Arthell & Darnell Isom


Arthell Isom, along with his twin brother Darnell helped to create the first major Black-owned anime studio in Tokyo, Japan.


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.


His love for background animation grew and he began working with animation studio Ogura Kobo on shows like BleachBlack 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.


“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,” says Arthell.


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