コンビニ人間: Week 13 Discussion [END]

This is what the author should name the sequel.

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Sorry for not staying active in all the threads but I did attend the read aloud and I’ve finished the book. I loved it and I recommend it. In my personal opinion it was a comfortable read. I could also relate to the protagonist a lot because I’m actually slightly autistic as well. So all the people trying to fix her and not knowing whats wrong with her, and her obsessing over something weird that no one else understands hits close to home. I’m definitely not as bad as she is and I’ve learned corrective behavior pretty well on my own, it was just nice to see a different take on the experience from mine even if it was from a fictional character. I’ve said this in the chat but I love stories that are kind of a snippet of life. One that isn’t focused on some goal or having the character undergo some kind of character growth, but is just a cut out of a moment in time that tells a story of someone’s life as it is. If I explained that correctly. Anyways お疲れ様〜

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Finished my first book since elementary school. Good book, will try Haruhi next!
Great selection guys. The discussion helped a lot.

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Repeat Club Discussion Starts Here!

3 April 2021

Read to the end!

Welcome to our final week! Congratulations to everybody who has stuck with it to the end.

Feel free to use past discussion for reference, but please don’t hesitate to post any questions or comments! The more we discuss the more we all learn, and the more fun it is! Also, I strongly recommend setting each week’s thread to “watching” to stay abreast of the discussion. Please try to mark any spoilers as such.

  • I’m reading along
  • I’ll catch up soon
  • I have no intention of catching up or the club has already finished, but I’m using the forums as reference

0 voters

Live Reading Sessions

The next live reading session will be 2021-01-24T03:00:00Z If you haven’t already, join the Japanese Book Club Discord. When the time comes to start, just enter the コンビニ人間 voice channel.

For live readings, we will take turns reading as much as we feel comfortable with (up to ~1 page), then go back and translate a section of our choosing together. Expect sessions to take anywhere from 1-2 hours, but feel free to join late or leave early as your schedule allows. We will be starting promptly at the designated time. Please post any questions regarding live reading session logistics in the Discord channel or on the home thread.

Vocab Sheet

Anybody should feel free to add to the vocab sheet. Read the guidelines on the first sheet- even if a word is not yet included you can use the spreadsheet as a tool to get help.

Discussion Questions

  1. What sentence/passage gave you the most difficulty? Feel free to request some help, or if you figured it out on your own break it down for the rest of us!

  2. What was your favorite new vocab word from this week’s reading?

  3. Was there any passage that you found particularly intriguing? Did it resonate with you (either positively or negatively)? Was it surprising? Offer any insight or new perspective? Was it just beautifully written?

  4. Please post your final impressions!

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I already finished the book last night, time to share my impressions! I hope I’m not misremembering anything since I don’t have my copy on me right now :sweat_smile:

Summary

I only skimmed over the explanations in the back but I remember reading something about it being up to the reader to decide if it’s a happy ending or not. To me, it definitely reads like one. When she started rearranging stuff in that store something became clear to me that I never noticed that clearly before: she’s really good a her job. The phrase “no unskilled labour” immediately came to mind. Part-time work at a covenience store takes various skills, and after 18 years, she’s mastered them. She’d definitely be qualified for some sort of corporate position supervising several stores, if she can find a guidebook for the social aspect of that sort of job. But even if she “just” gets another position as a regular employee at a store, she’d be in her element. So honestly, good for her.

On another note, regarding that dialogue with Shiraha’s stepsister that went like “please never ever procreate” “ah, I see”, I’m really glad Keiko gave that idea up quickly. When she mentioned kids I was worried that that was gonna be the way this story ends, good thing we dodged that bullet :sweat_smile:

I’m proud to say that I have now officially read my first novel in Japanese :partying_face::partying_face::partying_face: Almost exactly one year after I got back into WK thanks to the first lockdown. Big thanks to everyone reading along, I really enjoyed the discussions on here, and without the vocab sheet I would have given up pretty quickly in the first few weeks :sweat_smile: This was a fun experience!

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And you know what? You can also proudly say that you‘ve mastered the first step in the:

so nothing can keep you from ticking off this achievement :upside_down_face:

If you‘re interested, maybe you can find some other interesting book in the list at some point (of course only after you‘ve read enough of Murata‘s books)?

(In case you’re a bit overwhelmed, I recently came across this line in the tsundoku reader blog‘s review of the newest award winner, 「推し、燃ゆ」:
„Like the narrators of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman and Natsuko Imamura’s The Woman in the Purple Skirt , Akari [the book’s protagonist] doesn’t fit in and finds it difficult just to get through the day.“ So there’s two recommendations for the price of one :wink:)

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Huh! All I knew is that she has to deal emotionally with the fact that her beloved idol was involved in some kind of scandal. But I assumed she is supposed to be an average girl.


As for コンビニ final comments, I need a few more days, but I will post them :wink:

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Oh, I hope I did not spoil it for you :cry:

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I’ve been eyeing that challenge for a while haha it feels nice that I finally got started on it!

