Following the success of its publishing blitzes designed to bring American readers closer to the current publication schedule of its popular Naruto series, Viz Media has announced an even more intensive accelerated publishing schedule for one of its other popular manga properties, Eiichiro Oda's One Piece.
As announced last weekend at Anime Expo 2009, five new volumes of the comic shonen pirate series will be published monthly, launching with volumes 24 through 28 in January 2010. This schedule will be maintained through June for a total of thirty paperback volumes. For comparison, Viz's first Naruto accelerated publication schedule lasted four months and featured three new volumes a month.
When the first Naruto blitz was initially announced, manga observers wondered whether the series could withstand so much product at one time. They needn't have worried: during its second publishing blitz, Naruto dominated the New York Times manga best-seller list, demonstrating its audience's fierce loyalty. Clearly, Viz hopes One Piece will inspire the same amount of buyer's devotion. Currently, the series' volumes have been released in the U.S. at a rate of three a year, so fans who've been eagerly demanding more more more should be satisfied.
The story of Monkey D. Luffy, a straw hat wearing boy who gains the power to stretch after eating the fruit of the Gum-Gum tree, the Teen-rated series charts Luffy's efforts to become King of the Pirates. Though he has his stretchable powers, they come at the cost of his ability to swim: a definite handicap when you consider that his ambition places him out on the high seas. The One Piece of the title is a legendary treasure; if Luffy can find it, he knows he'll become King of the Pirates.
Oda recounts Luffy's pirate adventures in a broadly comic style that sometimes recalls Golden Age comic artist Jack (Plastic Man) Cole and at other times shows the influence of Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama. His characterization is engagingly overblown, and his sense of slapstick action appealing. In America, the manga series debuted in the first U.S. issue of Shonen Jump and has been a regular feature in the magazine ever since. Viz's hopped-up schedule will bring the books from the mid-twenties up to the lower fifties in half a year. The speed seems apt for the hyperkinetic rubber boy. The question is will One Piece readers' wallets hold up to the strain?