What is Ushijima the loan shark manga about?

What is Ushijima the loan shark manga about?

Manga is usually our way to escape from reality to a magical, adventurous world of Ninjas and Hunters, however there are certain manga, which pull us back into the reality with their pragmatic themes dealing with societal issues. One such piece is Ushijima the Loan Shark manga, a piece centered around Ushijima Kaoru, an unconventional protagonist, a man working for Cow Cow Finance, taking financial advantage of its clients. In this article we will explore what makes Ushijima the Loan Shark stand out and why it has remained relatively unknown outside of Japan.

What is it about?

The storyline

A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga
A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga (Image via Shogakukan)

The story starts with the protagonist Ushijima Kaoru, and the initial chapters are presented through his point of view. This is because the author of the manga aimed to prevent mannerisms by depicting the story primarily from the viewpoint of the central character.

  • The story is divided into two significant parts, with the first part featuring independent story arcs, each following a debt-slave connected in some way to Ushijima’s shadowy financial dealings. Each arc introduces a new protagonist, distinct themes, and a unique conclusion.
  • The manga emphasizes how individuals, unable to secure loans from traditional banking systems, turn to “yamikin,” the Japanese term for loan sharks. The catch with yamikin is their exorbitant interest rates and the high risks involved, with the potential for dire consequences due to external factors.

The realistic approach

A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga
A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga (Image via Shogakukan)

The manga focuses on these so-called victims who find themselves bound to Ushijima, forced to repay their debts at any cost. What sets this story apart is its refusal to paint characters as simply heroes or villains. Instead, it presents them as deeply human, full of flaws, vices, addictions, and dreams, just like real people. 

On one side, we have Ushijima, who mercilessly profits from the misery of desperate individuals, using any means at his disposal to collect his money and interest. On the other side, we have yakuza, rivals, and other loan sharks vying for power in this ruthless financial world.

The characters of Ushijima the Loan Shark

A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga
A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga (Image via Shogakukan)

The manga offers a diversity of the human psyche through its range of characters, with Ushijima at the forefront. Ushijima is not a typical protagonist we usually see in manga; he is ruthless and unapologetic in his pursuit of profit. His clients are often far from virtuous themselves, and he makes no apologies for treating them as mere sources of income. He operates with transparency, setting high interest rates and conditions upfront, with trust and timely payments as his only expectations.

The cast, beyond Ushijima, is a rare and rich blend of characters, their interactions and dialogues pure gold. Whether it’s a salaryman discussing his job, a dreamer chasing their ambitions, or even a character running alongside their next victim, the manga encourages us to relate with these characters on a personal level.  

The art and paneling of the manga 

A still from Ushijima the loan shark manga
The manga panels of Ushijima the loan shark manga (Image via Shogakukan)

While some may initially dismiss the art in Ushijima the Loan Shark as unattractive, it’s to be noted that this aesthetic choice is relevant to the manga’s allure, the ugliness of the manga depicts the ugliness of its characters. However, the attention to detail, especially in the depiction of Tokyo, is nothing short of remarkable. Tokyo itself becomes a character in the story, with the city’s oppressive presence subtly affecting every panel.

The manga’s textless panels encourage contemplation, and the absence of unnecessary text highlights the visual storytelling. The paneling is upright, ensuring that every bubble of text is worth reading.

Should you read Ushijima the loan shark Manga?

Well, the seinen manga is not for everybody, but if you love the thrill of realism without any sugarcoating the harsh realities of life, Ushijima the Loan Shark manga is IT for you. It presents the characters in the most raw form possible, which is rarely seen in most manga. Instead of painting the world black and white, Ushijima the Loan Shark represents the society as all shades of gray. This manga is worth reading for a thought provoking experience, although you would feel like dropping it after some time due to the manga not doing justice to certain characters like Utsui, but don’t give up on the emotional rollercoaster. 

Conclusion 

Ushijima the Loan Shark is not just a manga that you would read for entertainment, it is a stark portrayal of the reality which will make you contemplate the harsh world of debt and its tragedies. The unconventional protagonist, Ushijima Kaoru, despite being evil and unlikable, is the best work of Shohei Manabe. If you love a twisted plot with psychological thriller genre, then it is worth a read.

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