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No Longer Human Manga Review

No Longer Human Manga Review

-Written by: Will


Osamu Dazai is one of the most celebrated Japanese authors, and his book, No Longer Human (recently published in English under the title A Shameful Life ), is his most celebrated work. The semi-autobiographical work has received multiple adaptations over the years. Osamua Dazai even appeared as a character in Bungo Stray Dogs using abilities influenced from No Longer Human. Junji Ito is the master of Japanese horror manga and a big fan of Dazai. Now, Ito has drawn a manga adaptation of No Longer Human. So what happens when one of the great manga artists adapts a story from one of the great authors? Not surprisingly, a strong result.

Told in first person, the story shows the sad life of Yozo Oba. He is born in a rich land-owning family and takes the form of the class clown to appease his stringent family and classmates. But it’s all a facade; Yozo sees himself as a shallow, cowardly human being. You can see this on the cover: everything outside the circle of faces is just a slipcover. Pull it off and you see how Yozo really views other people (not shown here because it's that cool).

Never having an outlet to express his true feelings, which is compounded by him being a victim of abuse from his father and family servants, he spirals out of control as he ages, shaping him into… well, that’s something you have to figure out yourself. Yozo makes it clear how he thinks of himself as a monster who constantly does unforgivable things because that’s his nature. While he's not competely wrong, readers may see a different story, one of how abuse and mental illness can lead to self-destructive actions and how society and the individuals that are part of it that do nothing to help only make things worse for the individual. It's in this grey area that the book thrives in.

Because of the heavy themes it discusses, the manga also contains graphic depictions of suicide and sexual assault. Trying to imagine the scenes with words would already be difficult, but having to see it through Junji Ito’s art can be devastating. Junji Ito has always been able to draw scary images, but I haven’t felt such emotional ache from his work before. This is thanks to the strength of the original material and Dazai’s prose which is easily used as both visual or written narration. While the narration can overpower the images at times (this is based on a book after all) Ito always has a stunning visual up his sleeve to horrify the reader with once more.

While it was difficult to read, I’m glad I did. It’s a beautiful book and a reminder of the feelings people have to deal with every day. Junji Ito is able to bring the story to life in a way only he could, and I’m happy he attempted such an arduous task.

No Longer Human Manga (Hardcover)

Plagued by a maddening anxiety, the terrible disconnect between his own concept of happiness and the joy of the rest of the world, Yozo Oba plays the clown in his dissolute life, holding up a mask for those around him as he spirals ever downward, locked arm-in-arm with death. Osamu Dazai’s immortal - and supposedly autobiographical - work of Japanese literature, is perfectly adapted here into a manga by Junji Ito. The imagery wrenches open the text of the novel one line at a time to sublimate Yozo’s mental landscape into something even more delicate and grotesque. This is the ultimate in art by Ito, proof that nothing can surpass the terror of the human psyche.

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