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How dubbed anime shaped Arabs’ childhood

Pokémon is one of the most popular series amongst Arabs (Pokémon GO)
Pokémon is one of the most popular series amongst Arabs (Pokémon GO)
Salem Barahmeh's Twitter video
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02 Aug 2023 04:08:28 GMT9
02 Aug 2023 04:08:28 GMT9

Manar Elbaz

From Grendizer to Captain Majid, a viral video breaks down how Japanese anime dubbed in Arabic have defined various generations’ childhoods in the Arab world.

Storyteller and content creator Salem Barahmeh posted on Twitter a video explaining how Japanese anime dubbed in Arabic has shaped Arabs’ childhoods. The minute and a half is now going viral for accurately describing the experience of millions of childhoods in the Arab world.

While “Grendizer” started to air in 1975, it found its way into the Middle East in the 1980s as it began airing on the Lebanese channel “Tele Liban”. In the same decade, it also started airing on other Arab channels such as “Kuwait TV” and “Saudi Channel 1”. It became one of the very few fully dubbed cartoon shows to watch on Television. The anime discusses Duke Fleed’s adventures as he faces enemies who want to conquer the earth. 

Mangaka Go Nagai is the mastermind behind the iconic anime. His Mazinger trilogy includes Mazinger Z, The Great Mazinger, and UFO Robot Grendizer. While Mazinger became a pop culture icon in Japan, it was Grendizer that became a hit in the region. In a survey conducted by Arab News Japan, the show was voted a fan favorite by 56 percent of respondents aged 40 and older.

The show became a routine for kids in the region. Wherever the show was on, the streets would be empty as kids would be seated in front of their televisions, anticipating a brand new episode and living vicariously through the heroes of the show. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Nagi explains why he believes the show became a hit in the region.

Barahmeh also credits “Captain Majid” as an anime that shaped the Arabs’ childhood. The anime, known as “Captain Tsubasa” in other parts of the world, is the longest-running manga and is considered 75% of Arabs of all age groups’ favorite anime. 

When aired on state-owned channels, the shows were typically dubbed into classical Arabic. Occasionally, the dubbed versions would be different from region to region. Not only the dialogue, but the theme songs were also translated and sung in Arabic, giving fans an extra layer of nostalgia.   

One of the most iconic singers, who sang many dubbed anime songs, is Rasha Rizk. The Syrian Grammy nominee is the voice behind the Arabic versions of “Detective Conan”, “Hunter X Hunter”, “Pokemon,” and many more. Her Arabic version of the songs was mostly shown on Spacetoon, the most popular TV channel in Arabic speaking countries. Her delicate vocals are still carried in the hearts of Arabs to this day.

“Despite being foreign, many saw themselves in these characters, saw them as Arabs, and for once allowed them to be the heroes of these stories. Unlike the depiction of Arabs in the west as villains and barbarians, the ability to connect to a story is powerful..that’s how Japanese cartoons defined generations” Barahmeh concludes in his video. 


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