Goodbye, Don Glees! is a coming-of-age story about a trio of outcasts whose last summer together is threatened when they’re wrongly accused of starting a forest fire. Full of adventure, emotional turmoil, and the pains of growing up, the film is a heartfelt journey worth taking. The film is brought to Blu-ray from GKIDS and Shout! Factory with an excellent A/V package but limited on the special features. Recommended.
“Outside our town there was a door that led to the whole world.”
The film opens on misfit friends Toto and Roma lamenting their station in life. The often bullied teens aren’t invited by their school peers to see a fireworks display outside their town. Instead the boys watch the fireworks on their phones from a makeshift cabin in the woods. The two loners call their “club” away from the world, Don Glees. Drop is the impatient new kid to the group who pressures them to buy a drone in order to see the far-off fireworks display. Roma wants to please his friends but Toto is hesitant to go through with a plan. The trio are soon blamed on social media for a forest fire and must find their lost drone which may hold the key to their innocence. Their journey becomes more than they expected, testing the limits of the boy’s resolve and giving them a summer they’ll never forget.
Goodbye, Don Glees! plays with many coming-of-age themes: social expectations, fear of the future, death, and true independence. The teenagers here are all in different stations in life but face similar challenges as they cruise on their bikes through the forest hoping to clear their names. Toto struggles with his future plan of being a doctor in Tokyo. Roma latches onto their club even through the difficulties of growing into a teenager. He deals with transitioning out of childhood as feelings about a girl named Tivoli invade his emotions. Though driven and ambitious, Drop waxes poetic about his life’s treasure hunt. His sage wisdom and questions about existence and regrets are punctuated by gentle piano beats. The dramatic tension created by his situation is quite effective as nothing is ever explicitly stated which allows viewers to fill in the gaps on their own while letting the ambiguity ignite their own experiences and memories.
While the film wrestles with many heady ideas, its visual clarity through the animation allows the feature to attain a magical aesthetic working in parallel with the boy’s whimsical adventure. Scenes of the trio bounding through lush green forests are punctuated by painterly backdrops giving their exploration of the unknown a sense of mystical wonderment. Too often as the dramatic waves crest leaving open the vulnerabilities of our characters the grounded animation will burst into a cosmic display. Whether it's Roma battling a wild bear with hair spray or the adventurers pausing to look up at the night sky, Director Atsuko Ishizuka (A Place Further Than the Universe) gives every moment the proper emotional weight through dialogue and inspired visuals.
Goodbye, Don Glees! is a bittersweet emotional ride that never lets subtlety get in the way of tugging at your heart strings. While most of these coming-of-age stories overlap there are enough cultural themes and fantastical elements to separate this film from the crowd. Atsuko Ishizuka has a real eye for character development and environmental textures within a grounded and relatable story. I can’t wait to see what’s next from her.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Goodbye Don Glees! is brought to home video in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack thanks to GKIDS and Shout! Factory. The disc is housed in a transparent keep case adjacent to a DVD copy of the film. Loading the disc presents the Main Menu screen with tranquil scenes from the film playing against typical navigation options.
Goodbye, Don Glees! lights up the fireworks in a brilliant HD image featuring bright with strong primaries with deep black levels. Presented in the film’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this AVC encoded 1080p image is absolutely stunning. The color palette throughout is subdued giving the proceedings a late-afternoon glow with earth tones occupying most of the scenes. Backdrops are nicely textured with painterly detail. Landscapes are rendered with loving attention to the lush forests and babbling brooks as the boys go on their adventure.
Sunbeams cast golden yellow streams across faces and environments achieving a warm appearance. Motion is smooth and yet stylized enough at times to give the grounded aspects of the film an exciting level of storytelling. The dream-like sequences in Iceland and the meteor shower offer a cosmic sense of wonderment to the images beefing up the nostalgia quotient.
Goodbye, Don Glees! arrives on Blu-ray with a lively DTS HD-MA 5.1 that provides an excellent accompaniment to the fantastic images. Dialogue exchanges are crisp and clear through front and center channels. Surrounds are constantly active with atmospherics, music cues, and popping fireworks. LFE channel is round and punchy, keeping action sequences exciting. The two available tracks are a Japanese 5.1 and an English 5.1 audio track both offering identical listening experiences and textural fidelity. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
There isn’t much here but the interview with Atsuko Ishizuka is very informative yet super casual. Check this out after the feature to help give the film more context.
Goodbye, Don Glees! is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale that tugs at the heartstrings with the same subtlety as teenagers fighting off a bear in the woods. Atsuko Ishizuka’s film is full of wholesome themes and wrapped in a comforting yet mystical setting. The Blu-ray from GKIDS and Shout! Factory provides an excellent A/V package with just enough bonus features for fans of the film. Recommended.