In recent years, Japan has become the shining light of Asia—with its noteworthy achievements in the fields of Science and Technology, Medicine and the like. But while there are a great number of rich and successful Japanese people, there are even more who are engaged in a furious struggle simply to earn their day-to-day living expenses... all the while battling with dangerous and money-consuming addictions such as gambling and alcoholism.
What will these people do when they require the cash to feed the never-ending desires that are part and parcel of being human? How miserable and dangerous might their lives become if they fall into the fearful traps that are set by black market money-lenders with the sole purpose of ensnaring such weak-willed individuals?
A series I marathoned in the course of one night to avoid coming back to it the next day, Yamikin Ushijima-kun reads like a heavy punch in the gut, especially the early chapters. You wanted some nice fluffy escapism? It’s definitely not here.
The end mark, 7, is a result of complex math in this case.
It’s a thought-provoking, decently written, dramatic seinen on an unusual, but very relevant topic – usury. I don’t know about the place where you live, but here there’re a lot of shady businesses that offer “money now, no documents needed”, and the reports about the results of such deals are
scary. That’s basically what this manga is about, pachinko addiction, forced prostitution, beatings and greedy yakuza included. The unorthodox topic, the courage of introducing a completely unsympathetic cast and the hard, unyielding wall of misery, this manga meets you with, deserve some credit, right? So maybe 8?
On the other hand, reading this is unpleasant, horrifying even, if you’re, perhaps, not financially secure. The topics of forced prostitution, violence, extensive humiliation and illegal activities are highly uncomfortable, and what’s worse these actions are performed by none others than by the characters that we follow! You shrink away in horror, so utterly people are destoyed and beaten in the mud. Normally, I give the rating of 6 to the series, that can be recommended only with a warning.
And as the plot goes by, the story shifts towards the other dealings in the world of the yamikin, i.e. moneylenders, besides their relationships with the “clients”, it becomes slightly easier to read… and you start to feel vindictive after the heavy initial scarring – you start to notice flaws. You see that this manga is less realistic and more sensationalist, than it wants to seem, there is the lack of direction, and the moral system is seriously weak (which is bad for a story exclusively about wrong). You’re forced to follow and sympathize with the main character, but his harsh mindset is not properly explained or condoned (yet we know he likes rabbits and has them as pets, that’s kinda endearing… but towards a wrong person), and the actions of moneylender Ushijima go way beyond what can be ever forgiven or atoned for. In the later arc the main cast commits what can be described only as a sadistic murder and that feels as too much even for them and sort of out of character.
The misery is everpresent and directionless, it’s like a journey through hell (with ethnographic info and numbers), but not only sinners suffer. I don’t understand where this is going. I hope the workers of the usury firm will reach their tragedy in the end or the matter of the evil unpunished will be addressed better. At the beginning we saw some snippets, that indicated that Ushijima’s psyche is also dying (I am not sure about soul with him), but currently there is too much admiration – he is special, he is strong-willed, imposing, can it all. It’s not even consistent with his place in the criminal hierarchy… And the few acts of kindness he does are a drop in the ocean. Maybe it's remedied later, but then it's kind of slow, in my opinion. But no, there is no glory in the lives of the criminals either, thankfully.
So, yeah, among the cast we have the titular Ushijima and his workers – two thuggish older guys, each with his own quirks, a younger former host, a female receptionist and, later, the boy Ushijima saves and employs, the other complex character with his distinct goal. Other than that there is the endless line of victim-clients.
Each arc has its own group of miserable, weak, mostly stupid people getting in Ushijima's net and losing their everything in the end. Yeah, the people are despicable, but their fates are heart-breakingly sad.
As a matter of fact - one relatively safer and softer arc is dedicated to a gay group, the depiction is very progressive for manga.
The art at the beginning is a bit shaky, but lately it develops. The end result is your good, big-form, detailed seinen art with some edited photo elements. The highlight are the memorable and unique designs of the main characters with their ghetto baggy clothes and ugly features (an overkill realism-wise, imo, the clothes, I mean). Some of the secondary characters are a bit difficult to distinguish though. And yeah, there is little pretty, the author went for a different feel, understandably.
Well, I ended up arguing morals, which is useless, but morals is what you’ll think while reading this, I guarantee. I also guarantee thinking, which, I guess, is good for seinen. Maybe that’s what solidifies my 7...
All in all, this is an interesting manga to explore, a fine cautionary tale, perhaps, but it’s hardly a good entertainment material. It’s powerful, especially at the initial stages, very bleak, very scary, very close to the real horror around us. It strikes true, yeah. But, and here I can speak only for myself, it strikes so hard that it causes animosity, and further reading makes you think that it doesn’t know what to do with its plot and characters, their development is slow and not very well displayed.
