Last Updated on October 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1792
Aomame is in a taxi, stuck in traffic. She makes the daring decision to walk off the expressway and down, using the emergency staircase, in order to make her appointment. Next we learn that her “meeting” was in fact an assassination of a man who had abused his wife. She kills him with a special needlelike tool, then goes to a hotel for anonymous sex with an older man.
Meanwhile, Komatsu, an editor, tries to convince his mentee, young writer Tengo, to rewrite a manuscript called Air Chrysalis, written by a mysterious high school girl named Fuka-Eri. Tengo agrees after meeting Fuka-Eri and receiving her blessing. He proceeds to rewrite the strange and compelling story of Air Chrysalis.
Aomame goes to an elegant home and meets Tamaru, a professional bodyguard and personal aide to a woman called the Dowager. In a greenhouse full of butterflies, we learn that the Dowager hires Aomame as an assassin and selects her victims, all abusive men. She also helps the women abused by those men. We later discover that Aomame met the Dowager through her work as a sports trainer for a Tokyo athletic club. The Dowager hired her personally for training and muscle-stretching work. This led to their relationship and joint project of removing violently abusive men from the world. Aomame reflects on a friend’s suicide, which was caused by her husband’s abuse. This is her reason for doing what she does.
Spurred by some confusing conversations and observations, notably a big change in police uniform and armament, Aomame goes to the library and asks for newspapers. There, she realizes that her memories do not match reality anymore. Some things are the same, but others are strangely changed. Aomame discovers that she is living in an alternate reality and that she must have entered it when she descended the emergency staircase from the expressway. She struggles to come to grips with this truth and names the world in which she finds herself “1Q84.”
Tengo meets Fuka-Eri at a train station. She wants to introduce him to someone important. They arrive in a small mountain village and meet Fuka-Eri’s guardian, a man who calls himself Professor. He reveals Fuka-Eri’s past as a child who grew up in a series of communes and escaped into his guardianship only recently. Fuka-Eri only told her story with help, as she is dyslexic. She seems to truly believe in the events of Air Chrysalis and the mysterious “Little People” mentioned in it.
During a night out, Aomame meets a policewoman named Ayumi. They become friends and have a wild sexual evening with two men. Aomame reflects on her childhood in a strict religious family, how it isolated her but also accustomed her to moderation and a simple lifestyle. She receives money from the Dowager but does not spend it, only puts it in a safe deposit box. Aomame and Ayumi’s friendship gradually deepens. Aomame reveals that she has only ever really loved one person, a boy who stood up for her in elementary school. We understand that this is Tengo. That evening, Aomame goes to the window and is shocked to see two moons in the sky.
Tengo finishes rewriting Air Chrysalis. Komatsu is impressed and calls the rewrite nearly perfect. All he suggests is that Tengo emphasize a fantasy element of the story, the two moons. Meanwhile, Tengo muses on his childhood, his separation from his father, and a mysterious erotic memory of his mother that keeps recurring. Air Chrysalis wins the new writers contest and becomes a bestseller. At that point, the mysterious religious commune known as Sakigake begins to get involved. A strange man, Ushikawa, threatens and bribes Tengo. Komatsu briefly disappears and later reveals that he had been kidnapped by Sakigake and forced to halt publication of Air Chrysalis.
Stories converge on the Sakigake commune. It is the place where Fuka-Eri lived, and the Professor suspects her parents are somehow held captive there. He hopes that the publication of her story will prompt the media to dig deeper into the commune and find her parents. At the same time, the Dowager introduces Aomame to a young girl who has been brutally raped by the Leader of the same commune. They are determined to find a way in and eliminate him. Ayumi helps them find out more by conducting research on the commune via police records.
Tengo learns that Fuka-Eri has run away and is in hiding. She communicates with him to let him know she is all right and to warn him about the Little People. Tengo is unnerved. Later, he thinks about the girl he knew in elementary school, who held his hand and made him feel so strongly. It was Aomame, who thinks of him as often as he thinks of her.
