地球星人 🌏 Book Club ・ Week 11

地球星人 ・ Week 11

Week 11 12 February 2022
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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 ネタバレ. 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) needs 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. Do you believe that Yuu actually hates Natsuki? Why might this be the case?

  5. Once again we see significant differences between Natsuki and her husband even though they both share the same “宇宙人の目”. Aside from wanting to be brainwashed, how does Natsuki’s worldview contrast with Tomoya’s?

  6. Why is Tomoya able to get along so well with Natsuki? Why is he able to get along so well with Yuu?

  7. In what ways could somebody go about becoming an “alien” in the eyes of society without hurting others? Would there be anything wrong with such behavior?

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So our supposedly well-adjusted Yuu has been avoiding Natsuki (as well as being near the grave with Natsuki) for the whole of their stay, and only got to ask about whether her husband knows about them towards the very end? If he’s actually grown past all that, he shouldn’t have trouble discussing it. Have they ever talked about what happened between then and now in their lives, like any two people who haven’t seen each other for such a long time would? If they did, we as readers were never informed. I wonder if he’s trying to distance himself from their past a little artificially. I wonder if the scorn that Natsuki perceives from him is real, or part of that artificial distancing. I really want to know more about Yuu.

You know how sometimes all words in a sentence are known, but the sentence is still hard to parse? That’s usually because of grammar, but there was a sentence this week with easy grammar and vocabulary, and yet I still needed to re-read several times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. 僕は、祖父とセックスしてみようと思うんだ. Excuse me? And this was uttered with enthusiasm, out of the blue, early in the morning, by a man who we know to avoid any kind of intimacy. The fact that his first idea of an “alien” action was eating insects, and this was his second one makes it even more absurd.

If I were Yuu I’d be very worried living under the same roof with those two, the husband especially. I mean, he’s goodnatured and full of enthusiasm, sort of like a puppy, but he also comes up with the most outlandish and unexpected things, again much like a puppy that decides that tearing up the sofa is the best idea ever. This man must be around Natsuki’s age, yet he feels to me exactly like a rebellious teenager wanting to test society’s limits as part of growing up. Where was he all these years? First he thought a fake marriage would set him free, now he thinks that doing something taboo will set him free. For a man in his mid-thirties, I’m surprised he doesn’t realize that, as Natsuki points out, all these are absolutely human things to do.

Natsuki’s bodily reaction to her husband’s idea was interesting. Was it because he reminded her of having been a victim of a sexual predator, or because of having committed a crime herself? Did the fact that Kise had just mentioned that old story play any role? Apparently Kise doesn’t mind the drive to Akishina now. Not when she gets to spy on her sister and annoy her, at least. I wonder if she suspects her. She did see her in the bathroom that night, but if she did suspect I don’t think it’s like Kise not to say anything. Even if she didn’t seriously believe there were grounds for actual suspicion, why miss an opportunity to torment her sister a little?

Er, what’s up with grandfather not having rotted yet?

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Reference to Murata’s work in general When I read「ええと……変なものを食べるとか。例えば、昆虫とか……」the Murata fan in me went :eyes:

The eating of silkworm larvae seems like it will play some meaningful role, because of the recurrence of the silkworm in this story.

:warning: Speculation for those who were spoiled on a particular trigger warning in week 3 (or who have read all of the trigger warnings) :warning: I wonder if that will tie in metaphorically with the cannibalism that is apparently yet to come.

I also wonder what the significance is of the grave not being ‘caved in’ yet (and thus the body not rotting fast). It seems weird to mention it if we’re not to take some sort of meaning from it…? Considering Natsuki’s husband’s new-found interest in transgressive sex… :scream:

I found this part amusing: 「落ち着いて。智臣くん、お姉ちゃんは私たちを無理矢理連れ戻すことはできないし、今はああしてさりげなく圧力をかけてくることしかできないんだから。まだ十分、ここでのんびり過ごしていられるよ」It’s the first time someone acknowledges that their misery is pretty self-inflicted. The Factory doesn’t actually have any way to force them to live a life they don’t want to live. It’s only their own desire to avoid confrontations that is forcing them. Though perhaps the idea that one can just withstand other people’s whinging is an overly Western perspective :woman_shrugging:t3: But wouldn’t this be an answer to discussion question 7? Just refuse to play along with the earthling game?

Natsuki’s attitude to her husband’s suggestion of incestuous rape is… uhm… interesting? You’d think she of all people would agree that it is morally wrong. Just because it happens all the time and people turn a blind eye to it, doesn’t make it ok to do something unethical! The way she justifies it is: もし実行したら、少なくとも化け物にはなれるだろう。How should we interpret that? The fact that her fingers start trembling and she hears that buzzing sound in her (‘broken’!) right ear immediately afterwards surely indicate that she is relating this to her own experience. Is it simply that she is speaking out of anger towards society instead of compassion for potential victims? Or is there something else behind it?

