地球星人 🌏 Book Club ・ Week 5

地球星人 ・ Week 5

Week 5 1 January 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. Describe how Natsuki’s habit of escapism escalates throughout this section

  5. This section may have been difficult to read. Is there value in reading it anyway? Is it something that should be allowed in a WK bookclub?

1 Like

It breaks my heart that her own mother doesn’t believe her… And she even uses the same line of reasoning to discount Natsuki’s experiences as Natsuki herself had used to dissuade herself from telling anyone:


It also makes me so sad to read how Natsuki’s ignoring her own alarm bells for fear of being ‘impolite’ or hurting his feelings.

Another thing that makes me sad is how Natsuki has framed her coping strategy of (what looks like) dissociation as ‘magic’. I can see how that notion makes sense to her, as it must feel empowering to her in the moment itself, but damn…

Just a whole lot of sadness all around :slightly_frowning_face:


Glad to be back. Happy New Year, everyone!

I read the whole thing a week ago, as if we didn’t have a break, and then had to resist reading ahead - I didn’t want whatever I read next to influence this week’s discussions. I wrote down my comments right when I finished reading, when everything was still fresh (although it still is).

My thoughts on this week's reading

So I suppose I got my answer on what would happen if she told on Igasaki - I was surprised that Natsuki decided to confide to her mother (good for you Natsuki for trusting your instincts and not being fooled into thinking that that was normal teacher behaviour), and was really shocked by the mother’s reaction. Even if you place no trust on your child, even if you think the worst of them, how can you not even entertain the idea that they may actually be in danger? The mother’s reaction was the worst possible one. Not only did she make sure that Natsuki would never confide in her again, but she also made Natsuki doubt herself, thinking that she might be the one being dirty instead of the teacher, thus making her more vulnerable to further approaches. Just disgusting.

The はい、わかりました。ごめんなさい。repetition was so powerful and heartbreaking.

And of course the inevitable happened (not the best thing to be reading on Christmas). I had been expecting it more or less, but it was still dreadful, and very hard to read. The way he engineered her coming to his house showed him as a master manipulator. Natsuki believes herself to be strong (and she really is, and I hope she continues to be through all this, but she’s also a child and basically on her own), so naturally she’d step up to protect her friend. She could have run to the toilets to check on her friend of course, or alert someone else before going at least, but judging from the fact that she had been waiting for her friend alone I’m guessing she’s not really close to anyone else, and I’m sure the creep would have found a way to make sure she wouldn’t anyway.

And then, somehow even more shocking than that scene, was the family scene. What’s Japan’s stance on corporal punishment? It can’t be acceptable to keep kicking your child in the back even if she had done something worse than object to a change of holiday plans. I can see now that Kise is just copying the mother, at least as far as Natsuki is concerned. The two are too much alike. And my suspicions that the father is just a bystander in all this seem to be confirmed. He seems to get no say in anything, and to have accepted that role. Who knows, he may be leading an exciting double life that keeps him fulfilled. But in this family he seems to be nobody. Natsuki would probably get the same treatment if she just went along with the elder women of the clan, but since she occasionally makes her opinion known, she is bullied into submission. I’m sure there must be a story there to explain the horrible parenting, but I’m more interested in how Natsuki copes with all this. Will she really not get to see Yuu (who happily seems to be still doing okay despite my fears)? Will she stay around and keep being exposed to Igasaki’s advances? She really needs all the magic help she can get.

I wonder why she was prepared to hang up the phone when she called Yuu if his mother answered. Are the two families on bad terms? Why wouldn’t it be okay to be calling her cousin? There’s much we don’t know I feel.

I may be wrong/misremembering, but my impression was that Natsuki was scared of what he might do if she resisted him, rather than afraid of hurting his feelings. She did trust her alarm bells (most of the time, her mother had done enough damage by inserting some doubt in there), but her alarm bells were also telling her that not complying might be worse for her.

Too many spoiler tags otherwise...

I reread the scene (woohoo :confounded:) and had a look at all the reasons Natsuki had for not resisting. I think there is an escalation going on:


➝ Natsuki wants to rescue her friend and feels confident that she will be safe, because of her magical powers.


➝ I read a concern for politeness into this (“I am the one who is dirty, it would be rude to treat him with suspicion when he is being so kind and cheerful”), even though her intuition tells her he’s dangerous. All that has happened at this point, is him telling her he would teach her a special lesson. The last time he did that was with the sanitary napkin; something her mother had specifically told her was ‘perfectly normal’. So I think at this point in the escalation she is mostly concerned with not making rash accusations.


