Please remember to set this thread to “watching” in order to stay abreast of the discussion.
I’m reading along (I’ve read no further than the end of this week’s section)
I’m reading ahead (I’ve read beyond the end of this week’s section)
I’ll catch up soon (I haven’t yet finished last week’s section)
I’ve read this book already but I’m here for discussion
I have no intention of catching up or the club has already finished, but I’m using the forums as reference
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
What was your favorite new vocab word from this week’s reading?
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?
How do the different families and characters react to the truth of Natsuki’s living arrangements? Which reactions are the most harmful? What more do we learn about Natsuki’s mother and sister?
Is it healthy for Natsuki to have the support of her husband, or is his influence pernicious? What about Natsuki’s influence on her husband?
I was watching Aristocrats at the online Japanese Film Festival the other day, and I was surprised to find some parallels with this book. A main theme of the movie was (very mild movie spoiler:) exactly the very explicit and constant pressure from both family and peers to marry early and have children, as well as the open judging of the bride by the groom’s family. As I was watching I thought it portrayed more of an upper class problem (these were all wealthy families with long bloodlines) than a general Japanese society problem, but there is no indication that Natsuki’s and Tomoomi’s families are anything but ordinary. So if we take the book at face value, it would seem that the (book spoilers:) same undisguised pressure, demand really, spans across all of Japanese society? It’s not the wish for grandchildren that I found shocking, but the way parents, in-laws and even friends felt it was okay to openly pry into the couple’s most private affairs and not only have a vocal opinion on them but actually demand that they change or divorce, as if marriage is nothing more than a business contract between families. The “private” discussion of the in-laws about Natsuki’s reproductive capability was also indicative of how it seems to still be considered solely the wife’s duty to have children regardless of circumstances, and her own personal failure if this doesn’t happen. I really hope the situations described here are not indicative of Japanese society as a whole, but if that’s the case, Natsuki is really spot on with her whole “factory” metaphor.
The private chat with Kise was a very welcome surprise. She was basically a stranger to readers all this time, but now we finally got to see a little of her point of view. This candid talk with Natsuki was a long time coming. My heart warmed when I realized she always knew about what Natsuki had been going through, just hadn’t been in a position to assess it properly, being still a child at the time, and a bullied one at that. Then I sobered up a bit when she openly admitted than in protecting Natsuki she was basically protecting herself, because no one would want the sister of a murderer. Still, I’d like to think she -generally- meant well. She could have handled what she knew in any number of ways, but she chose to be discreet and (sort of) understanding. I wish she could have been the friend Natsuki needed, but it wasn’t to be.
I was wondering about that actually. Tomoomi is too flightly for me to understand, but Natsuki is constantly walking a tightrope between society and her escapism fantasies. I’m struggling to understand whether she speaks metaphorically when she talks about aliens and magic now she’s grown up, or if she half-believes it. Does she really still wonder whether she killed a witch that night? She even says herself that Pohapipinpobopia was a way of her brain to protect her, then seems to be convinced by her husband’s claim that she is indeed an alien. Unlike her husband, she seems to both understand very well how society works, and be very good at lying to herself to protect her sanity.
It’s heartwarming how her husband seems to be the only one who unconditionally accepts her (even after he hears she may have killed someone), but I’m not sure he’s good for her. She’s balancing between her escapism and her need to fit in, and her husband is firmly dragging her towards escapism. I wonder what tomorrow brings for them.
Natsuki’s mother’s involvement in her relationship is ehm… interesting And Tomoya’s mother sure has an interesting notion of what a ‘proper’ marriage is. It’s all right to fool around with other people, but heaven forbid you don’t have reproductive sex with your spouse! The way that the parents are rallying childhood friends to their cause and even going so far as to share intimate details of Tomoya and Natsuki’s relationship ‘troubles’ with them… wow! And where do Tomoya’s friends get the nerve calling Natsuki a ‘toxic wife’ for not doing more than 50% of the housework, when she is ostensibly earning the money in this relationship because Tomoya can’t even hold down a job!
I wonder how Japanese people experience this when they read it. To what extent does it ring true for them? EDIT: Thanks for your perspective, @omk3! I guess that way of thinking, that marriage is primarily a union of families, has been the default way of thinking all over the world for millennia. If anything, the current western way of looking at it is the odd one out!
Kise’s perspective on Natsuki’s abuse is also mindboggling. でもほら、奈月ちゃんって、あのときまだ子供で、女の子にとって『見初められる』ことがどんなに素晴らしいことかわかってなかったから、もしかしたらなって。What. the. hell. She is letting her own hangups about not being noticed by boys when she was younger cloud her judgment.
