Towards Manga as Cultural Potpourri

Dramaturgy of Ethnicity and Diversity in Selected Malaysian Manga



Malaysian manga, cultural odorlessness, dramaturgy, ethnicity in comics, diversity in comics


Recently, there has been an increase in the consumption and production of Japanese comics or manga in Malaysia, to the extent that Malaysians are producing their own homegrown manga titles. For example, Gempak Starz, a Malaysian comics and manga publisher, has been instrumental in spearheading the launch of many localised manga titles. Manga, which originates from Japan, has often been the topic of debate, regarding its depiction of characters, especially in terms of ethnicity. Iwabuchi (1998) used the term “culturally odorless” to describe the way in which many manga characters do not appear to belong to any particular ethnicity or culture. My research question is, how does Malaysian homegrown manga differ from the standard Japanese manga? For example, are there visual and thematic differences? Does it have potential for social critique and education? This paper analyses the way ethnicity and diversity are depicted in several selected manga titles from Gempak Starz’s most popular manga series, highlighting the ways in which ethnicity and culture are made recognisable. I comparatively analyse the dramaturgical approach in selected Japanese manga and selected Malaysian manga published and translated by Gempak Starz. I ultimately confirm that there is indeed a second wave of manga in Malaysia that transcends the initial “culturally odorless” appearance of traditional Japanese manga as outlined by Iwabuchi (Chan, 2018).

Author Biography

Rachel Suet Kay Chan, Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA)

Dr. Rachel CHAN Suet Kay is a Research Fellow (Senior Lecturer) at the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), National University of Malaysia (UKM). She specialises in cultural sociology, having written on cultural capital flows between East Asia and the West, and most recently, cultural heritage. She received her PhD in Sociology and MA in Sociology by Research from the University of Malaya; and a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Diploma in Economics from the University of London.




How to Cite

Chan, R. S. K. (2023). Towards Manga as Cultural Potpourri: Dramaturgy of Ethnicity and Diversity in Selected Malaysian Manga. Journal of Ethnic and Diversity Studies (JOEDS), 1(1). Retrieved from