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Saudi Arabia’s biggest media company MBC Group has teamed up with anime publisher TokyoPop to create the MBC Anime Initiative.
MBC Group said it is doubling down on its commitment to the popular anime vertical, expanding its anime content on Shahid and introducing an investment fund for anime production. The companies announced the deal at the Anime Japan event in Tokyo.
MBC Anime is a brand-new hub dedicated to the licensing, promotion, and production of anime content in the region. The venture will be led by anime and manga expert, Stu Levy, founder and CEO of TokyoPop, which is an international distributor, licensor, and publisher of anime and manga.
Through the new initiative, MBC Anime will commission, produce, and invest in a series of anime titles. Often aimed at adults, anime refers to the wide range of Japanese animation that reflects multiple genres and features a distinctly recognizable visual aesthetic and storytelling approach. Much of it winds up in games, so don’t be surprised if that happens down the road.
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MBC Group has revealed plans to heavily invest over the next several years in the venture, with an ambition to expand further after this time frame. During the first investment period, MBC Anime aims to forge substantive relationships with key anime studios in Japan, supporting and investing in a multitude of compelling projects.
“Anime and manga are incredibly popular in the Middle East and North Africa, with Saudi Arabia being the leader in terms of viewership in the region. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in events and activities related to this art form,” said Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC Group, in a statement. “We are thrilled to announce that Stu Levy has joined us to head up MBC Anime. Stu is a renowned figure in the anime industry, known for his expertise in distribution, licensing, and publishing. We’re very excited about the prospects for this cooperation.”
TokyoPop’s Levy said in a statement, “Having worked with the talented team at MBC Group over the past couple of years, I’ve been impressed by their licensing approach and dedication to the space. Their commitment to not only anime, but building long-term relationships in Japan made me confident of the real potential for exciting growth opportunities working together.”
The Saudis are making a big push into games and other entertainment, along with this anime push. But the kingdom’s record on human rights and other political issues have made the investments controversial in some circles.