YouGov poll: Japanese anime continues to draw Arab fans

Updated 28 October 2019

YouGov poll: Japanese anime continues to draw Arab fans

  • As many as 75 percent of respondents ranked “Captain Majid” as their favorite anime of all time
  • "The Woodcutter’s Treasure" aired on Japanese TV in both Arabic and Japanese in 2018

DUBAI: For many people who have grown up in the Arab world, watching dubbed Japanese anime series in Arabic was an essential part of their childhood. Some of the region’s most-loved titles include “Adnan wa Lina,” “Captain Majed,” “Al Mohakek Konan” and, of course, “Pokemon.”
A YouGov survey conducted by Arab News confirms the region’s celebration of the Japanese comic book genre, as 75 percent of respondents across all age groups ranked the long-running Japanese manga series, “Captain Tsubasa,” known as “Captain Majid” in the Arab world, as their favorite anime of all time.
Another popular series, “UFO Robot Grendizer,” was also voted a favorite among 56 percent of respondents aged 40 and older.
While anime dates back to the early 20th century, it has become a symbol of Japan’s culture.
The Arab world’s fascination with the genre was celebrated when 13 episodes of a Saudi- produced anime, called “The Woodcutter’s Treasure,” aired on Japanese television for the first time in 2018, in both Arabic and Japanese.
According to Maaz Sheikh, CEO and founder of STARZPLAY, anime’s strong presence in the Arab world goes beyond its story lines. “Anime relates to Arab viewers on a whole different level,” he told Arab News.
“It blends the individuality of established comic book series and animations with the unmatched style originally derived from manga comics in Japan, creating a unique world that allows any fan to escape into that world.”

Sheikh said feedback from STARZPLAY subscribers since 2018 indicated a large following in the region and a demand for its current top-ranked series.
“Based on the feedback we received, the ‘escapism’ element of anime seems to be the biggest social aspect of what makes them so appealing,” he said.
“Anime allows viewers to live vicariously through the outlandish characters in a way that would otherwise be impossible to view with a live-action Hollywood series.”
Fans have also voiced a strong interest in theatrical releases of blockbuster anime movies in the MENA region, which Sheikh says only confirms that there is a tremendous appetite for the comic-book genre in cinemas, and on a larger scale.
Among the younger generation aged between 16-24, anime series such as “Dragon Ball” proved to be commonly watched by 59 percent of respondents, with less appeal to older age groups.
The survey also showed that 42 percent of young people stated their interest in manga and cosplay, considering it a top attraction in Japan.

ARABS' TOP 3 ANIME

  • Captain Majid Revolves around an 11-year-old student with a deep passion for football. Known as “Tsubasa Oozora” in Japan, Captain Majid follows his dreams to one day winning the FIFA World Cup in Japan and takes viewers on a journey of rivalry, friendship and talent.
  • Pokémon Follows the adventures of aspiring Pokémon master Ash Ketchum who is given an electric mouse named Pikachu on his 10th birthday. The two set off on a life-long journey and work up the ranks of the world’s many Pokémon leagues.
  • Grendizer A Super Robot equipped with only a flying saucer “Spaizer” flees the Vegan empire and enters our solar system, landing in Japan on the slopes of Mount Fuji to fight against the forces of evil and protect planet Earth.


Arafaat Ali Khan, owner of Domain Entertainment and co-founder of Middle East Film and Comic Con, said the trend among younger anime followers was mainly a result of the genre targeting not only a mature age group but also a younger audience through books, comics and movies.
“While you can get addicted to anything, if consumed in acceptable quantities, I do believe anime can inspire young minds as much as traditional art forms,” he said.
For Fatin Samir Al-Khuja, 24, a young Saudi graphic designer and illustrator based in Jeddah, her earliest memories of watching anime date back to elementary school. “I first began to watch ‘Card Capture Sakura’ and that gave me an affection for anime,” she said. 
“My love for Japan grew and that made me want to learn more about their culture and understand their language.”
Al-Khuja was first motivated to sketch out anime drawings in middle school but it was only in college that she learned how to draw digitally, realizing that she wanted to explore the world of illustrations.
“Anime influenced me in a positive way and it made me want to learn how to draw traditionally and digitally. It also influenced my way of thinking and I gained more knowledge, because unlike cartoons some anime series teach important life lessons,” she said.
Al-Khuja, along with 62 percent of people her age, associate anime with Japan and 86 percent share the desire to visit one day.
“I have visited Japan three times, and during my travel I discovered that just like Arabs, the Japanese people have maintained their customs and traditions,” she said.


Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas

Updated 26 October 2020

Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas

CHENNAI: One of the biggest traps when adapting a literary novel to screen is the director’s temptation to include just about everything in the text. Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy,” based on Vikram Seth’s 1993 1300-page magnum opus, falls precisely into this trap.

Produced by BBC Studios and now streaming on Netflix, the six-episode miniseries has a canvas too big for comfort, and Nair does not seem to be quite in command. Too many characters, some merely flitting in and out of frame, seem like a jigsaw puzzle, and it is difficult to understand how each one is related to one another. What is even more annoying is that they converse in English, perhaps a production ploy to attract a Western audience.

“A Suitable Boy” is a the six-episode series. (YouTube)

Set in the fictional university town of Brahmpur in 1951, four years after the British left the partitioned subcontinent, the series tries exploring the sense of freedom emerging at the political, social and personal levels. Even as new equations are forming among parties professing different ideologies, and the youth are experimenting with newer notions of romantic love, writer Andrew Davies’ core plot to place the life of 19-year-old Lata (Tanya Maniktala) in the context of a bewildering choice of suitors loses its way in the melange of men and women.

Her sweetly domineering mother insists that she, and she alone, must have the right to choose a suitable groom, but Lata falls in and out of love with three men, each affair accentuating her confusion. There is Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi), a handsome history undergrad and budding cricketer who Lata is passionately fond of. Poet and British-educated Amit Chatterji (Mikhail Sen) and disciplined, self-made shoemaker Haresh Khanna (Namit Das) also compete for her affections in a story which conveys the dilemma of a girl fighting to free herself from societal shackles. But Nair goes overboard here. Scenes of Lata kissing Kabir in a public place in the extremely conservative 1950s India appear like the director’s desperate attempt to prove a point. I am sure she could have taken the liberty to digress from the novel.

“A Suitable Boy” is set in the fictional university town of Brahmpur in 1951. (YouTube)

“A Suitable Boy” has other tracks, too. A respected politician’s son, Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter), who is infatuated with an older courtesan, Saeeda Bai Firozabadi (Tabu), plays a role in the series. Lata’s arrogant brother and sister Savita (Rasika Dugal) are part of the motley group. It is her marriage that kicks off the series mirroring the political-religious animosities of a new nation and the personal battles of the youth.

Nair’s debut into television (though not her first in literary adaptations) meticulously details the period, with Stephanie Carroll leading production design and Arjun Bhasin dressing up the characters. The street scenes in what was then called Calcutta appear wonderfully authentic, replete with its quaint trams and hand-pulled rickshaws. Refreshing performances — particularly Maniktala’s — pep up the visual appeal. Yet, “A Suitable Boy” is certainly not in the same league as Nair’s 2001 Venice Golden Lion winner “Monsoon Wedding.”