No Longer Human and Its Significance, Almost a Century Later
Posted on March 27, 2022
(Please be made aware that this book and blog contains topics such as suicide, depression, depersonalization, social alienation, alcoholism, violence, and sexual assault. Discretion is strongly advised.)
If you have been keeping up to date with TikTok lately, you may have noticed a particular pink-and-black book trending over on BookTok. This book is No Longer Human, written by Osamu Dazai, which is hailed as one of Japan’s best-selling books of all time, and Dazai’s masterpiece. Now, one might ask, why is a Japanese book, published in 1948, trending on BookTok in 2022?
A semi-autobiographical work, No Longer Human follows protagonist Oba Yozo’s life from childhood to adulthood, which is told in the form of three notebooks in first-person narration. Throughout the novel, Yozo frequently expresses his dissatisfaction with life, and dwells on his inability to connect with other people, therefore alienating himself from society. It is because of the casual cruelties of life that make Yozo feel like he is unable to even guess what it is to live life as a human being.
Image Credit: Indigo
A lot of this book’s reputation comes from the fact that many of its events reflect the actual author’s life. Similar to Yozo, Dazai had attempted suicide multiple times, and took his own life shortly after its publication. Because of that fact, many people often consider No Longer Human to be his will and memoir.
Having first read this book in summer 2021, I was surprised to see this book becoming so popular online, especially due to the very dark, bleak and pessimistic nature. Even seeing it on the Eaton Centre Indigo’s ‘Trending on TikTok’ table was definitely a shock.
So, why is No Longer Human still being discussed today?
A lot of No Longer Human’s TikTok popularity can, in part, be credited to the franchise Bungo Stray Dogs. Written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa, Bungo Stray Dogs is an action-detective series that first began its manga serialization in 2012 and has had an ongoing anime adaptation since 2016, produced by Studio Bones. The series features characters based on classic literature authors with supernatural abilities that correlate to their respective works. A character named after Dazai is a part of the main cast, who has the ability to nullify other supernatural abilities called No Longer Human. In addition to Japanese classic literature authors, the series also features fictionalized versions of western authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott. As of November 2021, Studio Bones has announced that the production for the 4th season is in the works.
Due to its inherent connection to literature, fans of the series have begun buying the works of these famous authors to read for themselves. As a result, online discussions of classic literature have begun to circulate, causing them to trend on social media platforms such as TikTok. When people show off their copies of No Longer Human on the video sharing app, many of the audios that they choose to accompany them are from the actual anime Bungo Stray Dogs itself.
Image Credit: Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 1
In addition, the novel itself was published as a manga by popular artist and author Junji Ito in 2017, who brought a new interpretation to the narrative, which is accompanied by Ito’s distinctive and beautiful art style. This adaptation of the story further brought Dazai’s work into the current, public spotlight.
Image Credit: Indigo
No Longer Human has left, without a doubt, a strong impact on pop culture. From movies, manga and anime adaptations and more, this novel continues to cement itself as an iconic piece of classic literature.
Osamu Dazai’s masterpiece is a dark, pessimistic novel that does not shy away from the misfortunes and cruelties of life. This is definitely not a book I would recommend to someone who is struggling due to its ability to consume your thoughts. However, this is a book that details the realities of depression and isolation in a way that feels both profound and authentic, which many readers, classic literature fans or not, can appreciate at both a technical and emotional level.
No Longer Human Junji Ito Manga adaptation https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/no-longer-human/9781974707096-item.html?ikwid=no+longer+human&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=1#algoliaQueryId=a694b83590e8c92ea8dddf3dba95c623
Bungo Stray Dogs volume 1
Image from Indigo Trending on TikTok taken by me