5 Animes Where Middle Eastern Themes Take Center Stage

Japanese Anime is one of the most influential mediums of entertainment globally; with millions of fans from all over the world, provided that the Middle East is full of rich stories that can easily be adapted into the industry.

With that in mind, we decided to highlight five impressive animes that took themes from the MENA region and turned them into incredible fans that have a huge following today.

The Journey

The story behind this anime is quite fascinating, as 300 Saudis traveled to Japan to learn the art of creating anime to make a pre-Islamic animated film, and the results are fantastic.

The first Saudi-Japanese collaboration of its kind, the film was supposed to debut at the Cannes film festival; unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it got delayed.

The anime film follows the character Aus during the famous “Year of the Elephant” when an army of southern invaders attacks the holy city of Mecca with the main intent of destroying the Kaaba, the holiest structure in the region at the time. 

Aus, along with a small group of soldiers join forces to defend the city from the invaders, leading him to divulge secrets about his past he’d rather keep hidden.

In 2021, “The Journey” saw a theatrical release in cinemas throughout the MENA region with Arabic dubbing to accommodate audiences; thankfully, the movie received rave reviews and earned a Septimius Award for “Best Experimental Film.”

Arslan Senki

Based on novels and manga by the same name of “The Heroic Legend Of Arslan,” the 2015 anime sees its main protagonist, crown prince Arslan, lose his home of Pars against the nation of Lusitania. This situation happens after Arslan’s father, King Andragoras III, falls victim to a treacherous act conducted by some of his closest retainers.

Arslan goes on an adventure to assemble an army to fight the Lusitanians and win back his throne with the help of some peculiar individuals.

Originally based on a popular Persian epic that had a similar storyline, in which a prince of the same name sets out to reclaim his throne after he finds out he’s part of the royal line.

The anime is action-packed with many fighting and battle sequences, making it exciting for those looking for a war anime instead of just a usual adventure. The anime ran for two seasons completing the story, which makes it great for those who want to watch something that doesn’t drag on.

Magi: The Labyrinth Of Magic

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic brings in several well-known characters from the “One Thousand and One Nights” epics, including Ali Baba, Sindbad, and Aladdin, all of whom play leading roles in the anime.

Debuting in 2012, the anime loosely adapts stories from “One Thousand and One Nights,” with many Middle Eastern locales visited by the heroes. 

The anime mainly follows the adventures of a young boy named Aladdin, who has a djinn in his flute; he meets a merchant named Ali Baba, who goes on adventures to dangerous towers dubbed dungeons to get the treasures within and earn magical powers.

The two characters meet with Sindibad throughout the show several times to battle against powerful beings that threaten the peace of the realm and endanger the people living in it.

The show was highly successful, spawning two seasons in total, and a spin-off and earning a lot of fans along the way. This anime is great for those looking for characters going on wild adventures, using magic, and having intense fights.

Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God

Based on the ancient Egyptian pantheon, the 2020 anime is a silly show that is great for a few laughs as the ancient Egyptian gods go on short quirky adventures.

The anime follows a cutesy style that gives them a lot of appeal to younger audiences and follows several of the well-known ancient Egyptian gods, such as Anubis, Set, Ra, Horus, Thoth, Bastet, and others. 

The characters do everything from celebrating that they’re having pizza to getting annoyed that Bastet is causing noise everywhere they go.

The anime’s character illustrations have become really popular in Japan due to their close resemblance to many Pokémon characters and friendly design. They’re so popular that a lot of people started using them in social networking services in the country. 

Arabian Nights Sindbad

This one will be remembered by most of the older generations, as it first aired back in 1975; it reached the Middle East in the 1980s, quickly becoming popular with the kids in the region.

While it looks dated today compared to the other entries in the list, the anime followed the main character Sindbad when he was a child as he joins his uncle on a new adventure, only for them to get separated when a whale destroys their ship. 

Similar to the previously mentioned “Magi” anime, this one also loosely based some of its episodes on the stories from “One Thousand and One Nights,” and brought in characters like Ali Baba and Aladdin in support roles to aid Sindbad on his adventures.

The anime lasted for one season with 52 episodes full of fun and adventures. However, while it would be a nostalgic trip to go through the episodes, looking at it from a 2022 perspective, the anime features some stereotypes that many might find offensive.

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