地球星人 🌏 Book Club ・ Week 3

地球星人 ・ Week 3

Week 3 11 December 2021
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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.

Spoiler Courtesy

Please follow these rules to avoid inadvertent ネトバレ. If you’re unsure whether something should have a spoiler tag, err on the side of using one.

  1. Any potential spoiler for the current week’s reading need only be covered by a spoiler tag. Predictions and conjecture made by somebody who has not read ahead still falls into this category.
  2. Any potential spoilers for external sources need to be covered by a spoiler tag and include a label (outside of the spoiler tag) of what might be spoiled. These include but are not limited to: other book club picks, other books, games, movies, anime, etc. I recommend also tagging the severity of the spoiler (for example, I may still look at minor spoilers for something that I don’t intend to read soon).
  3. Any information from later in the book than the current week’s reading (including trigger warnings that haven’t yet manifested) need to be hidden by spoiler tags and labeled as such.

Discussion Questions

Feel free to use these questions as a framework or a starting point for responses. I also encourage people to post their own 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. Is there anything wrong with the way Natsuki’s family treats her? Is there any neglect or abuse, or is it just frustrating from a kid’s perspective? Should her family behave differently towards Natsuki or their extended family?

  5. What do you think of Natsuki and Yuu’s marriage? What about their promises?

  6. How might Kise’s bullying situation and choice not to attend school affect her family? For those reading かがみの孤城, what parallels can you draw?

2 Likes

Eh, going back because of Kise state might seem reasonable, but still, I feel sad fury about the fact that Natsuki and Yuu don’t get to spend more time together. Natsuki probably truly is too young to travel alone, but why not arrange some other meetings for them? Aside from the Obon?
But yeah, I know, for that their families would have to stop being dysfunctional and start actually being supportive which is the main problem to begin with.

Anyway. Switching to the lighter (?) topic:

During my first read of Earthlings in English, just the day before I also read Tokyo Ueno Station. I disliked it, but coincidentally, it also had some Obon descriptions in it. Buuut it seems that the Ueno’s protagonist was from other Buddhist school/sect, which lead to amusing comparison of the customs:

quotes


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Well, for one, Yuu lives in Yamagata and Natsuki lives in Chiba. The distance is roughly a 5 hour drive according to Google, so not very easy to do, even if the respective families were so inclined.

Thanks for the Obon comparison. I actually loved all the rituals and decorations so far. I would definitely have loved them as a child. Lighting fires and decorating plants as animals can’t be anything but fun, and the ancestor component adds mystery and awe.

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For me it seems not that bad considering how important it is for the kids :woman_shrugging:t2:
(and also according to Google, it’s a little quicker when going by the train)

Of course, it’s only my opinion. And like I said, it wouldn’t even be that important if kids had some other supporting person in their everyday lives. Vicious circle.

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Just finished this week’s reading. I feel like it was over almost before it begun - a good book will do that to you :slight_smile:

Thoughts

I’m so disappointed that they actually left, I really wanted to be there for the whole Obon festival. I was really enjoying the atmosphere.

I’m now wondering whether Kise has some sort of special needs that aren’t explicitly mentioned. She seems particularly frail and oversensitive for a 13 year old, and too attached to her parents. Maybe that’s why the whole family seems to revolve around her so much. I suspect that the parents just focus on Kise and neglect Natsuki because she seems to be able to cope just fine. Which would of course result in her feeling alienated (at the very least), poor child. The dad also seems to be in the background somehow. He seems to just awkwardly stand by as his wife makes decisions that all are centered on Kise. Not a well-balanced family, that’s for sure.

As for Yuu, he definitely fears for his safety. His mother threatening to throw him out whenever she gets angry is bad enough, but I get the feeling that there’s some more tangible danger in his life than “just” the threat of being abandoned. No child I know worries about the future out of the blue - they take the future for granted. Unless they know otherwise. I seriously worry that we’re not going to see Yuu again . Hope I’ll be proven wrong.

On a lighter note, do they seriously eat locusts? I know they’re supposed to be really nutritious, but nope. Has anyone tried?
As for the act of feeding the grasshopper to the resident spider, it seems like a strangely brutal (yet natural) thing to do. I wonder whether I’m reading too much into it, but it feels somehow important. Bugs certainly play a central role in that house.

