Osamu Dazai is considered a classic in Japanese literature. I have had no idea, because I didn’t study Japanese literature. Also, the book I want to talk about today is the manga adaptation of the same novel, No Longer Human. So, please bear in mind I am not familiar with the original content and anything I say may not be completely correct.
No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya, adapted from the same novel by Osamu Dazai, deals with some unknown mental disorders that are possibly what makes us human. The title of the novel is actually ironic in that the same thing that alienates us is the only thing that makes us human.
The protagonist in this novel/manga is an arrogant, narcissistic guy, who at the same time hates himself for not being able to interact with other people at a simple level, without overthinking everything. It’s an oversimplification on my part. There are some explanations for his tendencies because of parents demanding perfection. The only thing Oba Yoza, our protagonist, understood in childhood is that humans (and him) should hide anything less than perfection.
After repressing his identity during college years, Oba managed to find a way of living by seducing women and using them to pay for his life, in a surprising twist of reverse gold digger.
A story of many issues
No Longer Human is a story of alienation, depression, and suicide, therefore plenty of triggers. And yet, on some strange level, I empathized with Oba. The lack of meaning, the search for an identity, the constant criticism from society, these are actually things that make us humans.
Oba Yoza couldn’t cope with these demands and turned them inside out, perverted them, and became alienated in the process. Easily addicted, first to women, then to drugs, Oba became a tragic figure who wants to die but is too afraid to fully commit to suicide. Despised by society, judged by his friends, he becomes one of the creatures among us that are no longer human. Ignored and despised, they delve into the corners of our polished society, where nobody asked for their story and don’t want to give them a chance to explain their actions.
It seems that I gave away the plot, yet in these types of novel the plot is not important. There is no psychological twist here, no science fiction, no mystery. It’s a simple slice of life that deals with heavy topics that we prefer to ignore. After all, there is a side of us who wants to rebel, to take advantage of others, to give up and seek refuge in activities that would make us no longer human. We hide that part and keep going on, for various reasons.
Yet a slight change or a missed opportunity and who knows what our lives would become? The human mind is frail. Can we cure extreme narcissism? Or should we ignore it? Should we treat people who don’t even want to help themselves as no longer human?
In the end, no longer human
No Longer Human is an interesting attempt to explore the dirty hidden secrets of humanity, to explore the dark side and try to understand it. Reading it, I was shocked and outraged by the choices the protagonist keeps making. He never made the right choice. And yet, these things happen. One wrong decision spiraled into another and another. It’s easy to judge when I’m here, comfortable reading a book.
I heard there is another manga adaptation by Jinto Ito that gained more attention. Or if you want to read something about an anti-hero or an unlikeable protagonist, I recommend even the original novel. These books are usually hard to read because two reasons. Firstly, it’s hard to empathize with the protagonist. And two, if you empathize with him or her, then you may find yourself being revolted by this idea.
And No Longer Human