The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle follows a very ordinary man who stumbles through an extraordinary chain of events. Throughout the course of this story, we are introduced to a series of whimsical characters and explorations of the human psyche.
Right away, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle sets readers into the mundane life of Toru Okada, who has just become unemployed and takes care of his home while his wife works. The extreme boringness of his life is peppered with strange occurrences, mostly in the form of strange women entering his life. These strange occurrences and interactions sometimes crescendo into complete fantasy, but readers are soon met with the mundane again.
The oscillation between mundane and fantastical is somewhat exhilarating at first. It seems like Haruki Murakami’s intention as an author is to prime readers with averageness before introducing an ever-increasing amount of absurdity. While this is mostly true, the mundane portions of the plot become grating and borderline mind-numbing, and the fantastical elements are just too underwhelming to redeem the time spent slogging through everything else.
Not only are there too many boring scenes, but in typical Murakami fashion, the overall story is all build-up and no resolution. This works in some of his other books, but for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the unanswered questions are too much to accept. There are several aspects of the subplots that suggest a deep interconnectedness, but ultimately too much is left to interpretation.
Although there are too few redeeming qualities, what stands out are some of the explorations of the human psyche thought out by a couple of characters. May Kasahara, for instance, is annoyingly whimsical at times yet offers some of the most thought-provoking utterances. Likewise, some of Toru Okada’s own ruminations are pleasant to behold. Background stories narrated by Nutmeg Akasaka and Lieutenant Mamiya have some interesting moments as well. Any fan of the classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion will appreciate some of the ways psychological exploration is presented in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
In the end, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is too open-ended to justify the energy it takes to slog through the mundanity and often weak dialogue. Some of the metaphysical and psychological epiphanies are thought-provoking, and Murakami’s writing style is still obviously top-notch. However, not having the bigger picture fully connected — when it obviously could have been — was disappointing and almost seemed lazy.