Goodbye, Don Glees! is a new coming of age road trip film from the makers of A Place Further than the Universe. Is it just as good?
Anime films can range from great epics to slice-of-life delights. Goodbye, Don Glees! fits into the latter territory, and is the latest film from A Place Further than the Universe director, Atsuko Ishizuka.
The film’s official synopsis is as such: “Teen misfits Roma, Toto, and Drop call themselves the ‘Don Glees,’ an informal name for their backyard adventures. One day, when the trio gets blamed for a nearby forest fire, they set off into the woods to prove their innocence. As disaster strikes their expedition, tensions flare between the friends as they realize that growing up has taken them on wildly different paths in life.”
The film, while nothing genre-changing, is a perfectly delightful coming-of-age stint, with plenty of lush animation and emotional moments. But first, warning: Goodbye, Don Glees spoilers!
Goodbye, Don Glees! is far from anything original. Three outcasted boys traveling through the wilderness to find evidence after a crime occurs is the exact plot of Stand By Me, and sadly this film is nowhere near as iconic as that one.
However, what this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in charm and emotionality, creating a simple but enjoyable hour-and-a-half watch.
Each of the three boys are all distinguished characters, and they all work off of one another extremely well. Their interactions are often incredibly funny, helped by the number of things that go wrong on their journey through the woods, from getting lost, to surviving a bear attack, and falling off of a – albeit, very small – waterfall.
But instead of becoming like the boys in Lord of the Flies, their trip into nature only strengthens their bond, with one scene of them all attempting to open a can of food with rocks being surprisingly heartfelt. The film never gets too dark, with the emotional moments simply being when the boys are pondering their lives in high school, and questioning whether they should leave their small town or not. And when… well…
It’s easy to guess how the film is going to go from the start. The film mentions death in the first voiceover, then we’re introduced to a smaller quirky boy who urges the other two to follow their life-long dreams while offhandedly mentioning his time in hospital. We can all guess what’s going to happen to this kid.
But keeping in with the film’s light-heartedness, we don’t see his illness take hold – there’s actually some logistics with the timeline of his illness when you start to think about it. Instead we only see how the other two boys handle it, which includes moments that will have you tearing up and smiling at the same time.
This takes the boys to Iceland at the very end of the film, transforming the animation from beautiful scenes of trees to jaw-dropping scenes of glaciers, mountains and waterfalls. This animation company also produced the show A Place Further than the Universe, and it’s easy to see a connection between the two. Both titles transport the viewer to natural and icy landscapes, perhaps simply to show off what beautiful worlds they can bring to life through animation. This technical talent helps these small journeys feel bigger than life itself. Literally, as the scene in Iceland takes an emotional twist with a phone booth that will inspire you to wonder about what goes on after death.
While nothing ground-breaking, it feels cruel to speak against this film. If you’re someone who enjoys charming coming-of-age films, then this will be kindling for a fun couple of hours.
You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the innocence and adventure of youth. Especially if you’re someone who also travelled to Iceland when you were 15 and are now horrified to realise that it’s already been an entire decade since then.
Goodbye, Don Glees! will arrive in cinemas on November 30. English subs and dubs will both be available.