Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #188 by Drew Barth

Framing Goodbyes

How do we remember the ones we love? From the pictures and videos we have saved on our phones, there’s likely an idealized version of them we keep in our memories. Despite everything, when we scroll through those picture or videos, we see the best versions of them. And that’s the version we’d rather remember. And that’s where Tatsuki Fujimoto’s most recent one-shot, Goodbye, Eri, lays: in that intersection of the messy realities of the people we love and the versions of them we try to hold onto after they’re gone.

Goodbye, Eri is Yuta’s story. On his 12th birthday, his parents buy him a smartphone and his mom wants him to video her as much as possible before she dies of the illness she’s been suffering from. Yuta captures hundreds of hours, quickly filling up the phone’s memory and nearly filling his computer with videos of his mother. But the day of her passing, Yuta can’t bring himself to record those final moments. He runs away from the hospital. And it explodes. Or, rather, the hospital explodes in post-production as Yuta has cut these hundreds of hours of video into a movie for his classmates and ends it on his running away. His class is disgusted by this final moment—they lambaste him for turning his mother’s last moments into a cheap fantasy. Except Eri. She wants him to do the same for her, to record every moment of her life before her own illness kills her. 

The twist Fujimoto brings in to all of these recordings is the fiction Eri and Yuta’s mom want people to remember them by. Yuta’s dad took a video of his wife as she was dying and her final words were about how useless Yuta was. We see the other side of the videos that didn’t make it into the final cut—her abuse, her continually criticizing Yuta’s videos of her, her obsession with how these videos will make her look. It’s then less of a surprise that Yuta doesn’t want to film her at the end. He doesn’t want to confront her death, but then he also doesn’t want to give her the ending she wanted and chastised him over for months. For once, he can control the narrative of the moment. Eri does much of the same—removing her glasses and large retainer whenever they shoot video—but at least Yuta’s movie of her didn’t end in an exploding hospital.

Goodbye, Eri, coupled with his earlier one-shot in Look Back, demonstrate Fujimoto’s instinctive ability to understand human nature. We have these versions of those we love and try to keep them intact despite everything else. It’s why we keep so many photos and videos; why we always return to those for comfort and memories; why we can’t give that version of them up despite evidence to the contrary. Memories are fickle, but maybe the comfort we have in an idealized memory is better than the reality we don’t want to confront. 

Get excited. Get comfortable. 

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.