Covering Assassination Classroom

The brilliant covers from this bestselling manga get special treatment!

By Annette Roman October 04, 2016

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Soon I'll be meeting Yusei Matsui, the mangaka of Assassination Classroom, at New York Comic Con. I'm so curious about his personality! I met the artist and writer of Pokémon Adventures at San Diego Comic Con 2016, and they were so interesting and nice and funny! Sometimes artists are like their work and sometimes quite different. I wonder if Yusei Matsui likes flan as much as his character Koro Sensei? In the meantime…

As I was prepping the cover of Assassination Classroom, Vol. 12, which hits bookstores today, I realized fans might be interested in the backstory behind this series' unusual covers. What do you think of the unusual background pattern for this latest volume?

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 12

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But first, a quick summary of Assassination Classroom for those who (gasp!) haven't read it…yet. This is how I explain it to my non-manga reading friends: "Well, there's this teacher with a yellow smiley face for a head, plus he has tentacles, and his junior high students are trying to kill him to save the world, and he teaches them life lessons along the way through assassination skills, and there are a lot of other weird characters, and it's action-packed and funny and sweet."

In preliminary design meetings, we decided to preserve the original mono-colored cover style with Koro Sensei's minimalist face. Many of the original covers have a "PMS fifth color." This is a 100% ink color instead of the usual illusion of colors created with tiny dots of CMYK (Cyan, yellow, magenta, and black (I don't know why black isn't "B")) that you can only see individually by using a magnifying tool called a "loupe." It's the fifth color ink that gives the yellow of vol. 1 and the orange of vol. 4 such a strong impact. (Notice that I didn't say the inks make the covers more "impactful"…because that newly minted word doesn't fill a vocabulary gap, like, for example, the German word schadenfreude.)

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

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Assassination Classroom, Vol. 2

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It costs a bit more to do a cover "treatment" that isn't just CMYK. Whenever you see a cool cover with foil or fifth colors or embossing, know that some editor begged their boss for permission to add it. If we could, many of us would have sparkles on all our covers to draw attention to our books and because, well…sparkles! Check out the rainbow jeweled effect we retained for Vol. 10 cover using a similar prism overlay... (Unfortunately you can't see the full prism effect in the digital image, because it's created with a thin overlay that's added to the physical printed cover.)

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 10

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Normally our covers feature color art of characters in dramatic or sexy poses. So we decided to pull one representative panel of Assassination Classroom out of the body pages and slap it on the back cover. For Vol. 1, designer Sam Elzway picked an image of Koro Sensei, the main character, and one of his students. The tentacles and look of horror give a quick impression of the themes of the book.

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

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For Vol. 2, I picked an action image with the main human character, Nagisa. The text had to stand on its own, and I had to have the balloon dialogue and sound effect lettered in advance—which was a pain. Incidentally, I hadn't read the script yet, so I didn't realize that Nagisa wasn't really fighting a crocodile; the image was just a metaphor for him struggling with a difficult test.

The original manga page the caption was taken from:

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The final back cover:

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 2

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From Vol. 3 on, I decided to choose images that didn't require text prep to save time and effort. This entailed finding images that didn't have to be touched up because balloons or sound effects overlapped them. This isn't as easy as it sounds.

For Assassination Classroom, Vol. 3, we chose a funny image of Koro Sensei in the bathtub. Unfortunately, it was inked lightly in the original, so the lines didn't show up as well as we'd hoped in the final printing. It's hard to guess how much the gloss added to a cover after the last proof will darken the image.

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 3

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For Vol. 4, we picked a sexy image of the students' English teacher, professional assassin Ms. Vitch. Sex sells, right?

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 4

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To see what I chose for the back covers of the other volumes, you'll have to check out your local bookstore, since most websites only show the front cover. Up to Vol. 12 is on the shelves now. Vol. 13, a creamy Pepto Bismol pink, will be available in December 2016—or this weekend for those of you attending New York Comic Con (while supplies last!). But please be sure to neatly return the volumes to the bookstore shelf. And put them in order while you're at it, would you, please? That's what I do when I'm skulking around the racks to see whether readers are enjoying the titles I work on.

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 13

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One more note about the Assassination Classroom covers… Have you noticed the circular smiley faces on the edges of the back covers? Some are black, some white, and some pale. If you look at the original Japanese editions, you'll find that they continue over the jacket flap. The faces actually represent a game of Othello being played from one cover to the next! But we don't have dust jackets on our graphic novels, so unfortunately our English covers only have a partial image of the game.

To see the game's progress, here's the original cover of Vol. 1…

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And here's the original cover of Vol. 12...

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One last cover, because it's not just sex that sells, it's also…cats! Although the scene this image was pulled from only took up about three pages of the manga, I worked it into the cover and text.

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 11

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New to the series? You can read the first chapter of Vol. 1 for FREE here.