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I don’t think Natsuki believes ethics matter. Her experiences have taught her that adults habitually turn a blind eye (If I remember correctly she goes as far as to say that they’re supposed to?) and that being a victim is just something personal that doesn’t concern anyone else. No one has cared to save or protect her, so she’s not inclined to do so for others. She understands other people’s feelings on a rational level, but I don’t think she really empathizes with them. From a young age she even started suppressing feelings about herself, so I guess if she allowed herself to care about others’ feelings it would open the floodgates.

I didn’t take it as justification, but now that you mention it maybe it is. Carrying out his plan wouldn’t make him an alien, but it would make him a monster, so he would have achieved distancing himself from society in some way. But I took it as criticism too (although she doesn’t feel it’s her place to argue or stop him), that he’s not really moving in the direction of being an alien. I suppose the idea of her husband, the person she shares a home with, becoming a monster, is what may have triggered her trembling and the ringing in her ear. She may again be in close proximity to a monster, even if she’s not the intended victim.

Silkworks and insects of all sorts. They keep coming up. There’s already some symbolism revealed (how human homes remind her of the silkworm room, cocoons producing more factory workers) but I’m sure there’s more. I found it funny how the husband thought it such an outlandish idea to eat insects. I was already surprised by it a few chapters ago, so now I was like “how doesn’t he know it’s normal”? :grin:

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I asked a Japanese friend (who is from Tokyo) about this and he said that it’s not really normal across all of Japan. It’s more common in Nagano (where those scenes are set) and maybe generally in the countryside? But it’s not exactly common (at least from his perspective).
While we were at it, I asked him whether he had eaten insects and how he liked it, and he said that the grasshoppers are okay because they are boiled in sweet soy sauce so they just taste sweet and crunchy, but that he very much disliked bee larvae.

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Thanks for the Japanese point of view on it! I figured it wouldn’t be widespread across Japan, but that all Japanese would at least know it’s done? In any case yes, larvae sound (and look) particularly disgusting.

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The wrath I got from this was fairly traumatic. Again, I am so sorry for spoiling things for everyone.

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Oh no! I hope you didn’t see it as a dig! I just wanted to refer to that specific trigger warning without stating it outright, and figured this was the most descriptive yet safest way to do so.

Shit happens sometimes, no hard feelings! And in a way it was good that it did, because it allowed us to start using a much better spoiler warning system (that was long overdue tbh!) :slight_smile:

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Whee, just wanted to say I caught up! Just in time for the next week lol

I don’t really have much to add to the discussion but I’ve been really enjoying everyone’s opinions as well as the book of course. It’s really scratching that certain itch of a type of stories that are usually hard to find.

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Somehow, even though this week involved discussion of incest, this week still felt like a more relaxed week.

Just goes to show how intense last week was plot-wise, ha.

I find it hilarious that the first thing that Tomoya thought to do that was transgressive was to eat bugs. What is this, early 2000s reality TV? And then the subsequent let down when Yuu tells him, actually, lots of people eat bugs around here! Something about the absurdity of this exchanges strikes me as particularly comic. And then of course, it is even more hilarious (and terrifying) that the second thing was incest. Like, woah, that escalated quickly.

1. Do you believe that Yuu actually hates Natsuki? Why might this be the case?

I not sure about actively hates… but I think that she represents to Yuu a childhood that he is desperate to leave behind. Natsuki arrival is threatening to pull him back to his past and confront everything that happened. I also still think that there might some resentment about what happened between them. As we previously discussed, Yuu participation did not feel 100% and considering the slightly… off relationship between him and his mother, I wonder if the discovery led to some fallout that he might Natsuki for. I suspect that that for him, the easiest thing to do is simply to pretend all of it didn’t happen, and avoid Natsuki as much as possible. I was a bit surprised however that an entire month had passed without them really talking.

2.Once again we see significant differences between Natsuki and her husband even though they both share the same “宇宙人の目”. Aside from wanting to be brainwashed, how does Natsuki’s worldview contrast with Tomoya’s?

Not sure I have much to saw for this question, but I definitely think that Tomoya is going through his anarchist “burn it all down” phase. Whereas Natsuki sees conformity as a tradeoff: yes you must give yourself over to The Factory, but in exchange you are provided for and find acceptance.

3. Why is Tomoya able to get along so well with Natsuki? Why is he able to get along so well with Yuu?

Interesting question! I think the main reason is that in general neither demand anything of Tomoya, or pile expectations on him. In addition, I think that Yuu represents a clear link to Akishina and the “alien” world for Tomoya. So by extension I think that made him predisposed to like Yuu as well. While Yuu may have been somewhat skeptical with of Tomoya’s world view, this is the first time we are seeing more direct pushback.

