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Viz Speeds Up Naruto Releases

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on May 1, 2007 Sign up now!

by Brigid Alverson, PW Comics Week -- Publishers Weekly, 5/1/2007

Viz Media announced last week that it would put its bestselling manga Naruto on an accelerated schedule, publishing three volumes a month for the last four months of 2007. That would bring the series up to volume 27 by the end of December.

In addition, the December issue of Shonen Jump will include a story on the origin of Naruto that has never been published in English before. "This is the manga prototype that Masashi Kishimoto created for Naruto before the series was picked up for serialization by Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan," said Cammie Allen, Viz's product manager, publishing.

Viz has tagged the accelerated publishing campaign "Naruto Nation" and plans to release a number of other Naruto books to coincide with it, including ani-manga, an art book and a new Naruto novel. Allen said the company has been preparing for this initiative for some time, so the accelerated schedule will not affect other titles.

"Our main reason [for the accelerated schedule] was to catch up to the Japanese release schedule to give our readers a similar experience to that of our readers in Japan," Allen said. "We're also preparing for a significant break in the story arc, which happens between volumes 27 and 28. Two and a half years pass between these volumes and there is also a physical change in Naruto's and the other characters' appearance."

Naruto will continue to run as a serial in Viz's monthly anthology magazine Shonen Jump, Allen said, but the November and December issues will not carry the Naruto manga. Instead, they will feature story and character information to help readers keep up with the new volumes. The December issue of Shonen Jump will also have the origin story.

In addition, a new manga will debut in the November issue, Allen said, although she declined to give the title.

In January, Shonen Jump will pick up Naruto again with the new story arc. "The whole companywide initiative is leading up to the January 2008 issue of SJ, in which the new, older Naruto will make his English-language debut," said Allen. That issue will be on newsstands December 4, and the first volume to feature the new arc, volume 28, will be released in March. After that, Viz will release new volumes every two months.

Both the books and the magazine will stay ahead of the Naruto anime being aired on the Cartoon Network. "The gaps will be shorter all around, but magazine and manga will still be released earlier," Allen said. "In most cases, manga is the source of the anime, so it's consistent to Japan."

In Japan, the anime had almost caught up with the manga at volume 27, so the producers added 85 "filler" episodes that do not follow the manga. The anime then picked up the manga's story line again with volume 28.

"The filler episodes have no impact on our manga release schedule," said Allen. "It really has everything to do with trying to create the same manga experienceof our readers in Japan and maintain a similar story arc. At this point, I'm not sure what Cartoon Network plans to do with these filler episodes."

Naruto is the top-selling manga in the U.S., rivaled only by Tokyopop's Fruits Basket. Writing for Newsarama, a comics trade news Web site, earlier this year, retailer Brian Hibbs stated that Nielson BookScan reported total sales of more than 900,000 copies for the first 12 volumes in 2006 alone. Volume 13 of Naruto, the most recent volume, reached number 25 on USA Today's bestseller list.

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