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  • Writer's pictureMajid Alhusseini

Saudi Arabia's Anime Industry Takes Flight with These Jaw-Dropping 2023 Releases

Japanese anime has been around in Saudi Arabia for many years, with its popularity first rising in the 70s and 80s when Arabic-dubbed versions of Japanese cartoons were broadcasting in the Middle East. Now, Saudi Arabia has the largest anime fanbase in the area, and there are many streaming platforms available. For example, Anime Key and MBC's Shahid added an extra 200 hours of Japanese anime content in December 2022. In October of the same year, thousands of Saudis attended the third annual Saudi Anime Expo at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Convention Center during Riyadh Season.

However, Saudis aren't limited to simply consuming Japanese-style entertainment. They're creating it as well and the government is playing a part in this. companies such as ARiNAT and Manga Productions, owned by the MiSK foundation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are at the forefront. They've been partnering with Japanese companies such as Toei Animation and GAINAX to give Saudi viewers a chance to see stories told from their own point of view, using a widely recognized foreign art.

With that being said, here are 4 amazing Saudi animations you need to watch in 2023.

The Journey

The Journey is a Japanese–Saudi Arabian animated action fantasy film that is based on the history and culture of ancient Arabia. It tells the story of the Year of the Elephant, which revolves around a potter named Aus who joins a battle to defend his home city of Mecca. The film was directed by Kōbun Shizuno, written by Atsuhiro Tomioka, and co-produced by Toei Animation and Manga Productions.

Desert Knight

Created by animation Studio GAINAX and Saudi Arabian media content company ARiNAT, Deser Kignt is a Japanese-style anime that takes place in the Arabian Peninsula and concerns an ambitious young man who decides to challenge the tyranny and the rule of the law of the jungle and bandits to build a world filled with peace and love.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Even though it's not a Japanese-style anime per se, Bilal still remains an iconic Saudi animation. It tells the story of one of the prophet Muhammed's (PBUH) closest companions Bilal Ibn Rabah. A millennium ago, a young boy fervently desired to become a formidable warrior. However, his aspirations were abruptly disrupted when he and his sister were forcefully seized and transported to a distant land, far from their home. Plunged into a realm dominated by greed and unfairness, Bilal discovers the inner strength to vocalize his convictions and instigate transformation. Rooted in actual events, this tale chronicles the extraordinary journey of an authentic hero who left an indelible mark on both time and history.

The Woodcutter's Treasure

The Woodcutter's Treasure is a Saudi animation produced by Japan’'s Toei Animation and Saudi Arabia’s Manga Productions, an affiliated company of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’'s MiSK Foundation. The cartoon will run for 13 episodes, each 20-minute-long episode is based on Saudi Arabian folklore and aimed at children and families. The cartoon will be in both Arabic and Japanese.

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