How well does cover art reflect the contents of a series? What happens when a cover shows a leisurely scene, but can be interpreted differently?
lolikitsune writes about the back cover artwork for Aria the Animation, region one release:
Unfortunately, the cover art is sexualized :(
I might’ve believed it, but he posted a picture of the said art, which shows nothing of the sort. The girls just do not want their skirts wet. Does he even know what “sexualized” mean?
Here is the artwork in question:
lolikitsune returns with:
Protip: their skirts wouldn’t even reach the water if they weren’t hiking them at all.
These girls wish to disagree:
The first comment adds this thought:
I’m surprised no one mentioned its angle
There are two questions to consider here: 1) is the artwork sexualized, and 2) is the artwork intended to be sexualized. If the latter, does this mean RightStuf! is lying about a product to sell the product?
I’ll begin with the last question, regarding RightStuf! using this artwork to sell the product.
Looking at Aria for sale on RightStuf’s web site, the image shown is the front cover, not the back cover in question. Additionally, the package I received in the mail came with a card advertising the manga this series originated from on its reverse side, and advertising Aria on the visible side. The card covers the back box image.
In other words, the artwork in question is not visible until one has purchased and opened the product.
In stores, I imagine the product will also be shrinkwrapped, but I don’t don’t know if the advertisement card will be included. Considering the visible side of the card advertises the series (the box doesn’t have a series description probably not to interrupt the artwork), my guess is that the back artwork will not be visible when looking at the box set on store shelves (but I could be wrong).
Next question: is the cover being used to sexualize the characters? I’m going to assume sexualize in this context to mean a focus on the alluring features of the female body, in this case the leg and thigh. (Me being an Expert-on-Cute-in-Training, I fail to understand the allure of anything not “cute”, but I digress.)
I don’t know how many artworks have been released showing Akari and her fellow water nymphs. I gather this image was used for two reasons: 1) it shows the main characters, not just Akari, and it shows the main characters at leisure. For a series such as Aria, is leisure not a suitable image to portray?
That leaves the first question: is the artwork itself sexualizing the characters. It’s already been established that the girls hold their dresses up to avoid getting them wet in water that goes an inch over their ankles. The water in the box’s artwork isn’t as high as in the above screenshots, but walking around in the water is visibly splashing the water about, and there’s no telling how high the tide is each time it rolls in during the depicted scene.
Next is the angle. The front cover, below, shows the girls being looked down upon slightly. The back cover (up above) shows the girls being looked up up slightly. This allows gives a complete view of a location up in the sky, as well as the sky, clouds, and sea gulls. The emphasis in the background is on the wide, blue sky.
I’m one of those people who’ll noticing the sexualization of characters from a mile away, but I’m with Author on this one: I just don’t see it here. Looking in the “Neo-Venezia Guidebook”, one can find images of the Japanese DVD covers and of promotional artwork, including the two box covers. These are also included in the “Collector’s Postcard Set”. Among these artworks, one will find:
- An artwork of Akari holding President Aria, and Aika beside her. They are standing before railing, and the camera is directly in front of them.
- An artwork of an Undine in a while and yellow outfit. The camera is directly in front of her.
- An artwork of Aika holding President Himeya. The camera is directly in front of them.
- An artwork of Aika and Akari with their oars, and Alicia sitting up close with President Aria in her lap. The camera is (arguably) lowered in front of them, angled facing upward slightly. (This is most visible when looking at Aika.)
- An artwork of Aika and Akari on a bridge, with Alicia and President Aria in a boat below. The camera here is up high, looking down at an angle at the girls.
- An artwork of Alicia holding President Aria, a green-haired Undine near her, Akari up front, and Aika close by. The camera is at a low angle, and tilted to the side, looking up at the girls from below.
- An artwork of a snowy scene, with Aika holding President Aria, the green-haired Undine in the back, and Akari catching the snow in her palm. The camera is again at a low angle, looking up at the girls while at a tilt.
The way I see it, there are just enough artworks from the lower angle to justify its use without it sexualizing Akari or the series. Rather, I think it puts a minor emphasis on Akari’s right foot, the water splashing as she steps, adding to the feel of “walking barefoot through the shallow beach tide”.
If you want to see what I’d call sexualizing, check out the cover for the region one box set of Princess Tutu. Even if it is official artwork, there’s no reason to use Rue dressed in such a way to sell a series where she’s only a secondary main character. Especially since that in no way represents the series at all.