Survey reveals Saudis’ favorite anime shows

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Updated 12 January 2020

Survey reveals Saudis’ favorite anime shows

DUBAI: Anime has long been a staple of day-time TV and comic books in the Middle East. These days, hand-drawn and computer animation associated with Japan is regarded by many Arabs as a memorable part of their childhood.

Anime series such as “Al Mohakek Konan,” “Grendizer” and “Pokemon” were dubbed into Arabic and played on Arab TV channels from as early as the 1980s.

In November last year, Japanese animation products were given pride of place at the Riyadh Season’s first Anime Expo held in November 2019 in Saudi Arabia.

Considered the largest convention of its kind to be held in the Middle East, the event gave long-time Saudi anime fans a chance to take photos with their favorite characters while indulging in all things Japanese.

The event included everything from anime booths dedicated to each popular show to musical performances and talks by renowned Japanese producers and directors.

The popularity of anime in the kingdom was further reflected in a YouGov poll conducted by Arab News in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Levant and North Africa regions on how Arabs view Japan.

In the study, which surveyed 3,033 people in 18 Arab countries, 72 percent of Saudi respondents ranked “Captain Majid" as their all-time favorite anime show.

The long-running series known as “Captain Tsubasa" in Japan revolves around an 11-year-old student with a deep passion for football.

Majid follows his dreams all the way to winning the FIFA World Cup in Japan, and takes viewers on a journey of rivalry, friendship and talent.

Next was “Grendizer,” with 42 percent of Saudis ranking it in second place, followed by “Pokemon” (37 percent) in third place.

Created by Japanese mangaka Go Nagai in 1975, “Grendizer" was first shown on the Lebanese channel Tele Liban in the 1980s as one of the few fully dubbed cartoons available at the time.

The series tells the story of a robot equipped with only a flying saucer named Spaizer, who flees the Vegan Empire and enters the solar system, landing in Japan on the slopes of Mount Fuji to fight against the forces of evil and protect planet Earth.

The celebrated anime hero in the Arab region may appear once again in a feature film, as creator Nagai broached the idea of a Grendizer movie during a previous exclusive interview with Arab News.

Among the younger generation of Arab anime fans between the ages of 16-24 years-old, “Dragon Ball” was the commonly watched (59 percent), but with less appeal among older age groups.

According to Maaz Sheikh, CEO and founder of STARZPLAY, the “escapism” element is a big factor in animated media’s strong presence in the Arab world.

“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,” he told Arab News in an interview.

For anime super fan Omar Al-Otaibi, watching shows like “Naruto,” “Bleach” and “FMA” throughout his childhood has left him with many happy memories.

“Anime is a full package including a good story, great character design, amazing voice casting and breathtaking moments that keep everyone waiting for the next week’s episode to be aired,” he said.

Commenting on the number one anime in kingdom, “Captain Majid,” Al-Otaibi noted that the main character, Majid, was named after the Saudi national team’s captain at the time.

The show was aired on MBC in the Japanese language for the first time in December 2019.

“I feel very positive about the future of anime in the Arab world as I see the community growing bigger now than ever,” he said.

With the Saudi government’s focus on entertainment, a significant growth in animation media is expected among newer generations.

Waking the sleeping giants above Saudi Arabia’s deserts

Milky Way core rising above Wahba Crater. (Credit: Huda Alerwy)
Updated 19 min 33 sec ago

Waking the sleeping giants above Saudi Arabia’s deserts

  • Saudi stargazers are fusing ancient traditions with cutting-edge technology

JEDDAH: Saudis have for years wandered off to explore the country’s varied landscapes, with excursions that focus on stargazing and meteor watching.

The Kingdom’s vast, open lands provide one of the most optimal views of space in the region, a hidden secret has not been fully discovered yet, and which feeds curious minds and wakes the sleeping giants above.

For thousands of years, Arabs traveling across the region’s lands used stars to navigate through rough terrain and vast deserts. Indigenous tribes inherited their navigation skills on land and sea from those who traveled from one end of Arabia to the other.

Today, satellites and navigation apps do the job instead, but people’s curiosity has remained, and many still look up at blue or red dots of glowing planets, star systems, and constellations in a bid to understand their historical significance and beauty.

Photographers in the Kingdom have advanced the field of nature photography, with some branching out to become astrophotographers, documenting celestial events such as eclipses and meteor showers. The keenest have gone even further and captured nebulas and star clusters.

