What They Say:
From Production I.G, the legendary animation studio behind Ghost in the Shell and Miss Hokusai, comes a collection of five award-winning and rarely seen short films, directed by some of the best animators from Japan.
All of the movie only come in Stereo/Mono sound in 2.0 level in Japanese only – considering the ages of the movies range between 2005 and 2015 this is understandable especially with the difference of quality involving them, and to be fair these are still movie like quality so I didn’t actually need to adjust the volume on any of the movies – indeed, some of them like Kick-Heart and oval x Over were very over the top and quite loud in their foley and effects. Ones like Pigtails rely a lot on the background noise and voice work as well so fortunately it is still a very acceptable quality, and no issues with synching and timing with the subtitles.
With each of the movies airing at a different year, this is one of the few reviews that the aspect ratio actually changes. Pigtails the most recent one in 2015 uses both the 4:3 bar effect and full screen effect, Kick-Heart is a wide screen effect, Lil Spider Girl and Drawer Hobs are full screen, and Oval x Oval is a small square effect which is a bit of a pain to watch because of how flashy it is yet feels condensed (fortunately it isn’t the biggest problem as at 9 minutes is the shortest of the films) – this makes the quality of certain ones stand out a lot more (Pigtails and Lil Spider Girl in particular look fantastic, whilst Kick-Heart and Oval x Over seem to suffer a bit more due to their much different animation style) – it is quite literally a mixed bag of quality but overall, it is definitely more pleasing to the eye than less so.
There was no packing for this test release; however there is collector’s packaging with the special edition.
The menu is both basic and unique, each short has an image from their movie and it flickers when their music comes on in 5 windows of an image from the short, with selections on the top left of just Play All and Trailers on – surprised you can’t actually select the short you wish, it is just play all so points knocked off for that as you’d expect this be one of the releases to have that option.
(Edit: Been informed this may have been a fault from the test copy I received – the actual release does allow to select the shorts seperately expect it is via the actual short title box that gets highlighted as opposed to the big box with scenes from the menu)
The only extras you have are trailers for the first four short films, however if you get the collector’s edition you do also get a 156-page storyboard book, and a 140-page material piece with more information about each short, more art and profiles of some of the key staff.
Pigtails and Other Shorts is a collection of short movies made by Production I.G, who have done a lot of prominent works over the years in series, OVAs and movies – including Ghost In The Shell, Psycho-Pass, Eden Of The East, Kimi no Todoke amongst other fan favourites over the years. These are 5 rarely shown movies from some well-known directors and animators who are better known for other things, and this is almost just a way to showcase their work before they were famous.
It is in theory, a very short collection of movies, and none have any link to the other, but instead serve as their own identity and usually have some sort of moral, dilemma or question for the audience to think about.
The first one, Pigtails, follows a girl who lives in a small remote house, where she appears to have no access to the outside world, though you don’t know why at first. What is interesting is that the human characters never speak, and instead the dialogue you hear is from the view of inanimate objects ranging from clothes pegs talking and fighting, toothbrushes/toothpaste, (which allude to her parents were once with her) – she gets visits from people in radiation suits suggesting perhaps she is quarantined but then you also see a postman who clearly is in love with her and doesn’t wear a suit. It is later we see the truth when he hides from the inspectors to his home, collapses and the inspectors take him that the grisly truth is revealed…people are being harvested for body parts (implied for those who can afford them) which leads to him escaping and trying to take Pigtails with him…where she makes a choice whether she wants to go to the outside world when she may not have long to live anyway, or stay and let her organs be eventually used for other people…it is a question that has answers either way and is surprisingly thought-provoking for the time given.
The second movie, Kick Heart (from Lu Over The Wall animator Masaaki Yuusa) is…quite different from that. Only 12 minutes, the animation is a lot more over the top and far cruder than the pastel gentle nature Pigtails had. It is a short story of a pro-wrestler who also helps out an orphanage wanting to wrestle a female wrestler (for…um…reasons)…but also falls in love with a new nun in the orphanage named Juliet…appropriately his name is also Romeo. The animation as mentioned is very over the top, a bit more perverse in its mannerisms, and the short is mostly about the match and the not very difficult reveal at the end of it. It is weird, and the conclusion is pretty obvious, but I won’t lie and said I didn’t laugh at the over the top moments it displayed.
