Goodbye, Don Glees! is the sort of movie that is enjoyable to anyone, but is especially appealing if you experienced your teenage years in the last decade or so. Taking plenty of inspiration from Stand by Me, it’s the type of movie that embodies a certain period of life for a decent swath of people, all portrayed with gorgeous anime visuals. If a modern anime take on Stand by Me sounds appealing to you, then you’ll likely be moved by this rather personal production.
At its core, Goodbye, Don Glees! is about what it means to grow up. The characters have to face harsh realities involving everything from growing apart to mortality. These themes are handled well, with plenty of heavy emotional moments taking place throughout the film. There are lots of scenes of levity to keep the film from being completely dour, balancing the overall tone of the movie nicely.
The story is a moving one, though it occasionally dips into melodrama in the middle section. It’s understandable, as the story follows three teenage boys who are all struggling with overwhelming emotions and the trials of entering adulthood. Just know that you’ll see more than a few sequences of the trio sobbing, though the story does warrant it most of the time.
Though the film takes place in Japan, it tackles these themes in a universal way that makes it relatable to most people who were once teenage boys. From goofy hairstyles to obviously bad decisions, these lads tick every box for pubescent guys, making the film an accurate portrayal of those wacky years. The main characters are outcasts, so their friendship that comes from necessity feels very familiar. When they fight or open up to one another, the reactions are earned and personal.
The only issue I really have with Goodbye, Don Glees! is that its surreal, almost dream-like moments make it a bit hard to follow the story towards the end. I do like that random chance and coincidence play such a large part in the finale, as it speaks to yet another element of life that you learn about growing up: the role of luck in how your life turns out.
Goodbye, Don Glees! is also a beautiful movie visually. Many of the sequences are stunningly vivid and detailed, with the environments especially looking truly natural and picturesque. It makes sense, as the studio behind the film is the talented Madhouse, whose excellence in making smooth and visually appealing anime continues to shine.
The voice acting is excellent as well, with each member of the main trio feeling distinct. Their voices suit their personalities and the impassioned delivery suits the heavier moments perfectly. I watched the Japanese version with English subtitles, and though I recognized two of the three main actors from anime like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Demon Slayer, they sounded so different that it took a while for me to place them. That should speak to how distinct these performances are, as they don’t blend in with any past performances.
Goodbye, Don Glees! is a moving and personal exploration of growing up that will likely remind you of times gone by. It has equal amounts of silly gags and touching beats; a balance that fittingly represents adolescence in the modern world. It can be a bit difficult to differentiate what happens from what’s more symbolic towards the end, but the gorgeous visuals and personal story make it a worthwhile coming-of-age story.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: The critic received a screener link for ComingSoon’s Goodbye, Don Glees! review.