Frankly, it would be easier if I didn't know about the existence of this manga. In Japan there are already 36 volumes of Yamikin Ushijima-kun… I want to say that I don’t want to stick, cause I value my mental state, but I also feel the tug of morbid curiosity, and turning away from this manga seems cowardly. Decide for yourself, what is stronger for you, but in any case it is a pain, probably intended pain.
If you managed to get past nudity and sex scenes without going straight to the Manga… then thumbs up to you and here’s the guts of the story, “Yamikin” the Japanese equivalent of the bottom feeding “loan shark” and everything that comes with it. Legality problems, shady backers, gang pressure, con artists, the sex industry, though most of all trying to get their money back from the people who take loans. And I’m not gonna pretend to be an expert on the Japanese loan shark system, but the story has an element of realism to me because, it’s
pretty close to the same shit I see in my neck of the woods and most likely most of you have seen it too “lending money to desperate people, idiots or just fucken losers with bad credit at ridiculously high interest rates”. This at least, for the first few chapters, is the story.
Think of pathetic people getting themselves into debt and being forced to pay it back by any means and I mean “by any means possible”. Let your imagination go there and it probably still won’t come close... Expect to be challenged, repulsed even, expect to see the scum of society, expect to think, to judge, to feel, though also expect the stories to grip you by the throat without a hope of letting go, and why? The hook in these stories is, they can make you believe that these extreme situations could and probably do happen. This is mostly done with facts and dialogue aimed at the realist in you. Also Manabe Shohei “the author” plays on your faith in humanity, and for me at least, I found my faith in humanity “laughing” as it passed me by, waving its middle finger in the air. In saying that the only reason I could downgrade this story is because it might make you uncomfortable, and you have been warned so, that’s not a real reason, also at the moment the story overall is starting to take shape, the main character Ushijima-kun is looking to move up in the ranks of the underworld, which is adding depth and is just making this even better, so for the story, a big 10
I’ve only read one other manga by “Manabe Shohei” though his art sort of reminded me of the mangaka “Hanazawa Kengo” author of “I am hero” and on some level, I thought of the Manga “Shamo” as well, just without the water colors. It has that uniqueness to it, maybe not as refined but it does have a gritty feel. Meaning it’s not the prettiest but in all honesty in relation to the story and characters “it fits the feel perfectly”, it had a down and dirty charm almost. Anyway the art holds up the story, it may not be for you anatomically correct nuts, but for the “connoisseur” it should be good, like is said, it has its own charm. Based on how well the art works with the story I’m going with a 9
There’s only really one main Character in this. He is the head of the Yamikin company, “Ushijima” .This guy is no protagonist, he is not likeable, he’s more like an antihero, he’s smart and emotionally detached; the guy is all business. Even though he goes through some development it’s not in the form of the “hero” it’s more like the reader gets a better understanding of his perspective and challenges as a Yamikin, so maybe you can respect his smarts. He is the most developed character at this time. It’s not that big a deal because only 22 chaps have been translated so far. So while there are a few other core characters, underlings, workers, rivals etc, being established now, only a couple of them have really been explored. In saying that the characters who have been moving the story so far “the slaves” aka the people owing money, more than make up for this. The “slaves” have been developed with simple and relatable faults and desires like addiction, greed, peer pressure, boredom etc. Very relatable at least in understanding how they got themselves in the shit and even if you do start to feel sorry for them, the author has a way of twisting your loyalties between the loan shark and the slave. The author just knows what he’s doing, so for characters it’s an easy 9
It’s like that saying “it hurts so good” I don’t know if it says too much for my mental state, and I feel like, it's better not to like it as much as I do, but whatever, I suppose in some ways it’s like that feeling you get when looking down at pitiful people, in your head you’re like “YES” my life aint that shit! Well something like that, anyway I’m enjoying it and it’s a 9 for me
I’m giving it a solid 9, and to everyone who turns their head away when they pass an accident, or can’t watch a train wreck happen, this story is not for you, it’s no fucking fairy tale! But if you don’t mind a darker themed story line, exploring the human psyche and no fluff, this could become addictive. So definitely give it a shot and I better mention there is some humor in this so, as I sign out I’ll leave you with one of lighter quotes from one of the scums in this story…see you around.
“If I had the power like a Sayan, I’d gather up all this world’s suffering into a spirit bomb and shove it up their asses” - Aizawa