A deeper look into ‘The Journey’ the first Saudi-Japanese anime

Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
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Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
The Saudi team was determined to get as much hands-on learning experience in Tokyo as possible. (Supplied)
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The Saudi team was determined to get as much hands-on learning experience in Tokyo as possible. (Supplied)
“Body language is different from country to country,” Noor Aljijakli, the film’s associate producer, told Arab News. (Supplied)
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“Body language is different from country to country,” Noor Aljijakli, the film’s associate producer, told Arab News. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 June 2021

A deeper look into ‘The Journey’ the first Saudi-Japanese anime

Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life. (Supplied)
  • The film, the first Saudi-Japanese anime, is a collaboration between Manga Productions Company in the Kingdom and Toei Animation Studios in Japan.
  • “The Journey” is in cinemas across the Kingdom now. It can be viewed in Japanese or Arabic, with English and Arabic subtitles.

RIYADH: The history of the Arabian peninsula, and the conquest of Makkah in particular, is at the heart of new movie “The Journey,” the first Saudi-Japanese anime.

The film is a cultural collaboration between Saudi Manga Productions Company and Japan’s Toei Animation Studios. Set 1,500 years ago, it tells the story of a warrior, called Aws, who rises above his troubled past to redeem himself and his faith by leading a team into battle to defend the holy city of Makkah.

Anime, and Japanese culture in general, have long been popular in Saudi Arabia. It is hoped that “The Journey” will pave the way for more co-productions that combine the rich heritage and culture of the Kingdom with the distinctive Japanese style of animation.

During production of the film, Saudis flew to Tokyo to work closely with Japanese experts to learn the skills and techniques needed to bring “The Journey” to life.

“This was our first movie ever, and for Toei Animation, they are veterans, they are experts in the field,”  Abdullah Alhusaynan, the assistant art director and background designer on the film, told Arab News. “However we are experts in Arab culture; it is our playground and they are beginners in that, meaning we were teaching each other and it was a mutual educational journey.”

He said that the very different backgrounds and experience of the Saudi and Japanese members of the production team created a “clash of cultures” at times during the making of the film.

“The Japanese have a very high culture and they are very attached to it, so now we are coming with our culture also and we are very attached to it, so that was an interesting clash between us,” said Alhusaynan.

Ultimately, he explained, this cross-cultural collaboration between the two studios enriched the creative process and helped to bring to life in Japanese style a story steeped in Arab heritage and tradition.

The Saudi team was determined to get as much hands-on learning experience in Tokyo as possible, working with and learning from industry experts to ensure the quality of the groundbreaking film. Great attention was paid to every aspect of the animation process, including the vibrant color palette, the art style, character development and design, and the intricate storyline.

At all stages, care was taken to ensure that Arab traditions and heritage were authentically portrayed on screen. During battle scenes, for example, the way that the characters draw and use their swords is distinctively Middle Eastern.

“Body language is different from country to country,” Noor Aljijakli, the film’s associate producer, told Arab News. “For example, how they fight with swords. The Japanese have Samurai and they can’t help but to draw (sword fights that way) but these movie characters are Arabs — we act differently, we fight differently, the shapes of our swords are different.”

The production team chose four different art styles to tell the stories in the movie that highlight the main character’s development, including flashbacks.

“These stories are very important for the main character Aws,” Aljijakli said. “They mean a lot for him and his wife and his family and beloved ones, because Aws has struggled. His faith was tested many times and those stories helped him to stand on his feet one more time.”

The music in the film also reflects the cooperation between the two studios and the melding of cultures. The carefully crafted score blends traditional anime-style music with Arabian instruments, including strings and drums. Japanese composer Kaoru Wada spent time in various parts of Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah, Taif and Riyadh, listening to local musicians playing Arab instruments such as the oud, goblet drum and mijwiz.

“The Journey” is in cinemas across the Kingdom now. It can be viewed in Japanese or Arabic, with English and Arabic subtitles.


Lebanese media outlet Sawt Beirut International to stream Lebanese Basketball Championship

SBI is a Lebanese e-platform that provides objective and professional real-time news. (SBI)
SBI is a Lebanese e-platform that provides objective and professional real-time news. (SBI)
Updated 28 September 2021

Lebanese media outlet Sawt Beirut International to stream Lebanese Basketball Championship

SBI is a Lebanese e-platform that provides objective and professional real-time news. (SBI)
  • Sawt Beirut International acquires live streaming rights for the next 3 years for $468,000
  • ‘Primary agenda behind this step is to support sports in Lebanon,’ CEO Jerry Maher says 

LONDON: Sawt Beirut International on Tuesday won the live streaming rights to broadcast the Lebanese Basketball Championship for the next three seasons. 

The live streaming rights were acquired by the platform for $468,000. 

“The primary agenda behind this step is to support sports in Lebanon, support clubs and athletes, and provide the service of watching matches on SBI’s social media platforms,” Jerry Maher, CEO chairman at SBI, told Arab News.

“The streaming service will be available to both Lebanese and Arab audiences and those residing outside of Lebanon. The service will also be of particular interest to those who prefer social media over television.”

Maher said the project could not have been achieved without the support of businessman Bahaa Hariri, who is the eldest son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. 

“Supporting the Lebanese people in light of the economic crisis is the fundamental goal behind this step,” Maher said.

SBI is a Lebanese e-platform that provides objective and professional real-time news that covers political, economic, and security developments in Lebanon and around the world.


