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!”)