Why you do this?!: Light Novels and US Covers

In the US, light novels have an unfortunate problem: publishers trying to purge their light novel-ness, by changing the cover to something less “anime” looking.

The worst thing about these cover changes is that, even if the core finds them “horrible,” they might still be in the publisher’s economic interests. The cover just has to create more sales than it kills. Not many fans of a series, except for the most cantankerous, would refuse to buy a volume because of a cover change. So no matter how much fans rant online about the cover changes, if it helps even a few casual browsers pick it off the shelves, it’s a good business decision. Besides harming some vague concept of “audience goodwill,” of course.
It’s one thing when a publisher makes a mistake: they can realize, and change it on the future. It’s much worse when a publisher is doing the right thing, for them, but the wrong thing for you; there’s no fix coming there. On the other hand, as brick&morter book stores disappear, and LNs are bought primarily online, casual cover appeal gets less important. Despite that, most publishers still think we’re on the other side of the trend, as evidence by these (rather recent) cover changes:

Kieli, Yen Press:

Kieli: This is nicely representative. Instead of a beautiful picture, with attractice character design and a very mood-setting use of color, we get…a camera in photo-negative. And a cover like your average horror book, but with poorer design.

Gosick, Tokyopop:

This one just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why replace a beautiful, painting-like background with…orange? Still, it’s quite unfortunate that Tokyopop is dead, since I’d read Gosick no matter the bad cover choice.

Spice and Wolf, Yen Press:

The cover change so bad the publisher essentially admitted their mistake; vol. 2 and on has the original cover, with the changed covers as a removable dust jacket. The 1st volume had a dust jacked with the original cover, but its distribution was both flawed and limited.

For a positive note, here’s a changed US cover that I actually prefer to the JP cover, Rocket Girls, Viz/Haikasoru:

It’s anime-ness has been toned down, but not excessively. And I find the US cover’s composition and feel much more appealing.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. I was quite horrified to see the changed covers. Yes the last image is better because they took the time to offer an American sensibility to the anime – great illustration with no disrespect.
    Nice blog.


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