Japan’s first black-owned anime studio

ART Shtajio is a Tokyo-based 2D animation studio. More recently, it has been acclaimed and known for being Japan’s first American anime studio and the first black-owned anime studio. It was founded in 2016 by host Henry Thurlow and background artists (and twin brothers) Arthell Isom and Darnell Isom.

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The name “Shtajio” is a play on words combining the phrase “shtaji ga daiji” (“The Foundation is important”) and the word “sutajio” (Studio). The studio aims to connect Eastern and Western sensibilities to revolutionize storytelling and create innovative animation through traditional artistic styles of anime.

Arthell is currently CEO and Artistic Director of D’ART Shtajio.

5 The Isom brothers

Arthell and Darnell Isom were born in Paterson, New Jersey in the early 1980s and started drawing early on, drawing inspiration from the creativity of their father, entrepreneur and sound designer. For the brothers, drawing was a way to imagine new realities and escape your own at the same time.

The brothers were eventually introduced to the anime through the Anime series Unleashed where Arthell discovered one of his first anime inspirations, Ghost in the shell. In his fourth year of college and undecided on a career path, a teacher noticed Arthell’s pictures in his journal and encouraged him to become a background artist.

At that time, Arthell set out to work under the tutelage of Hiromasa Ogura, then artistic director of Ghost in the Shell. In an interview for the Hulu series Your attention please, Ogura praised Arthell as “the one who opened his own world on his own” (kind of like the protagonist of your favorite shonen series)!

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Deepening their expertise and experience, Arthell studied animation at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Darnell studied industrial design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

After graduating, Arthell moved to Japan to attend Yoyogi Animation School, develop his Japanese skills and enter the Japanese anime industry starting with Ogura’s studio, Ogura Kubo, where he would work for 5 years on series such as Bleach, Gintama, Black butler, Lupine III: the woman called Fujiko Mine and Naruto. Before ART Shitajo, Darnell was a senior designer at California’s Legacy Effects and also worked on major Hollywood movies such as Avatar, Pacific Rim, and TMNT.

4 Henry thurlow

Henry Thurlow is an American animator who started his career as a 2D animator in New York City. Notable works from this period include Superjail, and the MGMT “Kids” and Ke $ ha ‘”Your love is my Drug” music videos.

One of Thurlow’s first introductions to mature animation was the HBO series Spawn and he then discovered the anime through the OVAs of popular series such as Akira, Demonic City Shinjuku, and Ninja scroll.

Henry studied drawing and animation at the Pratt Institute and entered the American animation industry starting with Cartoon Network. Eventually he met Hideyuki Kikuchi (famous for Wicked city, Darkside Blues, and Vampire Hunter D) at a convention and was encouraged to adapt his American animation style to Japanese anime.

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After feeling frustrated and unable to satisfy his creative desires in America, Henry moved to Japan with the intention of making high quality feature films and series. Like many foreigners who roam the East, Henry started out as an English teacher under the famous JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) program and simultaneously worked as a freelance facilitator to slowly work his way through the Japanese anime industry.

Before D’ART Shtajio, Thurlow visited Nakamura Production where he worked as an intermediate animator on Pokémon origins and Gundam Build Fighters and in addition with Pierrot Animation Room on several Tokyo Ghoul series also as an intermediate animator and key animator.

Now anime fans can expect to see Thurlow’s works in Naruto, Tokyo ghoul, The attack of the Titans, Yona of the dawn, and more!

3 East / Anime Credits

ART Shtajio has a long list of top anime support credits including Suzerain, Tokyo Ghoul: re, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: The Golden Wind, Seven capital sins, Gintama, Fire force, A piece, and The attack of the Titans. The studio also directed episodes of Merc Storia: The Apathetic Boy and the Girl in a Bottle.

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More recently, fans can expect to find D’ART Shtajio’s name among the credits from the final season of Castlevania (and also Season 3) on Netflix.

2 Western credits / Animation

Working not only in productions in Japanese but also in English, D’ART Shtajio has a wide range of credits including Sound and fury, ASOS Commercial Spot and the Tephlon Funk trailer. One of the most famous productions is The Weeknd’s music video “Snowchild” (on the album “After Hours”), which chronicles his career from his debut in Toronto to Hollywood fame.

The studio has also hosted independent comics such as Noir Caesar’s XOGENASYS, who debuted at Anime Expo 2018. XOGENASYS is a sports anime where MMA fights steeped in tech exosuits are the most popular industry and a troubled young teenager is hoping that success in the ring can cure his worries, but life is never easier. Another comic adaptation is Flaming indigo, a dark post-apocalyptic fantasy Animated short that follows the sole survivor of an extinct race persecuted for their supernatural ability to manipulate gravity.

1 Original credit

Among the host of Eastern and Western credits, the studio also found time to develop original works, including The ‘Shojo no Piero’ doll. The doll is a short story about a disgruntled black doll engineer living in Japan who, in his search for meaning, creates what may be the greatest invention of his life.

With the talent and diversity of the team of the studio D’ART Shtajio, it will not be long before they release their own animated series. The goals of this incredible crew are truly endless.

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