I thought it was very interesting how Natsuki recognised that her notion of being an alien was actually a coping mechanism.
I considered the conversation that ensued after Natsuki’s murder confession a hate crime against Japanese learners 「[…] 地球星人を殺すのは、人間がネズミを殺すのときっと大差ないんだろうね。それで？」「それでって？」「それから？」「それだけ」「なんだ」Ginny Tapley Takemori didn’t even bother translating it
@omk3 In response to your answer to question 5: I have also wondered to what extent they were speaking literally and actually believe they’re honest to God aliens, and to what extent they use it as a shorthand for ‘person who sees through the workings of The Factory and doesn’t want to conform’. Though considering how completely unhinged Tomoya seems, it may well be mostly the former
Of course not. It seems I keep getting misunderstood. I’m starting to accept that maybe written expression is not my strong point. But since you ask, if I was Natsuki’s friend, first of all I’d try to listen to her without judging and criticising. I’d try to help her find out what she might really regard as a happy life - marrying a “normal” man because society expects you to is definitely the wrong direction. However, she married Tomoomi for this exact reason after all, in order to look like she fits in. They happened to have more of a relationship than they intended, and she definitely needs accepting people in her life, but Tomoomoi with his erratic behaviour has been also causing extra problems where there would be none, and encouraging her into retreating into her childhood fantasies, thus staying in constant conflict with both society and herself. This is a work of fiction and I’m mostly just watching the story unfold, but as a friend I’d probably suggest she move far away from her family, maybe even Japan if she finds society there oppressive, and try to make a life for herself that she enjoys. I’d suggest that she try and find likeminded people (there may be only one in her immediate circle now, but there’s plenty out there) and surround herself with friends. If a romantic relationship happens to develop naturally, good, but plenty of people live their whole life without marrying, having children, or even having sex. It’s her own choice to make and no one else’s.
I didn’t mean to make you feel misunderstood. I’m just going through a thought experiment. I definitely agree that some place far from her family would be better. The fact that Natsuki doesn’t seem to have considered that possibility surprises me. Why would Tomoomi allow himself to be beat up? Why would they allow their families to hold them hostage at all? Are there aspects of society so deeply ingrained in our brains that we can’t even comprehend life without them?
I absolutely loved this part It’s nice that the husband supports Natsuki so much but I also find kind of worrying how fast he changes his mind.
Also on another note, I’m having some trouble with this sentence from the part where 静ちゃん is talking to Natsuki: 「分担はいいけど分断は変だよ。ルムシェアみたいにくらしてるんでしょ？」.
I don’t really get the difference between 分担 and 分断, and the dictionaries didn’t help at all
This gave me pause too. I think it’s the difference between sharing the work/doing one’s share of the work and doing the work separately (each one doing all of the housework that applies to themselves, rather than part of the housework for the whole household).
This week ended on a high note with a great scene between Natsuki and Tomoomi. I also thought that the scene with the private chat between Natsuki and Kise was a great piece of writing. In other words, a great second half (I didn’t like the first half that much because it was pushing it all a bit too far for me).
Yes, I agree. I didn’t get the impression that Kise understands what Natsuki went through at all. To me it seems more like she is completely missing the point of what Natsuki is dealing with. It might be understandable that she misunderstood the situation as a child, but as a grownup she should realise that Natsuki might have gone though something quite horrible, but she’s not showing the kind of empathy that I would expect in that case.
Did this mother-in-law seriously say that affairs are “men’s resourcefulness?” Holy crud, I could not believe my eyes when I read that bit; I had to read her dialogue a few times to get what she was saying in the section. Casually throwing out how her husband’s cheated on her a bunch. Just 100% no. Gotta love that marriage counseling is thrown out as a possibility because their marriage isn’t the way either set of parents wants it, but individual counseling is never uttered, especially after everything that went down with her husband and his father.
That conversation made me think about life paths. Both Kise and Natsuki had troubled childhoods (one more intensely so, though I don’t want to turn this into a trauma contest), but what they ended up obsessing over were completely opposite things. Natsuki experienced incredibly adult things at a young age, and it shaped her into being someone who wants to avoid anything related to love, sex, etc. Kise, meanwhile, took (in her mind) a very long time to get to experience what she thinks Natsuki did. This led her to not only want the typical life that everyone is trying to force onto Natsuki, but to be completely fanatical about it.
