No Longer Human 2

January 31, 2012

Usamaru Furuya – Vertical – 2011 – 3 volumes

Saturday was the last day of the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast over at Experiments in Manga. Furuya’s definitely a mangaka worth looking at, and there’s a ton of content over there. I did contribute to the feast with a look at Palepoli, but since I had the second volume of this laying around, I thought I might pick it up while in the mood for more.

It is interesting that Furuya chose to adapt this work, but for me, the power here is in the writing (instead of the art or black sense of humor that Furuya often brings to his work). No Longer Human is a hard thing to read. You know that Yozo isn’t going to have a happy ending. There’s nobody left to help him. And he alienates those that try. It’s a self-destructive circle, and both the story and art do a good job of portraying the utter despair that permeates absolutely everything in this story.

Most of the allure here is just how bleakly Yozo is viewing his own life, so a story summary doesn’t really do it justice. But here, he is saved from his suicide attempt and isn’t charged with murder after his father bails him out. He’s sent to live with a friend of the family who hates him, but collects a paycheck for taking care of him all the same. He eventually runs away and back into the life of his best friend, where he hooks up with an older woman who takes care of him and launches a career as a children’s manga artist. He drinks and smokes to excess, and begins alienating even the older women that feed and clothe him. By the end of the book, however, things are looking better, as he believes he’s found a true love. I don’t really think this is going to go anywhere good, and I’m almost dreading reading the third volume because this thing is just so sad.

At one point, he mentions that his main problem might be that his life lacks purpose. He was looking forward to being sentenced and paying reparations for the death of Ageha, since having a job to pay her family for the rest of his life would give his life meaning. It doesn’t work out that way, but I found it interesting that he seems to have picked up a career in manga relatively easily by the end of the volume. Even more shocking, he seems to be good at it, and quite successful at sticking with it. Given how flaky he is about absolutely everything else, it’s interesting to me that he maintains this career while apparently completely intoxicated 24 hours a day. And he seems to keep his deadlines, too. And somehow, while he maintains this degree of professionalism, this is not giving his life purpose. I don’t know how much can be read into that, but it’s part of the story, all the same.

But yes, my whole opinion on this series seems, so far, to be that I’m not sure how to feel. It’s supposed to be dark and depressing, and it’s conveying those quite powerfully. But it’s not easy to read, and it’s hard to pick up a book like this knowing it’s just going to bring me down. But it’s an excellent series all the same, and I’m curious to see how it will end badly in the next volume.

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.