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Noboro Wataya is the villain of Haruki Murakami's 1994 novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. (It is also, incidentally, or perhaps importantly, the name of a cat.) Many readers, myself included, feel that this was one of Murakami's strongest novels, and in my opinion, the presence of Noboro Wataya is one of the most vivid things about the book. I am probably not alone in finding Murakami's depictions of middle class Japanese life, such as are found in South of the Border, West of the Sun, to be sometimes dull. It is the infusion of the supernatural and the bizarre, and sometimes the evil, that most catch my attention in his novels.

Noboro Wataya is the brother-in-law of the protagonist of the book, Toru Okada. Part of the antipathy of Okada towards Wataya is caused by the fact that Okada is a rather unassuming house husband, while Wataya is a brilliant, successful academic. As the story progresses, we find that there is much more to the mutual hatred than that. Wataya engages in some social climbing, leaving the world of academics to gain a seat in the Japanese parliament. It is not only normal political climbing that Wataya seems to have in mind. He is also connected somehow to the World War II era fascist regime, as well as to the unexplained supernatural evil that permeates the book. He is also responsible for the kidnapping of his sister (the protagonist's wife), and for the supernatural rape of one of the protagonist's allies, Creta Kano.

The supernatural evil that Wataya is allied with is never fully explained. (For that matter, nothing in this book, or in any Murakami book that I have read, is fully explained). What is more impressive is how Murakami presents the more banal side of Wataya's evil, in the slick way he is able to twist logic and rhetoric to his side. The protagonist describes him as being able to make an argument up out of nothing, choosing just the right facile pieces to attack whoever he is debating on television. Upon closer examination, he has no consistent set of beliefs, which is why he is able to win any argument.

Consistency and an established worldview were excess baggage in the intellectual mobile warfare that flared in the mass media's tiny time segments.
Since he has no actual beliefs, he can not be refuted:
It was like boxing with a ghost: your punches just swished through the air. There was nothing solid for them to hit.
And it is this description, more than anything else in my book, that made me, like the protagonist, hate Wataya. He is a force of nature that has mastered the trappings of intellect, but has no actual ability to think or empathize.

This demonic, banal nature makes the eventual end of Wataya somewhat gleeful, in its own way. Inside of the dream world where some of the book's events take place, he is attacked and beaten senseless with a baseball bat, an event that leaves him suddenly and permanently catatonic in the real world. Although it is perhaps a grim conclusion, and it shouldn't be taken as literal advice, I think this is Murakami's way of saying that when someone refuses to actually use any type of human reason or empathy, that the only remaining option is through blunt violence. His catatonic state actually mirrors his previous attitude. Whereas before he refused to actually interact with the world, only pretending to do so, he is finally stripped of that power to pretend. It is a powerful message in a powerful book.

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