No Longer Human

Translation: Donald Keene


Junji Ito is a Japanese horror manga artist, who has entered the canon thanks to his works such as Tomie, Uzumaki czy Gyo. This time Ito worked on Dazai’s No Longer Human, known to Polish readers as Zatracenie. As he said one of his interviews, he was looking for a story that could appear in episodes in the Big Comic Original magazine and which would reach an older audience – from among several candidates, it is No Longer Human which pulled him in. Who could better than Junji Ito tell the story of human fear?

No Longer Human is the semi-autobiographical story of Yozo Oba, who is pathologically afraid of people, especially women. We follow his fate from childhood, the period when pretending to be a jester was his only way of communing, through his adolescent debauchery, episodes of alcoholism, and even suicide attempts – to an extremely tragic end. Junji Ito, inspired by the traditional art of rakugo which tells stories about ghosts (kaidan), and by Natsume Sōseki’s Kokoro (known to Polish readers as Sedno rzeczy), decided to exaggerate the elements of horror already present in Dazai’s novel.

I struggled a bit with myself whether to admit that I had read a comic No Longer Human before reading the original book (Zatracenie) but it was not a bad decision. Junji Ito filled the gaps that I later searched for in the novel, and on top of that he created a work so twisted and unique that you can read it without knowing the original. A must-read for all fans of the artist, as well as those who just want to get to understand the phenomenon of Junji Ito.

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