Black people’s consumption of anime and manga has gone contested for a very long time, especially when it comes to black women’s interest in the media. Be that as it may; however, black people have influenced and been influenced by anime and manga for a very long time, even if the industry or community refuse to admit it. We have so many brilliant black people in the industry - from those who run their own anime studios in Japan, to cosplayers and creators alike! Let’s shine the spotlight on some of our favourite black influences in the anime industry and community in 2021!
Arthell Isom - Founder and CEO of D’Art Shtajio
In 2016, background artists and twin brothers Arthell and Darnell Isom established D’Art Shtajio, Japan’s very first black-owned anime studio. The studio offers services from the conceptualisation of a project all the way to post-production, with involvement in parts of the creation of popular anime series like Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), One Piece, Naruto, En En no Shouboutai (Fire Force), Gintama, Tokyo Ghoul:re and more. Arthell himself has been involved in the creation of several legendary anime, inclusive of the aforementioned Tokyo Ghoul and BLEACH, but also under his idol, Ghost in the Shell (1995) art director Ogura Hiromasa soon after graduating from Yoyogi Animation College. Arthell’s enrollment at Yoyogi was because of how he displayed his immense desire and motivation, with the college never having accepted foreign students prior to his arrival. His dedication led him to working with the person who inspired him to pursue a career in animation and the rest is well, history.
LeSean Thomas - Creator of Cannon Busters (2019)
2019 saw the arrival of the original Netflix anime series, Cannon Busters, which is one of the few anime in existence to have a predominantly black cast. Thomas was involved in various American animation projects, from Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks, to Avatar: Legend of Korra as well as the 2017 Crunchyroll movie, Children lof Ether. Right now, Thomas is working on an anime about Yasuke, the African samurai who served as a retainer under Oda Nobunaga in the 16th century.
The Makeup Shapeshifter/SlimGirlSupreme - Makeup Artist, Cosplayer
Leaving a mark on cosplay more permanent than the ones she makes on her body is The Makeup Shapeshifter. The epithet is by no means an exaggeration as the South African-Zimbabwean cosplayer and artist creates incredible cosplays using her godly makeup skills and a few handy props. Her looks emphasise illusions and the creation of special effects using makeup to create incredible reimaginations of various aspects: celebrities, album covers, characters from comics, movies, series and of course, anime! Our favourite looks by this talented artist include her Colossal Titan, the Rabbit Hero Muriko from Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia), Saiki Kusuo from Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan (The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.) and her Elizabeth from Nanatsu no Taizai (Seven Deadly Sins). Check out her work on Instagram and Tiktok!
Venus Bambisa - Illustrator, Concept Artist
Venus Bambisa is an artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their work is primarily made up of character designs for all kinds of media: children’s books, animations and more! Bambisa’s work boasts vibrant, inventive, anime-inspired designs primarily featuring black female characters. Find Venus Bambisa on Instagram, or ArtStation to see more of this artist’s incredible work!
Destiny Senpai - Podcast Host
Hitting the airwaves with an unmistakable love for anime and manga is Destiny Senpai with her podcast, Getting Animated! The podcast features reviews, interviews and a host of content about anime, manga and even cartoons. Getting Animated is available on platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor and Google Play Music.
Whyt Manga - Illustrator, Mangaka
Nigerian-born Odunze Oguguo, better known by his Instagram handle @whytmanga, is an extremely talented artist who used his abilities in the creation of his manga Apple Black, published on the Saturday AM platform. Adept at imagining and conceptualising characters, one can even find tutorials and tips on how to draw black characters for the purpose of illustration or manga! The success of Apple Black on Saturday AM makes it one of the most important titles on a platform dedicated to creating a comic anthology of diverse stories from around the world.
Hoshino René - Mangaka
Born in Cameroon but raised in Japan, Hoshino is one of Japan’s few resident black mangaka. Drawing stories based on his childhood growing up under some level of discrimination, not to mention insecurity and confusion, Hoshino draws comedic stories in his manga which he posts primarily on his Twitter page. Literally drawing from his experiences, Hoshino’s is a voice that can definitely bring about a lot of discourse about blackness in Japan.
Frederick L. Jones - Founder of Saturday A.M., Writer of Clock Striker
Saturday A.M. is a platform dedicated to providing quality manga coming from creators from all over the world. The format is the same as that of Shounen Jump in that the various manga are collected as an anthology on the platform. Saturday A.M. founder and the writer behind Clock Striker, a manga about a young girl named Cast, living in a technologically advanced world ravaged by war, who seeks to become a Smith, a type of in-universe engineer. The establishment of the Saturday A.M. platform and his partnership with artist Rekse to create Clock Striker will definitely be seen in the future as ultra-important moves in the industry made by black people.
Black people have a vibrant relationship with anime and manga, one that spans several eras and it only makes sense that we make strides to enact change and leave a mark on a medium, and an industry, that we love. There are so many black creators, influencers, cosplayers, writers, storytellers, artists and more out there who are doing work that they love that one day, we will love too. We have to boost these voices, not just for the sake of Black History Month, but for the future of anime as a medium and an industry, for the sake of the creators, and for ourselves.