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What’s D’Art Shtajio? Japan’s first Black-owned animation studio

Japan is home to anime, also known as called Japanimation. Anime has colorful graphics, lively characters, and outrageous plots, making it a source of entertainment that appeals to people of all ages.

Japan is a homogenous country, where people of different cultures and backgrounds are almost considered ‘new’ to them. Black-owned businesses are seldom seen in Japan.

However, that has started to change.


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Japan’s first predominantly Black-owned animation studio, D’Art Shtajio is here to make a name for itself.

D’Art Shtajio was founded in 2016 by two brothers, Arthell and Darnell Isom. Their goal is to blend Japanese animation with Western animation with the help of their animator, Henry Thurlow.

Ultimately, they want to revolutionize the animation industry in Japan. The Isom brothers are not new to the animation industry and neither is Thurlow.

Arthell Isom worked on many animation series like Bleach, Gintama, Naruto, and Black Butler, just to name a few. His mentor, Hiromasa Ogura, best known for his work in Ghost in the Shell, helped guide him along the way.

Henry Thurlow worked with the animation studio, Nakamura, as an animator for series such as Pokemon origins and Gundam Fighters as well as work with the animation studio, Pierrot Animation, as an animator for popular series, Tokyo Ghoul

Why is having a black animation studio in Japan so significant, some of you may be thinking. After all, it’s just an animation studio.

Japan values uniformity, so it’s seen as a loss to be different.

In an interview Thurlow did with JapanTimes, he states “Back then I was drawing for ‘Gundam’ and ‘Pokemon,’ but my name was never mentioned and I was literally making $4 a day.” He claimed that the “artist in me is satisfied” despite not being able to make a living because of being a foreigner. 

Despite all these hardships, D’Art Shtajio has also worked on popular series such as Castlevania, Seven Deadly Sins, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and more.

The brothers even animated their own mini skits like Indigo United. They also created the first episode of a new anime series based on the manga, Xogenasys written by NBA player, Johnny O’Bravo.

Xogenasys features Darius Smith, an artistic youth living in a dystopian world. He is recruited to fight in XOGenaSYS, a gladiator sport fought with powered exoskeletons, and the powerful prince, Mustafa. He wants Darius to become the next new fighter.


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D’Art Shtajio’s resume is fairly long. The studio was home to the production of an Adidas commercial.

We can’t wait to see what new works D’Art Shtajio brings us!