ShoPro Acquires Top Anime Property3 Mar, 2005 By: Edwin De La Cruz
ShoPro will bring Japan's hottest anime property to American TV and home video. The company has struck a deal for TV, video and merchandising rights to the popular series “Naruto” for both North and South America with TV Tokyo Corp. and Shueisha, Inc., which hold the worldwide license to the property.
A home video distributor for the title has not been announced.
The deal follows a recent announcement that Viz will merge with ShoPro Entertainment, making the company one of the most powerful publishers of anime and manga (comics) in the United States.
“We are ecstatic about ‘Naruto.' It is a great privilege to be bringing such an outstanding property to the Americas,” said John Easum, SVP of ShoPro Entertainment.
The “Naruto” series follows the story of a baby that has been possessed by a powerful demon who lies dormant within the child's body. Twelve years later, Naruto, now a student at a ninja academy, does not know what he is carrying in him. As he evolves as a ninja, his inner demon gives him more and more powers. To become a master ninja, he must learn to control his powers without destroying those around him.
“Naruto” debuted in 1999 in the weekly manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump. Due to high demand, the comic series was compiled and released as graphic novels and stands at volume 26 with more than 49 million copies sold in Japan alone.
The animated TV series made its debut in late 2002 in Japan, where it has dominated the ratings. The program's devotees worldwide are so fanatical that newly aired episodes in Japan are usually available, fan-subtitled, within a few days of broadcast through peer-to-peer programs on the Internet.
In the United States, “Naruto” already has established an enthusiastic fan base, thanks in part to the English-language adaptation of the manga published in Viz's own monthly Shonen Jump. But it is the much-anticipated animated series that has audiences captivated worldwide and is now aiming for the United States. Cartoon Network announced “Naruto” is heading for the Toonami Block, where it will air on Saturday nights (7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, PT) starting in the third quarter of 2005.
Broadcasting on Cartoon Network could mean a tremendous boost for this anime series' subsequent DVD release, as has been the case for past hits such as Funimation's “Dragon Ball Z” and Bandai's “Cowboy Bebop” series, two huge anime titles on DVD.
“There is already massive fan anticipation for ‘Naruto,’ said Anthony Jiwa, Viz marketing director. “It is reasonable to expect that TV exposure would only increase awareness and excitement about the property.”