Virtual Crunchyroll Expo 2020: Arthell Isom (Interview) – EXCLUSIVE

As part of our extensive coverage of this year’s Virtual Crunchyroll Expo. We have teamed up with Crunchyroll to put together some exciting and exclusive interviews with some of the biggest guests who will be part of this year’s event. Luckily for us, we were able to snag an interview with Roland Kelts and Arthell Isom. We present to you our exclusive Virtual Crunchyroll Expo interview with Arthell Isom!
Arthell Isom

How did you get your start in the anime industry?

My first job was at Ogura Kobou Atelier, a background painting studio run by my idol Hiromasa Ogura San. If you don’t know his name, Shame on your entire family. Kidding, he’s a renowned art director known for his work on Ghost in the Shell. 

You started your very own anime studio in Japan. Historical. Especially with it being the very first Black-Owned anime studio in that country. With today’s climate and the push towards representation, more so for people of color, black people specifically. How do you feel about playing such a historical role in opening the doors for not just Western story elements to be told in the Japanese anime medium but also opening the doors for black creators who have always dreamed of creating their own Japanese manga or Japanese anime?

I think I’ve heard the quote “…History hasn’t been written yet…” somewhere. I feel like this is a question I should be asked in like 5 years. 

You have worked on some of the best anime series in the past decade or two (Bleach, Naruto, One Piece). You’ve even worked on The Weeknd’s “Snowchild” music video (amazing work btw), what are some of the upcoming projects that you can speak about? 

We’ve recently collaborated with Union LA, and Fashion Figure Inc. on a spot for the release of their new Jordan 4s. Everyone will have to wait until our current productions are finished before I can tell you about hem, but we’re working on something nice.

Anime and Race with ROLAND KELTS (JAPANAMERICA) and ARTHELL ISOM (D’ART SHTAJIO) in Tokyo. Anime and race might not be a topic for most Japanese, to whom the shows are targeted. Characters speak Japanese, behave like Japanese, sometimes attend Japanese schools and eat Japanese food. But to audiences outside Japan, the round-eyed, blond-haired, non-racial (or “stateless”) characters can look a lot like white people.

The question is more urgent with both Black Lives Matter and Hollywood’s habit of “whitewashing” hot topics. Casting white actors to play characters of color, like Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, can be a Major Fail. Half-Japanese American author Roland Kelts, and anime artist and background designer Arthell Isom, co-founder of anime’s only Black-owned studio, break it down in this fascinating three-part panel which you can catch TONIGHT from 5:15 – 6:15 PM PT / 8:15 – 9:15 PM ET during Virtual Crunchyroll Expo.

Arthell Isom

For more information on Virtual Crunchyroll Expo’s full guest list and panel schedule, and to register for a free pass please click here

For more exclusive interviews, anime reviews, news, trailers, and updates make sure to keep it locked right here at The Nerdy Basement. While you’re here check out our exclusive interviews with the English Dub cast of The God of High School, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Jeannie Tirado, and consider supporting us on Patreon.