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I’m in Love With This Anime-Themed Tattoo Studio

A tattoo artist wearing a grey beanie works on someone's arm.
Tattoo artist Moss touches up a client’s tattoo. (Julia Glassman)

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. Clients watch anime on wall-mounted TVs as they get characters from Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan inked on their arms and legs, while artists relax on the couch between walk-ins. “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. Artists moved to L.A. from all over the country to set up shop in the new location.

“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 devote a tattoo studio entirely to anime and pop culture 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.”

But the studio is also about finding community among fellow pop culture lovers who may not have fit in when they were young. “We were dorks,” Moss says. “We were nerds. We were the outcasts. We were the people who got made fun of and bullied. But through anime, pop culture, and video games, we saw mutual understanding in 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.”

Artist Enzo Ferrari learned about anime from his brother, and tattoos from his best friend. “[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.”

Related: Here’s the Best Anime from Each Decade on We Got This Covered

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 at 4355 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90020.

(featured image: Julia Glassman)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at linktr.ee/juliaglassman, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.