Many medieval Muslim scholars made huge contributions to astronomy — from Ibn Yunus’ successful attempts in correcting historic Greek calculations of planetary movements to Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sufi, who was the first astronomer to observe the Andromeda Galaxy and Large Magellanic Cloud.

Anas Al-Majed, an avid astrophotographer based in Riyadh, bought his first telescope seven years ago and was able to view the moon’s mountains and craters as well as neighboring gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, in fine detail.

“I was awestruck with how detailed everything was, like Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s gaseous bands. With time, I upgraded from a simple telescope to a Dobsonian 8-inch, where I delved into discovering deep-sky objects, starting with the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion’s Nebula,” Al-Majed told Arab News. “As a photographer, I wanted to know more and continue discovering, and again, upgraded to a refractor with an equatorial mount for my camera, which brought simple results.”

But the photographer still needed more, as he wanted to capture images of the sleeping giants in bright detail, and he soon bought a camera with features that suited deep astrophotography. The result was surprising and magnificent.

“The refractor’s lens is the closest to a camera lens, my first love. Maintaining the refractor telescope doesn’t take much effort and it can handle the tough terrain unlike other telescopes,” he said.

Although an expensive hobby, turning to international sites means cheaper prices for proper equipment and telescopes, which many say are expensive in the Kingdom.

Al-Majed said the field is still young and there is more room for exploration, but warned that it takes time, practice, and patience to achieve optimal results.

With seven years of experience, he is still keen to find more deep space objects to photograph. “It’s the challenge that’s exciting. The Bubble Nebula is very difficult to photograph due to its distance and the Veil Nebula is a strange and beautiful object. There are still many deep space objects to find and I can head out of Riyadh and search.”


• Some of the constellations that can be viewed with the naked eye during autumn above the Saudi deserts include Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and Minor, Crux, and Draco.

• Planets such as Venus, Saturn, Jupiter also shine bright, but it is Mars in opposition that steals the show this time of year.

The Kingdom is ideal for stargazers and astrophotographers, but few know where or how to watch one of nature’s most striking sights in all its glory — the Milky Way Galaxy.

With proper research and by selecting the right time and place, the Milky Way’s core can be seen rising during the country’s summer months and disappearing toward the Southern Equatorial Belt.

Huda Alerwy, a Jeddah-based photographer, went on a hiking trip in April 2019 and camped off the edge of the Wahba Crater, a volcanic crater located 250 km from Taif. There she witnessed the Milky Way galaxy’s rise above the horizon for the first time in her life.

Fortunately, there are apps that people can use to reach areas with relatively clean and stable air to make the viewing of stars sharp and clear.

Mohammed Jan

“The scene was mesmerizing. We started to see the glow of the belt at 2 a.m. and I had the chance to capture the moment,” Alerwy told Arab News. “We spent more than an hour photographing its rise and if I get the chance to relive that experience again, I’ll do it with no hesitation.”

With her tripod in tow, she was able to ensure that her camera was stable enough to withstand any wind gusts and stabilize it for a clear shot.

Some of the constellations that can be viewed with the naked eye during autumn above the Saudi deserts include Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and Minor, Crux, and Draco. Planets such as Venus, Saturn, Jupiter also shine bright, but it is Mars in opposition that steals the show this time of year.

For casual stargazers in many parts of the Kingdom, the stars have been further away, photographer Mohammed Jan told Arab News. “Many Saudis can’t see the Milky Way where they live, or many stars for that matter, due to light pollution. They’d have to drive for hundreds of miles outside city limits to get away from it.

“Fortunately, there are apps that people can use to reach areas with relatively clean and stable air to make the viewing of stars sharp and clear for both stargazers or photography enthusiasts alike,” he added.

Obsessed with astrophysics and space for years, Jan captured his first glimpse of the Milky Way in 2014 and soon became more knowledgeable in the field. He often drives for hours just to make sure he is away from any light pollution.

“There are different apps that you can use to make sure that you’re in the right area. Large cities such as Makkah and Jeddah are within Zone 9 and barely feature any stars. For optimal viewing and astrophotography, you’ll need to be in an area less than a Zone 4,” he added.

With time, Jan grew used to capturing celestial objects, but soon ventured into new territory — nebulas and deep-sky objects.

“The Helix Nebula has always captured my interest. The planetary nebula was and has always been my favorite object to photograph in the dark skies,” said Jan, repeating Al-Majed’s warning that it is through time, practice, and effort that he was able to reach his level of expertise. Jan is looking forward to doing better but has called for greater community support for astrophotography.

“Not many understand what we do and why we do it. It’s educational, it’s knowledge and its understanding,” he said.