Kafka on the Shore is reminiscent of Wind-Up Bird: it has a lot of the same whimsy that makes the latter such a beautiful novel. However, I found Kafka on the whole to be less satisfying. The mythology in Kafka is less interesting and far less integrated. It is more of a hodgepodge of various cultural symbols that fail to come together to form anything resembling a theme. It's a novel of self-exploration, but at the end, I am left wondering what Kafka learned, about himself or the world in which he lives. Although a wonderful storyteller, Murakami seems afraid to establish a clear thesis of any kind, which was particularly disappointing in a novel of this kind. As a side issue, I was also put off by some of the needless vulgarity.
Despite its problems, KotS is an enchanting story that I basically enjoyed. I don't think it will endure as a good work of literature, as Wind-Up Bird may, but I would still recommend it to somebody who enjoys surreal realism and wants to read a "fluffy" novel.