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NYCC: VIZ Media Announces Uncut Naruto, Full Moon, Inu Yasha & Maison Ikkoku

If VIZ Media has a problem in the industry, it’s that public demand is too great. This is a problem that most companies would like to have. The VIZ Media panel at the New York Comic-Con was run by Anthony Jiwa, Liza Coppola, and Gonzalo Ferreyra. The hottest news of the panel was the announcement of uncut Naruto boxed sets, followed shortly after by the Full Moon and Hikaru no Go anime announcements and the last Inu Yasha movie and Maison Ikkoku sets. Sadly, VIZ could only disappoint fans regarding soundtracks for Full Moon or Inu Yasha, and about Bleach anime releases.

VIZ opened the panel touting the new Full Moon anime title which will inaugurate their Shojo Beat home video line. Tying in to the Full Moon manga out now, the DVD will be released in June. After that, future releases will be on a quarterly schedule, with volume 2 coming in September. When asked what the odds were of Full Moon airing on children’s television, Jiwa joked, “In Japan, very high.” Coppola continued by saying that kids’ networks in America know where their “sweet spots” are, but that they have high hopes for the success of shojo on TV in the future. However, when asked by an audience member, VIZ said they didn’t have anything further to add about future Shojo Beat video releases.

Hikaru no Go
, the Shonen Jump home video line’s flagship title, was released in December and will follow a quarterly release schedule, with volume 2 coming on March 28. One Piece will also be distributed by VIZ for Toei Animation, with volume 1 coming on Tuesday, February 28. Jiwa stated that One Piece will be on a bi-monthly release schedule, and that the episode count per disc will go up from 3 to 5 starting with volume 3.

In a surprise to nobody paying any attention at all to anime, Naruto is the title VIZ is most excited about. The first DVD release is coming on March 28, with 4 episodes per disc. The initial discs will be the TV-edited version of the show, beginning with a bi-monthly release schedule that will accelerate to monthly in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Subscriber copies of Shonen Jump magazine will contain a preview DVD for Naruto.

Jiwa also talked up the new Saikano OVA DVD, which was released last year in Japan and follows the program which turned Chise into a weapon of mass destruction, and also follows her predecessor. The disc will be available on May 9. The rest of the release slate for VIZ in the first quarter includes the Ranma OAV boxed set, which will include all the OAV series at a revised $49.98 price point. Other video releases will include the boxed sets for the final Maison Ikkoku episodes and both Ranma 1/2 movies, and continuing releases of Pokémon Advanced Challenge, Inu Yasha, Zatch Bell, Flame of Recca, and MegaMan NT Warrior. The final Maison Ikkoku boxed set will be an exclusive to VIZ’s on-line store and to TheRightStuf.com; in response to an audience question, the exclusive was the best way to ensure that the series would be profitable enough to warrant a release, but that it should be available through other channels within a few months of its release date.

The big news of the panel was the announcement of the uncut Naruto boxed set, with a street date of July 4, 2006. The boxed sets will include 13 episodes on 3 DVDs, with uncut Japanese and English soundtracks with English subtitles and the complete Japanese soundtrack. Like the edited Naruto discs, the uncut boxed set will get a preview in subscriber copies of Shonen Jump magazine in June. Jiwa promised that they were working with Naruto‘s parent company to get some exclusive extras in the boxed set, not available in the U.S. or Japan, but the extras to be included were not finalized yet. The second boxed set will be coming in December, with on-going releases coming on a 6-month release schedule with 12-13 episodes per box. In response to an audience question about releasing the Naruto boxes more frequently, Jiwa stated that many elements were being re-recorded for the show, and that they would rather take the extra time to do it properly. They also can’t be released faster without getting too far ahead of what is being aired on Cartoon Network, which is something they are very sensitive to as well.

Further big news included the fourth and final Inu Yasha movie, coming to DVD in August. They are still working with retailers for promotional opportunities, which may include big-screen previews or other techniques used with earlier Inu Yasha movie releases.

In response to a question from a librarian in the audience, Coppola said that they were working on a full librarian program for VIZ manga and anime, and that VIZ would be at “every LA (library association) you can think of.”

Several questions throughout the panel requested faster or more frequent releases of titles, especially for the Naruto boxed set. Jiwa stated that VIZ tailors each property’s release schedule, but that they did not want to release too much at once due to retailer concerns. Jiwa and Coppola pointed out that a more rapid release schedule would end up glutting the market, and ultimately not do justice to the fans, the retailers, and VIZ itself. Faster release schedules might succeed initially, but the fear was that eventually titles would start failing, and ultimately disappoint VIZ, retailers, and fans alike.

Jiwa also had to break bad news to a fan requesting boxed sets of older material, such as Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers), and for a Basara OAV. While VIZ does re-examine their titles for future boxed-set releases, Boys Over Flowers is not being considered at this time, and there are no plans to bring over the Basara OAV.

All the anime companies were asked about their plans for digital download distribution and for high-definition video. Coppola stated that they were “exploring a lot of different avenues,” for digital distribution, but had nothing to announce at this time. Like the other anime companies, VIZ is also waiting to see which high-definition format gains traction in the marketplace, and is keeping its options open at this time.

VIZ had to disappoint the many avid fans seeking out soundtracks to Full Moon and Inu Yasha, as well as fans seeking Bleach anime. They will continue to publish Bleach in manga form, but they had “no news to share on Bleach anime” at this time. Jiwa pointed out that manga rights are not always the same as anime rights, and that just because VIZ was publishing the manga didn’t mean that they would be able to release the anime. Multiple fans asked about the soundtracks and Bleach throughout the panel, so the lack of news is definitely not due to an inadequate awareness of demand. They also said that they were focusing on getting the Naruto uncut boxes out, meaning any home vidoe releases of Naruto movies are currently on the backburner.

When asked which titles they wished were getting more attention, Ferreyra stated that Hikaru no Go has a solid core audience, but he wished more people would get into the title. Jiwa’s favorite title was Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers), calling it “very endearing and charming.”

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