Black culture has made its way to international shores in Japan as these two artists show their love of anime in the country where it was born. At the same time, they have also made history by defining Black culture in a nation that is defined by their animation style when it comes to art.
Twin brothers Arthell and Darnell Isom worked as background artists before teaming up with animator Henry Thurlow to develop their very own anime studio in Japan, according to CBR. These three black entrepreneurs founded D’ART Shtajio, the first major anime studio to be created by Black animators. This team managed to combine American culture with Japanese animation to create some interesting anime projects. The 2-D animation studio was set up in Tokyo, where these three animators went to develop some animation with their skills as artists.
Before founding the studio, Arthell Isom has gotten to work on some major anime shows as a background animator. His resume includes working on Bleach, Black Butler, Gintama, and Naruto to name a few. He learned animation under the tutelage of his mentor, Hiromasa Ogura, who’s work includes being a background animator on Ghost in the Shell.
Henry Thurlow previously worked as an animator for companies like Nakamura Productions and Pierrot Animation Room for projects like Pokemon Origins and Tokyo Ghoul. Thurlow mentioned how much of a struggle it was for him as an animator without any creative input.
"Back then I was drawing for Gundam and Pokemon, but my name was never mentioned and I was literally making $4 a day,” he told Japan Times.
It wasn’t until Arthell and Thurlow came together to hire various foreign animators to work on some major anime creations, which ultimately led to the founding of their studio. If you look at the population of animators in Japan that put so much work into these programs, there aren’t a lot of them from overseas in that demographic. Founded in 2016, D’ART Shtajio was looking to change all that with the work they’ve been doing. The Black-owned studio worked on several projects since their formation. Series that they have worked on include JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Seven Deadly Sins, and even One Piece.
D’ART Shtajio has made some incredible strides when it comes to anime and hopes to continue to make an impact in the industry. Isom sees a bright future in this studio for years to come.
“The great thing is with us being here, Black creators seek us out,” Isom explained in a Syfy Wire interview.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with them. With the work that D’ART Shtajio is doing, Isom hopes for more Black stories to be told in this form of art style. We get the opportunity to then tell more Black stories. These are storytellers who want to see their story adapted to anime form.”
The name D’ART Shtajio uses both the English and Japanese language to build a foundation for their artists and clients, according to the website. The Shtajio means “studio” in Japanese, but it also means that building a strong relation with the artists is important to the company’s mission. It also makes use of the word Shtaji, which is used to prefer to background artists in Japan.
The studio puts in a new meaning to represent these background animators as the foundation of art.