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Super-Frog Saves Tokyo

Haruki Murakami

Important Quotations Explained

The Question of Reality

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. I just gave them a little scare. A touch of psychological terror. As Joseph Conrad once wrote, true terror is the kind that men feel toward their imagination.

This is Frog’s response to Katagiri when he asks about the visit to Big Bear Trading. Frog tells him that he didn’t use any actual, physical violence to achieve his ends. He simply played on the executive’s fear. In his explanation, Frog paraphrases an excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim (1900), in which one of Conrad’s characters remarks that “the reality could not be half as bad, not half as anguishing, appalling, and vengeful as the created terror of his imagination.”

The notion that the imagination can be the source of terrible, horrifying experiences recurs throughout “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.” When Frog recounts the battle with Worm that Katagiri cannot remember participating in, Frog tells him that the battle had actually been fought in Katagiri’s imagination. Earlier in the story, when Katagiri is shot, he remembers Frog’s Conrad quotation and turns off his own imagination, immediately falling into unconsciousness. When the nurse tells him the next day that he hasn’t actually been shot, his memory of the incident becomes hazy. Perhaps Katagiri imagined the shooting, but if he did, then that would mean that an imaginary creature managed to have an effect on him. This refutes Frog’s earlier attempt to prove his own existence, in which Frog claims that, by making the Big Bear executive change his mind about the payment he owes to the bank, he has proven that he exists as a real creature capable of producing results in the real world. These inconsistencies and ambiguities make it impossible to say definitively whether Frog, Worm, and the battle actually “existed,” and if so, what kind of existence they may have had.

2. Smiling, the nurse toweled the sweat from his forehead. “You were very fond of Frog, weren’t you, Mr. Katagiri?”
“Locomotive,” Katagiri mumbled. “More than anybody.” Then he closed his eyes and sank into a restful, dreamless sleep.

Murakami ends “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo” on a cryptic note. Just before he dies, Frog says, “The locomotive is coming.” This is a reference to the novel Anna Karenina, by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, in which the title character commits suicide by throwing herself in front of a train. Tolstoy strongly believed in personal integrity and that the meaning of life comes from unselfishly following the path of righteousness. Anna Karenina, however, is selfish, fixated on the opinions of society. Unable to be true to herself, she sees no way out besides death. When Frog alludes to the locomotive in the final seconds of his life, he signals his own awareness of his imminent death.

Frog references Anna Karenina earlier in the story as well, when he says that if Katagiri abandoned him on the battlefield, he would go on fighting alone, even though he’d have about as much chance of defeating Worm that way as Anna Karenina had of defeating the oncoming train. This first reference to Tolstoy’s novel is not arbitrary. Frog staunchly believes that his mission is a righteous one. He warns Katagiri that the two of them may die underground and that even if they are successful, they will never be recognized for their sacrifice. Katagiri seems to accept this at the end of the story when he falls into a “restful, dreamless sleep.” He realizes that society doesn’t need to know about the sacrifices he’s made—either in the battle with Worm or in his previous life—because he made them to satisfy his own internal sense of virtue. Katagiri comes to accept Tolstoy’s philosophy, as Frog has before him, that self-gratification doesn’t lead to happiness. One finds harmony by following the dictates of one’s inner integrity.

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