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At times, it can feel as though there is no logic to the world in which we inhabit. There is innate cruelty that taxes our very existence. Sometimes that tax is physically far enough that we can go on mostly unaffected, other times, it happens right in front of our face, maybe even behind the lens of a camera…
I won’t bother giving much of a plot description here since the story in question is only one volume. Honestly, the short and sweet of it is that it has my thorough recommendation, but the long version is going to be entering big spoiler territory, so I will give a warning now. Basically, the story consists of a middle school-aged boy named Yuta who confronts personal tragedy by making films.
Goodbye, Eri is much about narrative as it is about tragedy. In most cases, the audience experiences the world not directly from Yuta’s perspective but filtered through the camera on his phone. Even the first panel in which he is scene comes from the camera recording him during his birthday party. Additionally, Yuta is encouraged both by his mother and later by Eri, to record them, and thus the world of Goodbye, Eri is always one degree removed.
This becomes a factor pretty much immediately, as having all of this footage of his later deceased mother becomes the motivation for his filmmaking. The reason narrative becomes so important is that later on, it is revealed just how horrible Yuta’s mother actually is, constantly degrading him for not capturing her perfectly. Despite this abuse, Yuta decides to make the film anyway, with a twist: Yuta is unable to record his mother’s death despite asking her to, and so the final moments of his film involve him running away, the hospital exploding behind him. This eventually leads to his classmates making fun of him and his principal reprimanding him for the directorial choice.
Eri, though shown to be significantly nicer than Yuta’s mother, ultimately makes the same request, and thus Yuta experiences her most directly through his camera. What’s more, the fact that Eri meets a similar fate to his mother makes the continued filming of Eri emotionally difficult.
What makes Goodbye, Eri so compelling is the way Fujimoto Juxtaposes the need to remember somebody fondly with the power to control their narrative. It would have been just as easy for Yuta to make a film that was honest about his mother’s behavior, and yet the entirety of the opening act is filled with nothing but positive, save for Yuta’s indecisiveness at the end.
Fantasy vs Reality
The ability to control the narrative as a thematic concept is explored even during moments when the camera turns off. We find out in the final moments of the manga that, much like in Yuta’s hastily thrown together screenplay, Eri is actually a vampire. Despite witnessing her death firsthand, Eri returns without her memory. Except, she writes a letter to herself as a reminder of her identity. The resident filmmaker experiences this during another time of immense personal tragedy, after waking up in the hospital to find out his entire family is dead.
Again the question of perspective throughout the manga invites the questioning of this dynamic in such a brilliant way. Before this moment near the end, Yuta had primarily experienced Eri through a camera lens, and even during the moments when she is off-camera, the two of them are alone. Now, is it necessary to read Eri as completely imaginary on the part of Yuta as a way of coping with his mother’s death? No, but it is a conversation certainly worth having.
After all, the abandoned building where the two spent hours watching films just explodes in the final panel after Yuta decides suicide is not worth it. Even in the most bitter and hopeless moments of his life, he is still in control, whether or not he wants to be.
I have already talked about how perspective plays a huge role in determining Goodbye, Eri‘s thematic and narrative elements. However, Fujimoto also uses his art to help support this as well.
For starters, his character designs lend nicely to the grittier realities he tends to portray. A manga with this framework would not work nearly as well with lighter, fluffier character designs that tend to support a more relaxed atmosphere, as this story is anything but relaxed. This is not to pass judgment on said art styles, but I somehow doubt this one-shot would have had nearly the same emotional resonance in another artist’s hands.
On top of that, there are many frames that are drawn more roughly, with less line work in order to simulate the effect of blurriness in a camera. While probably not a complicated endeavor from an art standpoint, it does add a lot to the narrative and thematic elements, as it reminds the audience that Yuta is constantly behind a camera rather than viewing things for himself.
While a story of this nature likely could have worked in a multi-volume setting, the decision to make this a one-shot was a brilliant one, as the brevity of a single volume lends it a power that not many stories in its lane are able to match. If for some reason there are people at the end of this post who have yet to read Goodbye, Eri, 1. I did warn you for spoilers, and 2. read it anyway. Easily one of the best stories to come out this year, and I would not be surprised to see it win a ton of awards.
Have some thoughts on Fujimoto’s latest work? Let me know down in the comments.
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