And thanks for the recommendation, 推し、燃ゆ sounds like it would be exactly my kind of book :grin:

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Oh no, not at all, I was just commenting :slight_smile:

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I just finished the book and I really loved the phone conversation between Keiko and 鬼嫁
The ending was great too and what I loved about the first 1/3 of the book. The middle part with Shiraha showing up was painful at first but after all it was really well done, imo. I really enjoyed the book and looking forward to joining the other book at the end of April!

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First of all, a little follow up and warning about 推し、燃ゆ - it ended up being too hard for me, I’m postponing it for now.


I also wanted to thank everybody reading along for lengthy discussions. It was extremely satisfying and made reading it as a book club worthwhile.


It was already mentioned both in the original Home Thread and by me and Belerith during one of the previous weeks, but I want to remind of and recommend コンビニエンスストア様 to anyone who finished.
It’s free in an e-book version:
Kindle | Bookwalker
But you can also order it as print-on-demand on Amazon.

It’s an extremely short (only 7 pages of text in the print version, the rest is just a filling) love letter sent to the コンビニエンスストア. It has sort of magical realism elements, with the store being anthropomorphic. It ties-in very nicely with コンビニ人間 and it’s very fun to read.

Official translation does exist and is also available for free.


As for my impressions about the ending and the whole book.

I liked the ending, and I think it is a happy ending, just not a perfect one. In a perfect one, she would be promoted to some sort of upper manager, responsible for supervision of stores in the whole area, I guess. :wink: That way she would get both “respectable” job and she would be able to help fulfilling konbinis’ desires.
But the real ending is much more realistic and grounded. It’s about being happy while choosing what’s available, getting to know one’s limits and not spending whole life chasing what’s impossible to get.
Trying to challenge yourself might be nice, but I think there’s a lot of worth with just settling with what you have and enjoying daily life. Especially if said challenging is only making you miserable, like what was happening with Keiko.
Even if after all she is just doing what she was doing at the beginning of the book, now she knows that alternatives are not for her. I think it’s great that she tried these alternatives, because previously she was continuously feeling doubts about her life choices, but I love the fact that after all her solution is accepting the fact that she’s コンビニ人間.
Of course, it wouldn’t be so great if she would be genuinely unhappy with her life, but that’s not the case here.

While I know that the character and the author are separate beings, it’s hard not to compare them due to the fact that Sayaka Murata also worked very long in コンビニ (and also because of previously mentioned コンビニエンスストア様). So I find it very sad that Sayaka Murata herself had to stop working in a store because she was bothered by fans.

Murata also comments on their similarities in this interview:

“People think she is having a hard time, but she is so pure, she doesn’t care at all. She has no doubts. I wish I could live like her, and not think about others,” says Murata, who is herself single and lives in central Tokyo.

I also wanted to comment on the title. I love it, and I’m sad it was lost in translations. To concentrate only on the English one, I think “woman” simply doesn’t fit, because focus on her gender is exactly what was bothering the main character. But I understand that “human” was deemed as too weird of an option.

Between Japanese titles, I can’t not compare it to Dazai Osamu’s 人間失格. Of course, the “feeling like an outsider” is not that rare theme, as seen even a few posts above, but since these two books share 人間 in their titles, and both contain autobiographical elements, I want to compare them. (There won’t be any spoilers for 人間失格.)

While the MC of コンビニ人間 finds solace in calling herself a different species, MC of 人間失格 is, just as title suggest, feeling disqualified as a human being, but struggling with finding an alternative. Between the two, Keiko definitely seems like a winner and actually I would love to read a fanfiction where Keiko meets 人間失格’s MC. :wink:
(And no, I’m not writing it myself.)

(And well, between the respective authors, from the outsider’s perspective, Murata also seems to lead a healthier life when compared to Dazai.)

And if anyone’s interested what Sayaka Murata herself thinks of Dazai’s works, we actually know the answer from this interview:

Your top five authors: I believe that novels are only completed once they become music within their readers. I can’t judge an author simply because I was not able to properly perform their music. Books that didn’t resonate with me probably provided someone else with a wonderful musical score. However, the authors who have given me wonderful music, especially when I was a college student, are Rieko Matsumura, Albert Camus, Kobo Abe, Yukio Mishima and Osamu Dazai.

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Finished the reading! And now I, too, have completed my first novel in Japanese. (Though, I still need to read the afterword…)

A happy ending! Though more resolution on Shiraha than just him going “you’ll regret this!” and storming away might have been nice. I admit to being a little perplexed as to why, when everyone told Keiko to find a full-time job, her first thought wasn’t to find a full-time job in the convenience store’s parent company. Like the staff member in this week’s reading thought she was.

Aye, I raised this during last week’s live reading. “Convenience Store Woman” sounds like it means “she’s a woman who works in a convenience store”, whereas I read コンビニ人間 as “she’s a human being only because she works in a convenience store”.

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Congratulations! :smiley: :tada:

One thing I was wondering about these last few days…does the cover of the book have any connection to the content of the book? I thought those little things poking out of that block would pop up over the course of the book but either I missed it or that didn’t happen.

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Well of course it does. You couldn’t see the connection? Perhaps it was a bit too intellectual. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Finished!

