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Manga Answerman - Why Do Some Shojo Publishers Use The Same Spine Design For Every Series?




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I_Drive_DSM



Joined: 11 Feb 2008
Posts: 154
PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:10 pm Reply with quote
A very interesting question.

Out of the ~500 or so manga graphic novels on my shelves I've noticed that I, possibly inadvertently, have them organized by genre rather than alphabetical. While English publishers obviously don't release one genre and my setup is a hodge-podge there's still some uni-formality in the titles in that titles from Shoujo Beat are together and titles from Shonen Jump are together, then there's a huge mix of everything from old TokyoPop releases to CPM, VIZ, and pretty much whatever else.

On the other hand I also have boxes upon boxes of "American Comic" format manga when publishers in the US used the comic format. Those are all alphabetical, simply because trying to organize near a hundred issues of Ah My Goddess shouldn't be lumped into another seinen series I may only have two issues of.

I do have quite a handful of Japanese language manga and I have to say in my personal opinion I do actually prefer the English (or American) versions of spines and covers, simply because of how unique a particular series tends to be. On top of most titles utilizing their English respective print font or similarly legible font a particular publisher's logo is typically prominent at the top of the spine. They're most always large enough to immediately identify a particular publisher but not intrusive enough to be annoying.
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Faiga_Raisa



Joined: 24 Feb 2008
Posts: 280
PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:17 pm Reply with quote
1. Fawn's design for Haikyuu!! is hella dope. It looks better than the original.

2. So with Japan's tutti frutti hot-red on blinding-white font spines answered, I have question myself. Since that is the spine art style that works for Japan, why it is used in America? As pointed out, books in-stores here aren't organized by publisher or genre. So the effect is lost. We do get the little front-cover icon on the spine but the majority of it is visually exhausting and repetitive.

If I was a window-shopper, none of these would really draw me in because I feel like they're all the same series. While that wild card Kamisama Kiss

looks interesting just from the spine and entice me to pick up a volume and flip through it and more inclined to purchase it.

I collect a lot of Viz's Shoujo Beat titles and struggle finding them on my book cases because they have nothing to differentiate themselves (I organize by publisher so that I don't have to keep shuffling around alphabetical shelves each time a series gets a new volume).

They don't even need to be rainbow colored, just something unique to tie the series together. Like the old Tokyopop Fruits Basket with that baby blue spine and their Mars series with the grey spine. Or Viz's Banana Fish release with that mustard spine.
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R. Kasahara
Collector ExtraordinaireCollector Extraordinaire


Joined: 19 Feb 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:08 pm Reply with quote
Great question, and very informative answer. A little sad to see that the old Hana to Yume tankoubon style isn't really a thing anymore, but modern manga covers are so attractive that it makes up for it. I'll have to look into that book that was mentioned, too.

Faiga_Raisa wrote:
2. So with Japan's tutti frutti hot-red on blinding-white font spines answered, I have question myself. Since that is the spine art style that works for Japan, why it is used in America? As pointed out, books in-stores here aren't organized by publisher or genre. So the effect is lost. We do get the little front-cover icon on the spine but the majority of it is visually exhausting and repetitive.

Does Viz still use that spine style for Shojo Beat titles? I don't read much shoujo these days, but I thought that they hadn't been doing the red-titles-on-white-spines thing on new/current titles for awhile now. Viz's SuBLime also had a similar uniform design, and that is no longer in use.
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lys



Joined: 24 Jun 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:28 pm Reply with quote
I love this question, and the informative answers from both Deb and Fawn!! (I've admired Fawn's design work for ages, it's really great to hear a bit of her insight into the topic!)

@Faiga_Raisa, I think when Viz initially started its Shonen Jump/Shojo Beat imprints, it also carried over the Japanese spine format. (CMX, if anyone remembers them, started out this way too with plain black titles on the spines, but switched quickly (mid-series) to more diversified spines) Maybe it was something the Japanese publishers requested, maybe an experiment to try the same "branding" technique on another audience. The red-titled spines you share are all among the series they published early on in the imprint's run. More recently licensed series like Oresama Teacher, Kamisama Kiss, Natsume's Book of Friends, and so on use the series' individual logo. I guess the red-title experiment didn't work in the English market, for reasons like you mention :)

I was sad the day I saw Margaret Comics drop its diamond borders, and sadder still when Hana to Yume discontinued its super iconic (and super template-y and difficult for US designers to work with, eheh) cover formats. It just felt like an end of an era, moving on from those recognizable bits of inter-series consistency. But pretty, well-designed covers aren't a bad thing, after all!

