In late 1980s Japan, loan sharks surfaced as heroes in graphic novels set in the world of predatory moneylending. A genre of manga about usury gained popularity as monthlies began to run serialized stories that parody class inequality through gratuitous, chauvinistic depictions of sex and violence in the urban underground, while offering an ethnographic view into the lives of hustlers and gangsters, confidence artists and street lawyers. This article examines two usury manga titles as morality tales that speak to the widespread anxiety caused by the personal debt crisis in contemporary Japan. These street usurers point to a desire to escape a foundational ethical code of capitalism: the obligation to reciprocate. Yet this break from debt morality requires a redemption that involves theft, slavery, and death. These manga comment on the forms of debt in Japan's consumer-driven capitalism, as they relate to the postwar labor form and the technology of inscription used in authenticating the identities of economic subjects.
Skip Nav Destination
Takehiro Watanabe; Debts of Redemption: Usury Manga and the Morality of Money in Contemporary Japan. positions 1 August 2017; 25 (3): 565–593. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-4149382
Download citation file: