Demand for Japanese storytelling surging in KSA as specialist outlets turn fantasy into reality

Dragon Ball figures from the Anime Station Store, along with popular merchandise.
Updated 16 February 2018
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Demand for Japanese storytelling surging in KSA as specialist outlets turn fantasy into reality

JEDDAH: Two friends with a lifelong love of Japanese storytelling are reaping the rewards of a business success story that is almost as heroic as the manga and anime characters they admire.
When Noha Khayyat and Safa’a Akbar, co-owners of Nippon Sayko, began selling handmade manga and anime merchandise in a tiny booth tucked away in a Jeddah mall, they were told by other shop owners that they “would never survive.”
Now, eight years later, Nippon Sayko is one of the Kingdom’s most popular outlets for anime and manga, the Japanese animation films and comic books.
Demand for Japanese anime and manga has risen dramatically in Saudi Arabia in recent years, with a growing number of shops selling popular anime merchandise and manga books. Events such as Comic-Con, a comic and multimedia convention held in Riyadh and Jeddah, have also increased interest in Japanese animation and storytelling.
Khayyat and Akbar will join other outlets showing a range of anime and manga merchandise at a Comic-Con in Jeddah next month.
The two friends began selling anime-related merchandise while at university and were surprised by the enthusiastic response from fellow students. After graduating, and unhappy working for a company, they started Nippon Sayko.
“Our offices were on a higher level at a mall, so one day after work we were walking around the mall, and we found this women-only section. Back then women couldn’t work in malls, and it wasn’t even a shop, it was a tiny booth. We contacted several people who supported us year after year. They came, and it was a hit,” Khayyat told Arab News.
“It was really hard in the beginning as we didn’t want to ask our parents for financial support and wanted to do this independently. We used to work our office job from 8-5 and then open this booth at 5 p.m. and stay until 11.”
Khayyat and Akbar said they want to create a space where others can meet and share their love of anime and manga. “People stop in from all over the country just to Snapchat with their favorite (manga) characters, and it’s beautiful to see that connection,” Khayyat said.
“We did struggle at first because we were introducing something alien to the country,” she said. “We had people telling us ‘these things are for kids,’ or ‘it’s not really natural to like these things.’ Other shopkeepers told us, ‘you will never last.’ But look at us now. We’re still standing, while most of them couldn’t continue.”
Saudi Arabia had its first taste of anime as early as the 1970s, with popular television shows such as “Future Boy Conan” and “Grendizer” both favorites with children at the time.
Majed Nawawi, co-owner of Jeddah’s Anime Station Store, has been collecting figures since 1987 and, as a child, promoted his favorite shows and spread anime culture among his friends.
“The anime wave swept Saudi Arabia with the series Naruto in 2002-2003; it was revolutionary, and all sorts of people got into it,” Nawawi said. “Before that, this culture was unacceptable. After Naruto, people began embracing anime. That brought demand for action figures, merchandise and accessories.
“Who would have thought we’d witness Comic-Con, IGN and gaming events? We have large numbers of people who write, create and tell their stories through their own manga. We’ve come a long way,” he said.
A visitor to the store, Wed Al-Nahi, said she became interested in anime as anime as a child and still enjoys it as a university student. “The stories they tell, specifically fantasy, represent my imagination and the things I always dream of, but unfortunately cannot come true. I get to experience that through anime.
“I collect figures to show how much I admire those characters. It’s a reminder of the anime I watched and how much I enjoyed it,” she said.
Her older sister, Nora, 26, agrees. “My favorite anime has always been ‘The Rose of Versailles’ from 1979. I watched it when I was young and I still rewatch it religiously. I disagree with the misconception of anime being for kids, because it is for adults. There are many things I learned from it about literary references and the French Revolution. I love the main character, Lady Oscar, because she’s not your usual damsel in distress. She’s strong, independent and beautiful at the same time.”


Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis

Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki speaks during a press conference in Riyadh. (AN photo by Bashir Saleh)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis

  • The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.
  • Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels.

JEDDAH: Saudi-led coalition officials on Tuesday displayed weapons and explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. 

The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.

Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels. The weapons were captured on the battlefield in Hodeidah and displayed at a military base in the UAE. 

“Unsurprisingly, there are advanced military components in the Houthi militias’ hands,” said Talal Al-Teneiji, an official at the UAE Foreign Ministry.

“We took time to inspect and disassemble these to figure out the source ... and we can say that these elements are military-grade materials imported from Iran to the Houthi militias.”

As the week-long offensive in Hodeidah intensified on Tuesday, coalition forces consolidated their grip on the city’s airport and there was new fighting on the main coast road leading to the city center, with Apache helicopters providing air support to the coalition. 

“We can hear the sounds of artillery, mortars and sporadic machinegun fire. The Houthis have been using tanks,” one civilian on the coastal strip said. 

“Water has been cut off to many of the areas near the corniche area because the Houthis have dug trenches and closed water pipes.”

At the airport, which the coalition has controlled since Saturday, their forces stormed the main compound and took full command.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said: “We are waiting for the Houthis to realize the sort of military and psychological blow that they got with the airport ... we are giving them time to decide if they want to save the city ... and pull out.”

Oubai Shahbandar, a strategic communications adviser, told Arab News that “without the sea and airport of Hodeidah, the Houthi militia has effectively lost the war.”

They should agree to UN-hosted peace talks and not prolong the fighting. “The tide in this conflict has clearly turned in favor of the Arab coalition and the welfare of the Yemeni people ought to be paramount,” he said.