On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to Katagiri. Forty and socially awkward, with flat feet and a receding hairline, Katagiri has little family and fewer friends. Underneath his unremarkable exterior, however, Katagiri harbors some truly remarkable qualities. Frog respects Katagiri for his wisdom and courage as well as for the quiet, steady way he faces challenges without ever seeking any reward. Katagiri’s isolation might be seen as a manifestation of his modesty, evidence of a desire to avoid imposing himself on the world or asking too much of it. Companionship is one of the many rewards that Katagiri deserves but never receives.
In Frog and his mission, Katagiri finds recognition and validation for an entire life of silent struggles. Although Katagiri appears to be right back where he started at the end of the story—with no friends, reward, or recognition for having helped save Tokyo—the deep, tranquil sleep that Katagiri falls into is one of satisfaction and relief. Not only did he save 150,000 lives, but for once, after a life of slipping through the shadows and hovering in the background, Katagiri knows he has truly been perceived and witnessed by another person—even if that person happened to be a giant, talking—and possibly imaginary—frog.
Frog is a blend of contradictions. He is a lighthearted pacifist who loves art and nature, yet when Worm’s growing instability threatens the city of Tokyo, Frog shoulders his mission bravely and resolutely. He speaks courteously and respectfully to Katagiri yet proves capable of stirring fear and terror in his enemies such as Big Bear Trading and Worm. Frog is also surprisingly bookish, and his speech is littered with highbrow references to Western thinkers, including the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the writers Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Perhaps the greatest contradiction in Frog’s character concerns the nature of his existence. Frog claims to be “a real frog” that looks and sounds like an ordinary frog (that is, when he isn’t speaking Japanese with Katagiri). He’s also real in the sense that he can have an effect on the world around him, as he proves with Big Bear. However, real frogs—that is, the animals we commonly see in lakes and in pet stores—cannot walk on their hind legs, speak, or change their bodily form at will. Frog is clearly a supernatural, fantastic creature, and in that sense, he cannot be real. The question of Frog’s reality is never truly resolved in “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” and throughout the story, Frog points out several philosophical paradoxes that may shed light on his existence, such as Conrad’s assertion that people can be terrified most by their own imaginations.
Worm is the enemy in “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” but he’s not a true villain. Frog knows that Worm must be stopped to save the citizens of Tokyo, but he doesn’t necessarily believe that Worm is evil or that Worm doesn’t have a right to exist. Even though he has a frightful appearance and is prone to violence, Worm is as morally neutral as an actual earthquake. In fact, Frog’s description of Worm’s awakening seems to place some of the blame on human beings, because it is the clamor and tumult of the city itself that produces Worm’s rage. The figure of Worm evokes the two tragedies Japan suffered in 1995, both of which took place deep underground. Frog claims that the Kobe earthquake in January 1995 pushed Worm’s patience over the limit, while the pointed comparison of Worm and a commuter train evokes the Aum Shirinkyo subway tragedy of March 1995.