Manga Review- No Longer Human Vol. 1

by Usakaru Furuya based on the novel by Osamu Dazai.

The story is told from the perspective of Yozo Oba, or rather from that of the author, who while trying to find inspiration for his next manga stumbles upon Yozo’s diary online. There’s a picture of a very charismatic 17 year old Yozo ..and then a disheveled and haggard 25 year old photo of the same man. The author wonders what could have happened, so he dives in.

Be warned: This is a story for the Palahniuk crowd. Hell, for the Bukowski crowd. The art is beautiful, but it’s dark and haunting and perfectly fitting. There’s uncensored sex and booze and overwhelming sadness.

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Yozo is the victim of aggressive “tiger-parenting”/mental abuse by his father and as a result he find himself unable to relate to his high school classmates. He puts on a show for them, he plays up class clown antics to please people and he memorizes what ordinary responses are when peers are sad or upset.. but he doesn’t relate. Yozo sees himself as a marrionette -this comes through masterfully in the art, sometimes with just hints of strings being pulled, sometimes Yozo takes on a “broken doll” look, classmates also appear as ‘faceless’, hollow and/or eyeless. He keeps up this facade until he meets Horiki. In Horiki he recognizes the clowning and posturing. Yozo finally feels like he can be himself. This doesn’t make Horiki a good influence, of course. Horiki is self destructive and really only takes pleasure in drinking and getting prostitutes. Yozo’s father has been paying for his apartment and mailing him an allowance and Horiki takes advantage of having a rich friend. Through Horiki and his escort, Yozo finds a finge political collective to involve himself with.

His family ends up cutting him off and he grows to depend on the collective. For companionship as before, but also for basic needs like FOOD. Misaki will do anything for him, even more so when their group turns to terrorism and Yozo is granted a high rank. He recognizes it’s gone too far, and when he abandons, the group has it out for him. So he goes to a “hostess club” for comfort and meets Ageha. She’s sad and lonely herself and falls for him. He takes a handout from her, but then can’t bear to face her as he finds himself homeless and hopeless. “It’s so easy falling.” Yozo calls Horiki and Yozo laments “Love lasts as long as the money does. People misinterpret that saying. It doesn’t mean women ditch you when you’re broke. When a guy has no money he gets depressed, he loses it. Even his laugh is weak. He starts to feel sorry for himself. And in a funk, he starts to push women away from himself.”  (as someone who has spent most of my life being working poor.. yes… the struggle of feeling like you have no friends because you can’t afford to buy a coffee in a cafe or 2 beers in a tavern with them, or that your house isn’t warm enough to host people -it’s painful)

Yozo and Horiki go act like drunk assholes in the club where Ageha works. But she doesn’t turn her back on Yozo. But when they go to the beach to watch the waves… they get an idea… double suicide. And by this point I want to pull out my hair. And I’m ready to cry off all my mascara because the most wonderful thing that either of them can think of is that someone loved them enough to die with them. They walk off into the ocean together… 

Somehow it still manages to get worse.

There’s also this other aspect, where the author is presenting it as a rewritten diary and it made me think of the fact that as writers and readers we sometimes become voyeuristic. And it’s told that way, like we know too much. As if we are intruding on someone’s inner thoughts of self-contempt. And we should look away, accept that this isn’t our business. But it’s just so brutally honest that there’s no looking away.

I don’t like it for what it did to my emotions. But there is no denying how masterfully executed it is. Rating it makes my head hurt. Read at your own risk. It’s 3 volumes long, but I’m not sure if my heart can take it.

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