No Longer Human

No Longer Human
No Longer Human  
No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai novel) cover.jpg
Author(s) Osamu Dazai
Original title 人間失格
Translator Donald Keene
Country Japan
Language Japanese, English
Genre(s) Short novel
Publisher New Directions
Publication date 1948 (English translation 1958)
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 177
ISBN 978-0811204811
Preceded by A Cherry
Followed by Goodbye

No Longer Human (人間失格 Ningen Shikkaku?) is a Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai. Published after Run Melos and The Setting Sun, No Longer Human is considered Dazai's masterpiece and ranks as the second-best selling novel in Japan, behind Kokoro.[1]

The literal translation of the title discussed by Donald Keene in his preface to the English translation, is disqualified from being human. (The Italian translation was titled Lo squalificato, The Disqualified.)

This novel, despite being serialized as a work of fiction in 1948, is narrated in the first person and contains several elements which betray an autobiographical basis, such as suicide—a recurring theme in the author's life. Many also believe the book to have been his will, as he took his own life shortly after the last part of the book (it was serialized) was published, on June 13, 1948. This is not accurate, though, as he had started work on it long before.

No Longer Human is told in the form of notebooks left by one Ōba Yōzō (大庭葉蔵?), a troubled man incapable of revealing his true self to others, and who is instead forced to uphold a facade of hollow jocularity.

Ōba refers to himself throughout the book using the reflexive pronoun "Jibun" (自分?), whereas the personal pronoun "Watashi" (?) is used both in the foreword and afterword to the book by the writer, whose name is unclear. The name of the main character, Ōba, is actually taken from one of Dazai's early works, "Petals of Buffoonery" (道化の華?).

Dazai might have been a sufferer of complex post-traumatic stress disorder whilst writing the book.[2] Mike Lew has praised the book for expressing male sexual trauma.


Plot outline

The novel is composed of three chapters, or "memoranda", which chronicle the life of Ōba from early childhood to late twenties.

  • First Memorandum - Overcome by an intense feeling of alienation and finding it nearly impossible to socialize with those who surround him, Ōba can't help but resort to buffoonery in order to establish interpersonal relationships and engage in a vain attempt to forget the abuse he was subjected to by a female servant during his childhood.
  • Second Memorandum - Ōba becomes increasingly concerned over the potential penetrability of his cheerful facade. He neglects his university studies. Under the influence of a fellow artist he meets at a painting class, Horiki, he descends into a vicious cycle of drinking, smoking and harlotry, culminating in a one-night stand with a married woman with whom he intends to commit double suicide by drowning. Though he survives, she dies, leaving him with nothing but an excruciating feeling of guilt.
  • Third Memorandum, Part One - Ōba is expelled from university, and comes under the case of a friend of the family. He tries to have a normal relationship with a single mother, serving as a surrogate father to her little girl, but abandons them in favor of living with the madam of a bar he patronizes. Later, he falls into a relationship with a young and naïve woman.
  • Third Memorandum, Part Two - Thanks to this woman's grounding influence on his life, Ōba stops drinking and finds gainful work as a cartoonist. Then Horiki shows up, turning Ōba to self-destructivity again. Worse, Ōba becomes estranged from his wife following an incident where she is sexually assaulted by a casual acquaintance, and over time becomes an alcoholic and a morphine addict. He is eventually interned in a mental institution, and, upon release, moves to an isolated place, concluding the story with numb self-reflection.

The story is bookended with two other, shorter chapters from the point of view of a neutral observer, who sees three photos of Ōba and eventually tracks down one of the characters who knew him personally.



Osamu Dazai's Ningen Shikkaku was adapted to film in 2009, the 100th anniversary of Dazai's birth. The film was directed by Genjiro Arato, the producer responsible for the award-winning Zigeunerweisen in 1980. Filming started in July, and it was released on February 20, 2010.

The film stars Toma Ikuta (24) as Ōba Yōzō, a young man who finds it hard to relate to the world around him, but masks this sense of alienation with a jovial demeanor. Still, his life spirals toward self-destruction. Actress Satomi Ishihara (22) plays one of the several women in his life, and the only one he marries.

The film was marketed outside of Japan under the title Fallen Angel.

Other filmmakers in Japan have also been paying tribute to Osamu Dazai's work by adapting it to the big screen. His 1945 novel Pandora no Hako (Pandora's Box) has also been turned into a movie, directed by Masanori Tominaga.


Another adaption of the story was told in the four first episodes of the anime series Aoi Bungaku that was released in 2009. The anime won the Platinum Grand Prize at the Future Film festival in Italy.[3]


Usamaru Furuya published a manga version of No Longer Human in Comic Bunch magazine beginning in 2009's volume 10, to be published by Vertical, Inc[4] in 2011.

Yasunori Ninose published another manga version of No Longer Human, titled Ningen Shikkaku Kai (壊,kai=destruction),[5] in Champion Red from April to July in 2010 in the Japanese language. Unlike Furuya's version, this manga depicts human beings' negative emotion and sexual intercourse as tentacles, which have enthralled Ninose since he was five years old.

A third version (ISBN 978-4872578102), a straight retelling of the story in its original pre-WWII setting, was commissioned for the Manga de Dokuha series (comic adaptations of classic literature), published by Gakken.

References in other works

The anime Ouran High School Host Club had a reference in episode 24 to No Longer Human. There was also a reference in episode 20 of the same anime, where Kyoya Otori is seen reading the novel.

失落沮喪歌, by the Hong Kong indie band My Little Airport is said to have been inspired by the novel.

Nozumu Itoshiki, the main character of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is based on Ōba, which is both the Nozumu and the manga author's favorite book.

UK industrial band History Of Guns include a copy of No Longer Human in the inside artwork.

"Bungaku Shoujo" to Shi ni Tagari no Douke, a manga, has a plot that revolves around a mystery of characters that relate themself so close to the protagonist in Ningen Shikkaku that they follow him and resolve to suicide.

One of the students reads it in Rosario+Vampire.


  1. ^ "Takeshi Obata Illustrates Cover for Best-Selling Japanese Novel". ComiPress. August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  2. ^ Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men, Japanese edit pp. 448-451 by Naoko Miyaji (2005, mainly Richard Gartner) ISBN 4-86182-013-8
  3. ^ "No Longer Human Anime Wins at Italy's Future Film Fest". Anime News Network. April 26, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
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