Major Japanese cultural figures often become subjects of films when big birth or death anniversaries roll around. The hero (far more rarely, the heroine) is usually portrayed as a sainted genius, tragic or otherwise. Osamu Dazai, however, was one such figure who didn't fit the saint template.

Born in 1909 into a large, wealthy family in Aomori Prefecture, Dazai had a sheltered upbringing, though his mother was sickly and his father was often absent. As an adolescent living away from home to attend school, and later as a student at Tokyo Imperial University, Dazai neglected his studies, while dabbling in Marxist politics and spending his allowance on drink and women, enraging his conservative family.

Troubled by feelings of worthlessness and despair, he twice attempted suicide in this period, the second time with a woman who died while he survived.