Goodbye, Don Glees! is billed as Atsuko Ishizuka’s break into the thriving world of anime cinema. One of the industry’s stars, she’s most known as the director of A Place Further Than the Universe, the hit series from 2018. See if that talent could translate to the big screen in our Goodbye, Don Glees review.
The first thing to say about Goodbye, Don Glees is that it’s a very different experience from its spiritual predecessor, A Place Further Than the Universe. In a way, that goes without saying – creating a TV anime and creating a movie are totally different things.
However, I was really surprised at how different Don Glees felt, despite them appearing to be cut from the same cloth.
Don Glees, like its spiritual predecessor, is a story of teenagers going on a big, reckless adventure powered by the energy of youth.
The story follows young teens Roma and Toto, childhood friends who referred to themselves as the Don Glees. Their reunion goes wrong, sending them on an adventure with Drop, a mysterious new member of their group.
Firstly, the animation is very good. The grand scenes of nature, particularly in Iceland, have an excellent sense of scale and are worth seeing on the big screen if you get the chance.
Much of A Place Further Than the Universe’s charm is kept from an animation perspective. The characters are full of expression, topped off with that white side glare that people will recognise from previous Madhouse and Ishizuka anime.
Where Don Glees succeeds the most, however, is its ability to encompass both shared and individual experiences. Each member of the Don Glees clan has their own journey, all of which broadly encompass most people’s personal experiences.
Roma is a kid who never left his hometown and now thinks about what could have been. Toto, returning from Tokyo, is the smart, straight-faced leader who always goes with his head and not his heart.
Those two are brought together by Drop, a bubbling and mysterious new friend whose sense of freedom inspires the journey.
Don Glees is also really funny! The film picks the perfect moments to add purely comedic scenes which help to keep that sense of foolish youth at the forefront.
One criticism of Don Glees might be its simplicity. Other than the comedy mentioned above, the film doesn’t try to be anything more than a coming-of-age tale. The adventure side of the story is only lightly fleshed out, and there is a romantic angle that feels somewhat forced.
The characters, while filling their various emotional roles, are also not quite as rounded as they could have been. It feels like there is more to understand about each of them, particularly Roma.
However, Don Glees is quite open from the start that everything is in place to push the emotional side of the story.
The film ends with a big reveal where it verges on becoming a fantasy anime, far from the very human energy of the rest of the movie. However, the moment is led brilliantly by the characters, and you can’t help but understand their mix of joy and sadness.
Delivering laughs and tears in a movie with great, this is a must-see for fans of her previous series and anyone that enjoys emotional, teen-led tales.