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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.

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