At the intersection of traditional Japanese tattooing and your favorite childhood cartoons, you’ll find artist Manh Hunyn. Born and raised in Vietnam, Hunyn developed a passion for continuing the legacy of Japanese tattooing but with his own unique flair. By incorporating beloved cartoon characters into traditional motifs, Hunyn has taken the centuries-old art into a new frontier. In Hunyn’s universe, Tom of “Tom and Jerry” has ditched the self-destructive cycle of humiliation at the hands of a mischievous mouse for an irezumi bodysuit and a life spent shooting hoops. Through the combination of his fertile imagination and impeccable skill, anything is possible in Hunyn’s world.
Take us through your upbringing in Vietnam and what led you to becoming a tattoo artist.
The learning environment in Vietnam isn’t suitable for tattoo development. Many people don't have sympathy for it. For instance, a person with a tattoo is usually considered a criminal or a bad influence. Only in recent years have people started to accept and have an objective opinion toward tattooing.
I’ve had a passion for painting and fine art since I was a child. My first time seeing tattoos on skin, I was impressed and really wanted to try it. That’s what stimulated me to study and practice this type of art.
What is the tattoo scene like in Vietnam and how has it changed?
Tattooing in Vietnam has developed slowly in comparison to the rest of the world. However, recently it has become more widely recognized and has progressed considerably, catching up with the international tattoo world. This is because more and more of us tattoo artists have been working conventions abroad.
What led you to traditional Japanese tattooing and did you go through a formal apprenticeship with it?
I’m impressed by the layout and lines of Japanese tattoos. Tattoo trends come and go, but Japanese tattoos stay the same over time.
All of my knowledge and skills have come from researching and teaching myself. At the time I started tattooing in Vietnam, almost no one provided a formal apprenticeship.
What inspired you to put cartoon characters into your tattoos and which character was the first of this series? I’m very attached to cartoon characters from my childhood and the first character I tattooed was The Pink Panther.
Who are some of your favorite cartoon characters to tattoo?
The Pink Panther, Tom [of “Tom and Jerry”] and The Simpsons. They’re all cartoon characters I love and I see a lot of similarities between them.
Why do you think people are drawn to your tattoos and where do you find inspiration for new designs?
From the perspective of a tattoo artist and a tattoo lover, I believe what the tattoo world needs right now is freshness. The tattoos I create are as fresh as a summer breeze. Of course, many types of tattoos can stand the tests of time, but it’s really interesting to see new things that can stimulate the senses of tattoo fans.
How do you take a client’s idea and make it your own?
My customers have usually been following me for quite some time, so they know what I like to do. So when I get an idea for a new design, it’s usually in my style. It has to be traditional Japanese with the combination of cartoon characters I think it will match. New styles can be applied, but the tattoo will not stray away from my style.
Where do you hope your tattoo career takes you?
I’m trying my best to be present and hoping to develop a foundation for the future. I also plan to maintain my traditional Japanese style, which I’ve continued to pursue since I began tattooing.
What else should our readers know about you?
My tattoos tell you a lot about myself and my character. I use my tattoos to form a character and through that character, you can see who I am.