Also the fact that Yuu has been avoiding Natsuki means that Tomoya was a convenient excuse for him to not get too close to her. No matter how he felt with at times.

4. In what ways could somebody go about becoming an “alien” in the eyes of society without hurting others? Would there be anything wrong with such behavior?

Well, hurting others is relative. There is physical harm, and then there is just being a general asshole. While I agree that there are a lot of bad, totally arbitrary social norms out there, there are lots that just allow us to co-exist in a society somewhat harmoniously.

Take small talk: sure it’s totally inane. Yes, something I feel like not engaging. But small talk also acts as a social lubricant, and can be the stepping stone to more meaningful relationship. Small talk is the only reason I know my neighbours. Yes it feels silly to comment on the amount of snow every time we are out shoveling (#CanadianProblems), but because of it, I am able to ask them to look after my cat when we are away, or when their daughter wanted to learn to play piano, I was able to offer my services.

In addition, seeing as we don’t live in a post-capitalist utopia, unless you go full “back to the land”, you still need to feed yourself and put a roof over your head, so work is a necessity. Otherwise, you are just taking advantage of someone else who is providing for you. So yeah… maybe if you managed to become fully self-sufficient, then I think its possible. Or if you manage to stick the right balance between being eccentric and being compassionate to others. But I think in most situations, someone is going to get hurt, or you will at least irritate a large amount of people.

Agree to this. She obviously was effected pretty strongly by the abuse she underwent - but I think she just sees it as part of The Factory. It was traumatic, yes, but from her point of view submission to The Factory has to be total. So there is no point in resisting. I don’t think she is fully aware that there are alternatives. When she did try to voice discomfort over what was happening, all she got was a healthy dose of victim-blaming from her mother (as well as disbelief). So from her point of view, adults can do whatever they want to others.

I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry at how little Tomoyo has thought through trying to have sex with his sibling. He doesn’t seem to give any mind to the fact that they will almost certainly not want to go through with the whole incest thing. But at least he was talked out of trying with his grandfather???

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I have to admit, I had no idea what to think when I finished reading this section. This is why I love reading everyone’s comments; they help steer me down different paths for consideration.

Bugs, Brainwashing, and Aliens

After reading everyone’s comments regarding Tomoya learning that people already do eat bugs, I started thinking: why was this not a bit of an “aha” moment? A lot of people in the world (and perhaps even in Japan) would be turned off by that. Shouldn’t that just go to show him that people can still live on this planet while having some differences that might go against the overall societal norm? It doesn’t even have to be as extreme as his “plan.” (I, too, had to read the sentence @omk3 pointed out to make sure I wasn’t interpreting anything off-base.) That sentence @Phryne pointed out, where Natsuki points out her husband is just getting himself riled up over nothing, applies. They’re allowing themselves to have all of this anxiety over The Factory when they could just move to an extremely rural place and live in peace.

In a way, both of them are already “brainwashed” by The Factory. They’re thinking of all these convoluted ways to distance themselves from “earthlings” when the path of least resistance would be to move far away and not tell anyone. I know that makes it sound far easier than it is: the two of them clearly have baggage from their childhoods that have never fully been unpacked (and perhaps been shoved far into a corner, never to be looked at again).

It also makes me wonder: what do they think it means to be an “alien”? Just doing the opposite of whatever an “earthling” would do? I don’t think that’s fully logical. If species on our planet purposefully harmed one another without any regard, they’d likely be extinct. An alien civilization also wouldn’t be able to function that way. I know humanity sucks (evidence for that only continues to pile up), but it’s interesting how some of their ideas are kind of half-formed. @omk3 pointed out that Tomoya acts like a rebellious teen. I think Yuu’s assessment is right: the two of them are still unchanged from their youths. (He only said that about Natsuki, but I figure it’s probably also the case with Tomoya). It’s kind of telling that the figure who Natsuki “learned” this alien stuff from was a plushie of an animal that exists on Earth. Even that “alien” can’t fully be separated from our planet.

Grandfather's Grave

Until the past is reconciled, ain’t no way that grandpa is rotting. It took a long time just for the topic to be broached. If he is going to rot, it’ll take some real reflection and discussion. Who knows if that will happen for any of our characters here (though I have some semblance of hope).

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Doesn’t that make you just as much of a slave of the Factory anyway? You’re still beholden to the Factory, just in the sense that you’re ‘forced’ to do the opposite of what the Factory demands. There’s still no independent thought involved that way… Makes you wonder to what extent Tomoya actually wants to be free and to what extent he’s just being contrarian.

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