➝ What would happen if she ‘offended’ him? I thought this tied into the previous quote. If she assumes she is the one who is dirty (as she had been told by her mother), the act of rejecting him would be an implicit accusation that he had obscene intentions, which would be an insult to him if he turned out to be beyond reproach after all. This is the first hint we get that she is scared he may become violent, but I think she fears potential violence as a consequence of her insulting him through her non-compliance, not as a consequence of the non-compliance itself.


➝ Here it starts to tip into outright fear of violence. He has started getting angry with her as opposed to being ‘kind’ and ‘cheerful’. She doesn’t quite see it for what it is yet (him dominating her into submission, to get what he wants); she still feels like she must have caused his anger by being rude (telling him she was keen to study, yet rejecting this ‘extra tuition’).

So at this point he has gone further than he had before. Up to now he had always been kind and cheerful in ‘teaching’ her, but this is the first time he has become openly threatening. He wraps his hands around her neck and says 真面目にお勉強しないと、先生かもしれないよ? 先生のこと、らせたくないよね?

So at this point, Natsuki is driven purely by terror and self-preservation:




And ultimately she completely shuts down emotionally and dissociates.

I think this is a really well-crafted scene in a really well-crafted larger narrative. It shows the ‘frog in the pan of boiling water’ effect that Igasaki makes use of to get Natsuki to comply. Over the course of many months he has slowly upped the ante, slowly becoming more and more threatening, but each step being small enough that Natsuki was going to be likely to chalk it down to “he has always been cheerful and friendly, so I must have been the one with a dirty mind” or “The only reason he is being angry/scary is because I have offended him”, etc. I imagine it is an accurate portrayal of how predators operate, in selecting their victims, in grooming them, in the threats they make to keep them quiet after the assault… It’s all very insidious.


Thank you for taking the trouble to reread and list all these quotes in order. Your analysis was excellent.
Something struck me as I read them again. By the end, the double damage her mother caused her is made painfully clear.
Yes, she made her doubt her own instincts by accusing her of having a dirty mind and defending the teacher’ actions. But there’s also damage that has been long in the making. With her constant criticism and disdain, she has made Natsuki feel in danger of being “discarded” if she doesn’t please adults. With the randomness of her explosions she has prepared Natsuki to regard strange and abusive behaviour from adults as a fact of life. So when Igasaki acts strangely, even though she does sense danger, she feels that the danger of displeasing him and being “discarded” is greater. She thinks of not angering adults as her survival strategy. It’s not politeness exactly, but it is going along for the sake of fitting in, and that’s not too different now that I think about it.


My thoughts on this week’s reading:

Natsuki's mother

The mother’s treatment towards Natsuki is slowly getting worse and now we can truly say that she is abusive. It started when the mother cared more about her sister and neglected Natsuki. Then we got to know that the mother is always talking bad about her in front of relatives and neighbours, and we found out that the mother often hits her in the head, saying things like “Since you’re so stupid, maybe it’ll make you smarter”, or “Because it’s empty, it makes a nice sound”. Then it escalates to this week’s reading where she got “excited” and kept hitting Natsuki with the slipper over and over.

It’s really weird that she trusts the teacher more than her own child, saying that it’s Natsuki who has a dirty mind. How does that even make sense? So then it made me think that, just like what other people have mentioned, maybe Natsuki is not her own child. If that’s true, it makes sense that she behaves this way towards Natsuki.

The scene

It’s so painful to read it.

Igasaki: “Shizuka-chan is at my house.”
Me: “Oh nononoono.”
Natsuki: “I have to be by Shizuka-chan’s side! I’ll be okay because I’m a mahou shoujo!”
Me: “Oh nonononono”
Narrator: “During summer, Igasaki’s parents is on overseas business trip.”
Me: :scream::scream::scream:

Murata did a good foreshadowing with the 「はい、わかりました。ごめんなさい。」because that mantra becomes the only thing she could say to Igasaki. At this point, I wish we can put a stop on this by having her telling the adults and let the adults take care of it. But she didn’t have any ally in the family. She did try to report it to an adult and it didn’t work.

And it’s so heartbreaking how the vow she made with Yuu became something like a curse.

The passage that left a deep impression on me:


The official English translation is:
“How long did I have to survive for? Would I ever be able to live without constantly trying to survive?
Looking at Mom, looking at Mrs. Shinozaki, I couldn’t imagine it. The thought I would have to struggle for an eternity made me dizzy.”

I thought 生き延びる simply means “to survive”, but over here it’s being used to convey the “struggle to live”.

The darkness

It disturbs me how much Natsuki is obsessed with the darkness, and trying to look for it in her everyday life. She seeks comfort in the darkness created from clenching her thumb, from the back of her eyelids, etc. It almost feels like she actually wants to disappear into the darkness.

