Despite his popularity and critical acclaim, Oscar Wilde’s final days were filled with shame. As being openly gay was still frowned upon in his years, his love with other males was seen as scandalous and career-shattering. (He even went to prison over it.) Thankfully, as the years went on, Wilde’s reputation was restored to its high standards; though having it occur long after he passed away is quite criminal. I bring this up because of Wilde’s influence on Dr. Pepperco’s yuri series Goodbye, My Rose Garden, an early 20th century tale of love, regret, and deep secrets.
Japanese maid Hanako finds herself halfway around the world in England, where she has taken the job of being the assistance to noblewoman Alice Douglas. Both share a love for books, especially with the mysterious author Victor Franks. As her job goes on, things appear to be normal, until Alice requests a task from Hanako: “You must kill me.” What follows is a story that’s filled with conflict and — what many would consider — prude emotions.
A classical essence fills the air of Goodbye, My Rose Garden, with the elegance of the characters in full swing. At times, it brings to mind such anime and manga as Emma, Maria Watches Over Us, and even When Marnie Was There. The tone is gentle, and yet its message and storytelling hit you on the head like a mallet. As the story goes on, the trust and deep feelings that Alice and Hanako have for one another push the story towards something greater.
However, as mentioned earlier, these sorts of same-sex feelings are frowned upon in this era. There’s a threatening feeling coming from Alice’s fiancé Edward as he confronts Hanako about their relationship. Despite Hanako seemingly convincing him that there’s nothing going on, Edward still has an air to him that’s ripe with jealousy and disgust. Thankfully, Hanako is quite the progressive thinker, believing that any sort of love should be credited and respected. Talks of Oscar Wilde’s death push her ideas forward, with her common sense falling onto the ears of the ignorant and close-minded.
But it’s how Hanako’s relationship with Alice blossoms in Goodbye, My Rose Garden where the story is at its strongest. The care that Hanako gives to Alice is filled with nothing but kindness, with Alice bringing her passions to the forefront to the maid’s delight. When the discussion of love comes up, Alice tries her best to push it aside; thankfully, Hanako takes nothing lying down. As the two grow closer — even after Hanako promises to end Alice’s life — it becomes apparent that the noblewoman may find a new lease on her own well-being by the time the story reaches its crescendo.
There’s a delightful amount of emotion that’s placed in this manga, with Dr. Pepperco’s dialogue bringing a great mixture of humor and drama into every chapter. It knows when to deliver a laugh, and it also knows when to keep things serious. The character development seen here can be a tad Downton Abbey-ish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Quite the contrary, the so-called “scandalous” feelings and the race against Alice and Edward’s marriage time make for some terrific character evolution.
Its art style is a fine combination of classical illustrations with cutesy shojo-like characters. The way Hanako and Alice are expressive in their fancy outfits brings forth a delicate sweetness to their surroundings. I love that neither visual style conflicts with one another, as it brings to mind some of the better Lolita-inspired manga of years past. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but it has a hint of endearing goodness that makes it seem both elegant and adorable.
Volume One of Goodbye, My Rose Garden took me by surprise. The narrative is a page turner, and the visuals are beautiful to behold. With some twists thrown in (some out of the blue, others one can see a mile away), Dr. Pepperco’s kind story of a noblewoman and her maid will make any reader fawn over its content. For those needing a strong LGBTQ story, you cannot go wrong with what Goodbye, My Rose Garden has to offer.
Needless to say, Oscar Wilde would be happy knowing that these tales of love are more widely accepted today, especially one that’s told quite like this.
Promotional consideration provided by Leah Waig of Seven Seas Entertainment