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Haibane Renmei Appreciation with Murakami

February 28, 2010

It was the cry of a bird. The boy carried a chair over to the window and climbed up onto it. He pulled the curtains back and opened the window a crack. In the middle of the sky hung a large white moon, the full moon of late autumn, filling the yard below with its light. The trees out there looked very different to the boy at night than they did in the daylight. They had none of their usual friendliness. The evergreen oak looked almost annoyed as it trembled in the occasional puff of wind with an unpleasant creaking sound.

The cry of the bird seemed to be coming from the pine tree. The boy leaned out the window and looked up, but from this low angle the large, heavy branches of the pine hid the bird. He wanted to see what it looked like. He wanted to memorize its color and shape so that tomorrow he could find it in his illustrated encyclopedia. His intense desire to know had brought him fully awake now.

But the bird never raised its cry again. It fell silent as a stone, up there in the branches of the pine bathed in moonlight. Soon a chill wind blew into the room, as if giving him some kind of warning. [1]

It was a round well, maybe four and a half feet in diameter.

Like most everything else connected with this house, the well looked as though it had been abandoned long before. Something about it felt as if it should be called “overwhelming numbness.” Maybe when people take their eyes off them, inanimate objects become even more inanimate.

Close inspection revealed that the well was in fact far older than the objects that surrounded it.

I leaned over the edge again and looked down into the darkness, anticipating nothing in particular. So, I thought, in a place like this, in the middle of the day like this, there existed a darkness as deep as this. I cleared my throat and swallowed. The sound echoed in the darkness, as if someone else had cleared his throat. [1]

I realized that I was being enveloped once again by the overwhelming light. Almost unconsciously, I spread open both my hands and received the sun in my palms. It was far stronger than it had been the first time. And it lasted far longer than it had then. At least it felt that way to me. In the light, tears poured out of me. It felt as if all the fluids of my body might turn into tears and come streaming from my eyes, that my body itself might melt away like this. If it could have happened in the bliss of this marvelous light, even death would have been no threat. Indeed, I felt I wanted to die. I had a marvelous sense of oneness, an overwhelming sense of unity. Yes, that was it: the true meaning of life resided in that light that lasted for however many seconds it was, and I felt I ought to die right then and there.

But of course, before anything could happen, the light was gone. I was still there, in the bottom of that miserable well. Darkness and cold reasserted their grip on me, as if to declare that the light had never existed at all. For a long time, I simply remained huddled where I was, my face bathed in tears. As if beaten down by some huge power, I was unable to do – or even think – anything at all, unable to feel even my own physical existence. I was a dried-up carcass, the cast-off shell of an insect. [1]

The Town centers around a semicircular plaza directly north of the Old Bridge. The other semicircular fragment, that is, the lower half of the circle, lies across the river to the south. These two half-circles are known as the North and South Plazas respectively. Regarded as a pair, the two can impress one only as complete opposites, so unlike each other as they are. The North Plaza is heavy with an air of mystery, laden with the silence of the surrounding quarter, whereas the South Plaza seems to lack any atmosphere at all. What is one meant to feel here? All is adrift in a vague sense of loss.

In the middle of the North Plaza stands a large Clocktower piercing skyward. To be precise, one should say it is less a clocktower than an object retaining the form of a clocktower. The clock has long forfeited its original role as a timepiece.

Several rings of stone and brick buildings fan out from the North Plaza. No edifice has any outstanding features, no decorations or plaques. All doors are sealed tight; no one is entering or leaving. [2]

The boy named Crow flew in large, languid circles above the forest. After inscribing one, he’d fly off to another spot and carefully begin another, identical circle, each invisible circle following another in the air only to vanish. Like a reconnaissance plane, he scanned the forest below him, looking for someone he couldn’t seem to locate. Like a huge ocean, the forest undulated beneath him and spread to a the horizon in a thick, anonymous cloak of interlaced branches. The sky was covered with gray clouds, and there was neither wind nor sunlight. At this point the boy named Crow had to be the loneliest bird in the world, but he was too busy to think about that now. [3]

[1] The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
[2] Hard-Boiled Wonderland & The End of the World
[3] Kafka on the Shore

by Haruki Murakami

Hi guys. No, I’m not back.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2010 3:48 am

    You’re back! You’re… Oh.

    Well, darn.

    I liked this. Unfortunately you chose Murakami books I haven’t read. But of the three, which would you say I should read first? I’ll put it on order tonight.

    • saturnity permalink*
      February 28, 2010 3:53 am

      Yeah, I just wanted to plug something before February was over. I have some ideas for blog entries but school is just too hectic at this point.

      And Kafka on the Shore, definitely. Many consider it to be Murakami’s magnum opus.

      • Shini permalink
        February 28, 2010 5:24 am

        [01:18] shini: >school is just too hectic at this point
        [01:18] saturnity: SHUT UP IT’S TRUE
        [01:19] saturnity: ANIME BLOG POSTS TAKE FOREVER TO WRITE.
        [01:19] shini: more time than procrastinating?
        [01:19] saturnity: SHUT UP
        [01:19] saturnity: JUST SHUT UP
        [01:19] saturnity: ;-;

        …and then I was told to post this. D:

      • March 1, 2010 8:17 am

        Okay, I’ve got it. Amazon Japan delivers like lightning. 🙂 I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done.

  2. February 28, 2010 8:21 am

    Ooh, I never noticed the Kafka on the Shore bit. Nice.

    (also, commenting for posterity, etc)

  3. April 2, 2010 10:45 pm

    Finished Kafka on the Shore a couple days ago.

    It was quite good. I was a bit disappointed when some loose ends were left dangling, and the episode with the soldiers and the hidden village seemed to have no purpose. I was also more partial to Nakata and Hoshino’s adventure than Kafka’s. But the whole product is rightly called a masterpiece. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    • saturnity permalink*
      April 17, 2010 2:04 am

      Yikes. Sorry for not noticing this comment.

      Yeah, there were some parts that seemed pointless, but that’s the beauty of Murakami! I was kind of let down by the story with the hidden village and the soldiers, but I was really engrossed during the whole journey through the woods. I can’t pick which of the two stories I preferred because I just love all of the characters. Especially Oshima, oh man.

      Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I think I’m coming back to anime blogging after the end of Spring semester, even though I’ve honestly only really been keeping up with your blog on Google Reader. So I’m kind of out of the loop. We’ll see how things go. And as always, thanks for sticking around. It really means a lot to me.

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