How the Japanese Anime “Grendizer” Galvanized the Arab World

TOKYO: While McDonald’s Golden Arches might be a sentimental symbol for anyone who grew up in the West, children in the Arab world, where the burger chain only opened in the 1990s, were excited about another icon : the Golden Horns. The super-robot Grendizer, from the anime of the same name, and his shiny golden helmet horns were as locally known as McDonald’s big golden M.

The Middle Eastern equivalent of a Happy Meal was this happy hour where the anime Grendizer, created by Japanese mangaka Go Nagai in 1975, aired on local television.

First shown on Lebanese channel Tele Liban in the 1980s, and one of the few fully-dubbed cartoons available to watch, the stories of the heroic Duke Fleed and his mighty robot were the stuff of which movies were made. dreams of all Arab children.

Nagai is famous throughout Japan for revolutionizing the super robot genre: he was the first to have a real pilot in the cockpit, and many of his creations are considered the standard that all other mecha robots face. .

QUICKFACTS

  • Originally, it lasted two years: 1975-1977.

  • Number of episodes: 74.

  • Popular in: France, French-speaking Canada, Italy and the Middle East.

  • Part of a series: preceded by Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger.

  • Grendizer is one of the most popular foreign icons in the Arabic-speaking world.

His previous works, along with Grendizer, made him famous in Japan, and he cemented his place as one of the country’s anime and manga legends.

Grendizer is part of the Mazinger Trilogy, which consists of Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, and UFO Robot Grendizer. The first two were hugely successful in Japan, with Mazinger quickly becoming one of the country’s most recognizable pop culture icons. However, many fans believe Grendizer hasn’t garnered the same level of national attention.

Nagai, in an exclusive interview with Arab News at his studio in Tokyo, says that’s not necessarily true. “It was actually a hit in Japan. Maybe some people thought it wasn’t as popular as Mazinger Z, because Mazinger was super popular.

While Grendizer’s popularity is disputed in Japan, it certainly isn’t in the Arab world. The show was first dubbed in Lebanon and aired on Lebanese television in the 1980s, but was also featured on other Arabic channels, such as Kuwait TV and Saudi Channel 1.

Go Nagai has established himself as one of Japan’s anime and manga legends. (Provided)

Long before satellite TV was available in the region, and even longer before on-demand broadcasting, Grendizer was an instant hit with local audiences.

Across the region, whenever Grendizer appeared on television, the streets were virtually empty, but the excitement was at its height.

Lebanese voice actor Jihad Al-Atrash, who provided the voice of Duke Fleed (or Daisuke, as he is known in the original), attributed Grendizer’s success to two things: its high production values ​​and the geopolitics of the region of time.

“I believe the series preceded its time,” he said in a 2005 interview with the regional Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat. “It was executed to perfection with the limited means available then compared to today. It was a huge production by any means.

As for its regional appeal, Grendizer first aired during the civil war in Lebanon. “The entire Arab world was in mourning over the occupied Palestinian territories,” Al-Atrash said.

GO NAGAI’S ADVICE FOR ARAB ARTISTS

1. People in Saudi Arabia have their own unique sensibilities, so use those particular sensibilities and try to design new arts.

2. Create works with originality in mind.

3. Culture and history will have a good influence on your artwork.

4. Make the most of different natural environments in your artwork.

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, Racha El-Saadaoui said Grendizer shaped her entire childhood.

“It was such a beautiful escape from a horrible childhood in terms of the insecurity of war and all the things that kids don’t really understand, but still feel impacted,” she said.

Constant reruns on local channels, the introduction of satellite TV (and later, streaming services) to the area, and even pirated replicas of taped castings made Grendizer accessible to a new generation of viewers.

Grendizer memorabilia still sells like hot cakes in the area, and their popularity has barely waned. In Dubai, late-night restaurant Zaroob features a giant Grendizer mural on one of its exterior walls.


READ ALSO : A Grendizer movie? It’s a “Go”, says Nagai, creator of the famous Japanese anime


Saudi artist and pin designer Labeed Assidmi, who sells pins featuring characters from old cartoons dubbed in Arabic, told Arab News that his Grendizer pin is one of his most popular and that it constantly sells. And antique merchandise, sold during the height of the Grendizer craze, can be found for exorbitant prices on eBay and other auction sites, with some vintage toys in mint condition worth over a thousand dollars.

Most recently, this month’s Joy Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an event held to attract foreign investors to Saudi Arabia’s booming entertainment industry, featured a massive statue of Grendizer which welcomed the participants in the event.

The crowds lining up to take a photo with the giant robot is proof enough that its popularity in the region remains intact.

Another indicator of Grendizer’s popularity is videos on YouTube, where full episodes dubbed in Arabic rack up millions of views. The theme song video alone has nearly 2 million views.

Nagai, who celebrated 50 years in the industry with an exhibition in Tokyo in August, said he really appreciates the fans in the Arab world who love his work.


Go Nagai to work.

“I hope you will continue to appreciate my work in the future. I know that humans live difficult lives in various environments and will have to continue in the future, but I know that they feel liberated and happy when they watch cartoons and immerse themselves in fantasy worlds. I’ll be happy if you keep that in mind and keep having fun,” Nagai said.

He also agreed that the timing of Grendizer’s release in the region contributed to its popularity, although he stated that it was unintentional.

“It was a good time, I think. In Japan’s long history, Japan also had so many wars in the past, so people have that kind of memory deep in their hearts. So it probably has resonated with people who look at my work.

Grendizer was wildly popular in a few other unexpected places. Besides the Middle East, it was also highly regarded in France and French-speaking Canada (where it was known as Grendizer) and Italy (known as Goldrake).

However, Grendizer was nowhere more beloved than in the Middle East. As Grendizer superfan Saleh Alzaid points out, the show’s impact on Arab youth is still being felt. “I really think Grendizer impacted Arab kids more than Japanese kids. Grendizer was the first show that made me think about space, aliens, UFOs and planets outside of our world, and intrigued me with how technology like flying robots and laser weapons could be used for good,” Alzaid said.

“As a fan of sci-fi stories and games, I think Grendizer is the perfect blend of animation, art, music and story, and strong characters who have left their mark on my childhood.”

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