And we shall rename your land “Narutopia”

From a Viz press release:

“VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media)… has announced the launch of NARUTO NATION™, a broad campaign that will bring an unprecedented increase in the frequency of publication of its wildly popular NARUTO™ manga series. 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.”

Okay, this could mean one of two things:

  • Best-seller lists are going to be very, very boring during the third quarter of 2007, or
  • we’re about to find out just how much people like Naruto.
  • (I’ve posted the full press release at the Flipped Forum, but be warned that it seems to contain some SPOILERS for future volumes. Here’s the link.)

    I’m still considering the possible ramifications of this kind of accelerated publishing schedule, but damn… that’s a lot of Naruto in a very short span. Will audience appetite and disposable income support it?

    21 Responses to And we shall rename your land “Narutopia”

    1. John Jakala says:

      HOLY CRAP!

      Not only are they releasing three volumes a month, all three come out on the same day according to Amazon: volumes 17, 17, and 18 all come out on Sept. 4th, and so on for the other months.

      Is there some underlying motivation for this? Trying to stay ahead of scanlators?

    2. James Moar says:

      …and I just started catching up after stalling at vol. 10. Eep.

      Where’s the anime up to in the US? Maybe they’re trying to stay ahead of that?

    3. davidpwelsh says:

      It’s a mystery to me. Is the average Naruto reader likely to seek out scanlations? It doesn’t seem like it, but you never know.

      And James, I’m not sure how far along Cartoon Network is with the anime (they only have 18 episodes listed in their online guide, but I have no idea how often they update that), but I’m thinking they’ve barely scratched the surface. I was looking at the Wikipedia entry on the series, and I noticed this passage:

      “By the time the Sasuke Retrieval arc ended in the anime (episode 135), the series was at a point where it was quickly gaining on the manga. At the conclusion of this arc, the anime immediately switched to anime-only filler episodes to allow the manga to broaden the gap once more. Most of the filler episodes are stand-alone stories, with a few being part of arcs that are several episodes long. The filler episodes lasted for 85 episodes, the duration of the first series.”

    4. Huff says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t believe this either. Talk about flooding bookstores. Of course the “catch up with the Japanese releases” thing is a good idea, but why three a month, especially considering a lot of Naruto’s sales are probably due to casual readers who may or may not be able to keep up with that kind of a rate? Viz is either really, really smart about this or they’re making the same kind of stupid decision they’ve done for years. In reality it’ll probably be somewhere between the two, with the sales spread out over a longer period of time.
      As for the anime, I’m pretty sure they’re way past episode 18. They released a box set of the first season, which is probably 26 episodes, quite a while ago.

    5. davidpwelsh says:

      “As for the anime, I’m pretty sure they’re way past episode 18. They released a box set of the first season, which is probably 26 episodes, quite a while ago.”

      You’re right. They just released a DVD with episodes 41-44, and they’ve got other releases scheduled that take them up to episode 56 by late July. The TV Guide site indicates that 81 episodes have aired so far.

    6. […] plans on releasing twelve volumes of Naruto between September and December of 2007? Seriously? David Welsh offers […]

    7. […] David Welsh offers his initial thoughts on the announcement, and comes up with a great headline: “And we […]

    8. […] the full press release (warning: spoilers) in the Flipped forum, so you can see for yourself. At Precocious Curmudgeon, commenters wonder if Viz is trying to stay ahead of […]

    9. ChunHyang72 says:

      Holy guacamole, Batman, that’s a lot of Naruto. If only Viz felt the same compulsion to release, say, Monster, Vagabond, or InuYasha on a similar schedule.

    10. Matt Thorn says:

      I guess my first reaction to this news reflects my own interests and experience: What’s going to happen to the quality of the translation, touch-up art, and production values in general? At the peak of my manga translating career, I was doing every Viz title except Crying Freeman, which was probably about 200 pages a month. (All that while attending grad school.)
      Three 200-page volumes worth of translation in a month, for three months in a row? I suppose I could do it, if I had no other work to do, but it would probably be pretty slapdash. Are they going to have more than one translator doing the work? If so, they’re sure to have problems with consistency of tone and voice, and probably continuity as well.
      But from a business point of view, I don’t think it’s a bad decision at all. Initial sales probably won’t match those of earlier volumes, but in the long run sales will catch up and Viz will end up making its money sooner rather than later.

    11. Actually translating three books a month is doable (without being slapdash) if one translator is not doing any other work. I generally work at two a month. If the editor is strong with character voices and is willing to take on the extra work of being a de-facto rewriter, there wouldn’t be any continuity or characterization problems even if it were translated by different people.
      But I have the odd feeling that Viz can see the Naruto craze peaking. Pokemon dropped in popularity at an alarming rate after it peaked. Viz getting out as many books as possible while Naruto is at or near the top of its curve is only good business. It does mean that they’re trying to pump out every drop of cash from this cash cow before it becomes a liability, but seriously, what would anybody else do in the same situation?

