In an interview with Buzzfeed two years ago, American animator Henry Thurlow, who had moved to Tokyo from New York six years earlier, summed up his dilemma. "When I was working as an animator in New York, I could afford an apartment, buy stuff and had time to 'live a life,'" he said. "Now (in Japan) everything about my life is utterly horrible, (but) the artist in me is completely satisfied."

He's still here. I tracked Thurlow down in a quiet corner of Nishi-Shinjuku, where he is now in what he calls "the inevitable next iteration" of his journey through the anime industry: his own studio.

After grueling stints at domestic veterans Nakamura Productions and Studio Pierrot, where his work went largely uncredited and his advice unheeded, the 32 year-old Thurlow and his creative and business partner, background artist Arthell Isom, 37, founded D'Art Shtajio, with support from Isom's twin brother in California.