Welcome back! We are continuing our countdown to the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo with Q&A’s from various guests, and today we’ll be featuring Arthell Isom!

Arthell Isom is the founder and head of D’Art Shtajio. Previously working as an animator on shows such as Naruto, Black Butler and Bleach. Arthell has risen to unprecedented heights in the Japanese Anime industry, with D’Art Shtajio not only being the first black owned Animation Studio, but also the first American Owned. We spoke with Arthell about some of his influences, inspirations, as well as his overall impact.

Geekset: I read in an interview that even though you had known since 8th grade that you wanted to be an animator, in high school, your primary focus was still music before making the official jump in college. What made you decide to officially focus on animation over music?

Arthell: I’d always loved art since I was two years old. In high school, we lived with our father, and he really wanted us to focus on music. Once my brother and I were deciding on what our next path in life would be, we really were just returning to a passion we always had. I do love music though, and often wish the Academy had music as a possible minor.  

Geekset: You’ve worked in the animation department on some major series and movies like Lupin the Third, Black Butler, Naruto & Gintama, as well as most recently directed and produced The Weeknd’s Snowchild music video. What would you say is are unique challenges in going from animating series and movies to music videos?

Arthell: There are so many differences, but here are a few; Animated series and films have stories and strong characters for the audience to follow, along with dialogue and time to get viewers involved. Music videos are short and lack a lot of the devices we use to gain the audience’s attention, so everything has to be extremely focused. The lyrics and music also come first and in most cases are the crux of the story. Where in series and film the music is often added after to accentuate the action. 

Geekset: Being the head of D’art Shtajio, you’ve shown many young black creators that working and thriving in the anime industry in Japan doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. What advice would you give them, especially when they may feel like giving up?

Arthell: I think I’ll give the advice I was often given when younger and sprinkle some of my ideas on top of it.  Nothing in this world is free or easy, but if you study and properly apply yourself everything is attainable. It’s easy to give up and fall into the pool of statistics, we all know what those are. So let’s keep it simple, NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how many times you fail. The path to success is paved in failure, so discover what grit is and embody it.

You can find Arthell Isom at the Anime & Race Panel on Friday at the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo and on social media at @xatacysm on both Instagram & Twitter. For more information and ways to register for your free pass head over to https://expo.crunchyroll.com/CrunchyrollExpo/

  • Session: Anime and Race
    • Friday, September 4 from 5:15 – 6:15 PM PT
    • Stage: Hime Stage