How Japanese anime ‘Grendizer’ galvanized the Arab world

How Japanese anime ‘Grendizer’ galvanized the Arab world
The super robot Grendizer.
Updated 26 October 2019

How Japanese anime ‘Grendizer’ galvanized the Arab world

How Japanese anime ‘Grendizer’ galvanized the Arab world
  • As Grendizer, the Japanese anime, turns 45, its influence on Arab pop culture remains undisputed
  • Grendizer clicked with local audiences long before satellite TV came to the Middle East

TOKYO: While McDonald’s Golden Arches might be a sentimental symbol for anyone who grew up in the West, children of the Arab world, where the burger chain didn’t open until the 1990s, were excited by a different icon: The Golden Horns. The super-robot Grendizer, from the anime of the same name, and his shiny golden helmet horns were as well known across the region as the big golden M of McDonald’s.

The Middle East Equivalent of a Happy Meal was that happy hour when the anime Grendizer, created by Japanese mangaka Go Nagai in 1975, was broadcast on local television.

First shown on Lebanese channel Tele Liban in the 1980s, and one of the few fully dubbed cartoons that were available to watch, tales of the heroic Duke Fleed and his mighty robot were the stuff that every Arab kid’s dreams were made of.

Nagai is famous throughout Japan for revolutionizing the super-robot genre: His were the first to have an actual pilot in the cockpit, and many of his designs are seen as being the standard that all other mecha robots are held up against.

FASTFACTS

  • Originally ran for two years: 1975-1977.
  • Number of episodes: 74.
  • Popular in: France, French-speaking Canada, Italy and the Middle East.
  • Part of a series: preceded by Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger.
  • Grendizer is one of the most popular foreign icons in the Arabic-speaking world.

His previous works, along with Grendizer, made him famous in Japan, and he has cemented his place as one of the country’s anime and manga legends.

Grendizer is part of the Mazinger trilogy, which consists of Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger and UFO Robot Grendizer. The first two enjoyed massive success in Japan, with Mazinger quickly becoming one of the most recognizable pop culture icons in the country. However, many fans believe Grendizer did not attract the same level of national attention.

Nagai, in an exclusive interview with Arab News at his studio in Tokyo, says that this is not necessarily true. “It was actually a hit in Japan. Maybe some people thought it was not as popular as Mazinger Z, because Mazinger was super popular.”

While Grendizer’s popularity is disputed in Japan, it is certainly not the case in the Arab world. The show was first dubbed in Lebanon and shown on Lebanese TV in the 1980s, but was featured on other Arabic channels as well, such as Kuwait TV and Saudi Channel 1.




Go Nagai has cemented his place as one of Japan’s anime and manga legends.  (Supplied)

Long before satellite television was available in the region, and even longer before streaming on demand, Grendizer was an instant hit with local audiences.

All across the region, whenever Grendizer was on TV, the streets were practically empty, but the excitement was through the roof.

Lebanese voice actor Jihad Al-Atrash, who provided the voice of Duke Fleed (or Daisuke, as he is known in the original), attributed the success of Grendizer to two things: its high production values, and the geopolitics of the region of the time.

“I believe that the series preceded its time,” he said in a 2005 interview with regional Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat “It was executed with perfection with the limited means available back then compared to the present day. It was a huge production by all means.”

As for its regional appeal, Grendizer was first broadcast during the civil war in Lebanon. “The whole Arab world was in grief over the occupied Palestinian territories,” Al-Atrash said.

GO NAGAI'S TIPS FOR ARAB ARTISTS

1. People in Saudi Arabia have their own unique sensibilities, so use those special sensibilities and try to design new art.

2. Create work with originality in mind.

3. Culture and history will have a good influence on your artwork.

4. Make the best use of different natural environments in your artwork.

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, Racha El-Saadaoui said that Grendizer shaped her entire childhood.

”It was such a beautiful escape from a horrible childhood in terms of the insecurity of the war, and all the things that children don’t really understand, but still feel impacted by,” she said.

