Inter Ice Age 4 Characters

Kobo Abe

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Professor Katsumi

Professor Katsumi, the narrator, a computer scientist. Committed to rational explanations, Katsumi comes to see that his own future is not easily controllable. When he builds a computer that will predict the future, he becomes involved in the murder of the man whose future he is predicting. Eventually, Katsumi discovers that the victim had learned of a bizarre project to develop aquans, a race of fishlike humans who could survive the predicted flooding of Earth. Katsumi discovers that his own staff, guided by his computer, are participants in the project. He confronts the computer, and it explains that, as his second self, with an insight into the future that he refuses to accept, it is in control, not him. Because of his objections, Katsumi must be killed.


Tanomogi, Katsumi’s assistant. Although the mysterious Tanomogi seems to be helping Katsumi, he has been manipulating his boss. Tanomogi is the murderer that he and Katsumi have been seeking. He feeds Katsumi information about the aquans, but he never specifies his motives for joining the project.

Wada Katsuko

Wada Katsuko, a young female assistant. At times strangely attractive to Katsumi, Wada is the link between the aquan project and the computer laboratory. She also arranges to procure Katsumi’s aborted son for the project so that Katsumi can have a part in the future society. Later, she tries to convince Katsumi that he is responsible for the consequences of his actions.

Professor Yamamoto

Professor Yamamoto, the head of the aquan breeding facilities. A large, businesslike scientist, Yamamoto dispassionately explains the project and its aims to Katsumi shortly before Katsumi is to be killed.

Inter Ice Age 4 The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Unaware of the undersea project at the beginning of the novel, Professor Katsumi represents the individual’s ignorance of the future and the difficulty one has in confronting such drastic change. The professor’s belief that he is in charge, that his machine is serving him, undercuts the notion that one can act freely or independent of social, political, and technological realities. One key example of this ignorance is Katsumi’s inability to recognize that his own voice (generated by the computer) has been making the telephone warn-ings. When he does recognize the voice, he assumes that someone else has manipulated the computer, not that the computer—which he initially programmed—has taken charge of the situation. The reader sympathizes with Katsumi nevertheless, sharing the same ignorance and despair. Not until the end of the novel does Katsumi discover the double roles that the others have been playing, or that he himself has been manipulated to serve the undersea project, even to the extent of contributing his own son to the colony. Throughout the course of events he believes that his colleagues are reliable; his discovery that his assistant Wada was responsible for his wife’s abortion and that Tanomogi is a murderer underscores the real separation between himself and others.

Since the novel focuses on the alienation and lack of awareness of its narrator, Professor Katsumi, most of the other characters are rather opaque to the reader. This opacity contributes to the ambivalence of the novel. In the postscript, Kb Abe remarks that the novel leaves not only the reader but also the writer with many doubts. Consider, for example, the motives of Tanomogi: Is the assistant a greedy capitalist, a revolutionary seeking to bring about a new society, or a reformer manipulating the capitalists in order to bring about a beneficent change? The conspirators are certainly intelligent, resourceful, and practical, and yet as a group they appear sinister and threatening. Whatever the motives of Tanomogi, Wada, or Professor Yamamoto, the reader is likely to feel distanced from them; although they are real characters and not simple abstractions or symbols, they remain mysterious and aloof.