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NYCC: VIZ Media Gives Anime Fans "Death Note," "Bleach," and More "Naruto"

Toon Zone News missed the VIZ Media Anime Panel, but we did catch up with Wendy Shimamura, VIZ’s associate product marketing manager for home entertainment at the VIZ booth on Sunday. She recapped the successful launches of Shonen Jump home video, Naruto, and the Toonami Jetstream in 2006, before going into VIZ’s plans for 2007.

2007 will bring both a Naruto OVA and a Naruto theatrical movie. The movie will get a one-night theatrical run in about 100-200 screens nationwide, with dates to be announced soon at Naruto.com, with a target date some time in June. The first trailer was aired at the VIZ Media Anime panel, but the trailer will be available for viewing soon on the Internet as well.

The Naruto OVA (being called “The Lost Story”) will be in stores on May 22, and will also include an extended exclusive trailer for the Naruto theatrical movie as well as the other trailers for the movie. Details for an airing on Cartoon Network were still being worked out; fans should keep their eyes on Naruto.com. The rough time frame for the Cartoon Network broadcast will be some time close to the release of the DVD. Shimamura said that the OVA has only been aired at Shonen Jump Fest in Japan, and has never been broadcast on TV in Japan or the United States, so its Cartoon Network debut will also be the first time it will be on television anywhere. The expected price for the 40-minute movie will be $12.98, and the first 50,000 DVDs will come with special Bandai cards.

In response to a question about sales of the regular Naruto DVDs vs. the uncut boxed sets, Shimamura said that sales of both have been strong as Naruto continues to attract more fans. The first standard edition DVD continues to be one of the top-ranked sellers for VIZ, and that it seems to serve as an effective gateway product for new fans who discover the show on Cartoon Network. According to Shimamura, the uncut boxed set sales have “as strong as Naruto 1 episodic” DVD releases. The uncut boxed sets will continue, and VIZ is looking for more exclusives for the limited edition boxed set releases. The limited editions will be restricted to 15,000 copies, and VIZ is looking to work with their licensees to come up with newer exclusive merchandise to be packed in with the releases.

VIZ has been extremely happy with the launch of the Shonen Jump line, and expects that the series will prove to be as popular as the Shonen Jump manga. The first Prince of Tennis boxed set will be coming out later in April. VIZ’s Death Note is being released in the Shonen Jump line, and two exclusive cell-phone trailers were released at the New York Comic Con. The partner for the download-to-own technology that will drive the Death Note release is expected to be announced some time this quarter, with a DVD expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

The Toonami Jetstream initiative has also been successful for VIZ, with Shimamura stating that VIZ and Cartoon Network collaborated to make the user interface friendlier and easier to navigate, without a constant bombardment of advertisements. She had great praise for Cartoon Network as a partner.

Shimamura said that VIZ was still continuing to do research and testing for high-definition DVD formats. She stated that the trend seems to be for companies to sit and wait for the dust to settle on the HD-DVD vs. BluRay battle, but that VIZ is definitely keeping an eye on events and changes in the status quo.

The Bleach DVD release has also been a success, with VIZ creating a number of different retailer incentives which seemed to do well for them. VIZ is really proud of the packaging of the DVDs, with Shimamura saying that the foil packaging was one of her personal favorites. She also said that the increasing popularity of Bleach on Adult Swim would definitely be translating to increasing sales of the DVDs.

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