Takahiro is the adopted son and secretary of an important Japanese politician. Already uneasy about his position in the eyes of his disapproving father, it doesn't help when Takahiro gets himself kidnapped by American gangsters. While his captors wait for the ransom demand to be met, Takahiro has to while away the days under the watchful eyes of his assigned guard, Jack. As the days turn into weeks, something like friendship develops between them. But will it lead to more...?
Ah, Nishida-sensei, the often overlooked mangaka in the yaoi world. And what a shame, really. When you think of the best writers in realistic boys' love, the names that immediately pop up are Yoneda Kou, Kyuugou and Miyamoto Kano, among others. But if you're a fan of the more realistic side of this genre, you should get acquainted with Nishida Higashi's works too.
On the surface, Life, Love doesn't look promising. The plot has been overused and the story looks painfully cheesy with the added blow of bad art. (I'll talk about this aspect later) But Life, Love manages to take an old, cliché concept and
make it interesting and refreshing again.
I'll start with the characters first because, although they're not very complex, they possess qualities that really helped the story shine and give it more depth.
First thing that is done differently: Jack is the American gangster guard and in theory, or according to yaoi stereotypes anyway, he should be the cool, tough, stoic, sweet-talking guy. And Takahiro, the sheltered Japanese politician's kid, should be a bit naive and prone to exhibiting damsel-in-distress vulnerability.
WRONG. You were wrong, I was wrong, everybody was wrong. Jack is the so-called 'dumb kid' who can't read and write, follows his boss's orders blindly because he's 'stupid and can't think for himself' and has zero sexual experience, despite the fact that he's not only super good-looking but also almost thirty. Yeah, far from cool. On the other hand, Takahiro is suave, cheeky, brazen, almost ten years older (hell yeah for age gaps) and of course, far more sexually experienced. With women, that is.
Doesn't this sound awesome enough already?! If not, I guess I'll continue trying to convince you. *looks at you judgingly*
Also, both guys are manly men. There won't be any fluffy sweet moments, or tender cry-on-my-shoulder-while-i-say-love-you scenes, because that's not what manly men do. Manly men say "F*** you" and shout it out and show attitude.
A major twist in the plot is the fact it's not so much of the kidnapper saving his hostage; rather, it's the other way around. Takahiro 'saves' Jack. I won't say anything else because it would spoil the story.
Also, in many kidnapper and hostage stories, they end when they successfully escape and the last we see of them is them bounding off into the sunset with the vague promise that they'll live happily ever after. In Life, Love, the story is just beginning at this point and the realism hits in: It's not all sunshine and roses.
However, there's a recurring bad point I've noticed in the stories I've read by Nishida-sensei. The stories start off good, become great in the middle, with some really nice climaxes, then right at the end, it finishes lukewarm. I always find myself slightly dissatisfied with her endings because they wrap up so... Unsatisfyingly. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why she's not as well-known as her fellow yaoi mangakas. But despite that, I still give the story a 9/10.
The art may come as an unpleasant shock for people who have never read Nishida-sensei's stories. It is very plain, the characters look stiff and you will realise Jack and Takahiro have the EXACT same faces. I'm not kidding. The art style does have its own charm though. But it might take some getting used to for some. Bottom line: Don't drop it just because the art looks ugly; stick around for the story and who knows, you might end up liking the art too.
A unique story and enjoyable character interaction and development, with a good dose of angsty and sexy moments. There is some room for improvement in the art and story department (as I had mentioned before, her endings are a bit lacklustre), but overall, I enjoyed reading this tremendously and I would recommend it to all yaoi fans.
This yaoi asks a lot of its readers, but rewards them for the effort. I was surprised at the twist in the second half, as well as how much of an emotional reaction I had to what was happening between the characters. This is one of the few yaoi mangas that managed to make me both laugh out loud and cry (at the same time at one point!).
What I liked about it:
1. It's a yakuza / mafia setting which means it's gritty and mature.
2. The characters weren't what I expected (in all the right ways).
mannerisms of both men were very manly. Their body language spoke volumes.
What I didn't like about it:
1. The art takes some getting used to.
2. Takahiro started to annoy the crap out of me in the latter half of the story. (Though I think that was intentional.)
STORY: You think you know where this story is going and then everything gets turned upside down and inside out. I really loved that neither character was predictable or stereotypical. I honestly had no clue who was going to end up being the seme and who was going to be the uke, and when I thought I had it figured it, I was wrong. I loved that. There's a distinct transition in the middle of the story and again, it surprised me in the direction that it took. Initially, I was a little annoyed because it felt awkward and forced, but then it became clear that that was because of what the characters were feeling and conveying.
ART: I can't draw a decent stick figure so I'm the last person to be critiquing anyone's art. This manga definitely doesn't have the pretty shoujo art we may be used to in yaoi. If the characters didn't have opposing hair colors, they'd be impossible to tell apart. However, it grew on me. Like I said above, I adored the mannerisms and body language of the characters. These were conveyed entirely through the artwork and it was done wonderfully. One thing that really struck me was the enormous improvement in Jack's appearance post-haircut. It was really astounding how much different (and hotter) it made Jack look. And that too was all due to the skill of the artist. So that's why I phrase it above as "takes some getting used to." I can't say it's 'bad' because it's not. It's just unconventional.
CHARACTER: These two … they’re guys, all the way. There is not anything remotely feminine about either of them. (Even though one of them does start to suffer from some “female type” thinking patterns later in the story. More on that in a minute.) This is where the gritty art style really works. Something about the rough lines adds to the indisputably male mannerisms of these two guys. The character growth in this story is unique. And really hard to describe. What we see is each man coming to a realization of what he needs from the other, and admitting that to each other. We don’t necessarily get to see the full effects of that, just a promise of them.
This is a manga that really needs to be savored. What I mean is, read the speech bubbles through the natural ending of the scene or discussion, and then go back and read it again, this time looking at the faces. I think we tend to focus on the speech bubbles and ignore all but the big art pieces and in this story, you’ll really miss out if you do that. Read the text and then go back and read the body language. It speaks volumes.