My library had the first volume of Ningen Shikkaku / No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya (pictured on the top/left.) To my surprise, when I went looking for it on-line, I discovered the second version by Itou Junji, also called Ningen Shikkaku / No Longer Human . Both are based on a novel version Ningen Shikkaku / No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai... and, apparently, his life to some extent.
Given that at least one version of this was by renown horror mangaka, Itou, you can bet that Osamu did not exactly life a happy life.
In fact, he died in a a suicide pact.
Which wasn’t even his first.
Reading both of these and then looking up Osamu’s life was pretty fascinating. I have to admit knowing that much of what is written is pseudo-autobiographical make it a lot more… tolerable?
I think I’ve written here before about the various catagories of memoirs that seem to exist: “I had an extremely sh*tty life,” “I have had (a series of) interesting job(s),” “I’m doing a weird thing for a year,” and “I go to/have lived in cooler places than you.” I have the least amount tolerance for the first type of memoir. I’ve read a few that I’ve enjoyed? But, they’re always a tougher sell for me.
This is obviously one of those.
Yozo Oba, the fictionalize stand-in for Osamu is the main character in both manga. Yozo is clearly a person who doesn’t know how to ‘human,’ and so puts on a clowning/please-everyone personality.
Oddly, each manga sets forth a somewhat divergent “origin story” for Yozo (although only having read the first volume of three of Usamaru’s, they may actually converge.)
In Usamaru’s we meet Yozo through an on-line “hurt” diary, who we see when he’s already an art school student. This Yozo seems to have had a mostly normal upbringing in terms of going to a modern high school, etc., though his family is quite rich. This Yozo lives a playboy’s life (aka has LOTS of sex with prostitutes, which we see in graphic detail despite this being shelved in the teen section) and living off a generous stipend sent by his father.
In this scene, Yozo has fallen in with a bunch of subversive (in real life, Osamu dabbled with the Marxists, later joining the Japanese Communist Party) is shown acting like a puppet on a string.
In this version, we also see a version Of Osamu’s real-life failed love suicide, with a hostess named Tanabe Shimeko. She died, but he was rescued by a fishing boat in real life. In the manga, the stand-in, Yozo, is seen being resuscitated on the shore beside her lifeless body.
In Itou’s version, Yozo is raised in a mansion seemingly based on the one Osamu, himself, grew up in. In fact, in Itou’s version there’s no real attempt to hide the fact that Yozo = Osamu. It, in fact, begins with a depiction of Osamu’s successful love suicide with Tomie Yamazaki.
In Itou’s version there’s a lot more centered on “Yozo’s” life in the mansion, the various abuses he withstands, his fear of exposure by a disabled kid named Takeichi (and the subsequent manipulation of Takeichi that leads to his suicide), and affairs Yozo has with his maids that lead them to attempt to murder each other.
As expected of Itou, it’s all pretty graphic and horrific.
Given that there is a ghost of Takeshi in the first volume of Usamaura’s version of the story, I’m guessing we might see the whole thing that Itou illustrated also played out in the later volumes. I didn’t check to see if the library had the rest, as I was doing that thing I do at work, where I pick up anything the library has in the back that has at least the first volume of.
As fascinating as all this was, I’m not at all sure I would recommend you read this. There are apparently several other adaptations of this both in manga form, anime, and live-action film, so something about it captivated Japanese audiences.
I suspect it’s all the unbridled depravity. I mean, we all love a good scandal, am I right? Especially one that has the cache of “based on a true story!”