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A ‘Dragon Ball’ theme park is Saudi Arabia’s latest attempt to become the world’s playground. Some fans aren’t happy.

A 'Dragon Ball' theme park is Saudi Arabia's latest attempt to become the world's playground. Some fans aren't happy.
  • A huge new “Dragon Ball” theme park is coming to Saudi Arabia, the franchise owner said.

  • The series — one of the most successful Japanese cultural exports — has a dedicated fanbase.

  • Saudi Arabia is trying to become a flashy tourism hub — an image that clashes with its authoritarianism.

A massive theme park devoted to “Dragon Ball” is due to be built in Saudi Arabia.

The move marries one of Japan’s most beloved cultural exports with the Saudi desire to become a flashy entertainment and tourism powerhouse.

The owners of the Dragon Ball franchise announced Friday that Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya Investment Company would begin building the only theme park in the world devoted to “Dragon Ball,” the hugely popular manga series.

Here is a video hyping the project:

The park will be built over 500,000 square meters, featuring a 229-foot dragon and rides and other attractions based on the manga series, said the franchise in a statement.

It didn’t give a date for completion.

“Dragon Ball” is one of the most popular manga series in the world and follows the adventures of Goku, a creature with a tail who learns martial arts and seeks to obtain magical balls that can grant wishes.

There are several TV series, computer games, action figures, and several other spin-offs, making it one of the most lucrative media franchises in the world.

The new park is due to be built in Qiddiya City, a planned entertainment district on the fringes of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The announcement comes as part of Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to diversify the Saudi economy from its reliance on fossil fuels. As part of his Vision 2030 project, the kingdom is seeking to transform itself into a gaming, tourism, innovation, and sports destination.

Many fans of Dragon Ball posting on X greeted the news of the park’s planned location with disappointment, citing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

On one “Dragon Ball” fan subreddit, the news was greeted with comments like: “I’d prefer not to give the Saudis my money.”

“Such a thrilling announcement…until you read where it’s going to be,” posted another.

Saudi Arabia is governed under ultra-conservative Islamic laws, in which women have few rights and homosexuality is illegal, though Crown Prince Mohammed has sought to liberalize the image of the kingdom.

The NGO Human Rights Watch accuses Saudi Arabia of using its huge investments in sports and entertainment to “deflect” from those realities.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized for the brutal murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who the US says was killed by officials in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018, and the persecution of critics, both domestic and foreign-based.

Business Insider last year reported on a 30-year prison sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia to a critic of the Neom megacity, the centerpiece of the Vision 2030 project.

The news of the theme park came only weeks after the death of “Dragon Ball” creator Akira Toriyama, who died on March 8 aged 68.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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