The third one brings us more into supernatural territory with Lil’ Spider Girl. This is perhaps the creepiest one albeit you wouldn’t think that at first, as the ending will mess with your head. We follow a bookstore owner Suzuri, and a child named Mizuki, who accidentally drops a book that has a charm in it. Prior to seeing them, we have a flashback of the past where giant spider monsters were defeated by magical samurai…or were they? The charm reveals a cute little spider girl who looks like a child…just who bites and has spider legs. Yeah, it’s strange. However, Suzuri insists on keeping her and trying to see if can return her to the book despite Mizuki’s worries. Indeed, her uncle warns her that the spider child might be cute, but she may have already affecting him in a way that he may be controlled. Indeed, the story seems to go that way as spider webs form around him as a way to bind him and by the end, it looks like he is being led to his death. However, we get a double twist that he seems to break free and it seems like the spider girl is on their side…but ANOTHER twist really catches you further off guard, and it is one that is definitely not for spoilers as it is a bit of a shock, and let’s just say it’s probably the most interesting one of the five for that. It is a tossup between this one and Pigtails as my favourite, but I will go with this one just for the surprise.
The fourth one however is a nice one too, and has another interesting lesson in terms of development with a bit of magic added. Drawer Hobs was the first animation production done by Ghost Of The Shell: Arise director Kazuchika Kise. As a former call centre operator, I definitely felt for the protagonist Noeru, stuck in a life which is very plain and boring living on her own. Unlike me however, she gets a magical chest of drawers sent by her mother which apparently has been handed down for generations…which contain child like spirits which help out the owner with their life.
WHY COULDN’T I HAVE ONE OF THOSE? Ahem.
Anyway, the children(Jirokichii, Hampei, Yuki, Masa, Daigoro, Tae) all have their quirks and skills, some better than others, but strangely Noeru slowly gets used to them and accepting of them, as her life also changes – she is less slob like, she improves her health, her food, begins learning how to cook and clean and begins accepting them as she realizes her mother must have knew about this. It does get to an ending when you learn the origin of the spirits, and of course when Noeru has clearly improved herself, the spirits eventually have to leave, and it is actually a little sad despite how short it is, it is quite a sweet story with another lesson here in terms of life improvement. It’s just behind Pigtails and Li’ Spider Girl for me in quality, but is the one that has the most positive ending so I quite enjoyed it.
The last one is the shortest…and the strangest as it doesn’t really have an ending however it is very noticeable as the art style is very familiar and unique. Done by Hiroyuki Imaishi (Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill), Oval x Over the style is very similar to those shows and are very short (3 shorts, at 3 minutes) focusing on three drivers – Bern, Glavis and Arth – all connected to a crash which happened in the race five years earlier (Bern afraid of driving when they get to a certain point, Glavis’ father involved in the crash, and Arth being the cause of both their traumas) – it was done to promote the Indy Japan 300 Mile race(done in 2005) and is done in such an over the top way that you have to love it.
5 very different shorts by the same studio, with directors and animators which have done a lot more stuff nowadays. Do I recommend it as a purchase? With the special edition there is a ton of stuff you can look through which gives you a lot more in learning who was involved and of the art styles of each piece, and all of them have some value, especially in seeing almost a who’s who of anime before they did more well known things. The standard edition also is quite well priced (£19.99) but the special edition is more in the £40 range, and as the 5 shorts totally just under an hour and a half, combined with no extras (or a dub) on the Blu-Ray/DVD itself, it is a hard sell. There is definitely nothing bad about it – obviously some are more different than others, but a lot of the shorts are thought-provoking, beautifully animated (Pigtails in particular), can be funny and gives you some questioning insight. It feels like quite a niche release for Anime Limited and I can see it being a part of collectors who wanted to see what happened BEFORE things actually happened…so yeah, if you are a fan of Production I.G, I’d give it a whirl.
Pigtails and Other Shorts is basically that – 5 shorts based on I.G works before they were famous. Pigtails being an ending which makes you think of life, Lil Spider Girl being supernatural meets shock, Kick Heart being a bit over the top and mindless, Drawer Hobs being quite informative and sweet, and Oval x Over is just there for fans of Lagaan animation to see where it began. Some are clearly better than others but altogether makes an interesting combination of shows as all of them are different – it is definitely worth a watch especially if you are a fan of certain works because you can see where they came from – may want to keep an eye on the price tag though.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: March 25th, 2019
Running Time: 98 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1/4:3
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.