“All this living, killing, and dying…
Do you really need a reason for it?”
For some manga, it’s love at first sight. The title may be intriguing, the story might be riveting, the characters possibly lovable, or perhaps the art just blinds you with sheer awesomeness. Either way, you flip through the pages and get instant gratification.
Because Goodbyes Are Coming Soon is not one of those.
Despite that, or rather, because of that, no other one shot has impressed me as much as this one.
Admittedly, the manga didn’t grab my attention at first. For starters, none of the characters could actually brag about good looks (these Shinsengumi are no pretty boys), and it’s easy to ignore the detailed illustrations and the smooth scene transitions because of that.
Likewise, the story is delivered in a deceptively simple manner. What happens in the plot is evident enough but it takes a little more effort and perhaps a few more readings to understand the significance of these events. This one shot may remind some of you of those short stories which your literature professors might have forced on you in high school or college: boring as **** if taken literally but filled all those little details which could be interpreted in several ways.
Also exceptional is the story’s emphasis on internal conflict rather than external conflict. Our protagonist (Okita Soji) is already an accomplished swordsman, but he has no cause to live or die for. All other warriors are inferior to him in skill and there’s no obstacle that he can’t overcome. He has the means to win but finds no meaning in fighting.
This is further highlighted by means of foil characters. Okita’s apathy regarding worldly affairs stands out even more when contrasted with the passion of other swordsmen such as Kondo of the Shinsengumi and Yoshida of Choshu. While other tragic figures are often ruined by their ambition and hubris, Okita’s ultimate flaw is his lack of vision. This story challenges the conventional themes of downfall as well as common notions of invincibility and defeat.
Because Goodbyes Are Coming Soon might not be the best option in terms of entertainment value, but if you’re the type who actually enjoys literature classes, you might want to give this one a shot.