What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Most people wisely choose to get the bad news out of the way, but Usamaru Furuya starts with the good in the third and final volume of his Osamu Dazai adaptation, No Longer Human. After that, we get the spiral into complete and utter despair we knew was coming all along. We just didn’t know quite how dire it would be.
Volume two ended on a relatively positive note, and the third continues those vibes, with Yozo Oba happily married for the past year to the young and beautiful Yoshino. Not only is Oba’s youth-oriented manga, Fretty Ping, doing well in serialization, he’s also managed to kick his rotten drinking habit to the curb for the most part. Things couldn’t be better, even if his old friend Horiki has to constantly remind him what a leech and scumbag he really is. It’s almost as if Horiki has a crystal ball in his pocket, because it’s this reminder, and a tragic incident involving Yoshino, that sends Oba back into that infernal black hole of torment.
This pivotal moment truly marks Oba’s end, and all we can do is sit back and watch, mouths agape, as the vision of a young, inexplicably shriveled man comes swirling into reality. Oba’s depression and renewed disdain for humanity eventually introduce him to the final nail in his coffin: drugs. Once he’s hooked on speed, he even loses his grip on reality, and an already tenuous relationship with his wife becomes one of constant distrust and misunderstanding.
If someone were to pick up this volume of No Longer Human and flip to the last third or so without any context whatsoever, it might end up looking like one of those small evangelical Chick tract comics. THIS WAS YOUR LIFE, YOZO OBA! You could have changed things, but now you’re just a demented derelict in need of serious professional help! Cue Helen Hunt on Angel Dust leaping out of a window.
Those who have stuck with the series know it’s more than that, though. As Furuya admits in the afterword, even he feels he could not replicate the pure sorrow and darkness of Dazai’s original novel. Still, he comes pretty damn close, and No Longer Human ends up a truly chilling tale of one man’s savage tornado of a life.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Usamaru Furuya
© Usamaru FURUYA 2009