Just counting the Japanese “Spirited Away” and Hong Kong “My Life as McDull,” it’s been a notable past year for East Asian toons — which is why “A Tree of Palme” is all the more disappointing. Sophomore feature by Takashi Nakamura, chief animation director on “Akira,” among others, is an overlong, hopelessly confused mixture of kidtoon and grand spiritual statements, with not even a consistent graphic style to recommend it. This one’s for hardcore Japanime fans only.
Mystical opening, full of flowing lines and alien landscapes, promises some kind of philosophical reverie, as Corlum (Yurika Hino), a wounded warrior from the Sol tribe, gives a capsule to an old botanist, Fow (Motomu Kiyokawa), who lives at the base of a huge tree with a small wooden robot, Palme (Akiko Hiramatsu). After the rapid deaths of Corlum and Fow, however, pic becomes a complicated odyssey by the annoying Palme, who looks like he was designed as a characterless mall toy and is obsessed with becoming a human. Finale is visually impressive but totally incomprehensible, and the background score veers wildly from conventional orchestral to musique concrete.