Amin Abbas, Dubai
An Emirati antique collector, Shehab Al Suwaidi, owns the largest collection of animation cels and sketches in the Middle East. He has over 1,400 pieces of original Japanese anime series dating back to the 1970s.
Cels, short for celluloid, are transparent sheets on which objects are drawn for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Al Suwaidi’s collection features works from many classic anime series.
“I have started collecting animation cels since 2005. The basic idea behind collecting was simply because I love anime, especially those with connection to my childhood,” the collector said. “The collection combines passion, memory and history, which is something I’m interested in too.”
Speaking to Arab News Japan, Al Suwaidi said he tried his best to choose a sketch or cel of a popular scene from anime, “either from the opening title, the ending, or the last episode.”
“Usually if the cel depicts a scene from the last episode, the price for it goes high. I do also pick some cels from important episodes, not necessarily from the last episodes,” he said.
The Emirati collector said he also paid attention to factors such as the characters and the backgrounds depicted in the sketches.
“If the background is matching with the cel exactly as it was shown in the scene, it is considered of better value,” he added.
Al Suwaidi told Arab News Japan that there was a lot of competitive buying involved in animation cel collecting, such as auction sales.[caption id="attachment_18513" align="alignnone" width="480"] Shehab Al Suwaidi (L), Falah Hashim, Arabic voice actor of Conan in Future Boy Conan (M) and a representative from the Japanese Embassy in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)[/caption]
“The prices of some scenes are considered very expensive. They usually range from $100 to $20,000 or higher. Once you find the related cels, there are competitor buyers from different countries,” Al Suwaidi said.
He explained that he had organized a gallery exhibition for his collection called “Seconds of Anime” in 2016, saying he felt the need to share his assortment of sketches with the public.
“When I started collecting cels and saw the number is increasing, I thought I must show my collection to the public, where people of such interest or passion can enjoy viewing the collection or recall memories.”
“I have invited special guests to the event like Falah Hashim (the Arabic voice actor of Conan in Future Boy Conan & Tachibana Zen in Dinosaur War Izenborg) and my friend Benoit Spacher from France, who is specialized in Japanese animation and culture,” Al Suwaidi said. “The event was very successful as it attracted many old and young people, including H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development and representatives from the Japanese embassy in Abu Dhabi.”
Al Suwaidi said he was planning to organize another exhibition in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia.
“I already participated in an exhibition in Paris in 2019 about Japanese culture; in which Japanese animation is considered part of the culture,” he said.
Al Suwaidi added that some of his favorite anime series included Grendizer, Treasure Island (Takarajima), Berserk, Future Boy Conan and One Piece.