The Underground

The space beneath the earth’s surface is fraught with peril and anxiety as the home of the enemy and source of the potentially devastating earthquake. To reach Worm’s lair, Frog and Katagiri must pass through a series of places that are hidden from public view, just like the figurative “underground” in which Katagiri spent so much of his earlier life. Katagiri deals primarily with the shady criminal underworld in the red-light district of Kabuki-cho, which is filled with gangsters and “money flowing beneath the surface from one murky den to another.” This image of dirty, subterranean rivers makes the figurative concept of an underground economy a literal one. The thugs and gangsters of Kabuki-cho and fraudulent executives of Big Bear Trading all traffic in concealed corruption. Murakami thus uses the underground motif to draw parallels between the sleeping, monstrous Worm and criminal underworld, both of which are portrayed as lurking threats to Japanese society. The notion of the underground also connects “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo” to the Aum Shinrikyo subway attack and real-life Kobe earthquake. Both of these incidents, which had shaken the collective Japanese identity, were subterranean terrors.