Teen Girl Sherlock Holmes Novel “A Study in Charlotte” Gets Manga-style Cover: US vs. Japan Marketing in Action



The 2016 novel, A Study in Charlotte, about fifth generation teenage descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, has gone on sale in Japan. Its covers for the Japanese release are drawn by manga artist/illustrator Naru Narumi. Narumi’s previous manga works include Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san (“Koizumi-kun Loves Ramen”) and Wataru-kun no xx ga Houkaisunzen (“Wataru-kun’s xx is on the Brink of Collapse”).

A Study in Charlotte is not a manga, or based on an anime. It’s not even a light novel. Its author, Britanny Cavallaro, is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, while the source material is far removed from Japanese pop culture, I find it rather fascinating to look at how it’s being marketed to Japan.

First, while the cover retains the English title, the accompanying Japanese title is Joshikousei Tantei Charlotte Holmes no Bouken, or “The Adventures of High School Girl Detective Charlotte Holmes.” Instantly, the title positions her as a teenage heroine not unlike many of the ones you’d find in anime and manga.

Second, in the promotional image below, the text states, “Even readers who don’t know anything about Sherlock Holmes will enjoy this!” In other words, it is not targeting mystery fans or Holmes enthusiasts in its marketing. Or perhaps that segment is already assumed to be on board and they’re aiming to widen its audience.

Third, the depictions of Charlotte and Watson are manga-style, which contrasts with how Charlotte Holmes has been promoted in the US. The American cover is more abstract, while a movie trailer-style commercial for the book uses live-action actors rather than animated characters, grounding the world of the book in reality (even if it is based on the fiction that is Sherlock Holmes).

By rendering the characters of A Study in Charlotte as “manga characters,” there is the potential for perception of the story itself to change. I believe that Japanese light novels that utilize anime and manga-style illustrations often encourage readers to view the stories as if they are “reading an anime,” and it is possible that the same thing applies to even a translated American novel from an author who (I assume) has no ties to anime or manga.

Perhaps the high school setting of Connecticut prep school Sherringford transform into a Japanese fiction-style gakuen (academy) when viewed through the lens of a manga-style cover, much like the ones found in A Certain Magical Index. The book describes Charlotte like so:

Her brows were startling dark lines on her pale face, and they framed her gray eyes, her straight nose. She was altogether colorless and severe, and she still managed to be beautiful.

This may very well conjure up an image of Charlotte in Japanese different from that of the faux-movie trailer. In fact, I find that it sounds much like light novel character Yukino Yukinoshita from Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, aka My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as Expected).

In any case, the response from Japanese readers should be interesting.

Sources: Comic Natalie, Amazon, Brittany Cavallaro Official Site