Aside from video games and the occasional funny video crossing my feed, anime has always been my go-to for my daily dose of serotonin. These days, anime isn’t just a genre. It’s an entire industry, taking up space in the animation world and greatly influencing modern pop culture.
But as much as I am ready to admit I’ve transcended peak weebness, I also acknowledge that anime has its own issues: For one, many shows lack diversity. It’s common to see a harem of fair-skinned female characters, all with different hair colors for easy recall, and with a token character of Western descent somewhere in the cast.
But not the same can be said for Black characters, who already seldomly appear in anime shows (and when they do, they’re often quirky side characters that barely get screentime).
While anime admittedly has a poor Black representation, there are those who champion diversity in this day and age.
About a week ago, The Weeknd dropped his “Snowchild” music video, and it’s everything we love about a modern sci-fi cyberpunk reel reminiscent of “Ghost in the Shell.”
These stunning visuals were created by D’Art Shtajio, the first Black-owned 2D animation studio in Tokyo, Japan. It was founded by veteran background artist Arthell Isom, his brother Darnell and animator Henry Thurlow back in 2016.
They even worked on some of our favorite anime like “Attack On Titan” and “One Piece.”
Thurlow animated sequences for “Pokémon” and the first season of “Tokyo Ghoul,” while Isom crafted backgrounds for famed shounen anime like “Naruto,” “Bleach” and “Gintama.” He was even mentored by Hiromasa Ogura himself, the art director of “Ghost in the Shell.”
Beyond their talent and expertise in animation, the studio focuses on taking Black narratives from paper to animation, with independent manga creators’ projects like hip-hop series “Tephlon Funk” and NBA player Johnny O’Bryant’s futuristic manga “XOGENASYS.”
“We get the opportunity to then tell more Black stories,” Isom told Syfy. “These are storytellers who want to see their story adapted to anime form.”
Still from “Tephlon Funk”