[SS] Tony Takitani – Haruki Murakami

February 27, 2010 § 14 Comments

Short Saturday: I join Mee on her journey in search of 5-star quality short stories. It’s all about the journey, she says, not the destination.

I’ve missed two weeks of Short Saturday, so I made sure to make this week’s short story. Incidentally, the short story I chose, Tony Takitani was also adapted into a film, which of course I watched for Tanabata’s Hello Japan! February mini-challenge. The short story is available online HERE.

I think it’s been quite a while since my last Murakami, and I have to admit that I didn’t realise how much I missed his style. This short story had a different flair to it, compared with the short stories I read in his collection, after the quake, but nevertheless, there was a very solid, very present Murakami feeling to the whole story.

Tony Takitani was written in a very detached manner. During the earlier part of the story, the incidents that occured to the characters seemed to be treated rather carelessly, like as if those events didn’t really quite matter. Like this part where Murakami tells us about Tony Takitani’s mother.

She gave birth to Tony the year after she was married, and three days later she died. Just like that. And just like that she was cremated, quickly and quietly. She had experienced no great complications and no suffering to speak of. She just faded into nothingess, as if someone had gone backstage and flicked a switch.

All this while, there’s no real connection with anything that happens, but there’s a strange feeling that you think you might know these characters, they have that sense of familiarity to them. It’s later on, when Tony meets this woman and falls for her, that the style changes into something with more flair, more expression.

She wore her clothes with such naturalness and grace that she could have been a bird that had enveloped itself in a special wind as if prepared to fly off to another world. He had never seen a woman wear her clothes with such apparent joy.

The story was very jerky and a little stand-offish, like he didn’t really want us to get too near. Though in many cases this kind of style might have back-fired, I think Murakami made it work quite well here with this short story. And personally, it’s a pleasant reminder about the things I like about Murakami.

Rating: 4


The Movie

Directed by Jun Ichikawa, the movie, I felt, kept quite loyal to the original short story that Murakami wrote. Some bits were naturally changed slightly to feel a little more fluid in the movie, but generally, I think the movie was quite good.

It was very quiet, the camera angles and shots were all very subtle, creating this aura of watching it from afar, which was what I also felt when I read the short story. I think the director did a very good job in keeping the spirit of the story intact.

I was a little disturbed at first, when the movie didn’t end where the story ended. The movie continued for another 10 minutes or so, and gave it a little more room to end. Unlike most of Murakami’s other works, where their endings don’t feel so much like endings but rather like platforms to start another story, I felt Tony Takitani actually did end pretty well. So I was surprised the director chose to do what he did.

But now coming to think of it, I rather like that added dimension. Sometimes I tend to forget that books and movies are completely different mediums, and what works in literature might not work as well on screen, and vice versa. In the ending of the movie, the director allowed us to have another chance with the woman that Murakami cut off from his story so abruptly.

The movie is a very quiet one, and it’s not something that I think everyone would enjoy. I rather liked it, and I left the movie with a floating sensation, like I had just been to this really far place and back.

Also for: Book-Movie Challenge

§ 14 Responses to [SS] Tony Takitani – Haruki Murakami

  • Susan says:

    Michelle, if you don’t mind, I will add the link to this story to my “Sundry Short Stories” post. Thank you for presenting Tony Takitani. It’s my second dose of Murakami.

  • ibeeeg says:

    I find it hard to view a movie after reading the book. I am always sooo much harder on the movie. You are right, they are different mediums and what works for one may not for the other. That is something I should keep in mind for my future movie after reading the book viewings.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for dropping by. I think it’s a problem for a lot of us, especially because we love the books so much, and there’s this special something that we hold sacred sometimes. But then again, if we weren’t hard on the movies, who knows what they might do to the story?!


  • Nymeth says:

    I love Murakami, but I’ve actually yet to read any of this short fiction. I really like the sound of this one, and of the movie too. Though I have to confess to sharing this tendency: “Sometimes I tend to forget that books and movies are completely different mediums, and what works in literature might not work as well on screen, and vice versa.” Yep.

    • Michelle says:

      Don’t we all have that same tendency? =)

      This story was good, maybe not up there with the rest of his work that I’ve read so far, but definitely good. I miss him. *bawls*

  • mee says:

    It’s freaky how often you read something that I’ve been meaning to read. I got the movie months ago from JPF and had been meaning to both read the short story (in Blind Willow Sleeping Woman collection) and watch the movie. And now you have!

    • Michelle says:

      It does get kind of freaky, doesn’t it?

      Anyway, good to have you back in the blogging world mee! I’ll be waiting for your thoughts on the short story and the movie when you get to them.

  • tanabata says:

    I saw this at the Cambridge Film Festival a few years ago when we were living there, but I still haven’t read the short story that it’s based on. Interesting that the movie continued where the original story left off. I think I’m going to watch this again once I do finally read the story.
    Thanks for joining in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge again this month. You might laugh when you see March’s task.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for hosting the mini-challenges. They’ve been interesting, and it’s been good to see what other people like as well.

      Looking forward to seeing what you’ve got in store for us in March.

  • chasing bawa says:

    I’ve never heard of this story so thanks for the link! Also I noticed one of my favourite Japanese actresses, Rie Miyazawa on the film poster.

  • Mark David says:

    Yes that’s right, film is certainly a different medium and what works in a book (or even a short story) may not necessarily work for a full-length film. Claire and I was discussing this just recently, how it’s quite rare to find movie adaptations that you can love as much as the book, and how this is particularly true for literary fiction. With the literary genre, captivating images are created with words, while in movies it’s practically the other way around. So when there’s a good and faithful adaptation of a literary piece, it’s quite remarkable since it’s difficult to translate the effect of words into moving images. It’s usually genre fiction that’s more readily adaptable into film because their focus is more on plot rather than language.

    Anyway… you’ve convinced me to watch this film 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      I think you’ve definitely got a point there. With genre fiction, a lot of what happens is physical, as in it happens where eyes can actually see, but with a lot of literature work, a lot of what happens is in the mind, so it becomes even harder for the director to create the same emotions on the same level.

      Glad you’re convinced about the movie. You might enjoy it.

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