Animating the Blockchain with Kushagra Kushwaha
“Artists are those kids who never stopped drawing” says Kushagra Kushwaha, an anime creator and block chain enthusiast whose work encompasses fields of art, animation, and the cutting-edge Web3.0 frontier. In this feature we shall follow his career path spanning from his graduation at IIT-Guwahati to his present-day role, heading Metasky in Japan.
“I always wanted to become an animator and cartoonist” says Kushagra. Having made a pact with his parents to pursue a profession of his choice once he cleared IIT-JEE, Kushagra found himself in the design coursework of IIT that propelled him to understand the foundations of communication and industrial design.
It was during the holidays in college that Kushagra pursued his interest in the eastern art forms. Studying Thangka paintings among the monks in Dharamsala and Tibet, teaching children in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, working as a comic journalist, along with other educational stints in Singapore and Korea.
Comics by Kushagra while working with a tabloid based in Leh,”Reach Ladakh”, highlighting the social problems faced by the Ladakhis in their day to day life.
Kushagra followed his passion for Eastern Art forms and learned Thangka paintings from the monks in Dharamsala and Tibet
Soon, he made Nagasaki his home as he studied the Japanese language at a local school whilst holding down part-time jobs; often getting nicknamed “Hayao Miyazaki” by his co-workers for his interest in animation and comic art.
With remarkable speed, Kushagra successfully passed his Japanese language examination and applied to anime schools for a master's degree. His work garnered significant appreciation, and all that was required at that point was some industry experience.
The Three Toy-Makers, concept art and character study of three old Japanese men that Kushagra observes in his neighbourhood that inspired the story of Toy makers who are crafting traditional Goma toys.
Kushagra submitted applications to over 200 anime studios, leading to interviews with just three of them. It was his move to Tokyo that finally allowed him to actualise his career in anime production.
Starting as an in-betweener and being paid by the sheet, Kushagra found himself earning about 300 dollars a month, and hence kept up with the side hustles to meet his living expenses.
He says, “Another personal problem that I faced was to rise in the ranks of the pipeline of anime making. As much as I had liked to, it took me forever to learn the internal jargons of the anime, as well as trying to get my lines, and design aesthetics close to those of the Japanese, that is, get the strokes and essence right”.
It was Kushagra’s’ sheer grit and determination that pushed him through the hardships of being a foreign animator in a Japanese studio and led him to projects like “Hensuki” and “Yu-Gi-Oh! Sevens”.
Production & set design that Kushagra worked on for the anime series "Hensuki: Kawaikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasuka?"
In “Hensuki”, he was assigned with the work of Set Design and worked with Blender and SketchUp to build the architecture of the anime series. Working alongside the renowned director, Itsuki Imazaki San, Kushagra says, “I learnt a lot from him during that experience, including some free guitar lessons.”
Processes from “Yu-Gi-Oh! Sevens”, where Kushagra was doing second key animation for numerous episodes in the series- his first stint as a Gengaman.
While working on “Yu-Gi-Oh! Sevens”, he was doing second key animation for numerous episodes in the series. He says, “It was one of my first stint as a Gengaman or keyframe animator(原画マン) and I graduated from tracing job as a Dougaman or inbetweener (動画マン）.I also hadn't known that Yugioh was a big brand until I had worked on it!”
An animated sequence that Kushagra did from JoJo's bizarre Adventure.
Kushagra says,” Balancing artistry with technical proficiency is the path to creating a memorable and immersive anime experience.”
Kushagra emphasizes that captivating characters and storytelling coupled with carefully selected colour palettes, well-executed animation, visual effects, and sound design collectively contribute to the success of the anime.
Some anime productions excel by preserving cultural authenticity, while others gain recognition through their innovative approaches. In both cases, nurturing a dedicated fanbase and engaging with them actively stands as an important element in crafting anime that garners widespread adoration.
Work from Battle Athletes Restart where Kushagra was in-charge of designing the preproduction art setting and prop designs.
Kushagra's excitement for the blockchain and Web3 space stems from this opportunity to fortify the connection between viewers and creators and ensure the security of creators' intellectual property. One of his ventures that embodies this vision is Metasky.
Metasky is a cross-blockchain Web3 tool developed by Kushagra and his team, designed to harness blockchain technology for the benefit of artists and creatives.
He says, “When an artist creates a unique digital animation or artwork, they can register it on a blockchain. This creates a tamper-proof record of their ownership and the creation date. When someone purchases or licenses the artwork, the transaction is recorded on the blockchain- ensuring that the artist receives their fair share of royalties automatically. This transparent and secure system helps artists protect their intellectual property and earn a sustainable income from their work, making it a valuable tool in the animation industry.”
