Beginning in January 2010, Viz plans to catch up on publishing One Piece manga volumes (to bring the US series closer to the Japanese run) by publishing five of the books a month for six months. In January, that will be volumes 24-28.
Suddenly, manga is competing directly with the weekly American comic habit, only the books are bigger and $10 a pop. A new dedicated website, OnePiece.viz.com, will provide character and plot summaries and free sample chapters.
“This will be our most ambitious accelerated manga publishing schedule for any property thus far, and we are confident it will be a huge success, as ONE PIECE is an exciting series that enjoys a large and very dedicated following in North America,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President Sales & Marketing for VIZ Media. “Pirate stories are known and loved the world over and ONE PIECE, with its zany cast of characters and high seas action, enjoys more than 177 million copies in-print in Japan alone. We look forward to new and old fans alike exploring these fun adventures as each month Luffy and his cohorts search for the elusive One Piece treasure.”
Assuming that this series will be released at the new price point of $9.99, that’s $50 a month to follow a goofy comedy series. Viz says there’s a large audience for this, but I’ve never heard anyone talking about it. Maybe it’s successful among boys or some other group I have no contact with. And hopefully the economy will have recovered enough by then to make this kind of purchase seem more reasonable.
Manga Xanadu succinctly sums up fan reaction so far with the headline “Are They Nuts?” The point is also made that if fans do buy the accelerated releases, it will take money away from other manga series. Viz can likely weather a decline in their other series, but can other publishers?
On the other hand, maybe this creates an opening for vendors to create discount packages: the month’s five books for $40, perhaps (which would bring the cost to the reader back to the original Shonen Jump price point of $8 a book) in return for preordering the set. Every change creates opportunity.