At the same time, there’s a selfishness to their conversation that I can’t ignore. Kise casts herself as Cinderella waiting for the day her prince will come. What does that make Natsuki, then? Like Natsuki, she hasn’t shed the views she’s held onto since childhood. I can see how one could argue she’s trying to help Natsuki in her own way, but the way Natsuki describes her sister (creepily smiling) makes it seem like she’s deranged, which I kind of think she is. Like others mentioned, even if she thought Natsuki and Igasaki-sensei were “kissing,” how can she in her adult mind not think now that such a thing was vile? How has she not been able to question it? From Natsuki’s perspective, she’d say that her sister is in too deep with The Factory, and I’d honestly have a hard time disagreeing.
I’m on the fence here. I think it’s important that Natsuki has someone in her life who understands and supports her. But what does that mean, exactly? I think Natsuki views her husband as that kind of figure in her life, but I feel like he’s only half of that. I do think he understands her, in that he identifies with her lack of desire in conforming to a “normal” marriage and family life. The part where she mentions that all of her thoughts around Pohapipinpobopia are likely because she has a mental illness was telling. After reading other people’s responses, I do think she’s self-aware and uses those as short-hands/crutches. It’s probably easier for her to believe that she’s an alien from another planet, but ultimately I think she knows that’s not really true. Her finally saying out loud that she killed someone cemented that for me. Her husband…I’m less sure about, in all honesty. We haven’t really gotten a deep dive into his perspective regarding all that, but for him to not even bat an eye when she confesses to murder…I don’t know. @omk3 laid out what they’d do if they were Natsuki’s friend, and in a similar vein I really think she needs someone who can hear out all of the things she’s gone through and say, “That’s a lot of baggage that you can’t work out by yourself. Why don’t we not only try and get you a therapist to help you with all that, but also see if we can piece together what it is you truly want out of life.” Her husband’s not going to support her in that way. He is, after all, someone who had to be told that having sex with his grandfather without his consent was wrong. I find it odd that, despite using the すり抜け site to find one another, they never tried using it to find like-minded friends. I suppose that wasn’t the point of them using the site, but then they could abandon the friends that continue to pressure them.
Is she healthy for him? Probably not. She inadvertently sent him deeper into a bad place while also not stepping in to stop his father from beating him senseless. It’s just an all-around bad situation that I don’t think will get fixed.
I found that this chapter Muarata was able to create a strong sense of horror from the increasing pressure from everyone around her to have a baby. One thing that I liked was that the implicit pressure to conform became explicit in a way that made the earthlings themselves feel somewhat alien. We have talk about whether she is barren from the parents in law, the sister acknowledging that “the whole planet” would not let her get away without having a baby. These overt admissions to the rules that are governing our way were a good way of making Natsuki seeming like the only sane one (for recognising the baby factor outright for what it is) and giving somewhat of a horror tinge to the entire situation, where escape does seem like the only solution.
I still have issues with the incest situation as an inciting incident from a believability stand point, but I think I’ll expand on that once I’ve finished with this book. In any case, the fallout did a good job of walking the line between being over the top and believable, even if I think the set up was not.
I was especially sad when Shizuka got roped into it as well. Whatever issues Natsuki might have had, she at least got some legitimate enjoyment out of her friends (even if she wasn’t able to talk about her problems), so to have that taken away from her as well felt especially galling. I just can’t even imagine having my family do something like that to me, unless they really thought I was doing serious harm to myself. Even then!
As for Kise, I was sad to see that she had mostly kept quiet for her own sake, and not for Natsuki - nor did seem to really comprehend just how traumatic the experience was for Natsuki. But even if I don’t like her as a person, I aprpeciate that Murata also fleshed out why Kise is the way she is, so that she doesn’t feel two-dimension. Perhaps with a better mother, they might have been better able to cope with what they went through and be closer. At least Kise didn’t rope their mother into it, as that would have been especially cruel. I kind of wished that Natsuki had been able to stand up to her and tell her that actually, what happened with the teacher was abuse and she shouldn’t romanticize it. But I also don’t blame her for basically shutting down during the confrontation.
I’m on the fence about the husbands influence at this point. I really thought that the scene in which he is willing to sacrifice himself for Natsuki’s sake really sweet and I was willing to forgive him for his stupidness last chapter. But yeah… I think like others said, I’m not sure that his influence is actually allowing her to work through what happened in a healthy way. On the flip side, I think that escaping her parents is probably exactly why she needs at the moment to grow. So yeah… I feel that he is pushing her to do the right thing (getting away) for the wrong reasons (disconnecting even further from reality).
… Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who spent way to much deciphering this section. It’s passages like this that really make me question whether I’ve actually learnt any Japanese, ha!