Additionally, Kushagra believes the creation of decentralised marketplaces on the blockchain allows artists to directly sell their digital animations or artworks to buyers without the need for intermediaries like galleries or agents while smart contracts can automate processes like royalty distribution and ensure that artists receive a fair share of the sales.
“For instance, an independent animator can upload their work to a blockchain-based marketplace, and when someone purchases it, the smart contract automatically transfers a percentage of the sale price to the artist's wallet. This not only empowers artists to have more control over their work but also reduces the fees associated with traditional art sales channels, allowing them to retain a larger portion of their earnings.” Kushagra adds.
As the country head for Japan at Metasky, Kushagra works on the business development side of the SaaS product; working on onboarding brands, helping to identify user bases, incentivizing them through Web3-based loyalty programmes as well as catering to needs of Japanese local businesses.
Tanukiverse is an open-to-all multimedia, community driven explore-to-earn game that is entirely run and governed by the 9999 Tanuki NFT holders and holders of the Tanuken - the currency of the Tanuki!
Kushagra says “Fascinatingly, people don’t really know that Tanuki is an actual animal found in Japan, which resembles a raccoon but belongs to the canine family. In the Japanese folklore, Tanukis have supernatural powers of shapeshifting stored in their balls (yes you heard it right)”
Tanuki is an actual animal found in Japan, which resembles a raccoon and belongs to the canine family. They are believed to possess the supernatural power to shapeshift.
He has been building this IP bottom-up, crafting a compelling storyline of Minato Chan- a young girl who discovers her identity as a Tanuki-the last surviving link between humans and Yokai. Inspired by his neighbour’s daughter in Tokyo, the character Minato Chan, battles the evil Sarugami to ensure peace and harmony in the world.
Minato Chan, the young girl who discovers her identity as a Tanuki and battles the evil Sarugami to ensure peace and harmony in the world.
Kushagra says, “We are building on various aspects of the IP, but primarily working on scaling it through a game, while making manga to support the storyline.”
From launching the IP with the support of a community built through the sale of Tanuki NFT’s to partnering with local brands in Japan and India to launch the merchandise goods, Tanukiverse aims to preserve the folklores of the animal using NFTs and other Web3.0 tools.
Tanuki beer, launched in partnership with the Yamanashi government, rewed below the foothills of Mount Fuji, at a beautiful Town of Mount Minobu.
With the newfound support from Sequoia Capital and the Woodstock Fund, Metasky is able to upscale their decentralised applications and blockchain-based projects. These industry experts have opened new doors to help them gain visibility and credibility through mentorship and building valuable connections.
Additionally, Sequoia and Woodstock are to play crucial roles in accelerating the adoption of Web3 capabilities in the Asia-Pacific(APAC) to which Kushagra says, “With this technology, anime creators can reach a global audience directly, reducing the dependence on traditional distribution networks and expanding market reach.”
Tokenization, enabling crowdfunding for anime projects, offers fans the chance to invest in and endorse their favourite anime productions. This process also paves the way for a new market of rare digital anime collectibles, enhances the connection between creators and their audience, and opens up additional income sources for creators.
With numerous Japanese companies like SEGA, Konami, Bandai Namco and most notably toei Animation stepping into the block chain, Kushagra believes, that this space shows a promising potential in building anime IP’s bottom-up alongside fans.
In addition to his ventures in the Web3 space, Kushagra is also involved in a range of captivating projects, such as "Edens Zero", "Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?," and "Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy." He is also contributing to an animation sequence for a Web3-based documentary and serving as an anime advisor for another anime-based IP "0n1 force." Furthermore, he is currently in discussions with Myth Division, a project led by American Ape, in his role as a council member of Ape DAO, to infuse an anime perspective into their forthcoming endeavours."
It is quite remarkable how Kushagra manages his time for both business development of Metasky as well as his creative pursuits in art and animation. He says, “A lot of time management as well as respecting the deadlines must be practiced. Nothing is more important than respecting someone else’s` time over yours. Doing so would take one places.”
“Sharpen those artistic chops, binge-watch anime to understand the craft, and while you're at it, develop your unique style. Network like there's no tomorrow, flaunt an awesome portfolio online, and don't shy away from small projects to gain experience”, Kushagra says to aspiring anime creators”
“Keep pursuing your passion!” he adds.
As we conclude this insightful conversation with Kushagra, we are left with a profound sense of the limitless potential that can be unlocked through unwavering passion, creativity, and persistence. Kushagra's story stands as an inspiration for budding creators, encouraging them to pursue their aspirations, hone their skills, and leave their indelible mark in animation, art, and technology.
You can find the latest updates of Kushagra's work, including his illustrations, music, and occasional appearances of the charming little Minato Chan, on the following platforms: