©︎ Shohei Manabe / Shogakukan.Inc

23rd Manga Division Social Impact Award

Yamikin Ushijima-kun (Ushijima the Loan Shark)

MANABE Shohei[Japan]

Outline

USHIJIMA Kaoru is the manager of Kaukau Finance, which provides underground financing at the astronomical interest rate of 50% for 10 days. USHIJIMA has a cold air about him, and this manga depicts the way he relentlessly collects debts and hounds the borrowers, whom he calls “slaves.” He keeps saying, “If it’s a matter of stealing or being stolen from, I’m going to steal!” He reigns as a dark hero, relying on the code of behavior learned during his bitter upbringing. The slaves that become USHIJIMA’s customers are addicted to pachinko and sex. They either get hooked on brand name products, brainwashed by domestic violence, or financially destroyed by losing their jobs. Most of them are left unspared, and fall to even lower depths from USHIJIMA’s relentless debt collection. By focusing on underground financing, a darker side of society, this manga has a structure composed both of people who cannot fight their desires and those who seek to exploit them, all luridly brought to life. It ran in a magazine for 15 years, from 2004 to 2019. The author’s painstaking research reveals the perversions of Japan’s Heisei era (1989 to 2019) and its people’s endless desires.

Reason

The human world is made up of more than just truth, goodness, and beauty. Learning about and confronting deceit, evil, and ugliness is one of the duties of all people living in our society. Through literature and the media we find ways to do so, but manga are more intuitive than literature and not as lurid as other media, making them the ideal medium for depicting deceit, evil and ugliness. The author continued working on this manga for 15 years, employing a blandness in his narrative and illustrations that denies the reader any emotional involvement in this depiction of people left helpless and without resources to turn to anything other than illegal consumer loans. It depicts, in real time, the period of Japan’s decline without recovery from the collapse of the economic bubble. People were fighting for the limited wealth remaining, resulting in ever-widening inequality. Any protests at the time were mild, however, and the very existence of marginalized people, like these characters, was covered up. It is a cruel and harsh tale bereft of any sign of redemption, yet has a certain pull that keeps us from looking away. This manga has undergone multiple printings and was even made into a film, making USHIJIMA an icon for the depiction of darkness in our world. It holds something of importance to us, and clearly shows the level of work deserving of the Social Impact Prize. (OMOTE Tomoyuki)