Although I’m a big fan of Murakami’s work, as a female reader, I am often left disturbed and a little unsatisfied by his famous female characters. Sometimes they are too quirky, too effervescent or too fragile, most times they are highly objectified, completely intangible beings that exist just outside the plane of reality. They neither progress nor develop throughout the story, always remaining the same; like dots scattered across the narrative, they are akin to dolls whose only purpose for existence is to satisfy some kind of male fetish.
The male characters on the other hand, always start out as a bland conduit through which the reader can experience the story vicariously but is then sharpened up pretty nicely towards the end as a well-rounded (albeit broken) person capable of courage, fear and love; the male character is the moving line that ultimately connects the dots.
It’s a very nice balance and definitely one of the winning formulas behind the success of his literature but sometimes when I read his books, I have a more enjoyable time if I do a little switch-up: I often re-imagine his female characters as male characters and his male characters as the female. For example, as I am reading 1Q84 now, I always think of Aomame as the male lead and Tengo as the female lead. Somehow it makes more sense to me that way. Just try it too if you wanna know if it works for you.
Or if you are too lazy, I suggest you just go read Yoko Ogawa.
(P.S. If 1Q84 ever gets made into a movie, I DO NOT WANT RINKO KIKUCHI TO ACT AS AOMAME… she is just too damn irritating in my opinion.)