
My favorite stories were the last two. Arguably, they’re the most vivid in terms of imagery. In these stories, especially in “super-frog saves toyko,” Murakami plays with extremes. The images created in the mind’s eye can be both visually stunning and nightmarish. The last story, “honey pie,” is rather reminiscent to a story I recently read—Balzac’s The Imaginary Mistress. At their core, both stories are Romantic tales—a knight-errant performing various noble deeds in the name of love for a certain unattainable lady. Murakami’s story is written plainly, yet the sentiments evoked are beautifully poetic—a good choice on his part to end the collection in this way.