Friday, November 13, 2009

Aoi Bungaku - No Longer Human 03-04

Yuozo tries to live "more like a human" but the nightmare of that one night on the cliff and his own guilty, self-loathing id continue to haunt him. Soon he finds himself to alcohol and women for both redemption and salvation.
No Longer Human
EPISODE 03: Society

Youzo is now living with an older woman and her daughter and seems content for a while. However, his guilt over Mayumi's death keeps haunting him and he develops an obsessive-compulsive habit of washing his hands. With the help of the woman, he is soon able to publish his first manga. This enables Horiki to trace his whereabouts. Horiki tells him about his father's deteriorating health and how society expects Youzo to go back home. Youzo stands firm on his resolve to make a living through his art but Horiki's visit disturbs the little state of equilibrium that his life has reached. Youzo begins wandering the city at night, visiting bars and brothels until one night he collapses in the middle of the street in a drunken stupor. He is discovered by a young woman whom he later asks to save him.

No Longer Human
EPISODE 04: New World

Horiki discovers where Youzo lives and pays him a visit. Youzo, now married to Yoshiki (the young woman from the previous episode), seems happy as he enjoys married life and relative success as a mangaka. The two friends catch up and then Horiki tells him the real purpose of his visit: Youzo's father is dead. As Youzo reacts violently to the news, Horiki rushes down to get some help, only to unwittingly stumble upon Yoshiki having sex with Youzo's publisher. It turns out that Yoshiki has been selling her body in order to get Youzo's works published. That evening, an unstable Youzo attempts suicide but fails. He wakes up in a hospital and overhears his father's servant talking demeaning things about him. Yoshiki and his prostitute friend defend him but Youzo does not stay long enough to hear. He eventually finds himself at the medicine shop he and Mayumi visited years ago. A woman's voice says that she's been waiting for him. Youzo apparently commits suicide again and finally succeeds. The scene closes with him sitting face to face with his id.


And that ends the first phase of Aoi Bungaku.

No Longer Human
truly lives up to its title. The bad things happening to Youzo seemed never to let up and only in his final hour is he able to find some measure of peace. Or at least, I like to think it's peace. I'm an optimist. *sweatdrop*

Horiki seems to be the catalyst in driving Youzo to self-destruction. His visits never did Youzo any good although I have to say that he seemed well-meaning in the last two episodes. Horiki's development from a mercenary opportunist to a volunteer soldier strikes me as a bit of a stretch but I think the anime has to contend with the time limit as well as a lot of other factors. Even so, I must say this is not a shoddy adaptation.

Production value is consistent for the entire arc. Art style remains Kurozuka while Youzo's character design looks more and more like Light Yamagami (Death Note). After the third watch, I began to notice the BGM in the background and love the soft, haunting instrumentals. I really like Sakai Masato's voice for Youzo. His voice has that detached air and upperclass accent (or at least, what I imagine to be Japanese upperclass accent) that really fits Youzo's character. By contrast, Sakai sounds ill-fit to voice the main character (a forest ruffian) in the second arc of the series, In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom.

But all in all, I think Madhouse does it again. Based solely on the No Longer Human arc, Aoi Bungaku looks all set to becoming a masterpiece in the making. Now, I can't wait to look at the rest of what this series has to offer.