May 19, 2013
No Longer Human is a tale of despair. It is not heartwarming. There is not a happy ending. It is about the slow descent of a man who breaks and falls. Usamara Furuya updates Osamu Dazai’s novel for modern audiences and does an excellent job in the process. In the afterword of the final volume, Furuya claims that he was not able to truly capture the despair of the original, but I feel as though he has, at the very least, come quite close.
The art is fairly typical for a manga of this sort, though I feel as though Furuya’s talents shine the best as
we escape into the head of Yozo Oba, the main character. The clean line style of the rest of the manga is replaced with smudged darkness, doing much to portray Oba’s state of mind. I was also quite pleased with Furuya’s depiction of nudity and sex. Even in situations that are at least somewhat pornographic, every woman is drawn to an appropriate and realistic scale. This, I feel, helped me take the book seriously; had Furuya chosen to depict women as impossibly curvaceous and busty it would have taken away from much of the point of the manga.
The story is intriguing, to say the least. No Longer Human is about a man who does not know what he is, and this is depicted and far better than many things I have seen dealing with the same topic. The book gets very dark, possibly even triggering to people with problems involving rape or suicide, but it is handled frankly, without glamorizing or focusing on the acts beyond what is necessary. These are obviously major plot points and as such are brought up fairly often, but in a very “real” way. I read the Vertical Inc translation and was never taken out of the story by strange syntax or awkward translations. In fact, I finish all three volumes in about an hour and a half, with no breaks between.
No Longer Human is a story that sucks you in and keeps you in, all the while provoking oneself to ask what it means to be human. It is something of a cautionary tale, ending with a sense of urgency that one must in some way find oneself to avoid falling. This is a book I would recommend, but not if you are looking for a light or happy tale.
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