At thirty-six, Tsukuru Tazaki recollects his life he had led up until that point in time. He ponders his time with four of his best friends over his childhood, the most testing time of his life at twenty when the prospect of dying had such a hold on him.
Tsukuru, Japanese for ‘the one who make things’ – and true to his name, he had a fascination to build rail stations, and that took him away from his closely-knit group of five friends and his family. From Nagoya, his home town to Tokyo, where he was to study engineering.
Tsukuru thought himself to be ‘colorless’ and an empty vessel and unknowingly was first to blame himself when things didn’t go as expected. Was he justified in thinking about himself in this light? Did he ever seriously consider how others felt about him? Should he be writing scripts for others on his mind? or maybe this is how Tsukuru was wired.
Some people write string quartets; some grow lettuce and tomatoes. There have to be a few who build railroad stations, too. And I wouldn’t say I have a passion for it, exactly. I have an interest in one specific thing.
He had a chance encounter with Haida, a junior while in college who had a philosophy besides music. “This might sound rude, Tsukuru, but I think it’s an amazing achievement to find even one specific thing in life that you’re interested in.”
And then one fine day…without any goodbye, Haida went away – just like a fellow passenger in a long train journey with whom you become friends.
You discover the next day they are gone while you were sleeping, without bidding goodbye or a promise to stay in touch. Tsukuru comforted himself by asking questions like – “Why would they stay friends with a guy like me?”
After failing to commit to any of the girlfriends he previously had, it bothered him why he wasn’t taking that final giant stride.
Was he clueless about the immense emotional baggage he was carrying all those years?
Why was (and is) he not curious to know why his four friends banished him one fine day, no reason given whatsoever, and no intent from Tsukuru to know ‘why’?.
And since that incident, sixteen years went by where he led a life which had no meaning whatsoever – but he carried on, walking those steps necessary to survive life. Probably, that is what he is, a survivor and a plain one at it.
And he meets Sara, and she, at 38, two years older than Tsukuru, fuels a spark which he badly needs.
Human traits do not change unless one is willing to change. That way, the human mind is a great player. It can play any game it wishes to, and all we do is react and act upon it. Within such dexterity, there too lies a rigidity of not letting go of how you view life, being relentless in believing certain things and how it would fail, each time and how you would ensure it would fail because….. it happened in the past, and it so must happen. Any room for a change?
All his life and especially those sixteen years, Tsukuru tried to hide those unpleasant memories – but deep down, it was there, in a dark corner and unknown to Tsukuru playing tricks on how he viewed life and its situations.
You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.
Sara convinces him why he must revisit his past, meet his four friends and how he must pursue to know ‘why’ he was treated the way he was a long time ago. Tsukuru knew he could hide memories for a lifetime, but what about the history that bogged him down, that made him a prisoner locked in a cell.
Doesn’t he feel like breaking out?
Tsukuru takes a blind leap and decides to revisit his past. Along this path, he meets his friends and realizes that others’ lives differed from how he had pictured in his mind.
While he was unearthing the past, he finds Sara on a summer evening, walking with an older man, holding hands, laughing, which gave an impression that she was delighted.
He knew he finally found a girl in Sara with whom he can spend the rest of his life, and yet those images of her holding hands with another man bothered him, every minute, every second. He had made up his mind that he cannot give her that happiness; he was colorless, empty, and probably that’s the reason people leave him, just like that… abruptly and all of a sudden.
And then…. a trip to Finland to meet his childhood friend with a hope that she would fill the void to that ‘history.’
Sixteen years later, those feelings of dying came back to him when he returned to Tokyo, and he was sure if Sara chose the other man over him. There was nothing left for him to live for.
His mind was on the brink of a collapse, took him to the darkest of the forest a man could imagine, and threatened to unleash deadly elves that would finish him.
If he had to lose it, he would rather lose himself.
….. and yet….. he manages to survive!
Another battle with his mind. And he realised one thing about himself – despite those colorless sixteen years he led.
Not everything was lost in the flow of time. We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never vanish.
As the title suggests, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage – the Tsukuru can be anyone we know and how each one has a story, a unique one.
Because of our thoughts, how our mind processes the same fact differently and makes us react in a way that makes us who we are.
The key to survival is not a set of formulas – but a constant game played on our minds, and that game knows no rules!