Manga as Near-Weekly Read: Naruto This Fall

Viz will be releasing Naruto three times a month beginning in September:

In order to catch up to the present Japanese release schedule and to prepare readers for upcoming notable changes in the main character and story arc, VIZ Media will offer three new volumes of NARUTO per month from September through December 2007 — a first for any U.S. manga publisher.

The new publishing schedule will carry the series up to Volume 27, after which there is a significant break in the story arc: Two and a half years pass, and we find Naruto taller, older, and wiser. To support NARUTO NATION, VIZ Media’s SHONEN JUMP magazine will continue to serialize the NARUTO series, will provide in-depth background information for fans about the developments in the accelerated manga, and will begin to feature the new adventures of the older Naruto beginning in the January 2008 issue (estimated in stores December 4, 2007).

The specific manga release schedule is as follows:

September 2007: NARUTO Vols. 16-18
October 2007: NARUTO Vols. 19-21
November 2007: NARUTO Vols. 22-24
December 2007: NARUTO Vols. 25-27

This flabbergasts me. To go from a book every other month or longer to 12 books in four months? That shows real faith in the strength of the franchise. And a huge opportunity for profit, if sales don’t drop off too badly.

Some have speculated that this will get them past a slow, not-as-fan-favorite period in the story; others wonder if Viz is trying to stay ahead of scanlations (thus driving more people to buy before they read) or wring as much as they can from customers before the craze ends. (Will it? They’ve said that about manga overall for years now.)

I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone comment on how more frequent releases make manga more like the traditional superhero comic. Naruto’s only $7.95 a book, and some of the Prestige format superhero series are $6.95 for a much thinner (although color) issue. If this plan succeeds, it’s one more thing that superhero comics used to be the only choice for (frequent serialized chapters) that manga might make inroads on. (And one more thing for retailers uncomfortable with manga to bitch about: “they come out too often!”)

17 Comments

  1. James Schee

    Huh… sounds kind of like what DC and MArvel do with their big franchises. Instead of trying to get those readers to try their other series, you just flood it with the same.

    I wonder if the kids, or should I say their parents, can keep up with that kind of pacing. A book every other month or so fine, as the parent can won’t miss that much and can be proud that their kid is reading. Yet $96(before sales tax!) worth in 4 months? I can see parents starting to pay attention then.

  2. [...] Comics Worth Reading, Johanna comments on the upcoming Naruto blitz: I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone comment on how more [...]

  3. John Morrison

    Well it sure seems a good way to test just how loyial to the series its readers are :p)

    If it were a series I was following I’d be inclined to assume it will stay in print, and simply pick them up at my leisure. My local comics store can’t handle regular manga orders anyway, for some reason I have to order each volume individually, assuming I notice in Previews that another volume is coming out.. I have missed volumes already. They are going to drive me down to the newly opened Borders here if they continue doing that.
    Hipster Dad on Live Journal had an amusing post about this too.

  4. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, I don’t think you can overestimate the popularity of this series. Based on the number of Naruto cosplayers I see at conventions, this is the new Pokemon. Kids love the series and are buying anything and all things Naruto.

  5. John: good point about it staying in print (although some of the Tokyopop manga that hasn’t been true of). There’s less of a need to get to the store THIS WEEK than there is with superhero comics.

    What’s the LJ link you mention?

    Ed, oh, yeah, that’s the one with the headbands, right?

  6. Johanna, yes the headband with the metal plate on them. I won’t be suprised if all these volumes don’t sell as well on a weekly basis as they have on a monthly basis, especially since Viz was smart enough to do this when school is out.

  7. Oops. Sorry misread the dates when the volumes will start shipping. I still think they will sell well. Just disregard the remark about school being out.

  8. Mark Thorpe

    Maybe I missed something. So whats going to happen to the monthly Shonen Jump anthology, where Naruto appears as a part of the line up ? Do they keep the same pace of 32 pages of story per magazine or are they going to up the page count? Did I miss something? I buy Shonen Jump because I dont want to buy five hundred grapic novels a month. So whats the scense of buying Shonen Jump when the graphic novels are going to be miles ahead?

  9. Tommy Raiko

    The other aspect of all this that I haven’t seen discussed much is what this means for other manga publihsers. Such a massive increase in output for the best-selling manga series means there’s going to be a lot of Naruto on the shelf, and that much less room for anything else.

    I don’t think that commanding market share is necessarily the reason VIZ is doing this accelerated schedule, but I do suspect it’ll be one of its effects.

  10. Regarding Shonen Jump, they said: “SHONEN JUMP magazine will continue to serialize the NARUTO series, will provide in-depth background information for fans about the developments in the accelerated manga, and will begin to feature the new adventures of the older Naruto beginning in the January 2008 issue (estimated in stores December 4, 2007).”

    So it looks like they’re jumping it ahead.

    Tommy, interesting point. Marvel was accused of trying that as a strategy in previous years. Is bookstore space that limited, though? Many that I’ve seen have expanded their manga sections over the past few years. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

  11. The surface explanation is also interesting. In order to catch up to the present Japanese release schedule. I’m not too familiar with manga, but it was my impression that there was sometimes serious lagtime between the original Japanese and the English translation. Which it definitely appears there was in Naruto’s case if they have to print 12 books in 4 months to catch up.

    Come January, will this be the only manga title releasing the Japanese and English together?

  12. John, actually Excel Saga has caught up with the Japanese edition and will be published as soon as they can get it translated, the same for Hellsing. These two are the rare exceptions. The usual process is for the US editions to be a year behind the Japanese editions. Although Del Rey is getting ready to publish a new manga that is will only be 3-6 months behind the Japanese editions. So maybe we are seeing a new trend starting.

  13. I think something similar has happened with movies, with worldwide release dates moving closer together. In an internet-connected global world where interested audiences can find out about something as soon as it’s released anywhere, tiered roll-outs no longer make as much sense.

  14. Naruto won’t get caught up to the Japanese release schedule by this — it’ll go from about 4 years behind to 2. That’s based on the Japanese vol 28 I have which says it was published June 2005, and Wikipedia listing 37 volumes.

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  16. So now their playing catch-up…well as much as they can though to date it’s up to vol. 38 :3

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