Does she actually not attend school ever, or does she frequently choose not to go? That part was a little vague to me.
朝、私が小学校へ行く時間になっても部屋から来てない日も多い。
Doesn’t this mean that there are many days where she doesn’t leave her room when Natsuki goes to school? But not all, I assume.
But then I’m not sure how to understand 浮く here:
姉は中学校ではよほど浮いているらしく
Is it just “to feel out of place”, or does it somehow mean to actually skip school?

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Ahhh, I forgot to comment on that!
Btw, nope, as far as I remember, there won’t be any direct throwbacks to that scene.
But it was relatable for me, because I also tried to feed spiders in my grandparents’ house :heart: I used dead flies that I found lying around, so I’m not sure how nutritious it was for the spiders, but I tried my best. I was probably in the 5-9 years old range.

I understood it as “frequently choose not to go”.

日も多い, but not all days.

I don’t think Kise has any special needs, she just is too attached to her parents, and while they give her a lot of attention, they don’t really help her to cope with her problems. Her problems being bullied, basically. If the bullying is causing her to skip school, it doesn’t surprise me she would have a meltdown after cousins mentioned her hairiness. :woman_shrugging:t2:
And since I also have severe motion sickness (which means even traveling around not-in-the-mountains city is highly unpleasant for me) it doesn’t seem like being “frail” to me, just unlucky :stuck_out_tongue:
Anyway, for me, even if the girls are being treated differently, there is bad parenting in both cases, just in different ways.
There is also that thing that mother and sister are similar to each other, so mother sees herself in Kise, I think.

6 Likes
More on Kise

Oh, no, that’s not why I described her as frail at all. I get motion sickness just by sitting on a playground swing, after all. But she seems to react psychosomatically to unpleasant experiences, to actually feel sick when she gets upset, and it appeared to me that her health was a constant concern for her parents. Natsuki says she was known to vomit at high levels of stress, yet the parents seem to think she needs a doctor, not just to calm down. Unless it’s an excuse for the mother to leave the mountains and her husband’s extended family :slight_smile:
Her bullying must be pretty extreme to be causing such reactions, I’m not sure insensitive comments about hairiness would be enough for either Kise or the parents to react so strongly.
And yes, I totally agree that the parents seem to baby Kise instead of supporting her, and neglecting Natsuki instead of nurturing her, thus not allowing either girl to flourish. At least based on what little I have to go on till now.

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I have really enjoyed reading about Obon traditions and looking up pictures (especially of the cucumber/aubergine animals and the odd batmobile) :grin:

As for Yuu, the same things stood out to me as @omk3 mentioned. I am really intrigued to see what his situation is like, but also dread to read more.

As for Kise, Natsuki and the mother… Again, much agreeing with @omk3. I think this week it has become even clearer that the mother actively favours Kise to the dentriment of Natsuki. The choice to return home may well have felt reasonable in the circumstances (though I also suspect the mother jumped at the opportunity, as she never seemed keen to be there in the first place), but the way she responded to Natsuki’s attempts to spend some more time with Yuu seemed overly harsh to me (in the translation it is rendered as “Oh do shut up.”). This matches the way she scolded Natsuki last week, when they were dishing up and handing out the food. And then of course there was the off-hand mention of Natsuki’s mother and sister habitually chucking out her stuff…

I too am wondering if Kise has actual health issues. Her response to adversity seems quite extreme, though extensive bullying and harmful parenting could’ve also caused that…

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I’ve tried it because they told me that it was “shrimp” but honestly, it just tastes like soy sauce and sugar. It wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t voluntarily eat it again though. As for feeding the grasshoppers to spiders, I have a colleague who likes to feed random bugs to his jumping spiders at home because he likes having them around. I did find it weird because we’re pretty much careful about killing any insects during Obon because they could be any of our ancestors visiting.

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Honestly, shrimp don’t look very appetising either if you look at them with fresh eyes. It’s just that I’ve been accustomed to regard them as (yummy) food, and locusts not. I’d still very much hesitate to try them.

So they’re sweet and crunchy? Looking them up I saw they’re also served on ice cream. :fearful:

img_109444_51

Good point! :open_mouth:

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I can’t wait to read on next week to find out how this continues!

Agreed! And we were even promised fireflies…

Yes, I also had to look it up! That batmobile is really impressive, but even the minimalist ones look really nice actually. I’m almost tempted to make them myself :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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That does not look appealing at all. And yes, what I’ve tried is slightly sweet and crunchy and tastes like a regular kind of 佃煮.

