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Specialising in manga illustration is what sets this Japanese college in Subang Jaya apart

Not too long ago, an Anime Fest hosted by Paradigm Mall, PJ caused massive traffic congestion on the LDP. Guests inside the mall had people navigating shoulder-to-shoulder at a snail’s pace. 

Such a large number of fans presents the demand for the anime and manga subculture in this country. 

Couple that with the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s Look East Policy, and you get a Japanese illustration and manga college breaking ground in Bandar Sunway, Selangor.

Enrolments are currently open and classes are set to begin this September 5.

Bridging the borders

The Nippon Designers School Malaysia College (NDS) is said to be the first Japanese-based creative college to open in Malaysia. 

Launched in June 2022, it will feature a practical curriculum incorporating Malaysian and Japanese cultures. This is in addition to the training in manga, illustration, animation, and other creative disciplines.

For example, Japanese language and cultural classes will be offered in the school, as the team believes that learning about them can lead to new creativity.

“In addition, a deeper understanding of these aspects of manga and anime will help students to develop their skills more effectively,” said NDS Malaysia’s representative, Kai Yamashita (KY).

Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College

Since we were unfamiliar with how manga production techniques differ from conventional illustration and animation ones already offered in a few Malaysian colleges, KY took the liberty to explain.

“Unlike illustrations, which convey a visual impression with a single image, and animations, which are created by several people working together, manga is sometimes like a film that is created by the creator alone,” he noted. 

Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College

“It requires drawing skills and the ability to express how to convey to others the story that is spread out in the individual’s imagination. This is why the interesting thing about the art of comics is that unexpected stories can emerge.”

Transferring to The Land of the Rising Sun

Hailing from Shibuya, Japan in 1965, NDS also has a sister school in Kyushu, Japan, with a total of 35,000 graduates. 

Some notable projects graduates have been involved in include the Pazudora TV series, Zekkaku Gakkyu, and the Kotaro Lives Alone manga series that’s currently on Netflix, amongst others.

Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College

Students who are part of NDS Malaysia’s course will get the opportunity to study in Japan via exchange programmes, study trips, and art exhibitions.

Transfer decisions will be based on the credits students have earned and on the coordination of credits with sister schools in Japan. 

“Even if students do not transfer and are still enroled in the Malaysian school, they can receive employment support from the sister school in Japan, and depending on their achievements and abilities, there is a possibility of employment in a Japanese company,” elaborated KY.

Calling for Malaysian students

A two-year and seven-month Diploma in Manga Illustration is currently NDS Malaysia’s only course available for now. Speaking to Vulcan Post, KY shared that the school will consider opening more as needed, such as a 3D animation department.

NDS Malaysia is targeting 80 students to be a part of its first intake and graduates batch. Setting up the college close to Monash and Sunway University is one way the school hopes to approach its target group.

In addition, NDS Malaysia will run trial classes, workshops, information sessions, and individual consultations along with school tours to help convince students to enrol.

Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College

Seeing that the latest digital illustration devices and established Japanese lecturers are involved in the programme, I figured that the course fees for the Diploma in Manga Illustration would be hefty.

KY shared that tuition fees are set at RM68,700 for the entire programme. In justifying the price, he said that the college has had over 50 years of experience in Japan and many connections in the art industry.

Not to mention, there will also be events such as special workshops with famous creators in the curriculum, hence the price range of the programme.

Of course, scholarships will be offered in partnership with JAGAM, an organisation in Malaysia that supports students studying in Japan. Five students will be selected for a full tuition fee waiver, and another five for a first-year tuition fee waiver. 

The screening system will consist of a three-stage screening of documents, artwork, and an interview.

Convincing parents of a career in arts

Although Malaysians are starting to embrace the arts as a viable career, there are parents who are still hesitant to send their children to such a specialised programme as manga illustration. 

KY agreed, adding that the team has been alleviating such concerns by carefully explaining the possibilities of such skills and the different jobs available during consultations with parents. 

“We also explain to them that they will receive full employment support not only from NDS Malaysia, but also from our partner companies, our advisor, the president of the Malaysian Cartoonists Association, and our sister schools in Japan, so that the parents are fully convinced before they enrol their children,” KY acknowledged.

Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College

But say a student doesn’t get to pursue their dream career in Japan creating manga and anime for a studio.

What potential then does the Malaysian creative market have in fostering these graduates from NDS with such specialised knowledge and skills in manga production? 

KY pointed out that while manga and animation skills are used in numerous industries in Japan, they may still be rare in Malaysia. 

However, that could simply be because there have been few prior programmes to easily hone these skills locally, so NDS’ launch might be the catalyst to create change in Malaysia’s creative industry.

  • Learn more about the Nippon Designers School Malaysia College here.
  • Read other education-related articles we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Nippon Designers School Malaysia College




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