Singapore’s Anime Aces

Published on 26 August 2017

By Melanie Lee

When the Anime Festival Asia was first held in Singapore in 2008, there were 29,000 attendees. Last November, the figure was over 94,000.

Observes Ng Kian Chuan, the general manager of local stalwart Collateral Damage Studios, “Overall, anime — whether it’s art, manga or games — is becoming more mainstream in Southeast Asia and Western countries. It is particularly popular with youths aged 18 to 24. Also, because of social media platforms and YouTube tutorial videos, these people are not just interested in appreciating anime art — they want to do it.”

For some, this love for anime art has evolved into a full-fledged career. We find out from some of Singapore’s most successful anime artists what this path is like.

PHOTO: Tan Hui Tian (left) Low Zi Rong (right)
PHOTO: Collateral Damage Studios
PHOTOS: Collateral Damage Studios

COLLATERAL DAMAGE STUDIOS

www.collateralds.com

Collateral started out as a doujin — essentially, an informal art clique of anime artists —  a decade ago, adding, in 2013, a business arm as their commissioned projects grew bigger. These days, their clients include Microsoft, Faber-Castell, and Anime Festival Asia.

Its general manager Ng Kian Chuan, who joined the company when he was still in university, hopes to position the job of an anime artist in a more professional light.

“People think that anime artists are not very atas (high-class), and that the art is technically easier. That’s not true. It’s not just about big eyes. There’s a diverse range of art directions,” explains Ng, who recently gave a public talk on pricing artwork because he wanted to show aspiring anime artists that it is possible to make a living out of the discipline.

Two of the full-time artists at Collateral, Tan Hui Tian and Low Zi Rong have also been part of the outfit since their student days.

On being a full-time anime artist, Tan says that “you have to be willing to suffer or at least be patient for the opportunities to come. You have to train for quite a bit of time before getting such a job.”

Likewise, Low believes it is important to get the fundamentals right before thinking about being an anime artist. “You need to know how to draw figures and get your anatomy correct before breaking the rules and distorting anatomy as part of the anime style. If not, you’ll find yourself struggling if you have to draw comics.”

PHOTO: Daiyaku Studios
PHOTO: Daiyaku Studios

DAIYAKU STUDIOS

www.daiyaku.com

Daiyaku is an anime studio run by husband-and-wife team Jamie Huang and Ophelia Lim. In 2011, the pair decided to turn their passion into a business when the comics they posted on social media platforms went viral. Daiyaku has since provided arresting illustrations and graphic design work to advertising agencies, retail outlets, event companies, game studios, and authors.

“Most anime artists are pretty shy, and they usually stay within their small doujins,” says Huang. “It’s only during events such as Japanese pop culture conventions that they get to interact with prospective customers. We’re still considered quite niche within the local illustration industry.”

However, with the pervasiveness of social media platforms these days, Huang notices that it has become easier for anime artists to engage with a more general audience. In fact, through social media comics, Daiyaku has built up a sizeable following in Thailand and Indonesia. Plans to attend anime conventions in the region are in the works.

“It’s important to work on personal branding so that you can spread the awareness of your works effectively through public platforms,” Lim adds. “In the long run, it works to let people get to know you a little better.”

PHOTO: Rachta Lin

RACHTA LIN

www.rachta.com

Three years ago, Rachta Lin gave up her stable creative director post to pursue anime illustration as a full time job. Since then, she has become something of a celebrity within fan-art and doujin circles. Besides corporate and personal commissions, she receives letters and gifts at conventions.

“I feel lucky to have such amazing fans,” says Lin. “When people say they love my artwork, I feel like they are complimenting my children. It affirms my decision to become an artist.”

However, Lin feels that anime artists in Singapore deserve more airtime. “There are many talented anime artists here, but there doesn’t seem to be enough infrastructure to support and nurture all this potential. Fortunately, online platforms such as Kickstarter and Patreon help anime artists look abroad for support in their trade.”

In fact, through her own Patreon account, Lin offers not just a selection of her work, but she also puts up videos of tutorials and the drawing process. She makes it a point to price these perks affordably because she believes in offering affordable and efficient ways for budding and hobby artists to practise their craft.

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