Japanese animation dubbed into Arabic was one of the few forms of entertainment available to children on Arabic television during the 1980s and 1990s.

This summer, Saudi Arabia released its first anime film, The Journey, which it co-produced with Japanese studio Toei Animation.

This was not the first time that Middle Eastern studios became involved in the world of anime, as an Emirati company produced an anime series in 2013, and Turkey currently hosts 30 studios specializing in anime production.

In her report published by the British website MiddleEastEye, writer Nightingale Farazi Saber said that the prevailing trend in the production of anime series locally reflects the widespread popularity of Japanese animation in the Middle East, which dates back to decades.

There are many anime series that sparked this trend and continued to renew it in the Arab world, leaving a clear imprint on the Arab generations.

Grendizer

In the eighties, "Grendizer" was one of the most popular anime series in the Arab world.

According to the results of a poll conducted by YouGov in 2019, this series was ranked as the second most popular cartoon in the Middle East.

The story begins on a distant planet called Fled, where the main character, the Duke of Fleed, is forced to leave his planet due to an attack by the neighboring planet Vega.

Fleeing to Earth, Duke Fleed lands in Japan with his Grendizer spacecraft that can transform into a giant robot.

He then meets a gentle scientist named Doctor Amon, who adopts him and renames him Daisuke.

But the dangers do not end then, as Daisuke must fight against the King of Vega, to protect the Earth without revealing the secret of his identity.

One analyst believes that the events of the 74-episode series symbolize Japan's post-WWII standing in the world, and constitute a way to "purify Japan's imperial past by portraying it as a victim of alien violence, while celebrating Japan's technological progress".

Grendizer first appeared on the screens of the Middle East in the eighties, dubbed into Classical Arabic by the Lebanese actor Jihad al-Atrash, via Lebanon TV.

Soon, his broadcast expanded to reach all over the region.

In an interview with the "Daily Star" newspaper, Lebanese director Fadi Baqi described "Grendizer" as "the glue that binds the Arab world together", explaining its importance to children during the Lebanese civil war, where the events narrated in Arabic simulated what was actually happening by depicting attempts to confront For the invaders and the victory of the good guys.

Jordanian Amer Mango remembers watching the series on Saudi state television, but his memories of the series are mixed as it relates to the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War.

"We used to live in the Olaya district of Riyadh, and whenever we heard the sounds of rockets coming from the Iraqis, followed by the sirens, we would all rush to the nearby shelters. While we were watching the Grendizer battles, we were going through a real battle as well," Mango said.

Captain Majid

"Captain Majid" is about an 11-year-old boy who dreams of playing professional football and ends up realizing his ambition.

Throughout the series, which was produced in 1983, the main character often encounters the opposing team and finds a way to outsmart them using his soccer skills.

When "Captain Majid" was exported to the Middle East in 1990, the name of the Japanese character "Tsubasa" was changed to Majid after the famous Saudi player Abdullah Majid.

Like most anime series, Captain Majid is based on the "manga" (Japanese comics) by Yuichi Takahashi, who said the 1978 World Cup was his inspiration.

In 2017, the popularity of Captain Majid was continuing and strong, as it became the first manga book to be translated from Japanese into Arabic and then distributed throughout the Middle East, with free copies being donated to Syrian refugee children.

Last year, the series returned with new episodes on the Saudi MBC 3 channel.

Adnan and Lina

The series - "Future Boy Conan" with its original name - was produced in the seventies, and it takes place in a "dystopia" world that belongs to the "post-apocalyptic" genre, which means that its events describe the world after a major catastrophe.

The writer indicated that “Adnan and Lina” is based on the novel “The Great Tide” by the American writer Alexander Key, where the series begins its first episode by providing a brief history of the fictional world, saying, “The Third World War broke out in 2008 after the conflicting parties used super-magnetic weapons that are much more dangerous.” of conventional weapons, bringing destruction to land and sea.

The series was the first work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who is best known today for his co-founder of the well-known Studio Ghibli.

In the Arabic version, the two main characters have been renamed Adnan (Conan) and Lina (Lana), and dubbed in Kuwait by a team of local actors.

In the episodes of the series, viewers follow Adnan and Lina's journey through different islands that appeared after the war, and they try to evade those responsible for destroying the land who plan to control what is left.

Using the powers of telepathy, teleportation, and their ability to communicate with animals, the two friends can cleverly outwit their enemies.

It is easy to watch the Adnan and Lina series today, because Arabic episodes have been available on YouTube since 2016.

Sinbad

The Sinbad anime, based on a story in the tales of "One Thousand and One Nights", was popular in the early 1980s.

As the title indicates, the story follows baby Sinbad as he explores the world, meeting other popular children's story characters, such as Ali Baba, on his travels.

“When I was a kid, I thought the anime Sinbad was a true reflection of Arab and Islamic culture and traditions,” says Omar Al-Ghazi, assistant professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics. kneeling with their arms raised to the sky, which contrasts with the actual prayer movements.”

Al-Ghazi explained that "many of the scenes in Sinbad are in fact nothing but a figment of the Japanese imagination of Arab and Islamic cultures."

iron Man

Iron Man premiered in Japan in 1977 with its original title, "Isenburg's War of the Dinosaurs," which depicted the events of a futuristic world in which dinosaurs attempt to regain control of the planet.

The style used in Iron Man is called "tokusatsu" which uses a mixture of live action scenes and animation.

Amer Mango explains that "there are two main characters: Kamal and Lamis, who are a brother and sister who fight giant dinosaurs, and they need to achieve this to unite their strength and connect their robotic body parts, which were installed after they were exposed to a huge explosion, to become "Isenberg" or a character resembling robots."

The popularity of the program led to the release of its own television documentary in 2017, called The Return of the Eisenberg, which was sponsored by Spacetoon in the Middle East.

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