Tree of Palme -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 138
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tree of Palme

Tree of Palme

By Chris Beveridge     March 21, 2005
Release Date: March 09, 2005

Tree of Palme
© ADV Films

What They Say
From Takashi Nakamura, chief animation director on Akira, comes this visually compelling, existential retelling of the classic story of Pinocchio.

In a remote corner of the planet Arcana, Palme, a sentient android crafted from a mystical wood that is said to absorb the memories of the civilizations it roots in, is awakened by Koram, a wounded warrior from the Sol tribe. Entrusting him with the mystical 'Egg of the Roof', she implores Palme to take it to the legendary realm of Tamas.

Galvanized with purpose for his existence, he accepts Koram's quest to deliver the relic to its source: the center of the planet, which is threatened by a malevolent and destructive force.

The Review!
Entrusted with an important item, a child-sized robot holds the key to saving the world and most embark on a journey to do just that.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The mix is in its original 5.1 version and it does a really nice job overall of enveloping you. There is a fair bit thrown to the rears independently of each other for both dialogue and sound effects while the forward speakers fill out the bulk of the presentation quite well. There's a good amount of directionality across the forward soundstage in both ambient effects and dialogue so it gets a nice workout and serves the material well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. In sampling the English language track, we found much the same results and no problems.

Originally released to theaters back in 2002, the transfer for this movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Though the film is heavy on the dark visuals, the transfer does a beautiful job of showcasing the variety to those colors and the lighter areas when they come into play. There's a fascinating amount of detail in a number of these scenes and it's fantastic to be able to see all of it and admire how much work was put into how this looks. The transfer is essentially problem free outside of a bit of light blocking in some of the blue night backgrounds, but that's with upconversion set to 720p. Cross coloration and gradient issues are non-existent and overall this is just an easy picture to enjoy.

Using the same artwork as the theatrical poster but looking much more richly colored than the Japanese DVD cover artwork, the design for this release is just as detailed as the show. The central image among the vines and woodwork is that of Palme hanging against the imagery of the niger fish and his home as well as other little nods to pieces from the film. Its coloring is what's really eye-catching here with the reds and yellows really drawing you in and then letting your eye see all the other detail in the murkier colors. The back cover contains much the same layout and swaps out the large artwork shot for a trio of shots from the show itself and a couple of summaries of the movies premise and its noteworthy achievements. The discs features and production information takes up much of the cover as does the nicely integrated technical box which adapts to the artwork nicely. The insert is done on just the right kind of paper that allows the colors from the art settings to shine as well as providing some good text sections on the staffs thoughts and other bits about the film.

The menu layout is one I'm really not sure whether I like it or not; it's essentially a flat image of the egg from the show with tubes going out, three of them being selections, with liquid running through them as a brief loop of music plays along. The background is fairly indistinct as it comes from the film but is filtered out by some smoke imagery and the changing light level. It's definitely in theme with the show, but it's almost, well, too cartoon-ish I think as opposed to something like a static close-up of a portion of the main cover art and some stylized selections. Access times are nice and fast though and the menus load up quickly as well as everything reading our players language presets.

At first glance, there's a lot of extras here. At second glance you break it down and realize that the sketches and art sections are just broken out at the top level. There are two distinct design sketch sections, one for characters and one for mechanical, and there are four separate art sections. These show off some really good pieces and you can see even more detailed ideas that were fleshed out into the final film. Some of the animatics are included as well as a batch of promos and commercials for its release. The big extra though is for the Making Of piece that goes into the usual kind of material you find for this. It's interesting enough but depending on how much you enjoyed the movie will influence whether you even open it or not.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In its three years since initial release, A Tree of Palme has been one of those anime movies that almost breaks free of the term anime and becomes something of a general animation film. It's had reasonably good success at various festivals and showings throughout the world and has managed to get itself shown in a number of high-profile places as well. It's now received its English language acquisition and dub which should let it hit a wider audience and attract more fans, though just because it's in English now doesn't mean its for kids.

