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Maryland man who creates manga recognized on Forbes 30 under 30 for 2023

"For me, because of the fact that I hit the 29 going into the 30 milestone, I want to write more goals. I want to dream bigger."

WASHINGTON — Naruto, Midoriya, and Anfernee Robinson - do you know what these three names have in common? They are the hero in someone's story. 

Robinson, a 29-year-old who was born in D.C. and a native to Prince George's County, has many titles he goes by, including the founder of AnimeBae Studios. But his latest addition came as he was inducted into the Forbes 30 under 30 list for media in the class of 2023. When he made the list, he became the first Mangaka, also known as a manga artist, in history to make the list.

Throughout his journey, he has marked multiple accomplishments and trailblazed to bring characters that look like him to the shelves of many people.

This started for Robinson in 2018, when he was going to conventions and gaming tournaments, and as he looked around he didn't really see characters of color. In those moments, he decided to take a step back from his YouTube scene and discover what it means to make a manga. 

"I started off writing in my car," Robinson said. "I was just writing ideas in my car, I would get off work and instead of gaming, I would just try to write for maybe like eight hours."

The author said he threw away hundreds of ideas -- nothing came overnight. But after going through multiple scenarios in his lifestyle, the manga "Akai" was given life. The original manga developed by Anfernee became a number one bestselling Shonen Manga on Amazon in 2020, two years after the original idea.

Since then, the mangaka has not slowed down with his projects. He has also created "Double Dutch," which became a number one bestselling title in the sports manga category, surpassing the popular manga "Haikyuu!!"

The series also continued the theme of bringing representation to the forefront for readers, telling the tale of five Black girls. The main character in "Double Dutch" becomes a neighborhood hero after discovering Double Dutch is "the thing," Robinson said, and she wants the world to know about it. 

"So they end up making a World Double Dutch tournament and it just takes over," Robinson said in a synopsis about the female-led manga. "I hope with representation that we're bringing, especially from this community of anime that's not really served deeply in the Western market, I hope that a lot of people behind this will start to create their own."

He continued to say that stories that are told through his manga series are very impactful for youth to see on their screen.

Robinson's success has led to talks of a toy deal and even a possible pilot show of one of his publications. Deals are still in the works and NDAs have been signed, thus Robinson can't say too much yet. He said one of the reasons he feels these stories resonates with people, especially the judges for his Forbes 30 under 30 list, is because people see titles like "Naruto" and "My Hero Academia" doing well, but having characters of color is an up-and-coming exciting shift.

"I can honestly say I'm feeling like I'm walking in my purpose," Robinson said. "When you feel like you walk into your purpose, and it felt like no matter what I would have did, I still would have ended up here. And I accepted it. I felt very passionate about that." 

Robinson feels he has not reached his peak and hopes to continue his strides with goals of starting his own manga publishing line, and one day an anime-based studio as big as Marvel. But overall he wants to inspire others. He even hopes to host a local toy drive after his toy deal is finalized.

"I love helping people," he said. "I love being able to even do as much as I can to lead this community. But when I had to accept this role of, like, okay, now you're like, here, you've made a huge impact, but this is your purpose." 

When it comes to inspiring others, here's what Robinson advises others who want to follow in his path start to do now. 

"Write your goals down at the start of the year, every year," Robinson said. "Read them every day, whatever they are. I always said I wanted to establish a franchise. It could be anything that you want to do. I wrote down probably 30 goals this year. So I think for me, because of the fact that I hit the 29 going into the 30 milestone, I want to write more goals. I want to dream bigger. I want to know what it means to own a company that makes anime episodes authentically."

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