No Longer Human 1
December 3, 2011
Osamu Dazai / Usamaru Furuya – Vertical – 2011 – 3 volumes
Usamaru Furuya is one of those artists who I would read everything up to and including the manga version of the Wall Street Journal from. He’s amazing in every context. This was an instant buy from me, and I was set to like it.
While I haven’t read the original, this does seem like a relatively modern adaptation of No Longer Human, by Dazai. The main character is in high school, he joins a radical group that eventually turns on him due to a perceived relationship with a woman, and his father is the head of a large corporation and the potential cause of his personality problems. The rest of it is pretty much the same, with a central story about a main character that relates to people through humor and joking to make up for the complete lack of empathy he possesses. He himself does not feel like he fits in with the human race, and doesn’t understand, or feel obligated to commit to, any sort of friendship or relationship.
Furuya is the character that bookends the story (supposedly, he starts things off by finding the “ouch” diary on the internet that the main story is supposedly based on, but I haven’t seen the end) and while at first I thought his artistic talent would be wasted on a story like this, he still has a lot of fun with it. His pencil work comes out whenever the main character begins to feel his mask slipping, or feels particularly alienated from a group of people. He also tends to illustrate in pencil when the main character feels obligated to put on a show, when he is acting like a “puppet.” His twisted, Munch-like faces are also an excellent representation of how different the main character feels from it all.
This definitely feels like a simple chunk of a much larger story. We get a feel for the main character here, how he pretends to fit in at school and how he has no attachment to life, then we see him lose himself in paid sex, only to be cast out into another group of misfits and later picked up by a woman who offers to support him. The story is almost dreamlike, and since the main character doesn’t have much attachment to life, he sort of stumbles through the trials and into something else very quickly.
It’s a strange book, and very much worth reading. It is depressing and a little alien to me, but I still enjoyed it for what it is, and I’m very much looking forward to the rest. Will the main character continue to slide away from humanity? How will Furuya depict the slide? It’s all good/depressing stuff.