RIYADH: Riyadh Season’s first Anime Expo, the largest convention of its kind so far staged in the Middle East, has brought a taste of all things Japanese to the region. From musical performances to popular anime booths, visitors to the event have been lapping up the opportunity to take photos with their favorite characters.
Guests were greeted by a life-sized Eren Yeager in his titan form, and fans swarmed around a gigantic Naruto, and a Dragon Ball triplet stand with a large menacing green dragon.
The expo featured anime booths dedicated to each popular show, with visitors invited to train like the manga series’ footballer Captain Tsubasa and have a go at scoring goals. Detective Conan fans tried to solve the mysteries of a new case, and youngsters lined up to play as Naruto, performing his infamous rasengan attack through bowling.
Fans of Guinness World Record-winning manga Once Piece (for the most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author) were let into some of the secrets of the anime on its 20th anniversary.
During a talk, producer and senior director at Toei Animation Co., Shinji Shimizu, and former editor-in-chief of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, Yoshihisa Heishi, spilled the beans on some upcoming One Piece episodes.
Heishi expressed surprise at the Saudi fans’ love of One Piece and said: “The One Piece manga has gone over 50 percent of its storyline. It will develop a lot before it ends.”
When asked how the tale would end, Heishi said: “I don’t know how it ends, and I didn’t ask Eiichiro Oda (One Piece’s creator and manga artist) because I wouldn’t be able to look forward to it.”
Shimizu admitted he knew how the story concluded and told fans that the upcoming season would reveal the direction of One Piece’s climax. “I do know how Once Piece ends, and that’s why every One Piece-lover runs away from me.
“I know things about the character Ace that are very interesting, and it will lead to a very touching ending as Oda knows how touched everyone was by Ace’s death,” he added.
Expo visitors were also able to watch a thrilling, interactive video-projection dance performance by America’s Got Talent season 10 semifinal nominees, Siro-A, with their energetic techno-circus stage show.
Meanwhile, addressing the audience, Japanese DJ and hip-hop artist, Taku Takahashi, said: “I come from the band m-flo, and I’ve done music for anime Space Dandy and Black Clover. I’m going to be playing from Naruto, so let’s have fun.”
He began with a crowd-pleasing remix mash-up of Japanese band UVERworld’s “Odd Future,” the opening to anime My Hero Academy, followed by others such as Neon Genesis Evangelion’s theme song “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis.”
Rock group Linked Horizon, who recently came to prominence after their music was chosen as the anthem for popular manga and anime “Attack on Titan,” took to the main stage dressed up in soldier uniforms and saluted the crowd like the characters do.
Expo visitor Yara Al-Malki, 31, from Jeddah said she enjoyed seeing m-flo and Linked Horizon. “I also loved buying anime goods from the expo, but the lines were so long.”
Wed Al-Nahi, an interning electrical engineer in Riyadh, said she attended the event specifically to see Linked Horizon live. “They were brilliant. I had goosebumps all over my arms when they performed ‘Shinzou wo Sasageyo.’”