Japanese company Dynamic Planning and Saudi Arabia’s royal family-owned Manga Productions have entered a strategic partnership that will see this Middle Eastern country use UFO Robo Grendizer (UFOロボ グレンダイザー) characters in games, amusement centers, and various other events in the Middle East.
Namely, Manga Productions — a leading entertainment company in Saudi Arabia — has acquired the intellectual property (IP) license for UFO Robo Grendizer in the Middle East. As per multiple Japanese sources, a “new large-scale development” of Grendizer is “about to begin in the Middle East.”
For the time being, we know that the 1970s robot animation is getting a reboot in Saudi Arabia, with a possible extension to other Middle Eastern countries. No countries have been specified as of yet, so we’ll keep an eye on the developments as this chain of events is literally the most interesting news we’ve had in a long while.
The deal was finalized on November 18, 2022, according to several Japanese sources, which also cite that Manga Productions is dead set on promoting the “entertainment industry” in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
Manga Productions to ‘promote Saudi ideas and messages internationally’
The royal family-owned business is branching its operations into a “wide range of entertainment areas,” including manga and anime. Manga Productions has also professed its “profound interest” in the Japanese entertainment industry.
Manga Productions is a subsidiary of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, a.k.a. MiSK (the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia inspired the name). The company has previously stated it’s planning to create animation, comic, and video game content to “promote Saudi ideas and messages internationally.”
As for this particular case, MiSK has stated it sees a business opportunity in the IP business by “rebooting and revitalizing popular animations of the past.” Apart from Grendizer, the company hasn’t revealed any additional future business plans.
In October 2017, MiSK signed a memorandum with Japan’s Digital Hollywood University, which stipulates training of Saudi programmers and designers in creating animation and games.
The Journey anime film: A Japanese–Saudi Arabian co-production that went under the radar abroad
Another project that has, sadly, gone unnoticed outside of Japan and the Middle East, is the anime movie titled The Journey (Arabic: الرحلة, Japanese: ジャーニー 太古アラビア半島での奇跡と戦いの物語, Jāni Taiko Arabia Hantо̄ de no Kiseki to Tatakai no Monogatari, full unofficial English title “Journey: The Story of Miracles and Battles of the Ancient Arabian Peninsula”).
The Journey focuses on a potter named Aus, who decides to join a battle to defend Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. The anime film premiered in Japan on June 25, 2021. The film is available on Crunchyroll to select international audiences.
The Journey is a Japanese–Saudi Arabian co-production produced by Toei Animation and Manga Productions, directed by Kōbun Shizuno (the Detective Conan franchise) and written by Atsuhiro Tomioka (the Pokemon franchise).
Tatsurō Iwamoto (the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game series) was handling character design, whereas Kaoru Wada (Inuyasha) was the music composer.
The anime movie is based on the Year of the Elephant (عام الفيل ), when Muhammad, the founder of Islam was born. The year itself is variously attributed to either 570 or 571, based on different Islamic sources.
The Journey cast members include:
- Toru Furuya — Aus
- Kotono Mitsuishi — Hind
- Hiroshi Kamiya — Zurara
- Yūichi Nakamura — Nizar
- Kazuya Nakai — Musab
- Takaya Kuroda — Abraha(m)
Even though the movie got a shy reception outside of Japan and the Middle East, in these two countries it has attracted a good deal of attention. It is seen as one of the most important projects connecting the Japanese- and Middle-Eastern entertainment industries to date.
About Dynamic Planning
Dynamic Planning is a licensing company owned by Go Nagai. Established in 1974, the business has been credited in all of Go Nagai’s animated works as either the producer or the planner.
Mazinger Z is one notable example of success. The manga was authored by Nagai and serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump from October 1972 to August 1973. From October 1973 to September 1974, Kodansha TV Magazine reprinted the entire series.
Mazinger Z has received several anime adaptations and a spin-off manga by Gosaku Ota that was released alongside the Mazinger Z second anime series. Mazinger Z has inspired numerous sequels, notably UFO Robot Grendizer.
At the time of its original release, Mazinger Z enjoyed high success throughout Asia, Spain, Latin America, Italy, and France (where it was known as Goldorak and Goldrake).
In 1994, Dynamic Planning established an International Division headed by Go Nagai’s brothers Kenji Nagai and Federico Colpi, which went on to found The Dynamic Group of Companies, a network of associated businesses throughout Europe and Asia.