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Super-Frog Saves Tokyo

Haruki Murakami

Magical Realism

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

The Question of Reality

Magical realism is a genre of literature that places fantastical or surreal elements in a recognizably ordinary setting. Sometimes these disparate elements sit comfortably alongside one another, and characters accept fanciful or supernatural occurrences as a part of everyday life. However, in some magical realist stories, the ordinary world is shocked by the introduction of the extraordinary, and in these cases it is usually the tension between the two elements that drives the story forward. In “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” for example, the pitiable bank officer Katagiri spends most of the story wondering whether he can believe his eyes and his senses, which seem to tell him that a giant frog is talking to him and seeking his help in a battle against a giant worm. Katagiri’s ordinariness and the relative poorness of his social and emotional life make the distinction between his previous life and the magical experience he shares with Frog even more pronounced.

In “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” the magic serves a healing purpose. If we choose to accept Frog’s claims at face value—that Tokyo is indeed being threatened with imminent destruction—then magic, as embodied by Frog, has come as a savior to heal the city’s psychic damage by destroying Worm. But even if we don’t believe this surreal premise and assume that Katagiri has imagined or hallucinated Frog, then we can still say that magic has healed him—even if the magic only lives in Katagiri’s mind. Katagiri is a solitary, friendless man with no real connection to the world he lives in. When Frog comes to him, telling him that he has secretly been selected for a gloriously dangerous task, Katagiri’s life gains a sense of meaning. Everything he has done thus far in his life has prepared him for this moment—none of his efforts were wasted or unappreciated. Perhaps more important, Katagiri has gained a true friend in the surreal, monstrous Frog, someone he is drawn to, cares for, and respects. The deep satisfaction Katagiri feels at the end of the story suggests that something inside him has indeed been healed by his extraordinary encounter.

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