Founded in 2016 by brothers, Arthell and Darnell Isom, D’ART Shtajio sought to revolutionize the Japanese anime industry by introducing Westernized elements of art and storytelling to the Japanese standard of animation.
The word Shtajio is a play on words in both English and Japanese to reflect our commitment towards building a strong foundation centered on our artists and clients. 下地が大事(Shtaji ga daiji): “The Foundation is Important” is the original phrase that we seek to build on while conveying that we are a スタジオ(Sutajio): The Japanese word for Studio. Alternatively, we spell it Shtajio because of the kanji (下地) Shtaji which is used by the background artists here in Japan to mean – the underpainting, or foundation of art. Shtaji+Sutajio = Shtajio
In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, many have chosen to educate themselves about more diverse talents and creatives, supporting Black artists around the world. For anime fans, one such studio you should know about is D’ART Shtajio, Japan’s first-ever predominantly Black-owned anime studio.
founded back in 2016 by three industry veterans: animator Henry Thurlow, background artist Arthell Isom and his twin brother Darnell, both of whom are Black. The team set off to create a unique studio with the goal of bringing together American sensibilities and Japanese anime, and represent incredible talent in the field. Thurlow himself had previously worked for Nakamura Production as an in-between animator, responsible for titles such as Pokémon and Gundam Build Fighters. He also animated for Tokyo Ghoul under Pierrot Animation. As for Isom, the background animator was part of the Ogura Kobo team before founding D’ART Shtajio, earning massive hits under his belt including Bleach, Gintama, Black Butler, Naruto, and Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.
“The great thing is with us being here, Black creators seek us out. It’s a great opportunity to work with them,” said Isom. “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.”
Arthell Isom, along with his twin brother Darnell helped to create the first major Black-owned anime studio in Tokyo, Japan, Black Enterprise reports.
The two teamed up with animator Henry Thurlow to create D’ART Shtajio, a 2-D animation studio based in Tokyo that focuses on producing Japanese anime that merges with Westernized culture. Darnell helps run the studio from California but Arthell has spent over a decade in Japan, starting his career studying art history in San Francisco, Italy, and then Osaka. His mentor was famed animator Hiromasa Ogura, who worked on projects like Ninja Scroll and Ghost in the Shell and really helped Arthell shape his career.
“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. 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. But Isom feels like that might be changing soon, citing a growing push for diversity in Japan, especially when it comes to creative niches.
“The great thing is with us being here, Black creators seek us out. 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.”