No Longer Human, Volume 2

No Longer Human, Volume 2Creator: Usamaru Furuya
Original story: Osamu Dazai

U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781935654223
Released: December 2011
Original release: 2010

Usamaru Furuya’s manga series No Longer Human is an adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s 1948 semi-autobiographical novel No Longer Human. Furuya’s manga adaptation began serialization in Weekly Comic Bunch in 2009. The second volume of the series was published in Japan in 2010 while the English-language edition was released in 2011 by Vertical. No Longer Human was the second manga by Furuya that was published by Vertical, the first being the one-volume Lychee Light Club. Although Furuya’s No Longer Human is based on Dazai’s novel, he has taken a few liberties with his rendition, one of the most notable changes being that the story is now set in the 2000s instead of the 1920s and ’30s. Furuya has also inserted himself into the manga as a framing character. These changes, as well as others, are actually quite effective. It is not at all necessary to have read the original No Longer Human to appreciate Furuya’s interpretation of the story.

Yozo Oba attempted a double suicide with a club hostess named Ageha, but only she drowned while he survived. He’s come to the realization that although he doesn’t want to die, he doesn’t want to live, either. Yozo has long since been disowned by his family and the one person for whom he held any sort of honest feelings is now gone. He spends his days directionless and in despair, slowly recovering from a torturous situation partly of his one making. He desperately wants some meaning to his life, but has failed to discover what that might be. At one point he thinks he’s found it, only to have it snatched away from him. Yozo was once adored by all and even in his current pitiful state people are drawn to him and dare to care about him. He uses this to his advantage, putting on airs to get what he wants and needs, recognizing all the while how distasteful it is. Yozo uses people and he knows it. To him, life is still an act.

No Longer Human is a dark and troubling manga series. Yozo doesn’t treat himself well and treats those around him even worse. He is extremely manipulative and frankly can be a terrible person. And yet at the same time Yozo is a tragic figure; No Longer Human is heart-wrenching. While I don’t find his portrayal in the manga to be as sympathetic as it is in the novel, there are still points with which I can empathize. Yozo has a fear of people and their expectations of him that prevents him from being authentic. He’s repeatedly told that he is a good, sweet, and kind person, but this is the last thing he wants to hear. Yozo’s extraordinarily anxiety-ridden and conflicted over it because he see the life he is living as one big lie. He is very aware of his dishonesty and how he misleads people, but continues to do so because he is so desperate to be liked and accepted. Occasionally he manages to express some feelings of legitimate remorse and genuine caring, but more often than that it is already too late to undo any of the damage done.

No Longer Human, Volume 2 follow Yozo from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness and back again. Those glimmers of hope that Yozo will be able to turn his life around make his failure to do so even more anguished as he lets chance after chance to slip through his fingers. Furuya’s artwork in No Longer Human suits the story well, capturing Yozo’s internal and emotional turmoil and dragging the readers along for the ride. Furuya provides disconcerting glimpses into Yozo’s psyche, visually expressing his suffering through imagery of suffocation (harkening back to his near-drowning) and showing the ugliness he sees in the world. No Longer Human isn’t necessarily an easy read and it can be emotionally exhausting, but I find it to be incredibly compelling and difficult to turn away from as well. Yozo may not often be particularly likeable, but as with so many of the other characters in the series I can’t help but wish the best for him no matter how doomed he seems.

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