What an amazing book. It is so gratifying to be able to read a book that I love in its original language. It really feels like a life achievement.

As for the ending, for some reason I found it to be much more positive than I did on previous readings. Perhaps it came from reading it in Japanese or maybe it was just my state of mind at the time, but it felt like 恵子 had been completely liberated. Even when she was working at the store before, she told herself that she enjoyed it as a means to fit in properly in society. We get hints along the way that even at the store she doesn’t fit in quite as well as she thinks she does, so when she is finally able to drop the pretense and accept that she is not 人間 after-all, but rather 店員という動物, she can finally live for her own sake doing what she enjoys most.

I want to thank everybody so much for joining me on this endeavor. It seems like everybody got really into it, and I had as much fun reading impressions and analyses as I did reading the actual book. For those of you who (like me) were diving into an intermediate reading challenge for the first time, congratulations! I hope that reading コンビニ has helped you grow as a Japanese learner as well as a person (人間?). A special thanks to @Belthazar, @softlyraining, @yukinet and @debido for regularly putting up with me during live reading sessions.

I’m also open to all feedback positive and negative as this is my first time running a bookclub here. My main goals were to keep discussion lively and get people engaged, and I’m sure there are ways I could have done better on both fronts. Starting the club was mostly a means to share this book I love so much with others who might get as much out of it as I have. Thank you @Phryne for carrying the torch! I can’t wait to jump in to another one of 村田’s books, and I hope to see a lot of you there!

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In Dutch they went with ‘Buurtsupermens’, which is something like ‘corner shop human’ or ‘convenience store human’. It seems like a more satisfying title to me, exactly because it sounds weird.

I still need to read week 13 (getting on that right now), but I just wanted to thank @jhol613 for running things. Your prompts for discussion sure got the conversation started! :+1:t2:

Also this. I stumbled across the book because the Dutch translation had just been released and someone recommended it to me. The book really spoke to me on multiple levels, so to be able to enjoy it in the original language is amazing!

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I loved the weekly discussion questions! Both for helping me reflect on the reading as well as giving me some prompts for what to talk about on the forums

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So they went with it somewhere! (sending mental praises to Dutch translator/publisher)

In Polish, it was Girl from Konbini.
It was nice they left “konbini” in the original form (we don’t really have a good translation), but a girl?! Maybe Shiraha was being overly rude with repeatedly calling her old, but uh, I’m not sure about calling her a girl either.
I think publisher was trying to use the fact that books with “girl” in the title were popular then, like The Girl on the Train, but… :roll_eyes:

And you reminded me I didn’t thank @jhol613 yet! So jhol613, thank you for setting this book club up! :heart:
Also thank you for the bonus week, I was thinking about suggesting a separate thread, but was too undecided.

While we’re talking about being undecided, thank you @Phryne for a 殺人出産, because I lacked courage to propose a next Murata book in a club form either. :heart:

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What an absolutely wonderful book in so many different ways. Murata-sensei has such a fantastically accessible, yet vivid way of writing. Going from 魔女の宅急便 to this was a bit of an intimidating jump, but it was honestly a much more fulfilling experience. Not that I don’t like Kiki and her shenanigans, but コンビニ人間 was a bit more thought-provoking!

Final thoughts on the book

The ending scene with Keiko staring into the glass and truly acknowledging herself on her own terms was such a liberating moment for her. Like the scene on the veranda, this is the first time Keiko is really getting a good look at herself free of social judgment.

After watching her struggle for most of the book, I’d agree that this definitely ended on a positive note. Having spent the past year or so in therapy, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that the journey to rehabilitation first involves painfully breaking down the world as you know it. For Keiko, this meant shattering the shaky scaffolding that was holding her up. No more pretending, no more appealing, no more concessions. Now that the false pretense of her life has been broken down, she can start to build it back up with the newfound perspective and self-determination she’s gained.

Like @NyappyTiramisu mentioned, there’s no such thing as “unskilled labor”, and Keiko demonstrates that extremely well. It’s funny how the konbini sounds have been portrayed as a sort of specter haunting Keiko. All it takes is a shift in perspective to realize that those sounds carry a far more different and positive implication than society would have her believe. What was initially a social crutch has since evolved into a sense of belonging and purpose. She’s good at this job and nobody can change that, despite what they may think.

I did a quick skim of the intro to the book and it’s taken on a bit more of a positive meaning. The idiosyncracies of the konbini give it life because that’s how Keiko views it. I had my own biases coming into the book because of my own negative experience with part-time work in retail, but that shouldn’t take away from others like Keiko for whom this line of work does carry value.

I hope the best for her and I honestly think she’ll be just fine.

Though I stumbled and skimmed in several places, it felt gratifying to make it all the way from beginning to end with a solid understanding of the book, its themes, and Murata-sensei’s intent. Much like @jhol613, this was my first time diving into deeper waters with my Japanese learning and I’ve come out all the better for it. Thanks so much for running the club and a huge thank you to everyone for the INSANELY helpful vocab sheet and fascinating discussions.

Two Japanese books down, hopefully many more to come!

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