Live for Love by Itsuki Sato and Jun Mayama: B+

liveforloveFrom the back cover:
Yasuie runs the Kiryuuin Detective Agency in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Nichome neighborhood. With no clients and no money, it’s a constant struggle just to live and pay the rent. For the past seven years, Yasuie’s assistant and partner Yoshiyuki has been willing to suffer through all the good and bad times with him—even considering Yasuie’s playful advances, which approach sexual harassment—but life has a way of changing things.

Faced with his family’s ultimatum, Yoshiyuki must choose between a penniless future with Yasuie and a more traditional lifestyle. Can Yasuie convince Yoshiyuki to stay with him? Even if Yasuie does confess the true reason he brought Yoshiyuki into the detective business, will it be enough to change his partner’s mind?

Yoshiyuki Nomura had nowhere to belong. Abandoned by his birth parents in a coin locker at a train station, he had no family until he was taken in by the Nomuras at age twelve. He strove to do well in school and earn their approval, but the arrival of a natural-born son made him feel displaced. He went to an excellent college as expected, got a good job as expected, but none of it felt right and none of it lasted. On the same day, he lost his job and his girlfriend but also met his unlikely savior in the form a foolish and impulsive private detective named Yasuie Kiryuuin, who saw the dejected Yoshiyuki sitting on a park bench and couldn’t just leave him there. Instead, he offers Yoshiyuki a job.

It’s been seven years since then, and Yoshiyuki has been kept busy trying to keep Yasu’s business afloat, even though it consists more of fetching and grooming kitties than any real detective work. Yasu is incredibly affectionate towards Yoshiyuki, though always presents his feelings in a playful way that’s easy for Yoshiyuki to dismiss. Yoshiyuki is exasperated and often cranky, but is obviously content enough to have remained in the job for so long. Things seem destined to carry on this way indefinitely until Yoshiyuki receives a phone call from his foster parents out of the blue.

The Nomuras are kind people, and genuinely regret that Yoshiyuki was made to feel unwanted in their home. They want to make it up to him by inviting him back into their home, providing him with a good job, and setting him up with a marriage interview. Yoshiyuki is torn—the prospect of family life is tantalizing. Is this where he’d belong?—but Yasu makes the decision easy by forcing himself on Yoshiyuki when he gets wind of his possible departure. The nonconsensual scene is really awful because these are two characters we already genuinely care about, which makes it much more painful to read than if it had occurred in a series with fewer positive qualities. If there is a bright side, it’s that Yasu is not some sadistic seme who feels no remorse for his actions; he knows it was inexcusable and is consumed by regret.

Yoshiyuki moves back home with his family, but though they are solicitous, he can never fully relax around him. A nice subtle indicator of the distance between them is how his foster parents never fail to append his name with the honorific san; even after caring for him for so many years they’ve never felt close enough to address him on a first name basis. While Yasu flagellates himself at the office, Yoshiyuki helps his little brother with his homework and plays the dutiful son by attending the marriage interview, even though it doesn’t make him happy. “Will I have to accept this feeling of emptiness?,” he wonders at one point.

Although it happens too quickly, the ultimate reconciliation with Yasu is very satisfying, with Yoshiyuki realizing that he’s always being saved by Yasu’s foolishness and has, in reality, needed him all along just as much as Yasu needs him. I also appreciate that Yoshiyuki refuses to accept Yasu’s apology for what happened, making sure the latter knows just how physically battered and emotionally humiliated he was. Lastly, Yoshiyuki’s accidental admittance of his feelings (and his subsequent reaction) is possibly the best I’ve seen in BL manga yet.

While Live for Love certainly has its flaws, the interplay between the well-drawn characters is funny, sweet, and endearing and makes this story recommended despite the inclusion of one very regrettable scene.

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  1. Nice review, Michelle. I share your assessment entirely.


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