D’ART Shtajio is Japan’s First Major Anime Studio Owned by Black Animators
Photo Credit: Ben Gonzalez
Black creators are versatile in every way both inside and outside of traditional Black culture.
Two Black background artists, Arthell and Darnell Isom, alongside animator Henry Thurlow, founded D’ART Shtajio — a 2-D animation studio in Tokyo — making it the “first major anime studio created by Black animators” in Japan, CBR reports.
The three animators created their studio infusing American culture with Japanese anime, and in the process have worked on some huge anime projects.
According to CBR, prior to opening the studio, Arthell Isom worked under animation studio Ogura Kobo as a background animator on shows such as “Bleach,” “Gintama,” “Black Butler,” “Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Naruto.” He also worked with his mentor, Hiromasa Ogura, known for being a background animator on “Ninja Scroll” and “Ghost in the Shell.”
Thurlow worked as an in-between animator and key animator previously, but always expressed his frustrations never having his creative input taken seriously or even credited for certain projects.
“Back then I was drawing for Gundam and Pokémon, but my name was never mentioned and I was literally making $4 a day,” he said to CBR.
Together, Arthell and Thurlow formed a duo employing several foreign animators to work on major Japanese animation productions, eventually leading to the creation of their studio.
According to Tadashi Sudo — former CEO of Anime! Anime! — foreign non-Japanese animators make up only five percent of animators working in anime.
“The number of non-Japanese (in Japan) is increasing, not only on production work, but also on anime planning, management as producers, and handling rights sales and public relations,” Sudo said.
However, Isom believes only great things are ahead.
“The great thing is with us being here, Black creators seek us out,” Isom said in a SyFy Wire interview. “It’s a great opportunity to work with them. We’ve worked with quite a few like independent manga creators with projects like Tephlon Funk and XOGENASYS; we get the opportunity to then tell more Black stories. These are storytellers who want to see their story adapted to anime form.”
According to CBR, D’ART Shtajio has worked on several high profile projects since being founded including “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind,” “Seven Deadly Sins, Gintama,” “Tokyo Ghoul:re,” “Record of Grancrest War,” “Overlord and One Piece.” The studio has even directed a few episodes of “Merc Storia: The Apathetic Boy” and the “Girl in a Bottle.”
Additionally, they’ve released several in-house productions highlighting their vision that combines Western and Eastern culture. These projects include “Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound and Fury,” a Netflix original anime anthology, as well as anime shorts like “Indigo Ignited.”
D’ART Shtajio has made a remarkable impact so far and continues to advocate for visibility for more animators of color in the production industry.
Editorial Note: This piece has been updated for clarity since initially published.