Tahilalats and Mindblowon Studio: Pop Culture in the Digital Age

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Tahilalats and Mindblowon Studio: Pop Culture in the Digital Age
Ixora Tri Devi
Staff Writer, The ASEAN | ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department

Prepare to have your mind blown. That is the mission of Mindblowon Studio, a name derived from the playful Indonesian slang “blo’on,” meaning “foolish.” Yet, their creativity is anything but foolish.

Mindblowon Studio stands tall as an influential figure in Indonesia’s pop culture. Before delving into the story of Mindblowon Studio, let us travel eastward from Jakarta to Sulawesi, an enchanting island with its own tale to tell.

The inked path: Nurfadli’s transformation into a digital creator

In 1993, Nurfadli Mursyid, the mastermind behind Tahilalats and Mindblowon Studio, was born in Pare-pare, a little town in South Sulawesi. Like many Indonesian children, young Fadli, affectionately called Palik, spent Sunday mornings entranced by the magic of television.

The ‘90s ushered in an era of anime shows like Doraemon, Detective Conan, Shin-Chan, and Dragon Ball on Indonesian national TV. Little Palik would sit in front of the TV, pencils and paper in hand, attempting to bring his beloved characters to life. Despite his talent, Palik struggled to find avenues to unleash his creativity.

“Where I grew up, pop culture references were rare. Becoming an illustrator or comic creator was unheard of. I was unaware of the intricate process behind the characters I admired,” Palik reminisced.

After honing his skills through various stints with the student press during college in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi, Palik’s passion for illustration found a home at Fajar, a renowned local newspaper. “I was overjoyed; it was my first job. From then on, I didn’t need to rely on my parents for money,” he shared.

This opportunity paved the way for Palik’s move to Jakarta in 2015, where he joined a creative team as an illustrator. Within six months of his arrival, Palik received an offer from a South Korean digital comic platform, Webtoon, to become one of their in-house content creators.

Webtoon marked a shift in Palik’s focus, redirecting him entirely toward nurturing his brainchild, Tahilalats—a webcomic project he had been cultivating diligently alongside his studies and job since 2012. This transition laid the cornerstone of Mindblowon Studio in 2018.

Investing in innovation

“Palik and I weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths,” said 31-year-old Rakhman Azhari, also known as Ote, during a conversation with The ASEAN at Mindblowon Studio in South Jakarta. “That’s why we’ve worked tirelessly to achieve what we are today,” he continued.

In 2018, a turning point in their business journey unfolded when Ote assumed the role of CEO for Tahilalats, catalysing the birth of Mindblowon Studio.

“Tahilalats resonates emotionally with many people. This emotional connection is rare and invaluable, precisely what marketers seek. We never need to ask our audience to like, comment, and share our content. They did it for us already. That includes me! That is why I was eager to join forces with Palik,” Ote confessed.

What began as a passion project metamorphosed into the expansive universe of Mindblowon. Embracing collaboration, the studio now boasts a vibrant team of 30 young individuals, including writers, illustrators, storyboard creators, content heads, animators, marketers, social media administrators, and more—a diverse ensemble collectively creating wonders.

“At first, I was nervous. Could others replicate my drawings? Could they spin tales like I do? It took time to accept. Eventually, I realised they could. Working collaboratively, as a team, proved not just easier but immensely productive,” Palik remarked.

The studio has collaborated with over 110 brands, spanning diverse sectors such as food and beverages, apparel, footwear, magazines, marathon events, and even international bands like Coldplay. Among these collaborations, the most significant for Ote was with Futabasha, the publishing company behind Shin-chan, a manga and anime character loved by many in Indonesia.

“We gained firsthand insights into the intellectual properties (IP) industry. We implemented a comprehensive 360-degree marketing strategy and were invited to Japan to witness the author’s work firsthand. For me, it was an incredibly valuable learning experience. Our cross-collaborations became viral, and our unique event at a Jakarta mall was packed with people. They came to relive their nostalgia with Shin-chan. It encapsulated what we aimed to achieve,” shared Ote.

“Futabasha was also astonished when they discovered us. They had no idea that an Indonesian IP creator had such a substantial following in Indonesia. This situation underscores a challenge we face. Rarely do we get the opportunity to showcase our IP beyond Indonesia’s borders. While we occasionally receive invitations to attend exhibitions, there is undoubtedly much more that the government could do to support our local creatives.

“We recognise that investing in the creative industry doesn’t yield immediate profits; it’s a long-term commitment that extends beyond 1-2 years. However, it’s crucial for the government to place trust in its creative talent. Given the opportunity, we can innovate and expand, ultimately contributing significantly to the nation’s growth,” Ote noted.

The quest for a main character

With their growing international recognition, numerous collaboration invitations have poured in. “We have another collaboration with a Japanese IP in the works. I can’t divulge the details yet, but we’re thrilled!” exclaimed Ote.

To ensure seamless collaboration, Mindblowon Studio is diligently searching for their main character. Palik explained, “Initially when I created Tahilalats, I didn’t want a main character as it might limit my stories. Today, for instance, I may want to tell stories about a farmer, tomorrow about a pilot. Having only one main character could pose challenges.”

“Yes, however, collaborating with other international IPs would be much more straightforward if we had a main character,” Ote chimed in. “We’re currently developing one, anticipating more cross-collaborations with global companies. The main character will be part of a broader universe, akin to Disney or Marvel. That’s our ultimate goal.”

“Our aspiration is to create an evergreen legacy. When I’m old and, perhaps, no longer around, someone else can continue what we’re doing now. Our focus is on building this emotional bond with our audience and creating memories. They’ll pass down these memories to their children and generations to come,” echoed Palik, who is also a father of two.

Leading the way for the next generations

Five years after the initiation of Mindblowon Studio, the company has garnered more than five million followers on Instagram. Reflecting on their “zero to hero” journey, Palik and Ote encourage young individuals not to fear pursuing a career in the creative industry.

“Consistency is key,” shared Palik. “Over a decade ago, when I started, I pushed myself to release something every single day. At 3 p.m., my audience knew they’d find something new. That’s how they came to expect it, eagerly awaiting my latest comic each day.”

Ten years and over three thousand posts later, millions of fans still eagerly anticipate Tahilalats’ daily release. For many, this brief four-panel comic provides a moment of escape, a chance to be blown away.