(Margaret and Hana to Yume still do have the red-title spines for their current books (rereleases and special editions are a separate matter). But Kodansha and Shogakukan's shoujo imprints are much more individualized, and occasionally even have a non-white background colour!!)

For anyone who cares, I like to keep my manga (both English and Japanese) organized by JP publisher/magazine, then author within that (tho if an author jumps around I'll prioritize keeping their series together over imprint).


Last edited by lys on Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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chronos02



Joined: 25 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:44 pm Reply with quote
A very interesting topic indeed, nothing I didn't expect though, safe for the bit about the limiting factors from a long time ago being dragged until the present day.

I believe Japan's approach is the correct one today, as far as I have seen, people don't look around the shelves and pick whatever's interesting anymore, they usually go directly to what they're looking for (moreso with this being a niche market), so something that helps identify the titles in question helps lots. I can't even remember the amount of times I have gone to a store to pick a specific manga and left without buying anything because I couldn't find it, only to be told later by the store's online store that it was available and was, in fact, on the shelves. organizing things by title is, in my honest opinion, a huge mistake today, moreso for foreign titles which you might remember the orignal title, but not the translation or modification of the title (As an example, "Kara no Kyoukai" is named "The Garden of Sinners" over here, and for months I couldn't find it since I had the impression they left either the orignal title or used its translation "The Boundry of Emptyness", only to eventually find out they used the subtitle for some odd reason; I could have found it by the publisher though, maybe even by the licencee publisher).
It would also help lots if the spines for certain publishers were similar and had some consistency (There are countless manga with very poor spine consistency, with different number fonts, even changing from roman to arabic systems, and some even changing bold, cursive, underlined, etc. text on random tomes), but as of now, it's as if they believe "uniqueness" will pick people's interest for impuslvie sales.

Still, I wonder what's going to happen with the switch to purely virtual libraries, less physical sales might mean that the investment made on the new designs for the Japanese covers will probably decrease, and only certain titles will get a physical version, but then again, those versions will probably be premium ones, so i guess they won't be stingy with design choices? Well, I'm mostly intrigued by the transition though, hopefully it's a smooth one and we end up seeing the full prowess of these new design studios within the new virtual libraries.
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:18 pm Reply with quote
@lys

Back when CMX was still using their original logo on book spines, I noticed something odd. Some employee at the local Walden Books had filed all of the CMX titles together as if they were a single series titled CMX. It sort of made sense as the their logo was in much larger print than the actual title. When they changed this, I always assumed it was due to other stores having the same problem.

I file my books by size first, then by publisher and last by series. I've never seen the point of alphabetizing.
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crosswithyou



Joined: 15 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:44 am Reply with quote
Oh hey, Fawn! Gosh I haven't seen her in so long.

Interesting question, and one that I never thought about because I'm so used to the Japanese designs and don't buy any English manga.

I very much agree with Fawn's evaluation that the way they sell manga in Japan is different so designs don't need to be as colorful, at least not in the past. It also is nice to walk down an aisle and have an idea of which publisher is represented there.
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lys



Joined: 24 Jun 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:47 am Reply with quote
@Alan45, Oh wow, haha!! I guess there is a danger in having a logo TOO prominent on the spine! (it was kind of obnoxiously large...)
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Aphasial
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:18 pm Reply with quote
While it's not a direct comparison, since these are re-releases and the English Lit market is far different than the Japanese Manga market, it's interesting to see similarities here in how certain publishers handle their releases -- most notably, Penguin Books.

In fact, Penguin Classics strike me as the *only* fiction books I've ever seen organized or grouped by *publisher* at my local Barnes and Nobles. And with a distinctive style, you can tell instantly what they are.

Of course, almost Penguin's entire history has entailed this sort of "house brand", so publishers like them at specialty ones like The Easton Press might be the exceptions that prove the rule in the US market. Still, it's what I thought of first.
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Buster Blader 126



Joined: 14 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:07 pm Reply with quote
R. Kasahara wrote:
.
Does Viz still use that spine style for Shojo Beat titles? I don't read much shoujo these days, but I thought that they hadn't been doing the red-titles-on-white-spines thing on new/current titles for awhile now. Viz's SuBLime also had a similar uniform design, and that is no longer in use.


Only their ongoing series from that era still keep that style of spine design for consistency's sake, such as Skip Beat! and Kaze Hikaru. (And I think they're the only continuing series left from that batch that use it, if we're excluding titles on indefinite hiatus such as Honey Hunt and NANA.)
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