Review: No Longer Human Vol 1 by Osamu Dazai and Usamaru Furuya

 

Title: No Longer Human Vol 1

Author: Osamu Dazai & Usamaru Furuya

Publisher: Vertical

ISBN: 978-1935654193

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

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.


Furuya’s adaptation of No Longer Human takes place nearly seventy years after Dazai’s original. Set in modern day Tokyo, Dazai’s tale details the life of a young man originally from a well-off family from Japan’s far north. Yozo Oba is 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 forces him to uphold a facade of hollow jocularity since high school. The series is composed of three parts, referred to in the novel as "memorandums," which chronicle the life of Oba from his teens to late twenties. The comic is narrated by the artist, Furuya himself, making appearances at the start of each volume. In many ways, it could be said that Furuya has traveled a path that may be similar to Dazai’s. Maybe that is what led these two together after 100 years.

In this first of three parts, alternative comic artist Usamaru Furuya appears to be overcome with deadlines. While he has been published by some of the biggest names in the comics industry, his star still shines brightest as a cult favorite, an underground artist whose emo comics are the voice of a new generation. To escape the duldrums of work, he loses himself in the internet and comes across the journal of a man whose life sounds very familiar–Oba Yozo. In Oba’s First Memorandum the teen is overcome by an intense feeling of alienation. This pressure is so strong he cannot cope with others making it impossible to socialize with those who surround him, even his own family. To counter this Oba plays the role of the fool in order to establish interpersonal
relationships.

Review:

Vertical has a strong track record for licensing thoughtful, provocative titles, and No Longer Human is no exception.  This somber tale of self-hatred and self-destruction fits in well with their other manga releases, but this story isn’t one that resonated with me.  After learning that time is truly a limited resource, I just can’t relate with Yozo Oba, a young man who seems to have everything, yet wanders aimlessly from panel to panel, with no goals, no attachments, and no appreciation for anything that he has. 

Born into a wealthy family, privilege and comfort are taken for granted.  Yozo’s problem, though, is that these luxuries mean nothing to him, because he can’t stand himself.  His self-loathing pushes him to be someone he isn’t, and only serves to make him miserable.  Pursuit of base pleasures leaves him empty, and he lacks the ability to make meaningful connections with others.  Yozo is emotionally isolated, unable to care for anyone or anything, and so he is much like a piece of driftwood, floating where ever the current takes him.  I quickly became frustrated with him, because he wasn’t living his life – he was just wasting it.

Yozo didn’t come across to me as a tragic character warped by the heavy expectations of his father.  He came across instead as self-indulgent and spoiled, always looking for the easy way out.  He squanders more opportunities by the time he’s 18 than most people are presented with in their entire lifetime.  I wanted him to knock the chip off his shoulder and pull his head out of his ass.  Every occasion when he had the chance to have a life-altering revelation, he turned away from it.  Because he is so emotionally stunted, he isn’t capable of growth or self-discovery, and he left me very indifferent to his self-induced plight.

So, much like Yozo, No Longer Human has left me feeling detached and disconnected from the book.  It is very well written, and the art is crisp and full of the emotion that Yozo lacks.  The fact that I read this in one sitting and was so caught up in the experiences of a character I did not like speaks volumes for Furuya skills.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher