From 'Captain Majed' to 'Adnan wa Lina': 12 classic Arabic-dubbed animated series you can watch online

Featuring everything from intergalactic battles to 16th-century explorers, these shows are fun, intense and even educational

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Before Instagram and Snapchat became the norm, a generation of the region's kids spent their after-school time in the 1980s bingeing on dubbed versions of animated Japanese manga series.

By bingeing, that meant having our eyes glued to the screen from 4pm to 6pm on school days to catch the latest series, as well as hassling our parents to visit large supermarkets such as the Abu Dhabi Cooperative, where they shelled out Dh30 for video cassettes (each) for other shows that we missed out on in previous years.

While some of these programmes can still be found in DVD form at the odd Adnoc service station on Sheikh Zayed Road, most of them are now available for our viewing pleasure on YouTube.

From the intergalactic battles of Grendizer and Jungar and the sporting triumphs of Captain Majed, to the friendship of Adnan wa Lina and ninja heroics of Sasuke, here are 12 shows (in no particular order and with their Arabic titles) that you can really watch right now, whether you're a Gen X newcomer or a nostalgic millennial.

1. 'Rajul Al Hadidi'

This was mandatory after-school viewing throughout the 1980s. The futuristic series (which first aired in Japan in 1977) is set in 1986, when thought-to-be extinct dinosaurs return to exact vengeance on humankind.  The only thing stopping them is the D-Force, led by sibling humanoids Kamal and Lamees.

2. 'Adnan wa Lina'

While this was a female favourite in the schoolyard, Adnan Wa Lina also had its fair share of male fans. In addition to being set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2008 (something which we fellas digged), the plot revolved around the deep friendship between the titular characters (who the girls liked) and their daily adventures – which we all loved.

3. 'Sanshiro'

Broadcast in the region from 1983, Sanshiro has as much intrigue as any drama. The title character is a young lad who wants to appear in a robot competition using his late father's creation, Gomaru, but hot on his trail is a secret syndicate of baddies. After killing his father and planning to use his robot technology to rule the world, these sinister types are now after Sanshiro and plan on destroying him and Gomaru.

4. 'Hekayat Alamiya'

This is edutainment at its finest. The anthology series is comprised of fun and informative recreations of international folk tales, from Ghana to the former Yugoslavia. And the song in the ending credit is so plaintive that it could make a sensitive 9-year-old teary (yeah, that was me) without knowing why.

5. 'Taw Taw'

The show that turned a generation of Arabs into panda fans. This series follows baby panda Taw Taw as he rummages through the lush Japanese forest for food and adventure. This series also has one of the saddest theme songs ever. It’s so emotional there should be a law against it.

6. 'Captain Majed'

The show responsible for a generation's love of football. The epic series follows the gifted and dedicated football player Majed in his journey from school hero to the world stage.

7. 'Al Hadaf'

If Captain Majed made us dream of being football stars, Al Hadaf gave us the warm feeling of what it means to be in a team. The series may have lasted only one season, but makes for heartfelt viewing as it traces the highs and lows of the Al Kamal football team, whose fortunes change with the arrival of star striker Ramy.

8. 'Grendizer'

Another seminal series that was a firm favourite in the region. On the surface, the plot resembles a standard intergalactic good-versus-evil saga, but dig deeper, and themes of environmental sustainability and tolerance emerge. Daisuke is not your conventional alpha male hero, either. He worries about keeping his alien background a secret from humans, and deals with the sadness of being an orphan.

9. 'Jongar'

Schoolyards were split between fans of Grendizer and Jongar. Where the former's plot was more brainy (for 7 year olds, anyway) Jongar appealed to our emotions with its tale of humanoid Kantaro who, with the help of his giant robot Jongar, must fight alien invaders from pillaging the Earth's natural resources.

10. 'Mughamarat Sinbad'

Translated as The Adventures of Sinbad, this 52-part series understandably found great success when its dubbed version arrived in the Arab world in the early 1980s. Washed ashore on a deserted land after his ship was side-swiped by a whale, Sinbad begins his many journeys across strange lands, where he encounters exotic animals, spooky musicians and his homies Ali Baba and Aladdin.

11. 'Mughamarat Sasuke'

A hit in the US (under the name Ninja, The Wonder Boy) the Arabic version had us following the escapades of the speedy and, in hindsight, rather intense ninja. Then again, our hero had every right to be pensive, as he was trying to stop forces of evil from instigating a civil war in his homeland.

12. 'Ahlam Dahabiya'

Before the Discovery Channel, we had Ahlam Dahabiya. The 39-part series follows the travels of 16th-century explorers who set sail from Europe to "the new world" of the Americas in search of treasure. This show was as fun as it was informative. Each episode ended with an epilogue where a wise-sounding narrator discussed the cultures and customs detailed in that particular story.


Read more:

'Grendizer’: meeting the two men behind the popular anime

Amal Hawijeh, the face behind the voice of Captain Majid

'We want to instil local pride': How Netflix picks its Arabic shows for Eid and beyond