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.