Google’s browser cookies plan anti-competitive, advertisers tell EU

Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
Updated 28 September 2021

Google’s browser cookies plan anti-competitive, advertisers tell EU

Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy. (File/Google)
  • Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is anti-competitive, said a group of advertisers, publishers and tech companies

BRUSSELS: Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is anti-competitive, a group of advertisers, publishers and tech companies said in a complaint to EU antitrust regulators.
The grievance could boost the European Commission’s investigation opened in June into Alphabet unit Google’s Privacy Sandbox which the company said could allow businesses to target clusters of consumers without identifying individuals.
Google said a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser to increase user privacy and offer the Privacy Sandbox as an alternative.
The Movement for an Open Web (MOW) said the proposal would give Google the power to decide what data can be shared on the web and with whom.
“Google says they’re strengthening ‘privacy’ for end users but they’re not, what they’re really proposing is a creepy data mining party,” MOW lawyer Tim Cowen said in a statement.
The Commission confirmed receipt of the complaint, saying it would assess it under the standard procedures. In June, it kicked off an investigation into Google’s online display advertising technology services.
Google has offered to settle the case in a bid to avoid a possible fine and a disruptive prolonged probe, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
Google declined to comment on the MOW complaint and referred to its previous statement released when it offered concessions to the UK competition watchdog, which described the Privacy Sandbox as an open initiative to provide strong privacy for users while also supporting publishers.
The US Justice Department is also examining the issue, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
The group’s complaint to the UK regulator prompted its investigation which subsequently led Google to offer concessions.


Microsoft CEO says failed TikTok deal ‘strangest thing I’ve worked on’

Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September. (File/AFP)
Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 September 2021

Microsoft CEO says failed TikTok deal ‘strangest thing I’ve worked on’

Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September. (File/AFP)
  • Microsoft's near-acquisition of social media app TikTok last year was the “strangest thing I’ve ever worked on,” Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said

LONDON: Microsoft Corp’s near-acquisition of social media app TikTok last year was the “strangest thing I’ve ever worked on,” Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said on Monday.
TikTok had been ordered by then-US President Donald Trump to separate its US version from Chinese parent ByteDance because of national security concerns about the collection of US users’ data. Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September.
Trump’s divestment push ended by the time he left office in January and no potential suitor ending up acquiring TikTok.
Speaking at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California, Nadella said he was looking forward to bringing Microsoft’s security, child safety and cloud expertise to TikTok.
“It’s unbelievable,” Nadella said of the experience during an on-stage interview. “I learned so many things about so much and so many people. First of all, TikTok came to us. We didn’t go to TikTok.”
“TikTok was caught in between a lot of things happening across two capitals,” Nadella continued. “President Trump had a particular point of view of what he was trying to get done there, and then it just dropped off. The [US government] had a particular set of requirements and then it just disappeared.”
Nadella said what attracted ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming to Microsoft was the US company’s services related to content moderation and child safety, developed through products included in Xbox video gaming tools and on business social network LinkedIn.
ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nadella said he has no idea whether the US is still pushing for a deal under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing the national security concerns.
“At this point, I’m happy with what I have,” Nadella said.
He also expressed support for greater government regulation of cryptocurrency rules, which could stifle ransomware attacks since the ransoms often flow through opaque systems.


UK financial watchdog warns social media over "dodgy" ads that fuel fraud

The tech firms have said they are investing in fraud prevention and collaborating with the government and regulators. (File/Reuters)
The tech firms have said they are investing in fraud prevention and collaborating with the government and regulators. (File/Reuters)
Updated 28 September 2021

UK financial watchdog warns social media over "dodgy" ads that fuel fraud

The tech firms have said they are investing in fraud prevention and collaborating with the government and regulators. (File/Reuters)
  • Social media firms must do more to stop advertising "dodgy financial promotions," says Britain's Financial Conduct Authority

LONDON: Social media firms must do more to stop advertising "dodgy financial promotions" that fuel a surge in fraud or face action, Britain's Financial Conduct Authority said on Tuesday.
"We are putting them on notice that we expect them to be involved in this process of protecting the community," the FCA's head of enforcement Mark Steward told the watchdog's annual meeting.
He gave no specific examples of what he described as the adverts "feeding social media with dodgy financial promotions", but financial fraud has rocketed, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, as more consumers shop online and try digital banking and investing.
Google has prohibited investment ads that are not FCA-authorised - including for gold and cryptocurrencies - since Sept. 6 this year.
Steward said the FCA was pleased by the Google action.
"We can see it having an impact already in curtailing the increase in suspicious financial promotions on Google searches," he said.
"We are talking to all social media firms about this and it's important that all of them change their processes and procedures otherwise we will have to take action," Steward added.
The tech firms have said they are investing in fraud prevention and collaborating with the government and regulators.


Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists
Updated 28 September 2021

Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has been voicing concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called on EU states to provide safe passage for fleeing Afghan journalists and commit to helping them resettle in the EU.

Tom Gibson, the CPJ’s EU representative, highlighted that “journalists fleeing Afghanistan have received far too little support from governments around the world and their safe passage must now become a political priority.

“EU member states must make clear commitments to Afghan journalists fleeing persecution, including concrete and collaborative strategies for their evacuation and resettlement. The EU has a duty not to turn the other way,” he added.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the CPJ has been voicing concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers.

Recently, Afghan journalist Mohammed Ali Ahmadi was shot and injured in the capital Kabul for his work as a media professional. Similarly, a week earlier, Taliban fighters raided the homes of two journalists and seized cars, desktop computers and a licensed weapon from one of the houses.

The Taliban also raided the homes of three Deutsche Welle journalists in Afghanistan the week before, shooting dead a relative of a DW reporter and severely injuring another while attempting to track him down.

While EU member states, the UK and the US vowed to provide a safe passage for Afghan journalists, they are yet to voice clear commitments to aid in the resettling of high-risk Afghans in their own countries.