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.
Yes, you read that right: Viz just sent the Naruto publication schedule into hyperdrive, spitting out three new volumes a month for the last four months of 2007. Here are the release dates:
September 2007: NARUTO Vols. 16-18
October 2007: NARUTO Vols. 19-21
November 2007: NARUTO Vols. 22-24
December 2007: NARUTO Vols. 25-27
David Welsh has posted 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 scanlations.
I’m leaning more toward the thinking on the ANN forums, which were onto this a week ago: Viz may be doing this to neutralize the deadly filler arc in the anime and let people know that the so-called Shippuden arc, in which Naruto is older and the story changes somewhat, is coming. That arc begins after volume 27, and Viz does seem to be very earnest about preparing people:
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).
A third possibility, I suppose, is that someone just noticed the fine print in the Naruto contract and realized it was about to run out. But somehow I doubt that.
At the Anime on DVD forums, Peter Ahlstrom (an editor for rival Tokyopop) points out a possible downside:
There’s not going to be room on the bookshelves for anything else. I fear for the sell-in of any low-print-run favorite book of mine during those months.
The editor in me wonders how they are going to get the books out that fast. Either they have a huge backlog already translated and ready to go, or they’re going to have to hijack every freelancer and printer in the Bay Area to pull this off.
Update: Are they killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? Simon Jones says no:
Speeding up the release schedule of a hot property isn’t always a good thing (see Matrix 2 and 3), and there’s something to be said about the value of anticipation. But in this case, I think parents across America will just have to figure in an extra $15 into their monthly expenses, lest they face the wrath of their plastic-sword-swinging little Narutos at home.