If you ask fans in Egypt how they first started watching anime, most will have the same answer: Spacetoon.
Before the internet and social media became the main source of entertainment for kids, many were glued to the television — and Spacetoon was a favorite to watch. While the pan-Arab channel had a variety of shows, it has become well known among fans as Egyptians’ gateway into anime.
Whether they tuned in to ‘Captain Maged’ (the Arabic dub of ‘Captain Tsubasa’), ‘Abtal el Digital’ (The Heroes of Digital – which was the Arabic dub of ‘Digimon’), or ‘Dragon Ball,’ all are fondly remembered as childhood classics.
However, the Egyptian anime scene has come far since the formal Arabic dubs of Spacetoon.
With greater accessibility through the internet and the breakthrough of anime into more mainstream media, many more Egyptians have become fans — and how this came about is a story of its own, beginning with what aired on TV channels.
Anime on TV
MBC3 aired Arabic dubs of popular anime such as ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ and ‘Shaman King.’ The Egyptian fan base also expanded with Disney XD’s programs, featuring English dubs of ‘Bakugan Battle Brawlers’ and even various ‘Pokémon’ series.
More recently, the growing regional interest in the genre compelled Dubai-based network OSN to provide a selection of anime. Commercials for both ‘Bleach’ as well as ‘Legend of Arslan’ can easily be found airing on OSN channels.
Because anime has become so easily available on TV, new fans have been drawn in. In fact, a 2022 study on the state of streaming in Egypt showed that “Japanese Animation” was the third most in-demand subgenre across six different platforms.
As a result, these shows earned enough popularity to be featured in local movie theaters.
Cinemas Screen Anime Movies
More than TV, the bigger indicators of anime’s growing popularity in Egypt are the movies that aired in local cinemas in their original Japanese dub, complete with English and Arabic subtitles.
Both a local and worldwide sensation, the movie grossed over USD 507.1 million (EGP 15.6 billion) globally, and became the #1 Japanese animated film in the Middle East at the time.
In 2022, it was followed up by the highly-anticipated ‘One Piece Film: Red,’ which was screened at VOX Cinemas. Across several Middle Eastern countries, the film’s opening grossed USD 400,000 (EGP 12.3 million) just one week after its release.
With anime films and series performing well both on TV and in cinemas, it only follows that the growing community would take the next steps to create an event for themselves outside of digital spaces.
Beginning as a series of small gatherings in 2013, EGYcon became an official convention in 2014, organized to spread anime, gaming, and comic culture in Egypt. Now a biannual event, the convention celebrated its tenth edition in March of this year.
EGYcon also supports local artists by providing booths for them to sell anime-themed art as well as custom merchandise in a large commercial area. Local manga sellers are also welcome to sell translated volumes both in English and Arabic.
The convention became so well-known that the venue had to be changed from the Greek Campus in Tahrir to Family Park in New Cairo to accommodate the rising numbers of visitors. The attention it garnered even prompted beloved Egyptian comedian Mohamed Henedy to dare attendees to wear a funny cosplay to the event.
EGYcon is the largest convention of its kind in Egypt, attracting thousands of fans from all over the country. With a combined following of 75,000 on their official Facebook and Instagram pages, this convention is the culmination of the popularity of anime in the country.
Not only does it come full circle by prominently featuring the Arabic dubs that first endeared Egyptians to anime, but it also welcomes fans of all ages and backgrounds to participate. During the convention, one can see whole families in attendance just as frequently as individual fans.
All in all, anime culture has come a long way from the episodes on Spacetoon that used to keep young Egyptians glued to their television screens — and with the date of the 11th edition of EGYcon being announced just yesterday, 31 July, to an enthusiastic audience, it would seem anime will not lose its popularity in Egypt anytime soon.
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