About reading this in the book club

I did find this section very hard to read and I never would have expected that one of the first books that I read in Japanese would handle such serious subjects and go to such dark places, but I definitely believe books like this one should be allowed in the book club. These things happen in real life and discussion about them should not be blocked. It is good to talk with others about serious issues such as these. I hope that the warnings beforehand were clear enough to make reading books like this possible.

About Natsuki

After reading this section, I am starting to think that Natsuki’s strength might be working against her. I wonder if things would have gone differently if she hadn’t stayed calm at Igasaki’s house or if she had been more emotional with her mother. Maybe Igasaki would have aborted his plans if she had made a scene, or even if he had turned violent, it might have given Natsuki at least more ‘proof’ that she is being abused. And maybe her mother would have been less quick to dismiss her story if she had been in tears and emotional instead of trying to calmly describe what happened to her. Sometimes it is good to show your weakness and emotions.

It seems to me that the book even suggests this through Kise: she is more emotional and makes a huge scene when she is upset and she is treated much better and taken more seriously than Natsuki.

Someone suggested in an earlier week that Igasaki very specifically chose Natsuki and I was a little doubtful at that point, but I take that back now. Natsuki has a drive to be an obedient member of society and she is the strong and silent type. For Igasaki, obedient and silent is exactly what he needs :disappointed:

About Natsuki

I agree that showing emotions is very important, so that other people can understand you, but I kinda doubt that this would’ve worked with her mother. In the last scene of this part she actually showed some emotions by screaming at her family (which is something that Kise also did basically everytime she was part of a scene), but it backfired hard.
It might’ve worked better in Igasaki’s case, since he doesn’t seem as much like a ticking emotional time bomb, but on the other side he is way to calculated and knows, what he has to do/say to get what he wants.

Both her mother and sister and Igasaki are completely manipulating Natsuki, just in very different ways and sadly both of these “approaches” work.

This week

Whenever you think “oh, it can’t get worse than that, right?”, it immediately gets worse. Everything just kept on escalating. However this does raise the question whether it keeps on getting worse or (hopefully) some good things will happen to Natsuki. My hope is, that her dad will eventually help her out at least a bit but knowing Murata, that probably won’t happen.

@Neba summarized it pretty well:


I found this to be an amazing piece of artful writing. In the first week we got a little hunch of something being somewhat out of place, and then week after week it escalated and escalated and escalated… Just like you said, every time I thought “Now that must be the absolute worst”, it escalated more and faster. Painful to read, but a masterpiece in my opinion.


I agree, the writing is great. Everything builds on top of what was to create a certain mood, feeling, impression.

After this section, I decided to forego the schedule and go at my own pace. The writing instilled such a sense of foreboding that I couldn’t bear the thought of dragging out watching things unfold over months. :upside_down_face:


I have a lot of thoughts on this portion, and can definitely see why people have read ahead - though my reading speed is slow enough that I’m struggling to catch up, so I likely won’t be doing that, ha. I have a lot to say, so buckle in…

On Natsuki's escapism

The line that really broke me is:


Just the way that it’s as if her entire system is shutting down. And then the repeated response. I was lucky enough that my eReader page division keep the paragraph all on one page, so when I reached it, I was immediately struck by how the all hiragana section just made it stick out even more, just visually.

When she talks to Yuu, I was struck by how she says that she doesn’t know whether the story is true or not. That seems to indicate to me that previously she somewhat knew that her and Yuu’s stories were make believe, even if she took it quite seriously, but now that line is becoming blurred.

What I also found interesting is that she is unable to dissacosiate when she protests about the change of Obon plans. It’s almost like precisely because she was active in this situation, she felt the pain even more. This makes me particularly sad about what she might take away from that lesson.

Certainly Igasaki seems to count on this passivity based on the way he preys on her - he also takes advantage of the fact that she wants to protect her friends, which makes me hate him even more. The entire set up made me feel that Natsuki is probably not the first little girl he’s preyed on. It’s just so calculated.

On the mother

Wow, what a horrific mother. My heart was broken when she didn’t take Natsuki claims seriously. I was especially struck by how she completely missed Natsuki mention of the sanitary napkin and instead zeroed in on the fixing of posture. I mean both incidents were bad, but the second is so wierd and creepy, that the fact the Mom completely ignores it is pretty damning. It’s as if she is so completely convinced her child is a failure, that anything that seems to confirm her criticisms must be true. My heart breaks for the Natsuki. This is even worse than if she had said nothing at all.