The films story is fairly simple, which proves to be its major downfall for me. We're introduced into this visually fantastic world, one that reminds me striking of a number of Tezuka manga at times, where there is so little that's the same as our own that making that connection to the characters and setting here is difficult. A strange woman is on the run from a group of mercenaries, a former tribe that had been banned, as she carries an item of great value. The initial chase scenes are confusing in how they come about, but the outcome is the same in that we understand the chase itself. When it shifts to a strange house where a little humanoid robot is shown tangled in the twisted branches of a seemingly dead tree, we watch as he comes to life at the arrival of a massive flying fish and many birds that float by it.

From the old man who lives there, we learn that the robot is named Palme and has been quiet for quite a long time as he's absorbed the sand in the area which contains memories of the past. He talks of how long Palme has been there and is surprised he's come to life, but even more surprised when the mysterious woman shows up sitting next to Palme on his bed. Palme's visuals are so skewed that when he looks at her he doesn't see who she truly is but rather a woman named Xian who used to take care of him years ago. This vision lets him trust her completely, and she gives to him the Egg of Touto, an item that is important and must be delivered to Tamas, a land "below" as she can no longer do it. With little real discussion of any kind, Palme takes on the job and his journey begins which takes him through various lands and meeting different people as he tries to protect the egg, his own fuel and his friends that he makes.

Like any story of this nature, it's not the story itself that's the key but the way you populate the land and the characters that makes it distinctive. A Tree of Palme fits this bill beautifully with some very strong designs that are stunning and very unique but also quite dark and oppressive in a lot of ways. With the journey underground, we see all sorts of caverns and darkened places, tribes that are dying and cities that seem to be little more than countless people standing around waiting for the end. Palme ends up coming across some amusing little creatures along the way but also several people who become his friends, most of which are no more than slightly older children. His confusing of any woman with Xian is repeated as well, but for the most part Palme simply seems like a confused little boy who has no emotions but is charged with a highly important mission.

With is desire to become human, the Pinocchio effect comes into play rather early and that unfortunately serves to lessen the impact of the story since it's such a highly used piece in fantasy/science fiction. It's hard to really connect with Palme due to his nature and static features, and with his dialogue being what it is and his focus on the mission, never mind the confusion he makes with calling people Xian, you feel more sorry for the character having to go through all of this rather than rooting for him. When he does have real emotional outbreaks, they seem misplaced to us and to the other characters, which only makes him feel even more alien among these strange characters.

Visually, the film is a brilliant piece of work that uses so many interesting set locations and creature designs that it's captivating nearly on just that alone. Watching as the characters interact with them, sometimes softly and sometimes rough such as when they rip the "balloons" out of the "floating grass", it's hard to tell just where they're trying to go with all of it but you want to spend time just gazing at the terrain to see what they come up with. It's very richly detailed and done in such interesting colors. With it being such a well produced film, the animation quality is simply very much up there and you can see the money on the screen with how fluid and seamless it is. With the designs used, and the near Tezuka like nature of parts of it, it also manages to avoid looking like many typical anime films which allows it to have something of a wider draw for people.

In Summary:
Unfortunately, the story itself with its fairly bland plot, the use of weird flashbacks and time changes early on and overall uninteresting lead character that I couldn't bring myself to care for much at all, it made it difficult to really get into the movie. It's also probably too long by about thirty minutes, allowing for too many scenes to drag out and play on for too long. I've seen so many of the Pinocchio type stories over the years in too many mediums that one more simply doesn't interest me all that much, though A Tree of Palme comes close at times to piquing that interest with its visuals. The movie is definitely a beautiful piece of work, but for me it didn't have the heart to connect with.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Making "A Tree of Palme", Character Design Sketches, Mechanical & Prop Design Sketches, Story Art, Character Art, Mechanical Art, World View Art, Key Sequence Animatics,Japanese Promos & Trailers

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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