As a writer, I have always found Kiyoshi Kurosawa to lack focus. As a director, he is nothing short of brilliant. Here I'm starting to pick up, absorb and understand many of his visual choices, such as his constant filming of his actors in long shot. This is a quiet way of informing the audience that, despite their importance in the narrative at large, they are trivialized by the forces around them - in Pulse, the overwhelming crush of isolation and technological despair; here, the fulfillment of a depressing utilitarian philosophy, represented both through Koji Yakusho's failed policeman and Charisma, the tree that's poisoning all the other trees. Yakusho is small, just as society would have him belief, and it's none of their concern whether he lives or dies. Everything is meant to die someday.
Or at least, that's what I distilled from the film. There are a lot of things going on in Charisma, many of which dead-end without any attempt at resolution or explanation. The sanitarium director's wife, the professor and her sister with the weird coat, and the mysterious militia with an unexplained need to cut down Charisma all fall by the wayside by the end of the film. I could make suppositions as to their purposes, but next to the overall theme of the film they feel unimportant and wasted. It's an uncomfortably familiar sensation in Kurosawa's films, almost all of which feel overstuffed and oddly thin at the same time (Pulse evades this, and Seance to a lesser extent).