In an age where the use of technology is increasingly deemed as the default, bodies of completely manual handiwork are getting harder to come by in the arts. While it would have been difficult to imagine this to be the case for makeup artists who practiced SFX during the heyday of films laden with special effects, like The Terminator or Jurassic Park, they now face the growing dominance of CGI as production teams opt for cost-effective, mechanized effects over the traditional charm of painting and prosthetic sculpting.
While many SFX makeup artists are continuing to prove that technology’s total takeover is still a premonition that belongs to science fiction, few veterans have carved out a name for themselves as prominently as Amazing Jiro, a multi-championship winner who is renowned overseas just as much as he is in Japan for his expressive and finely detailed techniques used in industries not limited to film, advertisement, and fashion.
Since his move from Los Angeles to Japan at the age of four, Jiro has looked back on the exchanges that he’s shared between the countries. As someone who thrives from the thrill of pursuing the best possible results under pressure, Jiro embraces the very process that SFX artists regularly experience. By opening up his artistic spirit to Japan, the country in turn offered convenient access and information for creatives like himself.
While he was a student, Jiro attended a major beauty show where he was scouted to be a SFX makeup artist. Immediately after graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts, he entered the professional field by establishing his own company JUR Co., Ltd. which led to the founding of a studio and makeup school. In 2014, Jiro established the artist group KAGE6SHA, which specializes in face and body paint, SFX makeup, hair and beauty makeup, costume, design, wall paint, and magic. With his ongoing determination to work independently and freely from the direction of others, Jiro’s endeavors continue to have prominent roles in the industry today.
After trying his hand at glass, jewelry, and metal crafts early on in his artistic career, Jiro felt creatively dissatisfied. Unwilling to be bound by the constraints of materials, he began to pursue special makeup movie features for television projects. Thanks to the seamless integration of his work, Jiro’s SFX makeup and creative art direction have since entered the worlds of Attack on Titan, Shin Godzilla, GANTZ: O, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. His artistic touch is widespread and found in the most unexpected forms, from an unsuspecting apple-skin textured lip to an intricate black lace face design drawn with eyeliner and painted designs spanning the back panels of leather jackets.
His collaborative work with diverse brands and fellow creatives skilled in different mediums include filmmaker Tomokazu Yamada (who has lensed music videos for Wednesday Campanella), Sakanaction, and Kenshi Yonezu; musician and model twins Ami and Aya Suzuki for Shiseido’s holiday collection commercial; as well as artist Ellen Sheidlin, who posed for an editorial with computer generated model Imma.
Although the sizable growth of his company has led Jiro to take on more of a managing role, he continues to travel internationally for lectures, demonstrations, and shows. Even under the pressures and constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic, he’s remained in touch with his motivations for pursuing an SFX career in the first place. Jiro continues to express himself through paint makeup while quarantined, taking to social media to engage communities of artists in a series he’s dubbed the “One Hand Monster Challenge.” The challenge is very much a nod to his usual hands-on approach, as Jiro invites his audience to enjoy art at home by incorporating everyday domestic objects to form aquatic and terrestrial creatures: combined with his hands, a painted clownfish is camouflaged against orange hair clips, and a saber-toothed cat is fanged with the strategic positioning of pliers and a nail.
As a master of his craft going 18 years strong, Jiro is demonstrating the strength of merging tradition with innovation. Likewise, the longstanding duel between practical effects and CGI shouldn’t be viewed as such. Rather, it’s a synergetic exchange that can be likened to Jiro’s own relationship with Japan during his time as an emerging artist, and his expansive career stands as a testament to this. After all, there’s an irrefutable allure to traditional crafts and the delightfully terrifying work that can spring to life from an artist’s hands.