Right. My brother refuses to eat shrimp, as he calls them the cockroaches of the sea. :sweat_smile:

Maybe looking too far into it but wasn’t cannibalism one of the trigger warnings listed?

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Oh my, I had forgotten about that :grimacing:. Probably unrelated (foreshadowing?), but in any case you might want to spoiler that, not everyone has chosen to look at the trigger warnings.

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Like me :frowning:

Please be careful about spoilers. I am careful about avoiding them, but I can only do that if others are careful about using spoiler tags. Better to use them too often than not often enough.

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My favourite part this week was the part where Natsuki is in bed with nonhuman life pressing in on the other side of the window. Very evocative. I’ve never really been to places where the animal and insect noises are quite so overwhelming, but I can imagine it gets intense in summer on a wild mountain in Japan.

逆鱗に触れる

To touch the scales under a dragon’s chin = to infuriate? nice :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Just the fact that there is a two-kanji word for ‘the upside-down scales underneath a dragon’s chin’ is already enough to make this the vocab of the week.

Yes, between this book and かがみ Japanese middle school is presented as quite a hellish place to be (I even wrote that in my notes before I saw your question). I have a feeling, though, that Kokoro went through something even more sinister than Kise (as far as we know at this point). I do feel for Kise: you can’t escape the body that you are in, so it’s horrible to have your physical appearance be made fun of.

As others have commented, Kise’s problems seem to cause the parents to focus mostly on her instead of Natsuki, but so far, I wouldn’t call it excessive yet. Also, in my experience second children often have to live with less attention from their parents so Natsuki’s situation doesn’t seem exceptional (yet).

It was very striking that the promise to survive was added by Yuu…

This week wasn’t hard language-wise. Just one sentence I want to make sure I understand correctly:

野生の自分の細胞が疼いているような感じがした

This is in the part where Natsuki is in bed and I think this is saying something along the lines that it [sensing the nonhuman life of the night] is making her wild cells ache, which is a sentence I like, but I’m not sure I’m reading it correctly :sweat_smile:

Yes, that crossed my mind as well. Let’s hope that we’re wrong.

I also interpreted it as ‘to feel out of place’, like you said.

Indeed. @shishamo, please add spoiler tags to your remark about the trigger warning!

And I would actually suggest that we do not discuss the contents of the trigger warnings at all, with or without spoiler tags, because I always assume that the information hidden behind a spoiler tag is only a spoiler for the current week, but the trigger warnings might contain spoilers for later weeks!

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It was a very evocative description of a very familiar setting for me. Spend a summer night in the countryside in any warm place, and you’ll know that you don’t dare turn on a light for fear of being swarmed by all sorts of bugs. And when it’s quiet in the dead of night, it’s really surprising how much noise all these tiny creatures make, as if they’re taking over the moment humans retreat, exactly like Natsuki describes.

I had to go back and search for this because I didn’t remember coming across it. I mean, the translation of my dictionary was just a mundane “incur anger”, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I can see the scales and the reverse, but where are you getting the dragon from?

野生の自分の細胞が疼いているような感じがした

This is more or less how I understood it too. She felt as if the wild cells within her were throbbing. Like the wild part in her was awakened?

Good point. I think we can still have spoilers for future chapters if we feel we need to, just like we have spoilers for other books, but they need to be clearly labeled as such so that no one reads them accidentally thinking they refer to the current week only.

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Yeah, I’ve checked out of these discussions because people were already discussing what was going on in the context of Murata’s other writings, which I felt spoiled some things for me.

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I thought comparisons with other books have always been clearly labeled until now? I may be misremembering. In any case, you make a good point, it might be best to keep such comparisons for the end of the book. I would hate for people to not join the conversation for fear of spoilers.
(I haven’t read any of her other books myself, nor かがみの孤城 which also gets mentioned)

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My bad! It won’t happen again.

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三省堂国語 has this for 逆鱗:

〔文〕竜のあごの下にある、逆さに はえた うろこ(鱗)。〔人がさわると、竜がたいそうおこるという〕

Or this in the 明鏡:

語源竜の喉元には逆さに生えたうろこがあり、人がそれに触れれば必ず殺されるという中国の故事に基づく。

:smiley:

Yes, of course, clearly labelling is fine too (as long as the label is outside the spoiler tag :wink:)

Yes, I can see what you are getting at. There has been a lot of hinting at “what might come” and you could also consider that to be spoilery (but I guess those kinds of comments are hard to avoid in a book club like this one).

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