Constant reruns on local channels, the introduction of satellite TV (and later, streaming services) in the region, and even pirated replicas of recorded castings meant that Grendizer became accessible to a new generation of viewers.

Grendizer memorabilia still sells like hotcakes in the region, and its popularity has barely declined. In Dubai, late-night eatery Zaroob features a giant mural of Grendizer on one of its outside walls.


ALSO READ:  A Grendizer movie? It's a 'Go,' says Nagai, creator of the famous Japanese anime


Saudi artist and pin designer Labeed Assidmi, who sells pins featuring characters from old Arabic-dubbed anime, told Arab News that his Grendizer pin is one of his most popular and constantly sells out. And antique merchandise, sold at the height of the Grendizer craze, can be found for exorbitant prices on eBay and other auction sites, with some vintage toys in mint condition being worth over a thousand dollars.

More recently, this month’s Joy Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an event held to attract foreign investors to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning entertainment industry, featured a massive statue of Grendizer that greeted the event’s attendees.

The crowds lining up to take a photo with the giant robot are proof enough that his popularity in the region remains untouched.

Another indicator of the popularity of Grendizer is the videos on YouTube, where full episodes dubbed in Arabic amass millions of views. The video of the theme song alone has almost 2 million views.

Nagai, who celebrated 50 years in the industry with an exhibition in Tokyo in August, said that he really appreciates the fans in the Arab world that love his work.




Go Nagai at work.

“I hope you will continue enjoying my work in the future. I know humans live tough lives in various environments and will have to continue on in the future, but I know they feel liberated and happy when they watch anime and immerse themselves in fantasy worlds. I will be happy if you keep that in mind and continue enjoying yourself,” Nagai said.

He also agreed that the timing of Grendizer’s release in the region contributed to its popularity, although he said it was not intentional.

“It was good timing, I think. In the long history of Japan, Japan experienced so many wars in the past as well, so people have that kind of memory deep in their heart. So that probably resonated with the people who watch my work.”

Grendizer was madly popular in a few other unexpected places. Apart from the Middle East, it was also widely loved in France and French-speaking Canada (where it was known as Goldorak) and Italy (known as Goldrake).

However, nowhere was Grendizer as well loved as he was in the Middle East. As Saleh Alzaid, a Grendizer superfan, points out, the show’s impact on Arab youth can still be felt. “I definitely think Grendizer impacted Arab kids more than the Japanese. Grendizer was the first show that made me think about space, aliens, UFOs, and planets outside our world, and get intrigued by how technology like flying robots and laser weapons could be used for good,” Alzaid said.

“As a fan of sci-fi stories and games, I think Grendizer is the perfect mix of animation, art, music, and story, and strong characters that left their fingerprints on my childhood.”


Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait
Updated 31 July 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait
  • All futile attempts to target civilians have been confronted and thwarted, the coalition said

RIYADH: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a booby-trapped drone launched by the Houthi militia toward Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia on Saturday. 

All futile attempts to target civilians have been confronted and thwarted, the coalition said. 

The coalition said on Friday that it had thwarted a Houthi drone attack on a Saudi commercial ship.

The Houthis continue to threaten global shipping lines, the coalition said after the attack.

The general secretary of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers and the Bahraini foreign ministry condemned the attack on the ship.


Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 506,089
  • A total of 8,237 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 11 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,146 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 243 were recorded in Riyadh, 209 in the Eastern Province, 196 in Makkah, 84 in Asir, 79 in Jazan, 64 in Madinah, 56 in Hail, 53 in Najran, 34 in Al-Baha, 33 in the Northern Borders region, 19 in Tabuk, and eight in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 506,089 after 1,086 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,237 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
  • Italian undersecretary for culture praised Saudi approach to culture as ‘innovative and proactive’

ROME: Culture will be the driving force for a more sustainable world and a more prosperous future for all nations, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome.

He took part as vice president of the G20 Ministerial Meeting of Culture organized by the Italian government, which chairs the G20 this year.

