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From consumer to exporter, Saudi Arabia uses anime to spread Arab culture around world

According to Bukhary, the number of anime viewers in Saudi Arabia in 2022 was about 13 million. (Supplied)
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14 Feb 2024 06:02:42 GMT9
14 Feb 2024 06:02:42 GMT9

Arab News Japan

The Arab world, and particularly Saudi Arabia, is one of the biggest consumers of Japanese anime and manga.

In recent years, local talent has helped the Kingdom become a creator of the animated content.

CEO of Manga Productions Essam Bukhary told CNN Arabic Business that the region had gone from being a consumer to an exporter of anime on a global level, thanks to its young Arab talent.

The Saudi company is a subsidiary of the Misk Foundation and in 2019 produced the “Future’s Folktales” series. Two years later it released the first-ever Japanese-Saudi anime film “The Journey” as part of a cooperation initiative with Japanese company Toei Animation.

In November, Manga Productions launched three new video game titles including “UFO Robot Grendizer: The Feast of the Wolves,” “The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone,” and “Flashback 2.”

With the releases, Saudi Arabia aims to compete on a global level in the anime and video game market.

Bukhary noted that in 2022 the number of anime viewers in Saudi Arabia was around 13 million and that the figure had reached approximately 60 million in the Arab world.

He said: “This huge market increases the need to create a competitive advantage locally and globally.”

While the produced content was successful, it did not mean there were no challenges.

Bukhary pointed out that previously there had been few opportunities for Arab and Saudi talents to work on anime projects.

He added that the existing works of anime in the Arab world did not present the correct image of Arab culture, and that Manga Productions was attempting to overcome such challenges in its work on animation, video games, and manga writing.

The company’s partnership with Toei Animation helped Japanese experts train Saudi talents, before recruiting them to work on the production of its projects.

Manga Productions also launched a training program with the Saudi Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission, in which trainees learn the intricate art of manga through a professional program that incorporates Japanese techniques.

More than 1,700 trainees registered for the virtual workshops. Of those, 75 qualified for the intensive training program and produced 75 comic stories. Fourteen trainees were sent to Japan to further develop their skills.

Additionally, the program received 130 and 70 applications, respectively, for two competition events focused on transforming Arabic poems into manga.

The commission, in collaboration with Manga Productions, aims to enrich the creative content industry in the Kingdom.

Bukhary said the Saudi anime and video game industry was expected to exceed $6.5 billion by 2030, up from around $1 billion now.

On an international level, he noted that the “Future’s Folktales” series gained more than 100 million views on at least 40 international platforms.

The Saudi anime “The Journey” has been translated into six languages on 52 international platforms since its release.

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