Running in Josei monthly Feel Young, Free Soul is the story of a young manga artist, Keito. Having seen a photo of Yamaji-sensei, I can safely say that her protagonists look remarkably like herself (and gee, Keito’s a manga artist – how amazing! ^_^)
Free Soul is actually two stories – the story of Keito’s creation, a manga about Angie, a black jazz singer from New York, and Keito’s own story, as she meets and falls in love with mysterious, sexy Niki.
Angie’s story in some ways is the more compelling – we see Keito create her, bringing her to life, making her strong and real, until her story is as real as Keito’s, while Keito herself remains a little distant from us, even as she tries to find connection between herself and the people around her. Her affair with Niki is intense, but not entirely fulfilling, since we can see that Niki isn’t the kind of person that will stick around. Of course, eventually Niki breaks Keito’s heart and leaves, but in doing so, pretty much becomes more real to us as a person.
The end of Free Soul was both good and bad. Niki comes back abruptly, somewhat unrealistically, admitting that she realized that she loves Keito – but you know, it never felt right to me. Keito, for her part has grown enough that she doesn’t just collapse into Niki’s arms, but is willing to see how it pans out. So the girl does get the girl, and the protagonist grows slightly more real, but the ending didn’t satisfy me, somehow.
I think when I’ve had a chance to see it all collected into one volume, I’ll be able to assess the story as a whole. (I missed the first few chapters and had to play catch-up through the rest of the story…)
Nonetheless, as yet another seriously decent Josei Yuri manga, complete with happy ending, Free Soul has got to be high on the list of any serious Yuri fan. ^_^