Convenience Store Woman
Sayaka Murata
published 2016
written 2 nov 2023

There is something fundamental about the pursuit of nonconformity and being original for the sake of your own identity that seems to resonate really quite close with a lot of people—and understandably so, as it is what aides in original pioneering by looking through lenses of people who previously hadn't an outlet to display themselves. But even in that space, with generosity owed, there is little that pushes past that kind of blanket statement in this relatively short novel.

Without a doubt, there is plenty here that displays unique perspectives, divergent lines of thinking with a foresight that can be at times unexpected, and the comfortability that can be felt in a space known so well to one's self. Keiko, as the main character filling that role, is a foil to nearly everything around her; in its earliest moments and opening steps towards conflict, its exploration of the thoughts of a person so clearly an anomaly, an outsider that fits in only with a system they accept, is absolutely an appealing start.

In that way, then, it serves as a good self-portrait, solitary and unmoving without need for other opinions. And simultaneously, its lucent, extraordinarily opaque writing compliments it all, very rarely indulgent for its own sake; it only becomes even brighter when there's that scintillating in the mind of its lead.

But at that very state is where it falters most, since even in its confrontational beatnik leans, it never pushes past simply stating that that is being felt. When Keiko's sister, acquaintances, and Shiraha give her any kind of alternative push (especially in the fervently unlikable case of the last), it simply nods towards something, a later escalation without giving meaning to her situation, what's happening to her in the moment. There's very little subtlety or room to move as well—and while it matches with Keiko's energy, there's subsequently a lack of unexpected turns, or alternate interpretations giving any more depth.

And part of that is what gives the ending so little weight and appeal, a return to what Keiko wants without truly saying much from her perspective; even in the case of its final, argumentative closing stride, it still feels docile. She returns to the convenience store and acknowledges her own uniqueness, because there has been nothing else to point towards anything else.

It simply results in something inconsequential, a statement of a unique outlook that has little else to say outside of recognizing its tenets. There could've been so much here to explore and dive into, since its perspective is so clearly deserving of more room to stretch, and much more space to inhabit. Instead, it rather coldly harps on its outsider narrative, not moving anywhere else with its promising start and well-illustrated artistic premise.

light 2 / 5
created by hand, by nat!

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