On darkness and trauma in fiction

The final discussion question made me think of a New Yorker article I read recently called “The Case Against the Trauma Plot”. In it, the author argues that the trauma plot flattens characters so that they are only defined by their past. She also argues that it ignores the diverse ways that people manage and process trauma. It’s not all flashback and panic attacks: many people come out of pretty traumatic childhoods without the ptsd symptoms that fiction gives us. In addition, if we believe that trauma is something you can never escape, then we risk fetishizing it and foreclosing growth.

Similarly, I got recommended by the algorithm this morning this (spoiler filled) Vox Article on the writing of Hanya Yanagihara (who is also mentioned in the New Yorker article). In this one the author argues that the trauma plots often portray suffering as somehow beautiful, and diminishing the value of being safe and happy.

I haven’t actually read any of Yanigara’s books, so I can’t really assess whether I agree wih the article’s damning assessment, but I have been thinking about how both of these articles apply to 地球星人. First, I definitely don’t think that Murata sees suffering as beautiful. The magical elements are a coping strategy: when she lies to Yuu about the alien coming to her room, it’s because she wants to desperately get away. The abuse is very much meant to make us feel uncomfortable.

Also, this is not about a mysterious back story. We are experiencing the trauma in real time, and so far, the narrative does point to the future, not the past. Without having finished the book it’s hard to know how whether these incidents will continue to define her: but I hope that Natsuki will grow up to be more than her abuse. I think the relationship with Yuu is helping with that. We see her capacity to love, her vivid imagination. I want these threads to continue to develop. I don’t think trauma is being used as a lazy way to define her as a character.

And I do think there is value in fiction depicting traumatic experiences, including child abuse, because it does happen, and fiction is one of the most powerful tools we have to be able to grapple with things that are otherwise unfathomable. But I agree that there is a fine line between trauma porn which flattens all of humanity into our pain, and that which acknowledges trauma and leaves room for the diversity of ways we cope, or any room for joy.

That indeed is where Murata succeeded so strongly with コンビニ人間: yes, it’s a story about a woman struggling with the judgments of society, but it is also about reclaiming the joy of working at the convenience store. She realizes that no one can tell her what should make her happy, and makes the reader realize that they too have been complicit in wanting her to "grow’ when in reality she was happiest at the convenience store.

So far, I don’t think Murata has crossed into the land of voyeurism, in part because of how uncomfortable those sections of abuse feel, and how magical the first chapter felt. Her prose, while explicit does not linger unnecessary long on the abuse. It’s horrific, but I don’t think gratuitous. The shortness of the book might also be a boon - for what it’s worth, Yanigara’s book is apparently over 700 pages, so I can understand that people might find that more trying.

But I’ll see how I feel later! It’s definitely an interesting question, and I don’t think there a clear answer on where the line is always.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the links to those articles! Some very interesting thoughts and perspectives.


Just want to say your response and that article gave me some interesting things to think about, and I’m really curious to consider this book in that framework as the weeks unfold.

Also, it was really well written! Yet another example of why I find these bookclubs so valuable. Through responses like these I’ve come to appreciate and understand this book in ways far deeper than I did my first read-through.


Thanks! It took me a long time to type out (should have used my computer, not my phone, ha), but I enjoyed doing it. I’m definitely interested on hearing other peoples thoughts as part of the threads of later weeks - I realize that me being behind makes it difficult for others to respond without giving any spoilers!


Finished reading this week yesterday and figured I’d give myself a day before responding.

Bullet Point Reaction to "The Scene"
  • GIRL do NOT go over his house! Go and see if she’s really not by the bathroom. No? You’re gonna save her with your magic? Oh Lord…
  • Uh-huh, I bet Shizuka “went home.” Girl was never there. This a-hole…
  • NO SPECIAL LESSON. I REPEAT, we do NOT want a special lesson.
  • ::decides to look up ごっくん::
    ::regrets looking up ごっくん::
  • His fat…I don’t think that’s his finger…
  • Nomouthnomouthnomouthnomouth!
  • ::just me cringing in anxiety as I read, trying my best not to glance at the next page::
  • ::audible whining after reading the part that comes after her vow with Yu::
  • Yogurt…this poor child… :sob:
  • Twisting it so you did her the favor? I lack strong enough words for this abhorrent man.
  • NO はい NO はい NO はい! We ain’t coming back to this man’s house!
  • Oh Lord PLEASE make sure this girl goes to her grandparents’ house for お盆.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t read this book before bed, or else I spend the night thinking about it when I should be sleeping. This was very much a problem for this week’s reading. I literally woke up several times in the middle of the night thinking about the word ぬるり. Sign of compelling writing or that I’ve lost it? Possibly both.

