Source: Tatsuki Fujimoto, Goodbye, Eri
By: Beata Garrett | @clearsummers
Welcome back to Part Two of my Goodbye, Eri analysis. In Part One, I touched upon some of the themes in Tatsuki Fujimoto’s excellent one-shot and focused on how film is used to remember those we love and the conundrum of who deserves to be remembered. In Part Two, I’ll expand upon these themes. Thank you for joining me on this journey and 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: Goodbye, Eri Analysis (Part Two)
When we first meet Eri, she seems like a figment of Yuta’s imagination. Not only does she suddenly appear, but she tells him that she, unlike everyone else, enjoyed his movie. Eri takes him down the stairs, away from the roof, and to an abandoned building where they watch movies for nine hours, quiet until she announces they’re done for the night. When Yuta questions why she made him watch the movies, Eri tells him, “you can’t make a film everyone will like unless you’ve watched a ton of them.” She then expresses her desire for Yuta to create a movie where everyone will cry, not just her, surprising him with the intensity of her desire.
Goodbye, Eri isn’t about the unique and misunderstood protagonist and artist that’s secretly a genius amongst plebeians. It may carry a shred of those tropes, but Eri’s introduction and goal to help Yuta make it clear that Fujimoto is telling a more genuine story. Having an idea is good and Yuta clearly has talent, but Eri points out that learning more about the medium is necessary to express and achieve your intended effect on the viewer. Eri tells Yuta indignantly, “Next time, don’t you want to make them all bawl their eyes out?” With that, the two begin their journey, with Eri becoming Yuta’s manager.
As time passes and the two watch more movies, they become closer. However, Eri remains as mysterious as ever. Like a montage, the manga shows us time passing and the two’s lives revolving around movies. At one point, Yuta jokes that Eri must like cliche stuff because she cried during the heroine’s death scene. Eri replies, “What a shallow analysis. I cried because the story resonated with my own life.” This moment works to foreshadow Eri’s own mortality, but also as a rejection of categorization. Eri isn’t interested in one or two genres, but is looking for something on screen that makes her feel in some way. It’s a very honest expression of her love for movies and one Yuta learns from.
Next, Eri officially gives the approval for Yuta to begin plotting the movie. I’d also like to point out that not once, except at the beginning of their meeting, has Eri asked or acknowledged Yuta filming her. In this way, reality and fiction blend again and it’s very easy to get swallowed by Yuta’s movie/filming.
After a series of average and bad plots, Yuta asks Eri what she even liked about his original movie. Even he doesn’t know what to like about it anymore. I want to go back to the idea of art resonating with the viewer for a second here. Eri reflects on why she appreciated Yuta’s movie and remarks, “Asking your middle-school-aged son to record his own mother’s death? Isn’t that just cruel? So when you ran away from the hospital as it exploded, it felt cathartic to me.” Resonance doesn’t mean the exact thing seen in the movie had to have happened in the viewer’s life. I think it can be vague, a broader sense of affect. This is what Eri points out here as she reflects back to Yuta her feelings, which is a reflection of the feelings Yuta may have put in his movie about his mother.
Eri also points out how beautifully Yuta’s mother was shot and that “Yuta,” the character, was the most likable person in the movie. These sentiments capture Yuta’s complex feelings towards his mother and validates them. I can only imagine what a relief, what catharsis, Yuta received in that moment as an individual and creator.
Ironically, Eri asks Yuta to make a movie about himself next. Yet, this is a one-shot titled Goodbye, Eri. Does Yuta successfully make a movie about himself or is it about his mother then Eri? I do have an answer for this, but that’s for later.
Yuta tries to fulfill Eri’s wish and asks his father what he thinks of his son. It’s hard not to see the answer as one pertaining to Fujimoto himself as his father says, “Yeah, maybe explosions…Ever since you were little, you’ve always sprinkled a pinch of fantasy into everything.”
This remark inspires Yuta and, at last, Yuta has a plot for his movie. It follows what we’ve seen so far except for one twist; the girl the man meets is a vampire. On the spot, Yuta excitedly tells Eri, “The vampire actually doesn’t have long to live!” and that the protagonist fulfills what he couldn’t do for his mother for the vampire girl, filming her last moments.
Yuta even says that this meta context will go well with the students and Eri, while not enthusiastic, says it sounds good. Yuta shows how close he and Eri have become, asking her over for dinner to meet his dad. Again, Fujimoto proves he understands composition by dragging out the panels of Yuta’s dad and Eri eating silently.
Then, dad speaks. As he does, the speech bubbles waver and obscure Eri’s face at times. He’s wanted to say this for a while. While he’s glad Eri has helped Yuta, he’s scared that making a movie will impair his son from moving forward. It’s emotional and tense, and revealed to be a cut for the movie. Ironically, Eri is more worried about the effects of the movie on Yuta rather than the dad, who says, “Creation is all about getting into the audience’s problems to make them laugh and cry, right? Well, it wouldn’t be fair if creators didn’t get hurt too, would it?”
This is a fascinating question to pose as, in my opinion, audiences are usually depicted as the enemy of creators. Fujimoto isn’t saying that all creators should cater to audiences and he still gives artists their own agency, stating first and foremost that art is for them, but doesn’t discount the audience’s role either. Like Eri, he isn’t interested in categorizing the creator or audience as right or wrong and placing one above the other.
