1Q84 Review – A

I read it. It was amazing. I won’t attempt to summarize for fear of spoilers.

The chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Tengo and Aomame, the two main characters. Initially their stories seem separate, but the two narratives slowly and masterfully converge. The book is split into three parts, each published separately in Japan but combined for the English translation. The first two were fabulous, some of Murakami’s best work, A+ material. But the last third was a letdown. It consists of hundreds of pages of three people waiting around. Parts were great, particularly Tengo’s trip to the cat town, but most of the final third was just boring and I was eager to get on with things. 

There’s a romance in the final third as well, and I felt it was corny, artificial and overly sappy. It was painful to listen to the two lovebirds talk about each other. Call me a cynic, but I find it difficult to believe or care about the love between two people who haven’t seen each other for twenty years, since they were ten years old. Don’t ask me why this bothers me when I have no trouble with an air chrysalis, little people or a world with two moons reached through an emergency exit.

Speaking of which, I’d be interested in hearing what the people who had trouble distinguishing reality and fantasy in Mawaru Penguindrum would have to say about this book. The magical realism is where Murakami is at his best; his makes Penguindrum’s symbolism seem like child’s play.

The male protagonist, Tengo, will be familiar to Murakami readers. He’s a novelist and a cram school instructor, who leads a quiet and laid-back life. Very similar to the protagonist of the Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Aomame, the female lead, is an assassin. She never really managed to click with me. Compared to Tengo, she doesn’t have the same air of authenticity around her, although I don’t think I can explain why.

My favorite character is Fuka-Eri. She’s a girl of few words, who asks questions as statements. My mental image of her was as Eriko Usami from Fujimara-kun Mates, another seductive woman of few words. (The manga is hilarious by the way, although it has nothing in common with 1Q84.)

Although I was disappointed with the ending, the first two thirds of 1Q84 are amazing and more than make up for the lackluster ending. I highly recommend giving 1Q84 a read, and I’m interested in hearing what others who have read it thought.

10 thoughts on “1Q84 Review – A

  1. Loooove, love the music.

    I’m unfamiliar with Murakami’s written works, but reading your review really makes me want to give him a try. I absolutely adore magical realism in literature. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this work and introducing me to something new 🙂

    1. Murakami loves music as well, that piece is actually a key part of the book.

      If you love magical realism, you should love Murakami. Let me know what you think when you read some of his books!

  2. Heh, thanks for the pingback XD

    I’ve read three of Murakami’s books when I majored in Japanese language/literature in college (Wind-up Bird, Wild Sheep Chase, and Hard Boiled Wonderland). I liked Wind-up Bird and Hard Boiled Wonderland very much, and Sheep Chase was alright. His books do indeed blend reality and symbolism together. For many things in his stories, I wasn’t always sure what was to be taken literally and what wasn’t. But for some reason I didn’t have a problem with his magical realism like I did in Penguindrum. I guess I just have different tastes and expectations when it comes to literature as opposed to anime.

    1. I haven’t read Wild Sheep Chase or Hard Boiled Wonderland, I need to, especially Hard Boiled Wonderland, I’ve heard that’s one of his best.

      I can certainly understand having different tastes in books and anime: they are both good at different things. Stupid comedies like Ben-to and Milky Holmes, for example, seem to go across much better in animated form.

  3. Me encanta Murakami, yo lei: Norwegian Wood, una historia de amor donde se palpa la melancolia y Kafka in the Shore y Wind-Up Bird Chronicle que me encantaron los dos a su manera, siendo Kafka, para mi, el mejor de los dos.
    Gracias por la recomendacion!

  4. I didn’t think the third part of the book was a letdown, I think it was the proper conclusion to the story, as only Murakami could tell it. I also wrote a review of 1Q84 = highly recommended for all Murakami fans.

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