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Review: No Longer Human (Vol. 01)

No Longer Human (Vol.01)

Author: Osamu Dazai
Manga-ka: Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2011

Synopsis: “In honor of the 100th birthday of Osamu Dazai, Usamaru Furuya retells Dazai’s most important work, No Longer Human, in modern-day Tokyo, where modern vices can bring ruin to the self-loathing. Yozo Oba is a young man originally from a well-off family from Japan’s far north and a troubled soul incapable of revealing his true self to others. A weak constitution and the lingering trauma from some abuse administered by a relative has forced him to uphold a facade of hollow jocularity since high school.”

No Longer Human was a breath of fresh air after my recent completion of Drops of God (Vol.01). While the latter wasn’t bad, it definitely lacked the oomph that I’ve come to expect and anticipate of Vertical titles. There was no shortage of that here. As far as Usamaru Furuya’s work goes, No Longer Human nestles nicely between Genkaku Picasso and Lychee Light Club. It’s a compelling look into the most private and hidden elements of a person’s psyche, all told through symbolism, cynicism and unapologetic depictions of sex and despair.

Volume one opens with Usamaru Furuya self-inserting himself into the story as he comes across a digital diary belonging to one Yozo Oba. Drawn in by morbid curiousity, readers and Usamaru are thrown into a first-person tale of a young man’s fall from class favourite to a downtrodden, aged looking twenty-five year old. Volume one takes us only part way through this previewed journey but sets more than its share of stones in place.

More important than what actually happens in the story is how Yozo perceives and internally reacts to it. I was impressed with how singular the focus remains all the way through. The story never strays from Yozo, proving that there can be more than enough depth in one individual to keep you reading. His interactions with other characters feel fleeting. Those few moments we do feel a connection between him and someone else – such as with a hostess near the volume’s end or a group of activists early on – only seem to foreshadow darker points in his life. Even after only one book, I was already beginning to feel I understood his cast-aside attachments to anything. Why bother?

Yozo’s dark and introverted personality creates a sharp distance between himself, readers and those in his life but our first introduction is likely to ring true with a lot of people. How many times have we all acted in ways that didn’t actually reflect what we were thinking or feeling just to be accepted? It can become so second-nature to act ‘accordingly’ in a situation or group that you don’t even notice the puppet-strings that social pressure attach. Yozo’s observations and disdain towards them, blame of which falls acutely to his Father for a moment, make for an empathetic approach that’s easy to take steps further.

What we get in No Longer Human is the class clown, art student turned bomb-plotting activist for the heck of it – a young man who seeks the momentary solaces of sex with strangers and alcohol. He easily learns how to use those around him for money when indifference towards life detaches him from his family and who’s going through life aimlessly, one day at a time. It all leads up to an effective ending where survival is successfully made to feel like a loss.

No Longer Human was a great read. Usamaru Furuya’s stylish and simultaneously unembellished artwork works seamlessly with the story. It’s not a pick-me-up read by any stretch but has a lot to offer as a well crafted comic about self-hatred and the pressures of modern-day living. As much as Yozo seems to loathe the world around him, there’s no one I felt he despised more than himself. The poignancy of volume one’s last words lingers with me even now, leaving me eager to see what places both of mind and body we’ll experience in volume two.

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Book bought from Vertical Inc. at NYCC 2011

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.



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4 Responses

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  3. Jeff says:

    I’ve been looking to purchase this manga as I read the original novel by Osamu Dazai. It was one of my favourite works of Japanese literature and something I closely identified with. Lots of people have said that Dazai’s message and his life experiences of alienation and such is so universal.

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