April 12th, 2023
Anime Day at Inked NYC Was One For the Books
Inked NYC’s first ever Anime Day was a dream come true for loyal fans of anime and tattoos alike
This past Saturday, Inked NYC was the place to be for ink-wielding weebs. For Anime Day, the shop’s first event celebrating anime tattoos, artists flew in from all across the country, and fans lined up at the chance to be tattooed by some of the world’s best tattooers specializing in anime ink. The giddiness in the air was palpable, with everyone present for the same reasons—to give or receive a badass tattoo, marvel at the incredible work being done and geek out about the exciting world of anime.
The space for anime tattoos wasn’t always this euphoric. Flashback to five or 10 years ago, artists rarely had the incentive to focus on the style because there wasn’t a market for it. Today, it’s a different story, with long-time tattooers honing in on the style, and tattooing newcomers specializing in anime tattoos right out of the gate. “I think I did my first anime tattoo maybe 10 years ago,” Dan McWilliams shares. “So I’ve been trying to push my art towards anime. But I think it’s only really popularized itself in tattooing, enough to where I’ve been able to do a lot more, maybe in the last six years.”
Dallas-based tattooer Stormy Brewer recalls when anime tattoos weren’t well-embraced. “When I first started in 2016, I wanted to do anime tattoos, but it wasn’t really popular then,” Brewer says. “I would draw flash and stuff, but people would never want to get it. In 2019, I saw other people were starting to like anime tattoos and I was like, okay, now’s the time to swap and get into it.” Jeremiah Purinton, an artist working out of Orlando has had a very similar experience. “The [first] shop I worked at was like, [only doing one style] isn’t a thing,” Purinton says. “You gotta know all styles. I was like, ‘I’m gonna try it.’ And I just pushed for it.”
One thing all anime tattooers can agree on is that there are so many exciting possibilities to choose while tattooing anime. Some artists, enthralled by the simplistic illustration styles found in many anime, thrive on being able to put their own spin on them to fit their unique aesthetic. McWilliams, for instance, takes on a surrealist approach to the 2D characters he replicates. Brewer is a huge fan of Kentaro Miura’s “Berserk,” notably one of the most intricately illustrated manga of all time. “That’s why I like doing it so much,” she says. “Because I really like doing super detailed, tiny stuff and spending forever on adding all the little extra things. I like challenging myself with tattoos and some of the panels are so fucking crazy.”
Mars Inks’ approach to tattooing anime goes in a different direction. She often takes simplistic designs and brings them new life by thinking outside the box, whether that be turning the Pokémon, Spheal, into a cup of boba or the Sanrio character Cinnamoroll into a dagger. Flipshades, known for his striking sticker and patchwork tattoos, morphs anime designs into his own style. His all-time favorite anime pick is “Cowboy Bebop,” and fittingly, he tattooed a fantastic sticker of Spike Spiegel above an adorable Ein at the event.
Doing anime tattoos inevitably gives tattooers a deeper appreciation for the art of anime and manga in ways they wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. “I think when you try to take a character design and translate it into tattooing, you notice all of these subtle elements,” McWilliams says. “You just have to give it up for the original artist, so much goes into it. Trying to make something seem more streamlined and simple, you really have to know what you’re doing.”
Beyond appreciation for the art form, the close-knit community of anime tattooers were simply ecstatic to be reunited with one another. “Everyone [in the community] is very supportive of each other,” Mars says. “Even though the tattoo community can be very toxic, I don’t really feel that when it comes to anime tattooers. I think we all have the same state of mind, we’re all out for the same thing and just happy to be around each other.” “The anime tattoo community is one of the nicest tattoo communities out there,” Purinton adds. “We’re all a bunch of weebs, we all loved similar things growing up. So it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I did that too.’ It’s just back and forth, ‘that was me’ and ‘that was me, too.’”
Since anime tattooing is in the midst of blowing up, the most popular tattoos still mainly consist of the classics—Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z and Studio Ghibli. But with anime becoming more well-loved in Western culture, you can certainly expect more tattoos from lesser known and more obscure anime to be on the rise, as well as budding series that have already attracted enormous fan bases such as “Chainsaw Man,” “Demon Slayer” and “Jujutsu Kaisen.”
Flipshades, having been in the industry for over 20 years, is very excited watching the anime tattooing landscape grow so rapidly. “It’s awesome [that anime is becoming more popular] because more people can experience it, and it becomes more open to someone that might not have found it before,” he says. “And that’s kind of the whole point anyway. I mean, how many anime aren’t about somebody growing somehow, somebody on some sort of journey, you know?”
With so much support flowing in from both the anime and tattoo community at this event, one can only imagine what the scene will look like a few years from now. The anime art style in tattooing has progressed so much in just the past few years, going from rudimentary nods here and there to show-stopping pieces, internet-breaking collaborations and full sleeves of vibrant and dynamic designs. There’s no doubt that tattoo lovers who’ve also got a thing for anime have a lot to look forward to.
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Sarah Elizabeth found herself by embracing art and hopes to uplift others on the same journey