Frog recruits Katagiri to battle Worm with him, but the true quest Katagiri embarks on in “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo” is primarily philosophical in nature. Throughout the story, Katagiri struggles to determine whether his experiences are real, wondering whether he can trust his senses and trying to figure out what’s going on around him. Philosophers call this branch of inquiry, which seeks to understand the nature of human knowledge, epistemology. Epistemologists examine the ways in which human beings draw conclusions about the world around them. Katagiri’s attempts to figure out whether Frog, Worm, and the imminent earthquake are actually “real” place his quest firmly within an epistemological framework.
According to the dictionary, real means having a physical presence or existing as fact and not imagination. Katagiri’s experiences with Frog confound these definitions, however. Frog seems to be a solid, corporeal being at times, but only in front of Katagiri. Even after he self-destructs in a putrid mess at the end of the story, his remains vanish instantly when the nurse flips on the lights. Just prior to his death, Frog explicitly admits to moving within the realms of dreams and imaginations, which would make him unreal. He claims to have fought Worm in the “area of the imagination,” for example, and claims that Katagiri traveled to his side on the battlefield in his dreams. Finally, just before he dies and his body erupts in boils, Frog warns Katigiri, “What you see with your eyes is not necessarily real.” The fact that no other witness can confirm what Katagiri has seen with his eyes—except, perhaps, for the unseen and unnamed Big Bear executive—adds to the sensation that nothing in “Super-Frog” was actually real.
However, the story’s emotional impact makes it hard to dismiss the unreal events so easily. Like the reader, Katagiri is teased with a series of riddles that do not lead him to true intellectual understanding. And yet, when he closes his eyes and sighs at the end of the story, we can see that he has drawn great satisfaction from his experiences with Frog, whether they were real, imagined, or otherwise. There may never have been a “real” threat to the citizens of Tokyo, but the effect that Frog has on Katagiri is real and tangible. Although Murakami engages with questions of epistemological philosophy, in the end, he seems to suggest that faith and imagination can sometimes trump the intellect.
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