Jul 31, 2009
I bought a couple of manga today at Barnes and Noble, including two Shojo Beat titles, the first volumes of Kimi Ni Todoke and Black Bird. It just struck me that they looked different than the usual Shojo Beat books. Neither of them had those giant ugly volume numbers in the bottom right hand corner nor the boring author font with "Story and Art by" stamp on the left bottom corner and border on the bottom edge. I've never been a fan of the generic design of any of Viz's "line" manga, like Beat and the Shonen Jump titles. To me, they make the books look boring and take away from the beauty of the covers. But I guess they do make them instantly recognizable as belonging to a certain genre. But the Shojo Beat titles in particular suffer. A machine just stamps every cover with no regard as for how it's going to affect the art. If you're lucky Viz tries to change the color of the volume number or the author info to blend in better with the colors in the cover art...if you're lucky.
But with these two titles, Beat seems to be de-emphasizing the Shojo Beat brand, especially with Kimi Ni Todoke. "Shojo Beat" is nowhere to be found on its front cover. Instead of the humungoid volume number on the right there is a stylized 1 at center bottom. Even the author's name is given a more personalized font that fits the feel and style of the manga. You do have the Shojo Beat website and UPC code on the back bottom just like usual but no huge banner at the top.
Blackbird has a more traditional Viz design but again does not crowd its cover with Shojo Beat insignia, borders, and unsightly font. Instead it has ethereal, airy blacks and reds with a smaller author credit and warmer volume number that fits in with the cover. On the back you do have the Shojo Beat banner at the top but the web address has been left off, hopefully to not cut across and cover up the art.
I hope Viz starts treating all their Shojo Beat title cover designs like these two titles. You need to bring attention to the ART, not to the volume numbers and product line. The original artists designed the art on the covers for a reason, to catch the eyes of browsing readers, not to be distorted or even erased. It makes the Beat titles look much more attractive. It's fine to keep generic looking spines, but show the covers more love.