Their dream came true when Microsoft came calling
Anime character to promote Internet Explorer in Asia was designed by Singapore studio
They had long been passionate about anime but did not have the funds to set up a studio.
But that changed when they were awarded a project by Microsoft Singapore in 2013.
Three years later, the studio boasts multiple projects with clients like Faber-Castell.
Set up in 2013, Collateral Damage Studios is an illustration studio mostly focusing on creating anime artworks. They include concept art, illustrations, animations and comics.
It traces its roots to a community of anime enthusiasts who draw and have fun together, said the studio's co-founder and general manager, Mr Ng Kian Chuan, 31, who prefers to be known as KC.
In 2013, one of its artists, Mr Low Zi Rong, 32 drew what he envisioned to be Internet Explorer,as a person.
KC said: "We uploaded our designs on Facebook and Microsoft Singapore approached us to develop one of our designs, the Internet Explorer character Inori Aizawa. In the end, they bought over the rights for the character's design and artworks. We were then commissioned to do the animation, additional artworks, and comic series. "
From August 2013, they worked tirelessly to develop the Inori Aizawa character.
They created five different storyboard ideas for the animation, ranging from the classic schoolgirl to a ramen delivery concept, before settling for a storyline of a girl who transforms to an all-action heroine fighting against robots.
It became an instant hit when it debuted at Anime Festival Asia Singapore 2013 in Nov 2013.
Said KC: "Our Inori Aizawa animation video went viral. The KPI (key performance indicator) we had to meet for the video was 2 million views within two months. We hit that number within two days."
He credits the project for bringing to life their dream of setting up a studio.
"If Microsoft had not approached us, we might not have established this company. The idea was always there, but their capital was the spark that allowed us to set it up," he said.
Sustaining success now requires continual effort, especially against regional competition.
KC said: "Our focus is the overseas market as most of our clients are from overseas. But focusing on the international market is tough - we compete with other illustration studios in the region like in Thailand and Indonesia who are able to offer clients more competitive rates."
The team soldiered on and have undertaken several projects for major clients, including Faber-Castell, Ninja Division, and Anime Festival Asia.
KC said: "We never thought of giving up. After all, we've been talking about doing this (having an illustration studio) for a long time. What is there to regret when you are pursuing a dream?"
This year, Collateral Damage will make its presence felt at the Anime Festival Asia Singapore 2016 - the region's largest and most followed Japanese popular culture and anime festival. It will be held at Suntec City Convention and Exhibition Centre (level 3 and 4) this week, from Friday to Sunday.
KC, a regular attendee and participant since the event was first organised in 2008, has observed its growth through the years.
He said: "At the start there were about five creative booths, but it has got much bigger. It's the biggest anime platform in Singapore, and perhaps the region. It's good that the platform for amateur artists is more (robust) now; it's definitely beneficial for artists."
Anime Festival Asia's executive festival director Shawn Chin said there are more than 200 exhibiting booths this year.
Apart from setting up a booth at the anime festival, Collateral Damage is also looking to expand its horizons.
"I won't call it an expansion, but rather an expedition. Two of us will be looking and negotiating with various American clients," KC said.
The KPI we had to meet for the video was 2 million views within two months. We hit that number within two days.
- Mr Ng Kian Chuan on how the studio's Inori Aizawa animation went viral.