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Naniwa Zenidou, by Yuji Aoki (1945-2003), Grade B
I've never read the original Naniwa Kin'yudo (The Way of the Osaka Loan Shark) series, which ran from 1990 to 1997, in Morning magazine. Naniwa Zenidou (The way of Money, published by Aoki Productions, following Yuji's death) follows two men living in Osaka - Keiji Koyabu, and Yuuichirou Aoi. When the story starts, the younger Aoi is accompanying his boss, Koyabu, to a cemetery, where the older man is paying respects to his deceased wife. We're told that she'd died 10 years earlier when she and Koyabu were trying to run away from some men that were chasing after them (the implication is that the men were yakuza), and their car was hit by a truck. At the time, Koyabu was trying to conduct a business deal worth millions, and he'd been betrayed by his four partners - Tsuichirou Gametsu, Keisuke Tantsubo, Hakio Gero and Kusashi Wakiga. Koyabu is back, and now he wants revenge, and his money.
(Koyabu and Aoi are at the upper right. Gametsu is at the top left, along with his girlfriend Ikumi, and one of his minions, Koshio Tabeno.)
Initially, Koyabu targets Gametsu, the owner of a chain of family restaurants (Gametsu used the money he'd swindled from Koyabu to start up his franchise). His mistress, Ikumi, is also seeing a manager at one of Gametsu's competitors, which Koyabu hopes to use as leverage against Gametsu. But, as he and Aoi try to develop their plan, they find themselves blocked by a minion that only pretends to betray his boss, Tabeno, and by Ikumi (she had worked as a model on the race car circuit, but her father owned a big corporation before his death. Ikumi was the daughter of the guy's mistress and was disowned by the rest of the family when the old man died. So, she's got great business sense, but no money of her own.) Things get further muddled by a group of insider traders that are also attempting to manipulate Gametsu corps.' stock price.
(The first 2 pages, at the cemetery, and the start of the flashback with Koyabu's deceased wife.)
The artwork is intentionally simplistic, although the backgrounds are pretty detailed. The character designs don't look that great, which is why I give this manga a B grade. However, if you want to learn more about Osaka, there are many location scenes to look at. There's also a strong focus on banking and the stock market here, with descriptions of short selling, the markets as a whole, day trading, and insider trading. If you want to learn a little about financial dealings in Osaka, this is a good start.
(Koyabu and Aoi try to deal with a stalker, who turns out to not only be the guy that stole Aoi's ex-girlfriend from him, but is also a member of the insider traders interfering with Koyabu's revenge plans against Gametsu.)
This is a big 300-page plus volume, with a $7 price tag. It ends with the insider traders threatening to expose Koyabu's plans against Gametsu, before he can even get really started on them.
Summary: An Osaka businessman betrayed by his partners 10 years ago wants his money back, and revenge against the four. Ok artwork, a good story, and lots of financial information. The book ends on an early cliffhanger. Recommended if you want to learn about the financial underworld, and plan to get the entire series.