It's so very, very hard not to start babbling like a little kid about some things. In between meetings in the city over the last couple of days, I ran over to Kinokuniya and found the third volume of the Japanese edition of Usamaru Furuya's manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human.
Without going too deeply into spoiler territory, because I want to save all that for a formal review of the series when it's published Over Here, I will discuss some of the changes made to the storyline in the comic version. Some are practical, some aesthetic. (Note that these may not make much sense unless you've read the book, and if you haven't then what the heck are you waiting for?)
- The action has been moved from the 1920s and 1930s into the modern day. This hasn't created any major disruptions, as far as I can tell: almost everything that happens — from Yozo's dalliances with bar girls to his career as a comic artist — maps nicely into a modern-day counterpart. What's most striking is how little of the overall story has been rewritten, not how much.
- Some individual touches and turns of phrase seem to be missing, which is okay I guess — I wasn't expecting a word-for-word version of the story — but they had the good sense to keep the classic opening line ("Mine has been a life of much shame") and several of the key closing lines ("Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness").
- The wraparound narrative device in the novel, where an unnamed party discovers and reads Yozo's notebooks, has been reinvented in a fairly ingenious way. Yozo's story, including the "three photographs" that open the story, is now a blog/website, and the unnamed narrator is now Usamaru Furuya himself.
- Almost all of the First Notebook and the first part of the Second Notebook have been condensed or referred to in flashbacks. This makes some sense, since most of the first part of the story was internal monologue or reminiscing, vaguely akin to the first half of Notes from Underground, and doesn't lend itself to being illustrated or made part of the story as such.
- The way Yozo's marriage falls apart in the final third of the manga is even more horrific than in the book, and has been treated as a logical consequence of some of the other story-tightening procedures used along the way. His relationship with the pharmacy owner, though, is gone (but it's replaced with something a little more credible in a modern-day context).
- The phantasmagoria throughout the story, especially in the final volume, makes this feel all the more like Japan's manga answer to Requiem for a Dream.
All three volumes (1, 2, 3) are now available for preorder in English. There's even a French edition, under the title "Je ne suis pas un homme" ("I am not a man"), although the actual French title for the original novel was La déchéance d'un homme.
The recent live-action movie (marketed overseas as Fallen Angel) has no English edition yet. I did, however, bump into a copy of a movie called Picaresque, which is supposedly an Osamu Dazai biopic, but the price was a bit steep. Maybe after the money situation settles down again...