Yen Press, license holder of the Spice & Wolf light novel series in the US, has recently released the cover art that they’ll be using on the first volume of the English release this December (left). I think it’s safe to say that among the fans of Spice & Wolf, the cover is seen as very much undesirable, others have phrased it more harshly than I.
The decision is based on a stigma in the US where cartoons are for kids and a book with a cartoon girl on the front would not attract the interest and audience desired. With a cartoon girl on the front, the book would appear to be marketed towards a younger audience, the content of the book however is aimed at an older audience. The disconnect between the cover and content would yield poor sales and they would likely not make the return on their investment that they desire. I can understand this, investing money into a franchise from one culture and trying to market it to a different culture can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean I have to like their choice.
One comment I read mentioned a very important observation I’d over looked, what’s the reader going to think after purchasing the book, opening it up and seeing the original artwork inside by Jū Ayakura? The difference between the cover and Jū Ayakura’s artwork is so vast, will the reader think they’ve been had? I think I might have thought that if I didn’t already know better.
Yen Press knowing that fans of the series would likely find the new cover unappealing they’ve decided to offer a slip cover to replace the new cover (right). However this slip cover only comes as a ‘gift’ in their December Magazine, which will mean one would be required to buy that in addition to the novel. Business wise this seems like a sound plan, get a bit of extra revenue and perhaps increase interest in their magazine. But even this better cover doesn’t feel quite right, the original cover on the Japanese release has monochrome text across Horo’s chest. The replacement cover in Yen Press’ Magazine has a vibrant yellow/orange text that doesn’t blend well at all with the artwork behind it.
My personal thought on the replacement cover, Yen Press should have made it double sided, one side would have their fancy yellow/orange vibrant English text, and the other the original Japanese cover. This might of course cause other issues when using the Japanese cover, such as people assuming I can read Japanese, which I can’t, but I can deal with that.
Covers aside, I’m excited about the upcoming release and will still be purchasing the Spice & Wolf light novel series in it’s English release. Doing so with hopes that in the future, it will become popular enough that they no longer need to make these sort of stylistic changes for future volumes, as well as future series.