After Cactus Matt brought out a favourite manga cover art list, I ended up thinking over all the fun things you can do with cover art and ended up with this list.
It’s interesting to see what manga artists can do with their cover art to keep readers coming back…A lot of these are just features to make a manga stand out, but certainly some thought has to have gone into the presentation if it’s there in the first place.
Change the character’s occupation (Black Butler)
Aside from the omake on the back inside cover, Black Butler’s gimmick for the inside front cover is putting people in different occupational outfits and then calling the image “Black [occupation]”. It’s been a while since I last looked at a Black Butler volume, but I seem to remember there being a “Black Host” in that list somewhere.
Hide a character on every cover (Houseki no Kuni‘s Cinnabar, occasionally One Punch Man‘s Saitama)
This is one of the easiest ones to do for obvious reasons, and the one that inspired me to write this up in the first place if you paid any attention to the comment section on the inspiration post. However, this one can be easily foiled by marketing/design people who decide to cut off the art on the flaps of the Japanese tankobon covers, thereby cutting off where the character was hiding…
Perspective changes the means (One Punch Man)
One Punch Man’s Murata not only produces great art, he’s also great at perspective. You can’t see it on the English volumes because the back flap image was truncated to fit the volume, but on the Japanese volumes, the back cover’s inside flap can be propped up to make the image look more 3D. Don’t get what I mean? Take a gander at this.
Create a more complete image using the spines (Dragon Ball, Angelic Layer omnibuses)
This one’s great for collectors, and of course most manga fans are collectors so it makes sense to give a bonus to those who’ve collected a few volumes in a row. I’ve seen similar things happen with non-manga books, too (notably Cirque du Freak novels with letters), so it’s probably not that notable though.
Create a story with the spine images (Detective Conan)
This one’s a specific variation on what you can do with the spine images. If you line up a bunch of Detective Conan volumes in order, you’ll get a little sequence of images of the title character which you can then interpret as a storyboard of sorts. Conan’s been subjected to all sorts of things in that…some of them aren’t very pleasant, as is standard for a mystery manga.
Have one “main” character on every cover (various)
Originally, I was meaning what they have for Bleach – one cover per character with little duplication of characters, if any, which would then allow this to count series like Black Butler and Tokyo Ghoul. However, there are a lot of potential variations to this: Kaguya-sama: Love is War sometimes has couples appear and sometimes adheres to this, One Punch Man sometimes has Saitama in the background of other characters’ covers as mentioned earlier…and so on, so forth.
However, the real reason I didn’t specify “front cover” is Detective Conan with the so-called “keyhole characters”, which appear on the back cover. I remember volume 62 of that series (it’s got Shinichi in a costume) put me into a spin because Shinichi already appeared on the back of the first volume! By the way, the keyhole character tends to be involved in the volume, which makes it a bit similar to the next example…
Create a more complete image with the front covers (Arata Kangatari)
This one’s a special case because I only discovered this when Watase pointed it out in an afterword – it’s kind of like the spine images from earlier, only applied to the front cover. You have to grab at least two consecutive volumes and place them in sequence. The coloured bars on the covers will then align to create a more complete image featuring a bunch of characters who are relevant in the volume!
That’s just a bunch of things I came up with quickly – hence how one of the points holds a lot less water than the others – but do you have any favourites out of these? There must have been lots of examples I missed, so do you know of any more?