The Naruto manga flood has begun – as American publisher Viz has commenced its intense four-month release schedule of three new Naruto books a month. First three in this new schedule (volumes 16 – 18) have already started showing up in chain bookstores, though the books' official release date is September 4th.
To those unfamiliar with current manga release practices, prior to this, Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto collections were being issued by Viz on a bi-monthly schedule. The twelve volumes set for release over the next four months, thus, represent two years' worth of publication via that old schedule. In Japan, Kishimoto's mega-popular young boy ninja series is already up to its 39th volume, so even when this "Naruto Nation" surge concludes, the American editions will be at least twelve books behind the originals.
Still, the stepped-up release schedule will definitely prove a test of young American readers' brand loyalty. At $7.95 a pop, the "Shonen Jump" paperbacks are one of the better manga bargains, though tripling that expense every month is something else again. Will readers be forced to put aside other shonen manga (Viz's Bleach, say) to keep up with their favorite goof butt ninja-in-training or will our boy's hold on the manga market weaken? Per USA Today's "Top 150 Books," all three volumes debuted on the list, though how long they'll remain there is something manga loyalists and detractors will be watching over the next few months.
As for the books themselves, I picked up a copy of the sixteenth book this week and found it to be a typically engaging series entry. First half of the volume serves to wrap up a plotline that has been going on for several volumes now – the attack on Naruto's home village of Konohagakure – with our hero once more demonstrating how his will to succeed compensates for his impulsivity and lack of control. (Naruto: hero to Ritalin takers everywhere!)