MEDIA | When today’s 30-something’s go nostalgic, they go online and dig. Ahmad Humeid does his own digital shovelling
The other day I had one of the strangest business meeting. Stuck in a typical Ramadan traffic jam in Amman, I arrived 20 minutes late for my appointment at my client’s office. But instead of rushing to see my presentation, the two partners in the firm were interested in something totally different.
“Are you into animated series?” one of the partners asked me. Without waiting for an answer he already had launched a video file on his laptop’s screen. The other partner was already loudly demanding that the screen be tilted toward him so he can see better. I just stood there not believing what I saw? It’s GRENDIZER.
If you grew up in the Middle East in the early 80s, then there’s a big chance that Grendizer (dubbed in Arabic by Lebanese actors) was part of your childhood. For those of you too young to remember or if you were living underground during that time, Grendizer was absolutely the greatest Japanese animated science fiction series during that time. These were the days when our choice of TV was either JTV’s Channel 3 (Arabic), Channel 6 (English, French and that Hebrew news bulletin) or Israel TV. Those with longer TV antennas could see Syrian TV too.
Anyway. So there we sat, three thirty-something’s watching a 20 minute episode of Grendizer, making comments about the absurdity of some scenes (like when the hero, Duke Fleed, navigates his Grendizer UFO/Robot hybrid, skilfully avoiding the laser beams of a hundred UFOs shooting at him simultaneously), laughing our heads off at the “scientific” dialogue and forgetting about everyday business.
As children we used to patiently wait every week for ‘Grendizer day’. I used to go and watch it with my best friend in the neighbourhood. We knew the opening theme by heart. A rush of excitement would overcome us when Grendizer used his various weaponry (with names like ‘Space Thunder’ and ‘Rotating Cutter’) to slash the enemy monster-robots to pieces.
I left that meeting with 2 video files on my laptop (Episode 1 and 4 out of 74 or so episodes in existence). Back at home, visibly excited, I called my wife and six year old son to the kitchen table to show them “my favourite TV show as a kid”. My wife was amused at the idea. She didn’t grow up in one of the “Grendizer Countries” which included Japan, Canada, France and Italy.. Oh well.. But my son was totally hooked for the duration of the 2 episodes, eagerly demanding to see them again and again! Here’s an animated series created in the mid Seventies in Japan (by Anime master Go Nagai) that still grabs the attention of a kid in 2004. If that’s not proof of the power of original content and storytelling I don’t what is!
The act of Thirty-something’s looking for old songs, TV shows and even computer games is what I call Digital Archaeology. And I can tell you: it’s BIG. It’s one of those wonderful things that are only possible on the internet.
A Google search on Grendizer (aka Grandizer, Goldrake) revealed a whole universe of fan sites with everything from video clips to historical and plot information. One of the biggest sites, Grendizer.net is operated by a certain Wasim A. Ismail, an Arab living in Canada. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and, like millions of Arab children, fell in love with Grendizer and today is part of a small cottage industry, selling sets of home made DVDs of every episode and spin-off movie to nostalgic Grendizer fans. Mr Ismail’s DVDs have been created by combining high quality video, taken off original Japanese video discs (remember those?) and the Arabic sound from old video tapes. What a fan!
Now, my son can’t wait for my next meeting with the client as I promised him to bring back more Grendizer episodes.