After the great disaster,
many people said
this was no longer a place to live in.
And only a fool could think otherwise.
But I was born here,
and here I have spent all my life so far.

Even though the air is poisoned.
Even though my lungs get sick.
Here is where I have been given oxygen to breathe.
Choosing to abandon this place
is not as easy as you say.

And I start wondering about what kindness really is.

If there were a god,
a faceless one, residing in the objects around us.
An entity lacking of a real self,
existing just as simple things next to us
born only for the purpose
of being used by someone.

Perhaps a truly selfless act of kindness
demands relinquishment of our own human nature.

What if there could be something
that will not betray you
even after the entire world has fallen apart?

If I want to remain a human being,
I have to run away from this place.

Following a balloon
filled with air from unknown places,
I start running, I climb the wall...
As I look back, I see the place where I was born.
I take a deep breath.
A town by the seaside.
A power plant in the distance.
The wind blows fiercely.

Machiko Kyo

Watch the trailer here.

- Platinum Remi Award: Classic Cel Animation Category / 49th WorldFest Houston (2016)
- Award of Merit: Animation / 7th IndieFEST Film Awards (2016)
- Award of Merit: Viewer Impact: Content / Message Delivery / 7th IndieFEST Film Awards (2016)
- Award of Recognition: Contemporary Issues / Awareness Raising / 7th IndieFEST Film Awards (2016)
- Award of Recognition: Religion / Ethics / 7th IndieFEST Film Awards (2016)
- Award of Recognition: Original Song (Kami-sama no Takurami / Divine Design, by Ichiko Aoba) / 7th IndieFEST Film Awards (2016)
- Best Animation Short / 3rd Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards 2016
- Award of Recognition / 3rd Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival 2016
- Award of Merit: Animation Category / 14th Accolade Global Film Competition 2016
- Platinum Award / Spotlight Film Awards June 2016
- Gold Award: Animation / International Independent Film Awards Spring 2016
- Silver Award for Best Original Score / LA Shorts Awards April 2016
- Award of Merit: Animation / 5th Best Shorts Competition (2016)
- Award of Merit: Original Song (Kami-sama no Takurami / Divine Design, by Ichiko Aoba) / 5th Best Shorts Competition (2016)
- Diamond Award for Best Animation / 7th California Film Awards (2016)
- Jury Recommended Work / 20th Japan Media Arts Festival (2017)
- Best Animation / Gold Movie Awards Goddess Nike (2017)
- Best Animation / Festigious Los Angeles Film Competition (2017)
- Best Animation / Los Angeles Film Awards (2017)
- Best Song (Kami-sama no Takurami / Divine Design, by Ichiko Aoba) / Los Angeles Film Awards (2017)
- Best Animation / Top Shorts (2017)
- Best Score (to Ichiko Aoba) / Top Shorts (2017)
- Jury Special Award / North American Film Awards (2017)
- Best Animated Short / Global Film Festival Awards (2018)
- Best Original Score (to Ichiko Aoba) / Global Film Festival Awards (2018)

What the World Said
A haunting and brilliant film. (WorldFest)

Yoshimi Itazu makes his directorial debut with this quietly powerful fable for a nation haunted by enormous loss. (Fantasia Film Festival)

A short film that richly rewards multiple viewings to fully appreciate the myriad topics it covers. (UK Anime Network)
Full review here.

With gentle pacing, gorgeous artwork, and superb choices of music, Itazu crafts a haunting, poignant tale that examines the melancholic nature of a world where objects and people are left to ponder the purpose of their own existence. (Qmunicate Magazine)
Full review here.

Pigtails is the directorial debut of up-and-coming animator Yoshimi Itazu (Miss Hokusai, Paprika, Denno Coil). Based on the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize-winning comic book Mitsuami no Kami-sama by Machiko Kyo, and visually inspired by Derek Jarman's garden in Dungeness -an oasis of life and beauty growing in front of a nuclear power station- the film metaphorically depicts the conflicting and unspeakable feelings that engulfed the author in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011, and faithfully recreates the contrast between Kyo's naïve-looking designs and the story's extreme and thought-provoking twist.

On March 10 and 11, 2015, director Itazu and Fukushima Prefecture-born animation producer Keiko Matsushita visited the still scarred seacoast of northern Japan to the very limits of the exclusion zone, in order to bring back into the film more realistic impressions of colours, landscapes, and the cold wind of March.

The earth shook. The sea roared. And then...
There is a small house solitary standing by the seaside. A pigtail-braided girl has been living there alone since that fateful day. Mail is no longer delivered, but even this morning she's hanging out the laundry as usual.
A delicate fable of hope and rebirth in a cruel and gentle world after an unnamed disaster.

About the original comic book
Pigtails is the animated adaptation of the manga, Mitsuami no Kami-sama by female artist Machiko Kyo. Originally serialized between 2011 and 2013, the manga was later compiled into a single volume in July 2013 by publisher Shueisha. In 2014, it won the New Artist Prize at the 18th Annual Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prizes. It is only in the afterword to the volume edition that Kyo reveals that the story is a reflection of her personal feelings towards the events of "3.11," a date that in Japan is painfully associated with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster striking the country in 2011.

About the director: Yoshimi Itazu
Born in Gifu prefecture in 1980, Itazu joined Studio Gallop in 1998 at the young age of 18. Five years later he started a collaboration with studio Mad House. Here he was involved in the production of the TV series Paranoia Agent, which put him in touch with director Satoshi Kon. After his outstanding performance in the series Denno Coil, where Itazu was supervising animator, Kon invited him aboard the production of Dreaming Machine, as character designer and chief animator, but the project was sadly suspended when Kon passed away in 2010. Itazu's credits as key animator include Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. A natural talent and one of Japan's most promising young animators, he made his debut as character designer and supervising animator in a feature film with Keiichi Hara's Annecy-winning Miss Hokusai (2015). Pigtails marked his highly anticipated directorial debut. In 2017, Itazu directed his first TV series, Welcome to the Ballroom, and in 2023 he directed his first feature film, The Concierge at Hokkyoku Department Store, based on the award-winning comic books by Tsuchika Nishimura.

About the producer: Keiko Matsushita
Born in Fukushima prefecture in 1982, Matsushita is one of the rare female producers working in the Japanese animation industry. She joined studio Production I.G in 2005, and debuted as a producer in Hiroyuki Okiura's A Letter to Momo (2012), on which she worked for seven years. After acting as animation producer in a number of TV series, including the global hit Haikyu!!, Matsushita took on her second feature film, Miss Hokusai (2015) directed by Keiichi Hara, for which she personally hand-picked the creative staff around the director. For Pigtails, that is inheriting much of the Miss Hokusai team in a completely different visual style, she is combining her ability in creating chemistry among individual talents, and her personal involvement with a story addressing to the dramatic events that affected her home region.

© 2015 Machiko Kyo/SHUEISHA, ITSV