Tuesday, February 1, 2022

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, illustrated by Junji Ito

Most of the times that I've tried to get into manga, it's never stuck. Maybe I'm just showing my age or lack of sophistication. Who knows. But my husband has been a long-time fan of manga artist Junji Ito, who is apparently also a great lover of cats, which makes anyone a much better person, if you ask me. Ito is known chiefly for his horror manga, and I've glanced at some of the content and found it to be about as unsettling and oddly compelling as good art can be. 

So, when the husband splurged out on a hardcover copy of Ito's adaption of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, I allowed that now would be the time I'd get over myself and actually read manga. This is quality stuff, apparently. I was not disappointed.

Look, I'm a complete pleb. My first difficulty was getting used to reading a book from the back to front, and to read from right to left. I won't lie, it was jarring at first, but I got used to it. No Longer Human is the story about Yozo Oba. As a boy, he suffers terrible anxiety about people's opinions about him – so he is always clowning around to gain their approval, until the day his friend Takeichi sees right through Yozo's tactics to win others' approval.

What follows is a dark plunge into dissolution and existential horror, as Yozo makes one poor decision after another – it's like watching a train wreck. I eventually could not put down this hefty tome until I'd reached the last, terrible sequence. As an aside, Dazai himself suffered a tragic ending, which is eerily prescient in the narrative of his writing.

I'll be honest, I know next to nothing about manga. Also, please don't recommend other books to me in the hopes that I will read them. I'm incredibly picky. Why I liked No Longer Human was the terrible authenticity of the telling and the unrelenting, crushing existential dread. My own life feels like cherry blossoms in comparison. Ito's art is clean and doesn't have that sameness that I've picked up in other manga that I've glanced at. In fact, the level of detail in those black and white strokes is absolutely staggering and rather hypnotic. We have a huge pile of his books here at home, and I expect at some point I'll dip into them when the mood fits.


  1. Still reading it and kinda, is it really THAT depressing

    1. Yeah, it's one of those books that kinda stay with you.