In a time when everything around us seems to be falling, manga is still something of a constant. Sales have slowed, but slow sales still = sales, and manga has gone from hare to tortoise, plodding along, but a sure contender in the race nonetheless.
The industry’s stronghold is still putting the rest to shame: news of the Naruto Shippuden anime finding a home on Crunchyroll hit inboxes and blogs this morning – the deal negotiated with Shueisha no less (Shueisha, the “Media” in “Viz Media” and the “Shu” in “Sho-Shu Productions”). Naruto will be available on Crunchyroll an hour after it airs in Japan – for Cruncyroll subscribers only.
Meanwhile, Viz Media will be streaming Naruto anime on their official Naruto site (www.Naruto.com) starting January 15th – and for FREE. So take that, Crunchyroll!
Viz will also be placing Naruto manga on an accelerated release schedule moving through volumes 34 to 44 from February to April of next year.
By now, a few of us (like my editor, Calvin Reid, and the insightful crew at icv2) have picked up on Naruto’s anomaly status. Not every manga will move over 2million copies (in the U.S. alone). Over at PW, Jim Milliot reports on a drop in bookstore sales for September. Is Naruto immune to the dips and falls of consumer spending? And what will happen to manga with weaker sales?
(Incidentally, if you head over to Viz’s Naruto website, they’ve got a visual of Naruto with the kanji “ho” and “kage” written on his hand. This visual really made an impact on me because the lines and creases in our hands are the entire story of our lives – our birth, our death, our destiny – what we carry around with us everyday. And Naruto has written over that, essentially choosing his own destiny. Everyone who’s read Naruto knows how badly he wants to become Hokage, so that he’s drawn with the kanji written into his hand is pretty amazing. Just another reason why Kishimoto-sama is the man.)
I love Naruto as much as the next, but I do worry about a lot of the excellent manga out there that may get the snub when there is so much Naruto to contend with. (i.e. Parasyte, one of my faves, and of course, my beloved GANTZ – vol. 2 of which is out now, with vol. 3 coming out at the end of December.) I’m probably way off in my assumptions of the demographic, but Naruto is aging older, and I feel like the cosplayers I saw over the summer (cosplaying in Naruto garb) were all approaching their 20’s.
Regardless, Naruto lives on. Hopefully other licenses will thrive in the same climate.