RIYADH: It all began with a dream and now Manga Productions boasts its first anime movie, “The Journey,” which premiered in 2021, and is working on Future’s Folktales season two, and a mobile game that should be released this year.
Speaking on The Mayman Show, Dr. Essam Bukhary, CEO of the company, a subsidiary of the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, or Misk, said he has fond memories of how it all started.
It was in 2017, the year the firm was founded, that the company decided to hold talks with a leading Japanese counterpart.
“So the first step was to negotiate with Toei Animation, convince them (of) the idea. They liked it. They accepted the offer. But we had one important condition in the contract. Which is providing opportunities for internship for Saudi talent,” explained Bukhary.
Initially a competition was held in the Arab world to determine which project to back.
The company met in Riyadh with Shimizu Shinji, a former board member of Toei Animation, who became the executive producer of “The Journey.”
After that meeting, Manga Productions started hiring the first group of artists from Saudi Arabia to work on the project.
The students were sent to become interns in Japan for two months. “After that, we hired them to start working hand in hand with our Japanese partners.
“In 2017, we signed the contract with Toei Animation during the Misk Global Forum to officially start the production of ‘The Journey’ movie,” said Bukhary.
Bukhary said the “high quality” film was made in Saudi and demonstrated the talent and commitment of the young artists.
He recalled how Manga Productions sent 1,300 retakes to Toei Animation, which led a board member to praise the team for producing such quality that “we don’t even think about in Japan.”
He said the movie was an amazing experience because it was a collaboration involving two companies with totally different cultures, languages, art styles, and even age. “Toei Animation’s experts were in their 50s and 60s where Manga Productions’ team were in their 20s and early 30s,” he explained.
The plot of the movie revolves around one man trying to defend his city, Makkah, against a huge army. The hero has a dark past but uses his skills to overcome his adversaries.
Manga Productions focuses on animation, video games, and comics. They have two offices, in Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Bukhary is also editor-in-chief for Manga Arabia and has a doctorate in technology and innovation management. He is also the co-chair of the executive committee of the Mohammed bin Salman Center for Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo.