The debut of the Naruto anime in September of 2005 produced the most pronounced example of the 'Cartoon Network effect' on graphic novel sales, but when the Bleach anime series made its first Adult Swim appearance in September 2006, it too produced expanded sales of the Bleach graphic novels (see 'The Cartoon Network Effect Resurfaces'). Comparing the first four weeks of Bookscan sales after the first appearance of the Cartoon Network effect, sales of Bleach Vol. 1 were 52.4% of the numbers attained by the first volume of Naruto in 2005.
The gap between the two properties widens when the entire series is considered -- there are 15 volumes of Bleach out now versus just 7 of Naruto at this point in 2005, so 'catching up' with Bleach is a much more daunting proposition for fans than it was for the Naruto partisans last year.
But it's far too early to tell if Bleach will be able to mirror the incredible legs that the Naruto graphic novels have displayed. Sales of Naruto Vol. 1 actually grew by 18% during its second post-Cartoon Network month. Amazingly sales of Naruto Vol. #1 during the past four weeks equal 77% of sales for the first four post-Cartoon Network effect weeks in 2005.
More than a year after the debut of the Naruto anime on American TV sales for the past month of the recently empowered Bleach Vol. #1 still only equal 68% of sales of Naruto Vol. #1 during the same period.
Of course comparing the performance of the Bleach manga to Naruto is like comparing Albert Pujol's batting average with Ted William's. Naruto gives every appearance of being a once in a lifetime phenomenon, at least in terms of manga sales in the U.S. market, and its brilliance shouldn't blind retailers to the promise of Bleach (or Death Note, another Viz Media property with immense potential).
Viz has issued a plethora of licenses for Bleach all of which should also help provide increased visibility for the property. Score is releasing a Bleach CCG (see 'Score Scores Bleach License'), Toynami is manufacturing action figures (see 'Toynami Snares Bleach License'), Great Eastern is producing wall scrolls, pins, headbands and other tchotchkes (see 'Great Eastern Adds Bleach License'), and Eye Candy just acquired the right to make all sorts of Bleach branded bags and wallets (see 'Eye Candy Nabs Bleach License').