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February 24, 2012

Bento Bako Bonus: No Longer Human volume 3

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: No Longer Human
Author: Usamaru Furuya (based on the novel by Osamu Dazai)
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Volume: Volume 3 (final), $10.95
Vintage: 2011 by Shinchosha Publishing, February 28, 2012 by Veritcal Inc.
Genre: Psychological drama

[Volume 1 review. Volume 2 review.]

Things are going well at the start of this volume, enough to make a reader think that maybe Yozo’s tale will have a happy end. But anyone who’s been paying attention should know better. Yozo is too blinded by his happiness to think that anything will ruin it. He’s married to a lovely girl, his manga is going well, they live in an old but comfortable house; it’s absolute bliss. He’s even taken the time to visit Shizuko, the woman he abandoned without a word, to show her that he’s doing OK. One day, as Horiki (Yozo’s only lasting friend) and Yozo watch festival fireworks from the upstairs balcony, Yoshino (Yozo’s wife) invites a man she appears to know into the house, but is soon assaulted by him. Horiki goes downstairs for a snack, only to return quickly, calling for Yozo to come downstairs. When they arrive, through the window in the kitchen door, Yozo sees his trusted editor, Fukawa, raping his wife, Yoshino lying terrified and helpless beneath him. In this moment, something inside Yozo snaps as he witnesses this gruesome act of human-kind, and he collapses in sobs on the other side of the door as Fukawa escapes, leaving Yoshino on the floor in tears. They decide not to call the police, as Yoshino believes her father would find out and take her away. As they are still reeling from this incident, Yozo gets a call from his publisher, who informs him that Fukawa was let go due to downsizing, and that he went on an angry rampage. As they lie in bed that night, Yoshino apologizes through her tears, and Yozo wonders if this is payback for how he has lived his life. He immediately seeks someone to blame, landing on Horiki first, who did nothing to stop the assault, then Fukawa who raped his wife, Yoshino for being raped, and finally himself for doing nothing. His happiness completely shattered, Yozo goes through a bizarre physical change overnight; he awakens with gray hair, a deep furrow on his brow, and a raspy voice, as if he had aged decades while he slept. Yoshino changes as well, covering up her body and cutting off her hair in an attempt to make herself less appealing to men. Yozo, more furious at how broken Yoshino now is, her beautiful trusting nature destroyed, begins to drown himself in alcohol, slipping back into the man he had vowed to change from when he married Yoshino. He can’t get his work done, and has violent outbursts where he trashes their home. One night he meets a stranger named Nasir, who offers to listen to Yozo’s story. When Yozo returns home, he’s cheery and refreshed looking; he apologizes to Yoshino for his attitude, and goes straight to work on his manga. We quickly learn the reason for this change in attitude when Yozo slips away to snort some form of drug. As the days pass, Yozo shows signs of drug addiction, and the quality of his manga suffers tremendously. He also becomes delusional, even imagining that he sees the long dead Ageha again. As he sinks lower and lower, he becomes paranoid and begins thinking that Yoshino is sleeping around. His money runs out. Finally, he hits rock bottom and does something terrible to Yoshino, though it finally snaps him out of things, and he realizes he should quit doing drugs. Having no money is a huge help, but immediately Yozo receives news that sets him back on his downward spiral – his father has died and left him an inheritance. Yozo returns to the drugs and things go out of control. His delusions become more intense, and poor Yoshino does all she can to protect him, but refuses to get him any real help, fearing that will take Yozo away from her. At last, Yoshino’s father gets wind of what’s going on and intervenes, taking Yoshino away and leaving Yozo alone with his despair. Eventually, Yozo disappears, leaving only his diary behind.

The opening of this book gives the reader a fantastic false sense of security, just like Yozo is having. Usamaru Furuya gets this across marvelously. The pages where Yozo is living a peaceful life with Yoshino are filled with happy, lovey-dovey vibes, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the previous two volumes, and won’t be seen again in just a few pages more. He builds us up, and then slams us down again, just like life does for Yozo. He’s married to a loving, cheerful wife, and his manga is going well. Then it all comes crashing down. It’s interesting the way the blame gets passed around for this tragedy. Yozo blames Yoshino for letting herself be raped and being too trusting, blames Fukawa for assaulting Yoshino, and blames Horiki for not stopping the assault immediately when he found them. He also, briefly, blames himself for being a coward and not stopping it himself. Interestingly, he never really shifts the blame to his publisher, who fired Fukawa, which is what set off his rampage, and didn’t bother to warn Yozo about it until it was too late. He never really locks onto the final blame, but does take out his frustrations on poor Yoshino. The thing he loved most about her is lost forever – her innocence. The girl he fell in love with was trusting of everybody, which was both her greatest weakness and her greatest strength. After the assault, she becomes paranoid, always looking this way and that for danger, and even went so far as to cut off all her hair in the hopes that men wouldn’t find her attractive or think she was a man. Yoshino certainly thinks the assault was her fault. Aside from cutting off all her hair, she begins covering herself up from head to toe, hiding every inch of her femininity and sexuality from the outside world. Amazingly, she loves Yozo so much that even though their relationship is clearly broken, and Yozo starts sinking back into his old self, she stays with him and doesn’t even once think about leaving. He never physically abuses her, but there’s plenty of emotional abuse, and my heart breaks every time Yoshino breaks down in tears, which is just about every time she’s on a page. As Yozo sinks further and further into despair, Yoshino finds herself more and more helpless. Finally, a turning point. Yozo finds himself without money, and decides to use that opportunity to quit the drugs he is on. Then his father dies. What should free him and bring him happiness turns into his final undoing. The inheritance his father left behind becomes, in Yozo’s mind, his father’s final blow against him. As soon as he realizes he’ll have money again, his resolve vanishes and he returns to the drugs. I lamented Yoshino’s position, but it’s also really hard to watch Yozo plummet into the abyss. He’s far from being a saint – he’s basically spent his entire life using and manipulating women – but there are brief glimpses of a person who could find happiness under the right circumstances. And he almost has that, for that brief moment, and to see it get torn away from him, to watch his blissful smile turn into a perpetual scowl, is painful. Furuya handles it all expertly, despite some slight protestations in the afterward that he doesn’t manage the level of despair that Dazai does in his novel. Maybe he doesn’t; unfortunately, I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t say (I’m not sure if I could; this manga is dark enough already). He does get something across though, and there’s plenty of despair in these pages for anyone to wallow in. The feelings of these characters are clear and inspire empathy, and the art conveys all the swirling emotions within Yozo superbly. Thank you, Vertical, for bringing No Longer Human to us.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris






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