RIYADH: The Anime Expo in Riyadh — part of Riyadh Season — already had regional fans excited, being the largest such event to be held so far in the Middle East. But even better news emerged at Thursday’s press conference to launch the event.
Saudi Arabia and Japan have signed an agreement to bring “Captain Tsubasa,” created by Yoichi Takahashi, back to the small screen. The cartoon, known as “Captain Majid” in the Arab world, is an old-school favorite in the Middle East. The anime is expected to air on Dec. 1 on MBC, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Faisal Bafarat, announced.
Riyadh Season is holding the largest Anime Expo in the Middle East, bringing together collaborations between GEA and Captain Tsubasa creator, Yoichi Takahashi, musical collaborations between both Arab and Japanese giants, and more.
Japan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tsukasa Uemura, told Arab News: “It’s amazing to see good energy among the young people, ladies and gentlemen of Saudi Arabia.” Uemura was struck by how deep the relationship between Japan and Saudi Arabia was, thanks to anime from the 60s and 70s.
“This relation is now coming to fruition, and I hope that the young Saudi generation won’t only observe but also create, from now, starting a new industry in Saudi Arabia — I see a lot of potential here.”
Arab News met three musical acts who will perform together for the first time on Saturday at the event’s closing ceremony: Lebanese singer Sammy Clark, who performed Arabic versions of anime favorites including “Grendizer” and “Treasure Island” (Takarajima), and Japanese voice actors and singers Isao Sasaki and Ichiro Mizuki.
Clark was excited to meet the two men he dubbed his “twin brothers,” — the original voices behind the animations he has worked on. “I’m honored to be here with them,” he said. “I only traveled to Japan once, in 1987. It’s a beautiful country and their people are some of the kindest in the world.”
Clark explained that he and Sasaki were supposed to sing together at Comic Con in Dubai five years ago, “but it didn’t work out.”
“Today, I’m ecstatic to say that I won’t sing with Sasaki alone but also with Ichiro Mizuki, who sings the original opening song for ‘Mazinger.’ We’ll be performing five songs for fans, and one of the surprises we’ve prepared is that I’ll sing something in Japanese and they’ll sing in Arabic,” Clark said.
He added that he never imagined the theme songs would be so successful and resonate with people for so long. “Generations of fathers have played these songs to their kids, and they all enjoy it so much. We’ve managed to touch thousands through an anime song,” he said.
Mizuki told Arab News that his first time in Saudi Arabia has been amazing so far. “Being in the industry for 50 years, I’ve traveled all over the world, but I consider my first performance in Saudi Arabia to be a big deal, especially as an officially orchestrated event. I feel honored to be here,” he said.
Sasaki echoed his words: “Being a first generation anime singer, I’m not getting any younger, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to perform here in Saudi Arabia,” he said.