Emirati cartoon 'Freej' debuts on Japanese TV

The popular local show is the first Arab-produced animation to be exported to Japan

Mohammed Saeed Harib in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Atsushi Fujimoto
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Mohammed Saeed Harib's popular Emirati animation Freej has belatedly begun broadcasting on Japanese TV.

The show was initially due to hit Japan's screens in January, following a grand launch event at the UAE embassy in Tokyo last December.

However, following a three-month lag, believed to have been caused by delays to the Japanese voice-overs, the adaptation was broadcast on April 2, when Tokyo broadcaster Tokyo MX aired the first episode of the show at midnight (7pm UAE time).

New episodes of the show are now broadcast at midnight every Tuesday, and reportedly simulcast online at Japanese streaming site Abema TV.

Fans can also read a synopsis of the shows already broadcast on freej.jp, and Google Translate is available on this site for non-Japanese speakers.

Meanwhile, an online magazine show called Love Dubai in which a reporter explores the emirate, launches new episodes on the site every Tuesday to tie in with the cartoon. This show is designed to bring the UAE's touristic and cultural attractions to Japanese viewers.

Japanese fans have also been getting into the spirit of Freej by posting related artwork on social media, such as TechnoTIGZON's samurai interpretation of the show's character Um Khammas.

Harib’s popular cartoon, which follows the lives of four elderly Emirati matriarchs in a traditional area of Dubai, is the first Arab-produced animation to be exported to the Japanese market.

When The National spoke with Harib back in December, he said of the move: "This has been simmering for a while, so I'm just relieved I can finally talk about it. Like the show itself, it really just popped up from nowhere. It all started a few months ago when Sony Japan visited the UAE on a tour to discover more about the country and the content it has to offer and whether there's anything they want to invest in and take over to Japan.

"They saw Freej and, knowing the Japanese appetite for anything quirky in cartoons, they thought they could find a market for it there."

He's currently working on Rashid and Rajab with Abu Dhabi production house Image Nation. It is a body-swap comedy about a wealthy young Emirati entrepreneur and an Egyptian delivery boy who wish for each other's lives and are magically transformed. The film is slated for a summer 2019 release.