Japanese Manga Helping Children In Syria? ‘Captain Tsubasa’ Keeping Young Syrian Refugees Inspired & Motivated

Japanese anime and manga have long helped its fans escape into a fantastical world full of superheroes, magic, spells, dragons, and other supernatural creatures. However, Captain Tsubasa, a rather vintage manga by mangaka Yoichi Takahashi, is reportedly bringing about a positive change in the real world that’s being torn by armed conflict.

The Syrian crisis isn’t showing any signs of subsiding or resolving. As developed countries continue to bombard Syria to end the ISIS menace, it is the locals who are reeling under the intense conflict that involves several parties. The most vulnerable section of the Syrian society is undeniably the children and young adults. To ensure the youth isn’t swayed by the terrorists, Obada Kassoumah, a Syrian student in Tokyo, has taken up the task of translating Captain Tsubasa, an interesting football-based manga. The translated manga is being distributed to refugees. The primary aim of Kassoumah is to ensure the children have something positive to focus on, rather than being physically and emotionally bombarded with negative and potentially depressing news about Syria.

Obada, a Syrian-origin student in Tokyo, never set out to translate manga for his people back in Syria. However, fate compelled him to take up the noble act. According to BBC News, through a mixture of chance and determination, Obada has become an expert translator of Japanese manga comics into Arabic. Many copies of translated versions of Captain Tsubasa have been printed and distributed to several aid agencies, and are being handed out to Syrian refugee children across Europe and the Middle East.

Obada came to Japan as an exchange student when the unrest in the country had just begun. Although he was suspected of being a rebel fighter, the Syrian student managed to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, when the situation in Syria showed no signs of a resolution, Obada was meticulously taken across international borders. After reaching Japan, Obada managed to remain in Japan by becoming a regular student, and began translating Captain Tsubasa as part of a business, but the job soon transformed into something big.

When the original copyright holders in Japan, Shueisha publishers, got wind of the philanthropic endeavors, they immediately conveyed their willingness to fund the donations. Captain Tsubasa is now being distributed to young Syrian children in camps across Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East. These young minds, who have escaped the terror and trauma of the civil war ravaging their home country, now have something positive and inspirational in their lives, reported BBC News.

Captain Tsubasa is a sports manga that focuses primarily on football. The series is famous for depicting dynamic and exciting football moves. Although majority of the moves are often too stylish and appear implausible, the series is very popular among football fans that fantasize about playing in the big leagues. Needless to say, football is a very popular sport in countries like Syria. However, poverty and war often prevent children from playing the game. Moreover, radical Islamic terrorists often forbid students from engaging in leisure activities, and instead force them to take up military training.

While several organizations focus on proving food, clothing, and shelter to the refugees, Obada attempted to introduce Japanese manga to children of the war-torn country. Speaking about a distribution event in Berlin, Prof. Masanori Naito, a Middle East specialist at Doshisha University in Kyoto, said,

“It is very far from the reality they know. But for kids it is very important to be able to escape from reality for a while. And these books can also give them some hope for their own future. Manga could even be a tool of soft power against despair and radicalization.”

[Featured Image by Yoichi Takahashi/Captain Tsubasa/Shueisha]