No Longer Human

Viz. Dec. 2019. 616p. from Japanese by Donald Keene & Jocelyne Allen. ISBN 9781974707096. $34.99. Rated: Mature. HORROR
As a boy, Yozo Oba adopts a clownish persona to disguise the severe anxiety he feels while interacting with other people. His buffoonery results in several tragic deaths, transforming his fear into full-blown terror and sending him down a path of compulsively self-destructive behavior that typically leads to others suffering the horrible—and frequently fatal—consequences of his actions. After an misguided adventure as a member of a Marxist group and a failed suicide attempt, he meets and marries a young woman who naively dotes on him, providing a small window of stability in which his work as a manga artist thrives, until his paranoia, cowardice, and innate selfishness send him spiraling into darkness, addiction, and insanity.
VERDICT If the internationally acclaimed master of horror Ito (Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection) seems at first a strange choice to adapt Dazai’s 1948 novel, his skill for stories mixing existential dread, body horror, and nightmarishly surreal imagery quickly prove him matched to the material. This unsparingly intense vision of life as a journey through hell, reminiscent of Dostoyevsky and Kafka, just might be Ito’s magnum opus.
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