It represents the culmination of the Sherpa Cultural Track within the framework of the G20 agenda, a track that was created during the Kingdom’s assumption of the summit’s presidency in 2020.

The current presidency has identified five priorities for the Sherpa Cultural Track meetings for the year 2021: cultural and creative industries as key drivers of sustainability and growth, protection of cultural heritage, addressing climate change through culture, capacity-building through training and education, and digital transformation from a cultural perspective.

During the meeting, Prince Badr expressed appreciation to Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini.

The prince also praised the efforts of the Italian presidency in building on the commitments of the first joint meeting of culture ministers, which resulted in laying the foundations for “fruitful cooperation” among the members of the G20 in order to promote culture as a development engine and a key factor in prosperity.

He then reviewed the Kingdom’s “continuous efforts” to preserve cultural heritage, noting that Saudi Arabia has made great strides to this end with the registration of six sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s commitment to promoting international dialogue on the role of culture in mitigating the effects of climate change, contributing to a re-imagining of the relationship between cultural policymaking and environmental sustainability, launching research initiatives and exploring the vast potential of digitization in cultural sectors to increase their contribution to economic growth.

Prince Badr’s remarks were well received by Franceschini, who also expressed his gratitude to his Saudi counterpart for the “outstanding work in the G20 presidency” and repeated the G20 pledge to “continue to support culture and workers in the sector.” He cited culture as a “great factor of growth” and one that leads to the “creation of opportunities for the new generations and the most vulnerable categories.”

“The Rome Declaration of the Ministers of Culture, unanimously approved, is made up of 32 qualifying points. In the document, very strong expressions appear on the fight against discrimination, on the defense of human rights and on the enhancement of diversity,” Franceschini added during the session.

“The Saudi approach on culture is definitely interesting as it is an innovative and proactive one.  And proactivity and innovation are definitely what is needed most in this difficult period,” Italian Undersecretary for Culture Lucia Borgonzoni told Arab News at the end of the meeting, whose plenary session was held in the spectacular scenario of the Coliseum.

“Like Italy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees cultural and artistic heritage as drivers for economic development but also as a way of preserving identities and opening up to other cultures,” she added.


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
  • No major side effects were observed, no breakthrough infection was reported

JEDDAH: A Saudi study has documented the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine used to protect people against the coronavirus.

The results of the study, titled the “Safety and Reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1 (AZD1222) COVID-19 Vaccine in Saudi Arabia,” were shared on Friday by the deputy minister of preventive health, Abdullah Assiri.
The cross-sectional study, conducted on 1,592 randomly selected vaccinees, measured the “estimated the safety and reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1-S vaccine as administered to adults after the first dose.”
No major side effects were observed and no breakthrough infection was reported during the observation period.
The results showed that 34.7 percent of the studied group reported a reaction after the first dose while none of the group had any reaction after the second.
Some of the side effects reported among the group were injection site pain in 30.5 percent, musculoskeletal symptoms in 27.5 percent, while 62.4 percent of males experienced more fever than females (37.6 percent).
The study also concluded that the rate of post-vaccine COVID-19 infection was 0.5 percent with zero hospitalization.

INNUMBERS

524,584 Total cases

505,003 Recoveries

8,226 Deaths

11,355 Active cases

“The data showed that the vaccine is well tolerated with differences in the reactogenicity between males and females. In the follow-up period, there was no reported COVID-19 infection, hospital admissions or death,” the study found. “However, the prevalence of the different variants in Saudi (Arabia) is not reported. In an international phase clinical trial, a single dose of the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine showed 67 percent efficacy in preventing moderate to severe–critical COVID-19 as evaluated 14-28 days after the dose administration. The efficacy against severe–critical COVID-19 was 77-85 percent as evaluated 14-28 days post after administration.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 14 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 8,226.
There were 1,187 new cases, meaning that 524,584 people in the country had contracted the disease. A total of 11,355 cases remained active, of which 1,395 patients were in critical condition.
In addition, the ministry said that 1,176 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 505,003.
Meanwhile, 26,395,789 people in the country to date have received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,458,482 elderly people.