The next scene is one of my favorites in Goodbye, Eri as it seamlessly blends the movie with reality together. There’s a beautiful fragility in Eri, in her school uniform, frolicking in the waves and asking Yuta to give her his blood in return for her company. I never realized it before, but Eri is Yuta’s muse. She is an enigma, yet strangely human at the same time, just as much as Yuta. Despite knowing so little, practically nothing, about her family, her life, her personal desires and wishes outside of Yuta, it feels purposeful and she still matters.
Just as Eri reaches for Yuta’s hand, she collapses. The image of her lying in the waves, partially obscured by them, is reminiscent of “The Little Mermaid” and, again, we are reminded of her mortality. The reminders throughout the one-shot juxtapose with the theme of film as something immortal, as filming someone immortalizing them. Yet it’s painfully clear that the people within these shots will not live forever.
I also like that Eri can be selfish. Fujimoto has never shied away from making complicated and messy female characters and Eri is no exception. She knows that asking Yuta to film her last moments is selfish and that his mother hurt him by requesting the same thing, but she looks at him directly and requests it anyway. It’s refreshing to see the muse as an active participant in her rendering as they’re usually exploited (in real life and fiction) by the artist. Eri ultimately has little control with what is done to her image afterwards. But there’s something beautiful about the acceptance of that, too.
Yuta runs away, unable to process this request. His dad comes in and shows Yuta his mother’s final moments. It’s upsetting as the veil is pulled off and it’s revealed that his mother was not a good person nor the kind woman she portrayed herself to be. She was a TV producer who planned to use Yuta’s footage in her documentary after she recovered from her illness. This reveal is done very well as it sheds light on Yuta’s feelings about his mother and focuses on the father’s culpability, too. Both parents put so much on their son and there’s a cruel irony to the idea that Yuta’s mother got what she wanted in a sense; those who watched Yuta’s first movie pitied her while Yuta was made into the villain, but she didn’t live to receive the applause.
Despite everything Yuta’s mother did to him, Yuta still wanted to remember the beautiful parts of her. This memorialization, the idea of seeing the best in people and remembering that instead, is important, but I think Fujimoto also makes space for the anger and hurt in remembering someone. After all, why else would this reveal be here? Yuta’s father tells him he has the power to decide how someone will be remembered and that Eri gave that power to him. Yuta takes this into stride and meets Eri in their hideout, expressly asking for permission to film her this time.
The years pass and we watch the two fall in love and spend Eri’s final moments together. I love that their final moments, despite being filmed, belong solely to them as they stare at the hospital ceiling and talk about their time together. It feels as if the two are partners in the creation of this movie and Eri’s final wish is fulfilled as the movie is played in front of the same audience as the first one.
The sound of crying fills the stadium and it’s revealed that there were many things about Eri not put into the movie: she wore glasses, the two never dated, and she had a mean streak to her. I talked before about the muse and this moment emphasizes the gap between the projected image of a girl on screen, a character that may be based in some truth, and the actual girl that lived. Eri’s only other friend points this out, but smiles and thanks Yuta anyway for allowing her to remember Eri in this way. It seems as if that’s the end of Goodbye, Eri, but this is where the question I asked earlier comes back: does Yuta ever get to make a movie about himself?
Considering that Goodbye, Eri continues after Eri’s death, I wholeheartedly believe he does. Yuta grows up and even begins a family at one point, never showing his movie about Eri to anybody else, but unable to stop editing it. However, a tragic accident upends his life and he loses everyone important to him in a second. Yuta talking directly to the camera has been done before so it’s not a surprise when this is him signing off before he attempts to commit suicide. He says, “I’ll die in a place that holds memories for me. The end.” Instead of going to the hospital though, he heads to the hideout where he and Eri watched so many movies.
In the hideout, he meets Eri again. As with all good movies, there’s a pinch of fantasy to it. She reassures Yuta that she’s not sad because she has this movie and says, “I’ll get to see you every time I watch it.” Instead of choosing to stay with Eri, to be an observer and to be stuck in a kind of limbo, Yuta leaves. They never meet again and Yuta finally understands what he was missing. The building explodes behind and he walks away, not looking back.
The parallel of the explosion for the first film versus the very last page is a perfect conclusion to Goodbye, Eri. I love how the manga validates the idea that movies and art can help you, but argues that it’s our ability to connect to other people through that art that means anything. The temptation to live in movies and to idealize people is very real but, by the end, the explosion made me feel like it was denying that temptation by destroying this place that was so important to him and Eri. That doesn’t mean he won’t remember her, but that he’s made his peace with his time with her.
The violence of the explosions initially seems tonally strange with the wholesome moments, but just makes those moments more precious and important. I feel like a lot of Fujimoto’s stuff is about the violence of life contrasted with the beautiful moments of what makes living worth it (and the temporality of those moments). I was expecting Goodbye, Eri to just be about artists and the creative process, but I love that it went into processing grief too. Fujimoto didn’t just talk about the burden of making the art. but focused on how hurtful it is when your art isn’t perceived the way you wanted it to be.
Others have called Goodbye, Eri a love letter to film and I have to agree. You can feel the love and thoughtfulness that Fujimoto holds for creators and those interested in making something, anything, really. While movies and art are impermanent things, they are still worth making. Even if your audience doesn’t understand you immediately, it’s still worth reaching out to them. And, despite the failure of the human mind and the idea of memento mori, remembering those we love is worth the pain and effort.