    12. James Moar says:

      I realise I’m following up to people who actually work as translators, but…. is it possible that Viz has had this in the pipeline for a short while now, and they ramped up production beforehand so as to spread the translation/retouch/etc. work out a little?

    13. davidpwelsh says:

      That’s the impression I got from a quick conversation with someone in Viz’s PR office, James, though I haven’t gotten confirmation from anyone on the publishing end yet.

    14. Daedalus says:

      I’ve been reading this thread and had to join so I could respond as I saw some of the standard misinformation and hater filled comments that exist sometimes on these manga boards.

      Let’s remember, whether you’re a fan of naruto or not this is good news as it means any manga you support COULD be given similar treatment and help to end the silly and crazy self-imposed lag between japan and America. I remember when I 1st got started in entertainment professionally and wondered why things like videogame titles had to wait so long to come to America. Eventually the silliness ended when they realized that it was more expensive to support key titles from publishers differently in different markets and instead was more beneficial to release content more globally more simultaneously.

      Couple of thoughts on Naruto announcement…

      1. I am a fan and think this is good news..It’s ridiculous for a manga that is having unprecedented success to be held to a quarterly schedule…try telling Marvel to do that to X-men and/or Spiderman and watch how quickly you get laughed out of their offices.

      2. To the critics who think this won’t work…how do you know this? What proof do you have or are you truly just throwing it out there without thinking? Please consider two things… Sept- Dec. is Q4 x-mas buying and for most entertainment industries it’s where 35-60% of their revenue is generated. In other words, if you’re in the book business and you have new books to hawk — hawk them in Q4 if you wish to truly hit or exceed your numbers. Secondly, I’m not sure why people make the argument about money–I personally buy 6-7 manga a month and before that I used to spend $20 $50 mo on comicbooks/TPB so…this is not a new phenomenon. If you’re on this board and writing about anime/ manga as well then most likely you are one of these people as well. Lastly, this isn’t being done for you if you’re not a Naruto fan….if you’re not then this means nothing to you but if you’re someone which numbers show is thousands of young kids and adults are buying Naruto every month and even more when a new volume releases. To these people, they are not concerned that the latest Broccoli, Del Rey, Tokyopop and even other Viz titles’ are coming out (apologies to those I didn’t mention..Personally I read manga from just about every manga company out there) they just want more of what they read and I don’t see how anyone on this board can honestly say that this is going to fail because of the money factor or the practicality of the release schedule. I might be inclined to agree with some facts but right now just sounds like armchair quarterbacking.

      3. What increased Naruto will mean for bookshelf— well on this front I agree. I wholeheartedly agree. But, then again,..I’m not sure what that means, We live in a free market economy…Borders, barnes and Nobles and comic shops have the right to stock mostly what their consumers want and the fact of the matter is that Naruto clearly outranks all other manga right now. If I was a small publisher..sure I’d hate it but what are you going to do? Webstores and comicshops hopefully can help stem the tide during these months but it will b tough. The good news is that Naruto is attracting many new faces to manga and if this approach works well then it will mean many more occurrences of people who were introduced to that section of the store now curling the aisles opposite Naruto to see what else is out there. I know my girlfriend always starts next to whatever I’m buying and through that maybe some women and mature readers will gravitate from Naruto to Monster by Naoki Urasawa. Besides if you want to blame limited shelf space..blame Dragonball…I swear..I do not understand why that book is still maintained on shelves..yes it was important for anime in America but if it’s the best representation of the genre this many years later we’re in trouble..I think most mature manga fans would agree if you were to introduce people to the power of manga that Death Note, Fruits Baskets, Ruruouni Kenshin and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster would best fit bill.

      4. The industry desperately NEEDS this— I read scanlations. I read them alot. I just celebrated a year of reading Naruto Shippuden level plot regularly. I work in entertainment and do well so I still buy Viz or Del Rey translations even though I’ve read the work a long time ago. Unfortunately, many people who are great fans, great supporters of manga/ anime do not have my budget and do not have my resources. Maybe they live in a town where manga is not stocked as well or maybe they have many other hobbies/ needs that eat into their manga budget. Regardless, who can blame them for loving something so much they routinely bit torrent and hold on to manga. NOBODY! Not the creators..not the publishers and not the fan community. Instead..what should happen is companies should stop trying to censor what we get and do more release schedules like this to support legal buying of books. Personally, I would like to see this done to One Piece, Inuyasha, Prince of Tennis and for many unlicensed manga that are long like Hajime no Ippo, History’s strongest disciple Kenichi and Slam Dunk.

