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See Arthell Isom creator of the first major black-owned anime studio in Japan



In Tokyo, Japan, Arthell Isom and his twin brother Darnell contributed to establishing the first significant Black-owned animation studio.

The two formed a partnership with animator Henry Thurlow to start D’ART Shtajio, a Tokyo-based 2-D animation studio that specializes in creating Japanese anime that combines Westernized culture.

Darnell assists in managing the studio from California, but Arthell has lived in Japan for more than ten years after beginning his career in San Francisco, Italy, and then Osaka where he studied art history.

Famous animator Hiromasa Ogura, who worked on films like Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll, served as his mentor and significantly influenced Arthell’s professional development.

I watched Ghost in the Shell every day for a year. I didn’t even know why I liked it until a teacher asked me to focus on that question.

That’s when I discovered that I liked the backgrounds and the way the animation moved through them,” Arthell Isom told Japan Times.

His love for background animation grew and he began working with animation studio Ogura Kobo on shows like Bleach, Black Butler, and Naruto.

Arthell Isom

Those years of experience helped him to make a mark in Japan, a country where only 5% of the labor force is non-Japanese.

D’ART Shtajio is not only the first Black-owned anime studio, but also the first American-owned anime studio in Japan.

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Isom, however, believes that might soon change due to a growing push for diversity in Japan, particularly in the realm of creative niches.

The wonderful part is that Black creators seek us out now that we are here. It’s a fantastic chance to collaborate with them.

We’ve collaborated with numerous independent manga artists on projects like Tephlon Funk and XOGENASYS, which has given us the chance to tell more Black stories.

These are authors who want their stories to be turned into anime.