Source: Tatsuki Fujimoto, Goodbye, Eri
By: Beata Garrett | @clearsummers
What is there to say about Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of Chainsaw Man, Fire Punch, and the devastating one-shot, Look Back? We could dive into so many aspects of his works. I love Fujimoto’s stories because he does ultraviolence in a way that cracks open the shell of humanity. Fujimoto’s work is raw, funny, and gut-punching in turns and sometimes all at once.
I heard about Goodbye, Eri, Fujimoto’s latest one-shot the day before it was released on Viz to read for free (no longer the case, sadly). I was immediately onboard. While Fire Punch didn’t do much for me, Chainsaw Man and Look Back rank amongst my favorite manga. I opened the website, eagerly began, and half an hour later, I was in shock. I didn’t quite know how to feel, which is a very typical Fujimoto feeling.
After processing it more, I’ve been able to start articulating what Goodbye, Eri meant to me. There are many things to take from the one-shot, but I was especially interested in how Fujimoto approached film as a way to remember and memorialize those we love. It’s even more poignant considering this is a coming-of-age manga about a boy who is forced to confront his relationships with those around him and his own insecurities as he grows older.
This is also a one-shot that I could talk forever about. As such, this will be a two-part analysis of Goodbye, Eri, with each part tackling half of the one-shot. Thanks for joining me on this journey and, without further ado, let’s get into it.
[Editor’s Note: Please assume from this point forward that everything–quotes, images, and summaries–in this post, unless cited otherwise, comes directly from Goodbye, Eri (2022). This post also goes into in-depth spoilers for the movie. Thank you.]
Disclaimer: This post contains discussions that may be triggering for some readers. Content warning for suicidal ideation and death of a loved one. By clicking “Read More,” you understand that you may encounter such content. Reader discretion is advised.Read more
The first page of the manga appears wholesome on the surface: a twelve-year-old boy has just started middle school and is celebrating his birthday with his parents, who pose for his camera. On the next page, the mother asks the boy, “You know how I could die from my illness? How does that make you feel?” She then proceeds to tell the boy, later called Yuta, that she wants him to begin shooting videos of her for the family to remember her by.
It’s a harsh thing to ask a child. Yet I felt some sympathy, and I’m sure others did, for the mother too. But in that instant, something very innocent (the exhilarating discovery of filming something) is turned into a responsibility and something much more serious.
Despite the serious nature of the mother’s request, Goodbye, Eri doesn’t shy away from humor. Yuta captures the best and worst moments of his mother, from family trips to the aquarium to her laughing and telling him to turn off the camera because she’s pooping. These moments make you smile and then you get the classic Fujimoto gut-punch: Yuta films his parents sleeping and says, “I’m keeping watch in case she dies in her sleep.”
As Yuta follows his mother from home to hospitalization, he shows his face only a few times. He also tries to film his father, who laughs and says, “There’s no need to film your dad!” This brings up an interesting question: who gets to be part of the memorialization and what is the right way, if there is any, to remember someone? Was filming the dad a mistake on Yuta’s part or does the absence of him leave something important out of Yuta’s videos?
This idea of erasure continues on the next page as Yuta films himself in a mirror. His eyes are obscured, which erases part of his humanity, and he talks about his feelings as the one responsible for filming his mother. He doesn’t break down or pretend to be super happy, but his reaction is a little ambivalent. At first, he’s not even sure whether he’s sad, but rectifies it, stating, “No…I’m sad. I am.” It’s almost as if he’s confirming it to himself. There is no correct way to grieve or prepare yourself for the death of a loved one, but this uncertainty in oneself is refreshing to see. It eschews any morality (such as the sentiment that “Yuta is bad for not feeling sad!”) and honestly portrays how some people would process this kind of situation.
Through these three panels and the next page, Fujimoto also shows us how film, especially documentaries, requires a level of honesty from the filmmaker. The next page depicts an insect’s carcass being carried away by ants, and it’s a distinctly somber tone compared to the previous pages. In many ways, the visual mediums of manga and film overlap throughout Goodbye, Eri (though there are definitely differences), but there remains an issue of what is shown and, again, what isn’t. Why is Yuta filming this insect being eaten? Why film himself in the mirror instead of directly as we’ve seen before?
Funnily enough, by diverting attention away from his mother, Yuta ends up being the center of attention and his feelings on his mother’s illness come into focus. He is unable to directly face his mother and this is hammered in when he runs from the hospital, unable to film her final moments.
As he runs away from the hospital, the scene becomes blurry and we wonder how Yuta is holding the camera. Then it pulls away to show him clearly, running towards the camera. The hospital explodes and it’s revealed that this is a movie. The character of “Yuta” in this movie yells, “Goodbye, Mom!” as he runs away, watched by an audience full of students.
This is the first meta layer of Goodbye, Eri and I especially love how “Goodbye, Mom!” echoes the one-shot’s title. As I’ll talk about later, Eri and Yuta’s mother are very intertwined for him and are the two women who influence his life the most.
Unfortunately for the filmmaker, the audience is disgusted by the movie. Ironically, the expressions of shock mimic many people’s reactions to Fujimoto’s works. It definitely mirrored mine towards Fire Punch. It’s made worse when the title of the movie is revealed to be Dead Explosion Mother, a satirical poke at Fujimoto’s violent and simplistic titles.
What’s unusual is that the movie continues. Outside of the movie that is. Yuta captures the reactions of his classmates, who laugh at him and call the movie garbage, and then the individual reactions of those who saw it. Many of them see the movie as insensitive and as a mockery of his mother’s death.
One of the teachers asks him, “Why did you go and turn it into a movie?” and becomes physically violent when Yuta says the explosion was awesome at the end. The question of why we make movies, why any art is made, is an interesting one. Especially in the case of “unpalatable” art. I don’t think Fujimoto provides any clear answer to this question except for two, one of which is “to remember.” The other, which I’ll get more into in Part Two is, is for catharsis.
I believe that it is up to every individual to decide what they deem worthy of remembering. Fujimoto expresses this agency and desire to remember strongly in Goodbye, Eri. After interviewing his audience, Yuta films himself about to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of the hospital where his mother died. He asks his father to show the video to those that made fun of him for the movie and tells the camera (and us), “This world is filled with death. Memento mori.” Like his mother, Yuta wants to exist and live on in someone’s memory. There is also a power in remembering “memento mori,” remembering that you will die, and choosing to accept it and show your most vulnerable moments.
Despite asking his father to take the video, Yuta takes the camera with him and is about to jump off with it. This is a somewhat bizarre move that I’m still reflecting on: does it mean the movie ends only with the filmmaker? That despite wanting to be remembered, Yuta simultaneously wishes to be erased and punish himself? Or is it to heighten the emotions even more as we see his final moments from his perspective? I’m not sure.
The next few pages build dread as we watch Yuta climb the stairs and see the houses and parking lots below him. Any panel now, we could see him falling and it’s very effective. But suddenly, the camera focuses again. And we meet the star of a new movie, a girl named Eri.
This is the end of Part One of the analysis for Goodbye, Eri. Rereading Fujimoto’s one-shot has only made me certain of how talented he is at writing and composition. Every panel adds something interesting to the story and the inner world of its characters, and his reveals are still shocking even though they’ve been done before. Fiction that comments on making movies through movies is nothing new, but there’s a simplicity in Fujimoto’s writing that emphasizes the beauty and horror of his works.
The first half of Goodbye, Eri leaves many unanswered questions to be pondered upon in the next half, and, like a good movie I’ve already seen, I look forward to experiencing it again. Goodbye, reader!