So, so horrible
I got into Loan Shark Ushijima last year in September. My wife was away for a couple of weeks and I was trying out Netflix (didn't renew the free trial though -too much of a time suck).
LSU (闇金ウシジマ君 -Yamikin Ushijima-kun in Japanese) is a manga, a couple of series of a TV show, and three movies. It is remarkably popular, a fun (if incredibly bleak) watch, and a really interesting window into parts of Japanese society and thinking that I'm glad I seldom get to see.
First, a warning: the content is violent, distressing, and really depressing at times.
The stories revolve around Ushijima, who owns a small money-lending company. He isn't a yakuza, but works for and around them. He is portrayed as very tough, intelligent, and ruthless, but occasionally does something that makes you think he actually cares about people.
LSU is actually kind of moralistic. The horrible stuff that happens to people in the series tends to stem from their faults or stupidity, or those of their friends and family. From time to time people are redeemed, often through Ushijima's stern guidance.
The views of the underbelly of Japanese society seem completely ridiculous, unless you read Tokyo Reporter, at which point you realise that they could be horribly true to life.
The manga came first, but I read it after watching the TV show and the movies. A lot of the stories are faithfully reproduced in the TV show and the movies. I wasn't able to continue reading past book 11 or so of the manga. It was just too bleak and depressing. The supporting characters ('customers' and victims of the loan sharks and the criminals around them) engage in really stupid and self-defeating behaviour. I found it exhausting and had to stop reading.
I watched three full series of the TV show. It was available with English subtitles on Netflix when I watched it. The first series was by far the best. It features a fantastic female support character that really rounds out the cast and the stories work well. I would definitely start here.
The second and third series of the TV show are not as good, but are still watchable. Carry on watching as I did if you need more of a fix.
The movies are over the top and kind of stupid. They are much more violent and graphically sexual than the TV show, so it feels like the creators were trying stuff they wouldn't have been able to do on TV. Also more cartoonish than the TV show, particularly the fight scenes. I haven't gotten round to watching the third movie yet.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the impression of investing that seems to be common in Japanese society, ie that it is dangerous and risky. There are several investing scams in Ushijima, including a particularly horrible one in the comic that goes on for several books where a clueless housewife is swindled out of first all her money, then her husband's retirement bonus, then their house, and finally her mother's house in a succession of encounters with crooked salesmen and companies orchestrated by Ushijima.
One can perhaps see where some Japanese people's aversion to the stock market comes from after reading that particular story line.
So I really recommend the first TV show. The rest of the TV and movie content is fine, and if you manage to get through the manga let me know how the later books are.
Anyone else familiar with Ushijima? Any other TV shows tangentially related to personal finance I should check out?