Most people in Saudi Arabia have watched Japanese anime on TV during their childhood. Japanese anime series dubbed in Arabic used to be widely aired on Arabic channels for children. Those series became an important part in the lives of young Saudis especially millennials.
With the increasing growth of the internet in Saudi Arabia in the 2000s, Saudis began to learn more about the anime culture, Japanese culture, and language. The created their own communities for anime fans, translated and spread the culture in society mainly relying on illegal streaming sites.
40 percent of Saudi youths are fans of Japanese anime, according to Ahmad Hawssah, founder and project manager of Kio Market.
An average Saudi individual has definitely watched dozens of Japanese anime during childhood. The most popular series include Detective Conan, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Hunter X Hunter and Captain Tsubasa, etc.
Ahmad with his otaku friends, (a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests in anime) founded Koi Market because they were frustrated with the poor presentation of anime culture in Saudi Arabia.
Hawssah said that he and his friends attended an event that showcased anime culture in 2013. “That experience was very disappointing to us and we decided that we should do something about it,” he added.
Koi Market (@koi_market), which stands for “Kingdom of Imagination” was established in 2015. It is an anime online store based in Jeddah that sells anime-themed accessories and gifts online such as posters, mugs, T-shirts, stickers, notes and pins.
“There are many things that distinguish us from other Saudi businesses focusing on anime,” Hawssah said.
“Ninety percent of our products are made by Saudis in Saudi Arabia, we make everything by ourselves. We collaborate with local artists with real talent to draw for us,” he added.
“We found that what’s available in the local market by other competitors is very expensive and is not worth the price. Most of those businesses import goods from Japan and sell it at high prices, we wanted to fix that problem.”
“Our business is about investing in local talents, and offering products with very good quality and at reasonable prices, because we believe anime is for everyone; we do not want anyone to wish to own something that he or she likes but feel they cannot afford,” Hawssah said.
The other 10 percent of Koi market products are imported stuff from Japan such as the 3D anime models and cosplay outfits.
Hawssah with his team of five aspires to have a strong presence in the industry to sell original Japanese products, and to introduce new Arab characters to the market.
“There are so many Saudi and Arab animators and artists in the region, we want to support and market their work with our products,” he said.
Hawssah believes that the Middle East is very rich in history and culture that can be a real substance for great projects.
“We can produce amazing things by creating characters that highlight our Arab identity and culture; it will be interesting for the whole world.”
He said it is obvious that most people around the world have a good idea of American, Japanese, and Chinese cultures, but their assumptions about the Arab region and culture are flawed.
He wants to change the situation and believes the youth can play an effective role in this regard by using their creativity to highlight the true culture and identity of the region.
Koi Market products can be found on (https://salla.sa/koi_market), they ship to anywhere in Saudi Arabia. They can also be followed on Instagram (@anime_legion7).