      5. Naruto is big…the idea that some have put that it’s about to peak is again…lunacy, hater-ish and just lacking any thought whatsoever. Please show me facts! I work in the business and can tell you Naruto shows every sign from ratings, to book sales to toy sells that would suggest it is about to explode in a BIG way. If they were ever to release Naruto theatrically or when this Wii game comes out..I think some of the elite manga fans who feel Naruto is juvenille and or undeserving of its’ success will be amazed at how successful and popular it is in the US. fact is is that it currently dwarfs anything anime related which includes One Piece, Avatar and any saturday morning cartoon. I personally like Naruto and don’t feel it’s for kids…major characters have died, kids drink and smoke and the unexpected has happened so frequently that one has to wonder if Naruto will actually die in the end. Not many uber popular manga actually evoke destiny, betrayal and sacrifice more than this.

      6. Naruto Shippuden is coming. to US…not sure what it will be called but my guess and understanding is that the FILLER WILL BE SHOWN — daily — or stripped as we say and Naruto will pick up more mainstream fans and midway through this blowout (remember a season is 65 episodes) Shippuden (not sure if that will be name) will come after a few manga volumes have been released (most likely 6-7). This may seem overkill-ish but hey what are you going to do..they have content and anime drives this business over manga..animes are like ads for the original manga.

      Regardless, I think this is a wise move and can only pray it gets done for other equally deserving series.

      Take care..and keep reaching for the stars!

    15. davidpwelsh says:

      “I’ve been reading this thread and had to join so I could respond as I saw some of the standard misinformation and hater filled comments that exist sometimes on these manga boards.”

      I haven’t really seen any “standard misinformation” or “hater filled comments” in this conversation at all. I’ve seen people, including people who have translated and edited manga professionally, reacting to a drastically different publishing strategy from a manga publisher.

      Even the speculation that the Naruto franchise might be about to peak doesn’t say anything qualitatively about the product. Popular properties sometimes reach a certain plateau, and I don’t see anything malicious in wondering if this might be one of those cases.

    16. davidpwelsh says:

      Ah, but I see you posed the same message at Brigid’s blog, so am I to assume this is a one-size-fits-all response to any discussion of the announcement, regardless of the tenor of the conversation you’re joining?

    17. […] 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 […]

    18. […] press release from Viz Comments at Precocious Curmudgeon Sales figures for 2006 Alert ANN posters spot this before anyone else Discussion at Anime on […]

    19. Matt Thorn says:

      In response to Daedalus’ rather odd but impassioned post:
      “silly and crazy self-imposed lag between japan and America”?
      Yeah, it’s not like you have to account for: the wishes of the artist; the interests of the publishers; the complexity of working out international contracts; the time, money and energy involving in actually producing, printing and distributing the physical book; the fact that English TPBs are still more twice as expensive as Japanese TPBs (because sales are much lower, because despite the boom the market is still much smaller than in Japan); and, oh, that last little thing, actually translating the book. Hell, just run the thing through BabelFish and you could have near simultaneous releases in a dozen languages, right? And maybe an earless, blue, robot cat from the 22nd century could pop out of my desk drawer and let me use his four-dimensional pocket full of goodies to do stuff like instantly visit my mom in New York any time I want.

      Sorry for the sarcasm, but as a translator I’m really annoyed by the all-too-common assumption that translation is a mechanical process that can be done quickly and easily by anyone who is “bilingual,” or even by a piece of software.

      And whether you like it or not, there are a great number of obstacles–some minor, many daunting–that must be overcome in the process of getting a manga published legally in English or any other language. Some it can be streamlined, but much of it can’t be without seriously sacrificing quality.

      I found that 40 pages, give or take a few pages, is about the most I can do in a day without sacrifing quality. Sure, I could translate 200 pages a day if I completely winged it (and at the risk of sounding arrogant, the result would still be better than the majority of manga translations on American bookshelves), but I would not be happy with the results.

      The lag is not a “silly and crazy self-imposed” one, Daedalus.

    20. bjooks says:

      I looked into the manga a few months ago but put them down when I realized how far behind the US version of the series they were. The manga currently for sale ends at around episodes 66 or 67 of the TV series, while Cartoon Network will air episode 90 this weekend. So this kind of mass-drop of these books might catch them back up or even get ahead, which is about the only way they’re going to rope me into the manga at this point. I don’t want to go back and read stories I’ve already seen on tv, but if the manga gets ahead of Cartoon Network, I’d start getting it in a heartbeat.

    21. mandara says:

      naruto has waaaay too many fillers, its easily 100-150 episodes behind the manga

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