Aomame prepares to encounter and kill the Leader. The Dowager is arranging everything, so Aomame must simply be ready. She asks Tamaru to procure her a gun and teach her how to use it so she can kill herself quickly if the need arises. She is shocked to discover that her friend Ayumi was killed suspiciously in a hotel room, with handcuffs. Several weeks pass, and finally everything is arranged. Aomame goes to a hotel to meet the Leader, on the pretext of helping him with muscle massage. His two bodyguards meet her but do not find the murder tool among her possessions. Aomame goes in to see the Leader and finds more than she bargained for. First, he explains the situation, revealing that his supposed rape of young girls is not what it seems, but in fact a kind of inescapable ritual. His body freezes up, and they come to him without his permission. Meanwhile, he suffers incredible pain. He speaks calmly, reassuring her that he wants to die, and her only option is to continue with the plan. Although she no longer wants to, Aomame complies and kills him in her usual way. A huge thunderstorm rages outside. As quickly as possible, she escapes the hotel and goes into hiding in the safe apartment organized by the Dowager and Tamaru.
Tengo is shocked when Fuka-Eri shows up at the door of his apartment. She asks to stay, and he allows it. The night of the thunderstorm, she conducts a strange sexual ritual, which is exactly what Leader described to Aomame. Tengo is confused but feels unable to ask her about it. Instead, he goes to visit his father in a sanatorium by the sea. During the visit, he is inspired by a story about a “town of cats,” which the human visitor cannot escape. He uses this idea as a parallel for the confusions in his life. During the visit, Tengo’s father seems to confirm what Tengo has always suspected—that this is not his biological parent at all. He returns home with fresh perspective. While there, he notices that there are two moons in the sky, just like in Air Chrysalis.
Aomame thinks of Tengo while in hiding. Her one hope is to reconnect with him, and she refuses to move until this unspoken goal is accomplished. Meanwhile, Tengo is also thinking of her. They both remember meeting as ten-year-old children, finding common loneliness and compassion in one another. They have not met since then, but their thoughts are drawn strongly toward one another.
Ushikawa, a private investigator, has been hired by Sakigake to locate Aomame. He was previously recruited to investigate Tengo. A consummate professional, Ushikawa follows his instincts and discovers many connections: between the Dowager, the safe house, and Aomame, and between Aomame and Tengo. He sets up surveillance at Tengo’s apartment, convinced that somehow, Tengo will lead him to Aomame.
Soon after returning home, Tengo receives a call that his father has fallen into a coma. He decides to take two weeks to go back to the town by the sea. There, he spends time with his father, reading to him, and reflects on many things. Aomame comes to mind often. Tengo also becomes friendly with the nurses. One of them seems to be a sort of prophetess, using language evocative of the Little People and the town of cats. When he finally leaves, Tengo finds his Tokyo apartment empty—Fuka-Eri has gone. Unbeknownst to him, he is also being watched by Ushikawa.
Aomame has a strange feeling and discovers that she is pregnant. Although she cannot explain why, she understands that this happened the night she killed the Leader and that the child is Tengo’s. She also knows that Sakigake wants the baby and is determined to find her and take it. She is more determined than ever to locate Tengo. Reluctantly, Tamaru agrees to help her.
Tengo makes one final trip to the seaside town upon hearing that his father has died. He returns to the sanatorium and finds everything arranged for the funeral. His father left nothing of value behind except mementos that show Tengo that he was loved and cared for, although not in a way he appreciated as a child. While Tengo is away, Ushikawa continues his surveillance. By chance, Aomame sees him out her window and follows him to Tengo’s apartment. There, she discovers Tengo’s address. She informs Tamaru that she has found the person who has been snooping around, and she insists on meeting with Tengo as soon as possible.
Tamaru finds Ushikawa, tortures him for information, and kills him to be certain the connections Ushikawa discovered will never be made known. He then informs Sakigake of the murder, implying that they should back off. Finally, at Aomame’s request, he contacts Tengo—since returned from the seaside town—and asks him to meet Aomame on the playground slide where he first saw the two moons.
With Sakigake in hot pursuit, Tengo follows Tamaru’s instructions and returns to the playground opposite Aomame’s apartment. They meet, hold hands, and are instantly connected. It is as if no time has gone by at all. Together, they leave and catch a taxi to the bottom of the emergency staircase. This is how Aomame believes she first entered the strange parallel world of 1Q84, when descending the stairs from the expressway. They climb the rickety stairs together, arriving at the top of the expressway. To their enormous relief, only the single, familiar moon hangs in the sky.
A taxi miraculously picks them up on the roadside and takes them to a hotel, where they make love. We sense the beginnings of a family: Tengo, Aomame, and their child to come. Enjoying the sight of the moon, they are determined to live in this more familiar world, whatever surprises it might hold.