The wait is over! After starting their online broadcast of episodes from the Naruto Shippuden story arc on Naruto.com on January 8, VIZ Media has started airing the latest batch of new episodes of Naruto , straight from Japan.
Each week, the latest episode of Naruto will be added and available for viewing on Thursday. On top of that, 8 new episodes will be available on Naruto.com as well as on Hulu.com and Joost from the beginning of the Shippuden arc. This means that American fans can catch up with the story and view the latest chapters of the Naruto saga only days after Japanese fans see them. These episodes are free to view, and don't require membership or site registration.
Naruto.com has the added bonus of giving fans access to exclusive extras like detailed episode guides, character bios, a map of Naruto's world, plus downloadable goodies like Naruto e-cards and wallpapers.
As the anime release schedule is accelerated to catch up with Japan, so are the manga, as VIZ is releasing 11 new volumes between February to July 2009, starting with Naruto Volume 34. We'll see 3 new volumes per month, until Naruto Volume 45 is released in July 2009, and then it'll return to its usual quarterly release schedule. That's a whole lotta ninja action to catch up on!
2009 is already shaping up to be a major year for all things Naruto. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Naruto's debut as a regular series in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, so it seems fitting that this burst of Naruto action is happening now. It's also encouraging to see both anime and manga companies responding to the demand for this content and giving fans legal ways to feed their need for the latest and greatest content from Japan. We'll see if the path that Naruto is blazing now will be followed by other hot properties -- here's hoping that we'll see more of this trend in 2009.
Image credit: © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto