1Up Ink West, a tattoo studio nestled between a gourmet ice cream shop and a psychic reader on 3rd Street in L.A.’s Koreatown, is decked out in Funko pops, action figures, and pop culture memorabilia. Wall-mounted TVs allow clients to watch anime while they are getting characters. Demon Slayer And Attack on Titan Artists relax on the couch while they ink their arms and legs. “This place is a haven for people like us,” says Moss, 1Up’s lead artist.
1Up Ink West opened in Los Angeles in 2021, after its owner, Pnut—an artist and entrepreneur whom Moss describes as “one of the pioneers of anime tattoos”—decided to expand the original 1Up Ink studio in Dallas, Texas. The new location attracted artists from all parts of the country.
“We’re thrilled to be welcomed into Koreatown,” says co-owner Cheech, who sees the studio as a “safe space for all walks of life.”
Why would you dedicate your tattoo studio exclusively to pop culture and anime tattoos? Moss explains that if you want to get an anime tattoo, an artist who’s actually familiar with the anime itself will do a better job. “You see someone drawing or painting who loves the subject matter, and then you see someone drawing like they’re just painting the wall,” he explains, giving an example of an artist capturing the essence of the Third Hokage in Naruto. “A love of anime and pop culture is a necessity. You have to love it, because your love is going to show in the artwork.”
The studio also aims to create a community of pop culture enthusiasts who might not have been able to fit in as young people. “We were dorks,” Moss says. “We were nerds. We were outcasts. We were the ones who were bullied and mocked. Through anime, pop culture and video games, however, we came to understand each other. A year or two ago, I didn’t know any of these people”—he gestures at the artists around him—”but they’ve become a family to me.”
Enzo Ferrari, an artist, learned about anime from his brother and tattoos from his best buddy. “[My best friend] would do custom tattoos like Goku wearing a Gucci belt,” Enzo says. “I thought that was cool, because nobody was getting anime tattoos five or six years ago. Then he passed away, and I picked up his machine and ran with it from there.”
While he talks, Enzo works on his client Chris, who patiently waited for Enzo’s books to open so he could come in. Chris is getting a tattoo of “Goth Mikasa,” a semi-canon version of Attack on Titan character Mikasa Ackerman. “I like the character in the original series,” Chris explains. “But this design is a nicer take on her than Attack on Titan. It’s a pretty cruel world in that anime, so this design seems a little more lighthearted.”
Cheech explains that while they try not to turn anyone away, 1Up probably isn’t the best place for people looking to get non-pop culture tattoos. “It depends on if you’re willing to compromise with our style,” she says.
But if you’re itching to get your favorite anime or comic book character inked, then this cozy shop is where you’ll find your people.
1Up Ink West is located in Los Angeles at 4355 W. 3rd Street.
Julia Glassman is featured image
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