On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library. It'd take a week to go into the whole thing, all the details. So I'll just give the main point. On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library.
Kafka on the Shore (Japanese: 海辺のカフカ, Umibe no Kafuka) is a 2002 novel by Haruki Murakami that features two distinct plots that are nonetheless intertwined. The first is about fifteen year-old "Kafka" Tamura who runs away from home in order to avoid fulfilling an oedipal prophecy. The second follows Nakata, a mentally slow old man who has the ability to talk to cats, as he gets dragged into a journey across Japan running parallel to Kafka's own. It begins realistic enough, but soon takes a turn for the surreal and it becomes clear that neither will be having a normal journey.
This novel contains examples of:
Arc Words: Cryptic references to an "entrance stone" start showing up about halfway into the book.
Asleep for Days: When Hoshino and Nakata arrive in Shikoku, Nakata promptly goes to sleep for 34 hours. He pulls this off at least two more times.
Astral Projection: Ever since a strange event during World War II, people from Kafka's and Nakata's town have been known to do this randomly. Itís never truly voluntary and they often don't remember that they even left. Some are worse afflicted than others.
Also a Discussed by Oshima and Kafka when Kafka realizes that the ghost girl is probably the still-alive Miss Saeki. The conversation also opens Kafka to the possibility that he killed his father via astral projection.
Author Appeal: As usual in the case of Murakami; music, especially classical music and opera.
Bishōnen: Oshima is described as "pretty, rather than handsome" with a clean look and a charming smile.
Big Bad: While unexpected due to the somewhat dreamlike flow of the story, on a second reading one can see that Johnnie Walker was pulling the strings from the start, and may in fact be Kafka's father.
Blood-Splattered Innocents: A few days after running away, Kafka blacks out for about four hours and wakes up with his shirt stained with someone else's blood. Despite apparently no one being around for him to have attacked, Kafka comes to fear that he may have killed his father via Astral Projection.
Blue and Orange Morality: Colonel Sanders claims to not know what "right" or "wrong" are and only cares about keeping the timeline/universe in order.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Nakata is describing Johnnie Walker, he makes some general observations about his clothes before adding that Johnnie Walker is collecting cats so he can steal their souls.
This really isn't that "squicky", except the reader knows how Johnnie Walker gets those souls.
Brought Down to Normal: Nakata loses the ability to talk to cats after killing Johnnie Walker. Ultimately subverted for a possible Discard and Draw—he may have already had these abilities, but after that incident he displays the ability to make it rain animals, the ability to speak to the entrance stone, and some kind of sixth sense that allows him to find the stone and the Komura Library.
Catchphrase: Nakata, with "[food item] are one of Nakata's favorites."
Discard and Draw: Nakata loses the ability to talk to cats but gains the ability to make it rain animals, to detect and talk to the entrance stone, and to locate Komura Library when he cannot even read street signs.
Dogs Are Dumb: "Cats know everything" says one cat, "unlike dogs."
Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Near the end of the book, Kafka initiates sex with a sleeping Sakura in a mutual dream. She wakes up during and informs him that even if they're dreaming, this is definitely rape. Kafka continues anyway.
Erotic Dream: Nakata's teacher has one which sets off a bizarre chain of events, and Kafka himself has a few. its slowly revealed that both people were more likely astral projecting and what they did was "real"
Dives headlong into this with Johnnie Walker's introduction. He's collecting the souls of cats to craft from them a human soul-stealing flute, which will escalate from there into a flute "big enough to rival the universe". He goads Nakata into killing him, after which Nakata passes out. Nakata wakes up back in the vacant lot conspicuously not splattered with blood and apparently having lost the ability to talk to cats. As he tries to turn himself in, he successfully predicts that it will rain fish. And when they finally find a body, it's nude and belongs to Kafka's father.
With the exception of the first time, whenever Kafka has sex with Miss Saeki, the narration switches to second-person, with inconsistent use of the boldface type that comes in whenever Kafka is normally talking to himself/the boy named Crow. The effect is rather confusing.
Missing Mom: Kafka's mom left when he was very young, taking his sister with her.
Ooc Is Serious Business: While awake, Kafka is a troubled but fundamentally good person. Its therefore clear that unlike when he apparently killed his father (Whom he might have actually hated enough to kill) when he entered Sakura's dream to rape her, the prophecy was obviously manipulating him through his subconscious.
One-Hit Wonder: Miss Saeki, with "Kafka on the Shore". It was also her only song—there wasn't even a different song for the B-side.
Shrug of God: Murakami specifically states in his blog that the interpretation of Saeki and Kafka being related, as well many other parts of the novel, are all up to the reader.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Oshima is charming, well-read, and physically weak. His older brother is an asocial surfer. Subverted when Kafka finally meets Oshima's brother. Oshima is really just as asocial, but Kafka is somehow able to tease conversation out of both brothers.
Starfish Alien: Johnnie Walker's true form is something like a vaguely serpentine blob.
Strange Minds Think Alike: When Kafka encounters a ghostly girl in his room, he likens the atmosphere to being at the bottom of a crater lake. "Kafka on the Shore"'s lyrics also mention of a crater lake.
Straw Feminist: Two of them show up at Komura Library to inspect how woman-friendly the facilities are. They complain about the lack of gendered bathrooms and the card catalog.
Up for debate since the encounter doesn't follow the usual model (Straw Feminist(s) launches rhetorical volley, Man/Society slaps them down or discredits them, Straw Feminist(s) slink away or recant), and actually leads to a discussion on how narrow-mindedness is a destructive state of mind.
And bear in mind that the two women are not asking for anything inconceivable or exaggerated. Their requests are very reasonable actually and they seem like nice enough people otherwise.
They're quite condescending in their treatment of Oshima. While they do begin decently enough, they quickly turn to insulting him. Furthermore, while it is arguable that the women's requests are reasonable, they're changes to things rather benign. None of the qualities of the library that requested to be change are sexist. Perhaps old-fashioned, but they do not show any preference against women.
Okay, but don't overlook that Oshima, being trans*, has a lot of reason to resent radical feminism. And to want non-gendered bathrooms.
Surprise Incest: Kafka has sex with two women who might be his mom and sister.