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Literature: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Japanese: ねじまき鳥クロニクル, Nejimaki-dori Kuronikuru) is a novel by Haruki Murakami. One of his most critically acclaimed and popular works, it opens with the life of Toru Okada, currently unemployed, and his marriage to his wife, Kumiko. One day their cat goes missing. It was first published in three parts during 1994-1995.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Let's face it. Kumiko's parents were absolute shit to all of their children.
  • Affably Evil: Noboru Wataya is more of a Villain with Good Publicity, but you have to admit, he has an excellent TV personality. Also Boris the Manskinner in Lieutenant Mamiya's story.
  • Author Appeal: Apparently, the author has quite a thing for wells and classical music.
  • Author Tract: A good portion of the work concerns the Japanese occupation of Manchuria (Manchukuo) during the 1930's and World War II. Murakami makes no bones about calling the whole affair out as having been a Very Bad Idea.
  • Batter Up: Toru's weapon of choice is a baseball bat and despite his mild-mannered exterior he shows himself to be capable of great violence.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: between Abusive Parents and Noboru's one-sided crush on the eldest sister, it's no surprise Kumiko was traumatized for a long time.
  • Bittersweet Ending:Toru finds peace with himself to some degree, but Kumiko murders Noboru and ends up in jail, separating the two from each other permanently.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: A rare non-comedic example. When Kumiko was younger she walked in on Noboru Wataya masturbating to their dead sister's underwear.
  • Cool Big Sis: Kumiko's sister was the only thing that made living in their household bearable to Kumiko. When she died...
    • Malta Kano. Kind of.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: May Kasahara. A bit more levelheaded than most examples, but definitely out there.
    • It's a bizarre thing when the Cloud Cuckoo Lander is by far, one of the most normal and sensible people in the story. The other characters aren't nearly as far out in terms of their thought process, but this is countered by their actions and jobs being outwardly strange (a mind prostitute and her incredibly vague older sister with psychic abilities, a fashion designer who goes out of her way to buy the people around her perfect wardrobes, a dimwitted lackey who cannot stop talking about how stupid and horrible he is to the point where he forgets his reasons for entering the main character's house without permission, and Noboru).
    • All that said, May Kasahara is the only one who thought it would be fun to cover her boyfriends eyes while he was driving his motorcycle. Actually, she didn't even do it for fun; she just felt like doing it.
  • Chekhov's Baseball Bat
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: See Flaying Alive, below.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Pretty much everyone except Toru. He has a dark and troubled present instead.
  • Determinator: Toru Okada becomes a surprising example of one of these as the book goes on, not giving up his search despite the increasingly bizarre, disturbing, and frightening things going on around him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Toru and Kumiko finally get their revenge on Noboru Wataya.
  • Door Stopper
  • Dream Sequence
  • Epiphanic Prison: Toru's well.
  • Erotic Dream: Introducing Creta Kano: prostitute of the mind!
  • Fiction500: Nutmeg and Cinnamon.
  • Flaying Alive: Lieutenant Mamiya witnessed this happen during his service in Manchuria during World War 2; his recollection of the event to Toru is horrifying.
  • Foreshadowing: the woman who calls Toru for phone sex knows a LOT about him.
  • Full-Name Basis: May Kasahara, Malta Kano, Creta Kano, Noboru Wataya.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After Kumiko finds out she's pregnant, she gets an abortion despite her husband supporting the idea of raising a child. She mostly seems to be a "good girl" up to this point, but the story of the abortion is the first indication that she has a Dark Secret.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Sadly subverted.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Toru gets an inky blue mark on his face during one of his trips to the hotel.
  • Harassing Phone Call: The novel begins with the narrator keeps getting phone calls from some an unidentified woman trying to initiate phone sex, which starts the chain of strange events that follow him after.
  • Haunted House: The infamous hanging house, though it falls more under Indian Burial Ground.
  • Healing Hands: Nutmeg and later Toru have the ability to take away people's emotional pain and stress with their touch.
  • House Husband: Toru, while Kumiko is the breadwinner. They're both quite happy with this.
  • How Unscientific!: The book generally fits into Magical Realism quite well, but the hotel scenes push things into Fantasy territory more than once.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Toru (who's in his mid thirties) and May (who's in her mid-teens).
  • Lampshade Hanging: The narrator states when his wife disappears that "I felt as if I had become part of a badly written novel, that someone was taking me to task for being utterly unreal. And perhaps it was true."
  • Magic Realism: Pretty much par for the course for Murakami works, but this one goes rather darker than most of his other works.
  • Mind Screw: Pretty much the entire book past Chapter 3 or so...
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: "Boris The Manskinner".
  • Odd Friendship: Toru and May.
  • Oh Crap: The phone rings and Toru, expecting it to be the phone sex lady, says something like "Is this the person who phones me regularly? I don't like to talk about sex before breakfast." It's not the phone sex lady.
  • On the Money: Toru needs money to buy the plot of land with the well. He meets Nutmeg by sitting on a bench observing people walking by.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The book is practically built on symbolic dreams.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The passwords for Cinnamon's computer are "Zoo" and "Sub", relating to the stories his mother told him.
    • Later on, invoked by Ushikawa.
  • Perky Goth: May Kasahara is the Japanese equivalent.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Noboru Wataya to Toru. Toru responds in kind, warning Noboru Wataya not to be so quick to dismiss him.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Toru. In an unconventional use of the trope, Played for Drama in Noboru Wataya's massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Toru is mediocre, a nobody, insignficant, and does not deserve Kumiko and was never going to amount to anything—Wataya drives the knife in further by implying that that's why Kumiko left him.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Plot!
  • Shadow Archetype: Toru Okada, the protagonist, and Noburu Wataya are described by Creta Kano as complete opposites, with each one serving as a representation of what the other person loathes most. No wonder they hate each other so much.
  • Smug Snake: Noboru Wataya comes across as this, especially to Toru.
  • Talkative Loon: Quite a few of the characters.
  • Tomato Surprise: The identity of the woman in the hotel room, the same one who was calling Toru for phone sex. It's Kumiko.
    • This is actually left very ambiguous. Toru assumes that it is Kumiko, though her voice only changes to that of Kumiko's when he addresses this. Even still afterwards, she changes to two other voices and tries to make him doubt whether or not he had it right - though he is pretty sure. It doesn't help that she is never actually seen, even going as far to make Toru promise not to shine the light from his pen upon her face.
  • Troubled, but Cute: May Kasahara, who covered her boyfriend's eyes while he was driving his motorcycle.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Noburu Wataya is an incredibly famous author and TV personality, and by the end of the book he's being considered for a position on Japan's Diet.
  • The Voiceless: Cinnamon lost his ability to speak after a traumatic dream in his childhood. He can still communicate effectively via an idiosyncratic form of sign language.
  • Thrown Down a Well: Toru spends a rather large amount of time in the well in the 'hanging house'.
    • Also Lieutenant Mamiya which is where Toru gets the idea.
  • We Named the Monkey Jack: The narrator named his cat Noburu Wataya after his hated brother-in-law. The cat gets a better name later on, after Toru decides that it was unfair to the animal.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Kumiko's parents were never satisfied with her, and constantly compared her to her sister, even forcing her to play the piano like her sister used to before she died. This is the direct cause for her crippling inferiority complex, which is later manipulated by Noburu.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: The local newspaper seems to put a ridiculous amount of effort into investigating who bought a "haunted" plot of land. The reader knows that the brother-in-law of a prominent politician bought the house with money from a bizarre, high-class quasi-prostitution ring for mystical purposes, but the newspaper doesn't.
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alternative title(s): The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
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