I loved everyone’s responses to this section. @Phryne’s analysis was excellent, as well as @omk3’s response. I definitely agree with @wiersm that this section really shows that Natsuki having strength and continually needing to rely on just herself and her “magic” is a major drawback. I have hope that it could be an aspect of her that she can draw from down the road to help her heal, but considering this isn’t even halfway through the book yet, I’ll hold off on being too optimistic.

Natsuki's Father

Her father not doing anything as her mother kicked her and dragged her up the stairs (as well as let the child go the whole day not eating anything) really comes off as a commentary on absentee fathers. Even when he’s literally right there and just said something, the scene plays out in a way that really wouldn’t be different if he wasn’t there at all. It’s like in the first chapter when Natsuki asks if he’s going to go over to Kise, and he at first responds something along the lines of “No, it’s fine.” What is his role in this family? Considering the mother has a part-time job, the obvious answer is “main bread winner.” He isn’t the first to help his child when she’s ill, he doesn’t step in to protect his child when she’s being hurt or to calm her down. To be frank, he’s not much of a parent at all. Will we ever learn any more about him? Odds are we won’t; he doesn’t play much of a role in Natsuki’s life, despite living under the same roof as her and the rest of her family. The question is, why did he even start a family if he doesn’t seem interested in any of them all that much (including the one he was born into)? Makes me think that Natsuki’s theories aren’t so off: she has two parents who clearly don’t love her, yet still went ahead and had her. I can understand why Natsuki sees the world the way that she does.

Trauma in Fiction

It’s funny that @AmomentOfMusic brought up that article; I’ve been watching N.K. Jemisin’s (author) Masterclass on Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing, and she also discusses writing trauma. She comes from a psychology background (has a Master’s), and she argues that typically media portrays trauma in a very limited way, when in reality it can be exhibited in all kinds of ways, even appearing as if the traumatized person isn’t “traumatized” at all (when of course it’s just that we may not be recognizing it).

I get what the article’s saying, but I think it’s more a matter of “how well is this being portrayed” more than simply “the presence of trauma.” The writer’s complaints seem to be that “trauma” is hamfisted into everything, probably in an attempt to make a character “more interesting.” I don’t think this book is a case of just plopping in traumatic things for the sake of doing so. This week’s section very much points to that: what happens the next day, after Natsuki goes through what is unarguably a very traumatic thing? She decides that she wants orange juice and goes to get it out of her bag. She thinks about how she wants to take a bath. She doesn’t try to go back to sleep; she doesn’t sit in despair and replay what happened to her over and over. Murata avoids those stereotypes of the traumatic individual. And yet, how do we know that what happened truly affected her? I’d argue it’s when Natsuki repeatedly yells 「いやだ」after overhearing the family’s conversation. We already know this is something she’d never do; she worried earlier about her lack of response to her mother. I think it’s these choices that make the “trauma” believable. Natsuki also isn’t just “trauma”; to be honest, she’s quite imaginative, considering she crafted an entire story for a plush hedgehog. I agree with @AmomentOfMusic’s other points on how Murata avoids the pitfalls the article describes, as well. The major scene for this week was relatively short, with most of it being build up that something bad was about to occur.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a story exploring how a character feels about the hardships they’ve had to deal with in life. I agree that people are more than their traumas, but those still play a role in how people perceive the world around them. I do think a level of nuance is needed in depicting that well, but that’s kind of the case for anything, really. Ultimately, there’s room for stories that depict both people overcoming their traumas and those festering in them, since I imagine there are people out there who engage in both.

As for the book club reading something like this, I think it’s great. Not just because I’m enjoying the book and people’s responses, but because it makes me feel like I’ve reached a level of Japanese where I can read about complicated subjects and pick apart the text for more insight into what was written. That’s a pretty valuable skill. Reading darker material as a whole can be valuable, for similar reasons that were already mentioned. For me, it’s a reminder that people have all sorts of things that could be going on in their lives. It also makes me think about what I would do: what would I say to a child who may have a predator or abuser in their life? How could I try and protect them? Honestly, there’s value to reading all kinds of fiction, but I love books, so of course I’d think that. :grin:

Yikes, I wrote a lot. Hope it’s at least semi-coherent.


I’m with you there :smile:

The book also seems to be quite a bit about the obligation to conform to society’s norms (Natsuki’s theories) and that might just be the case here: he has to have a family because that’s expected of him. But I’m also very curious if we’ll learn more about the father. There are some very subtle hints that he might have a personal history too, but it could just as well be that I’m seeing hints that aren’t there and that we’ll not see much of him at all in the rest of the book…

Yes, it is! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! This book club is great :smiley: