Director Takashi Nakamura’s ‘A Tree of Palme’ is one of the best looking anime features I’ve run across. Palme is a puppet created by a man to care for his sickly wife. After her death Palme becomes paralyzed with sorrow, that is, until a woman being pursed happens to cross paths with Palme and his creator and ask them to deliver something precious to a sacred place called Tama. Palme, mistaking her for his masters late wife, accepts the request. This becomes his first step to becoming more human in order to understand his own feelings. This movie is not all about the animation, but based heavily more on the morale and symbolism, it wants to explore the meaning of humanity. About how Palme encounters various people, less mechanical but some are more “soulless”, how he wanted to become a human to protect the girl he loves, Popo.
The quest soon takes on a layered significance as he ends up continuing his journey with some of the children some of which agree to go just for the adventure, some out of kinship ofbeing alone, some to see what Palme will uncover. This anime is logical from a child’s point of view, a kind of strange ‘if these things exist, than this must happen’, mentality that has been all but lost in an age of modern cinema awash in cliches and tired retreads of aging concepts. At the end, I was left wanting more about the characters, but knew with the way the story ended, I’ll be unlikely to end up with sequel to the movie. Also, parents should be for warned that the theme of the movie is on the dark side and death is talked about from the very beginning of the movie. The animation of this filme is definitely top notch. Although cel animation is not used during this digital age, Nakamura takes us to the pinnacle of cel animation. Also, a distinct, unique style of how the characters are created definitely stays within his goal of making this animated film different from others.
But, with that all said and done, this is a movie that is aimed at people with a good attention span, and an audience willing to give the film the time it needs to breathe. The story is leisurely-paced for sure, but if you let it lead you down its path, you should grow to like it. Not for those whom want a plot handed to them on a plate. The themes are timeless, the animation is gorgeous, the story is moving and surreal in the best possible way. And this is where the distinction between Palme and Pinocchio ends as the cute and gullible Palme becomes a robot that will do what it takes to become human and that anything becomes quite violent and surprising. Nakamura really did want people to watch and think about this film and this film did just that.
The story, however, is not flawless. But thats what makes this movie great. I can see how the lack of complete explanation might appeal to some people but for me it was more bewildering than intriguing, the film didn’t make a lot of sense and took forever not making it. Even though I gave the film time to breathe and revisited it again the next day after the initial viewing, I felt it may have been too complicated for its own good. This is not your usual type of anime. In fact, it’s almost pseudo-anime: the vast majority of artwork is undertaken by a Korean animation team, and is quite dissimilar to regular anime art. There are still characters with large, friendly eyes, but the backgrounds aren’t as detailed as other anime’s of the same time period. Having said that, the film is well animated, and the use of CGI is limited but credible, rather than overpowering. Recommended.