ShoPro named as Naruto licensor

Feb 15th 2005
SHOPRO ENTERTAINMENT NAMED
MASTER LICENSOR FOR JAPANESE PHENOMENON, NARUTO

TV TOKYO Corporation And Shueisha, Inc. Appoint ShoPro Entertainment To Represent TV, Home Video And Merchandising Rights In North America And Latin America For
Much Anticipated Ninja Hit, Naruto

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (February 15, 2005) –ShoPro Entertainment, Inc. which recently announced it's upcoming merger with VIZ, LLC to form one of the entertainment industry's most innovative, comprehensive manga and animation licensing and publishing companies, announced today that it has secured from worldwide licensors, TV TOKYO Corporation and Shueisha, Inc., the television, home video and merchandising rights to Naruto for North America and Latin America. The appointment of ShoPro Entertainment as Master Licensor was facilitated by TV Tokyo Medianet, the licensing arm of TV TOKYO.

ShoPro Entertainment, the San Francisco based affiliate of Sho-Pro Japan, plans to introduce a dynamic roll-out strategy that will leverage the strong manga and entertainment brand into a broad licensing and marketing program. Naruto's television broadcast partner and key licensing partners will be determined shortly.

“We are ecstatic about Naruto! It is a great privilege to be bringing such an outstanding property to the Americas,” said John Easum, Senior Vice President of ShoPro Entertainment. “Naruto became an explosive hit in Japan after it was first launched in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1999 and it continues to be an enormous success. Naruto has also established a very large American fan base through the US manga series published by VIZ. We anticipate a huge success.”

First introduced into the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in Japan in 1999, Naruto quickly became Japan's most popular ninja manga. In 2000, Naruto was expanded into a series of graphic novels and is currently in its 26th volume, with nearly 49 million copies sold in total in Japan. Weekly Shonen Jump, published by one of Japan's largest publishers, Shueisha, Inc., is considered the world's most successful comic magazine with over 3 million copies printed weekly in Japan alone.

Since 2003, the Naruto series has been serialized in the US edition of the Monthly Shonen Jump, and published as a graphic novel series by VIZ, LLC. At retail, Naruto consistently ranks as one of the top graphic novel titles in the US and one of the most popular titles serialized in SHONEN JUMP. The manga has also been published in most major markets in Europe and Asia to great success.

Targeting tweens and teens, the Naruto animated series, produced by PIERROT CO., LTD. debuted in Japan in October 2002 on TV TOKYO and quickly established itself as one of TV TOKYO's highest rated animated series. Today, Naruto is considered one of the most popular animated series in Japan's history and has achieved immense success not only as a manga and TV title, but also in the realm of licensed categories such as toys, trading card games and video games.

The story of Naruto takes place in another world where ninjas are the ultimate power. In the village of Konohagakure live some of the stealthiest and most respected ninjas in the land. But 12 years prior, Konohagakure faced a fearsome threat - a nine-tailed fox demon, which terrorized the village and caused massive destruction before it was finally defeated. The Hokage, the village leader and most powerful ninja, was able to subdue the fox by sealing its soul inside the body of an orphaned baby boy. Now that boy, Uzumaki Naruto, has grown up to become a ninja-in-training, learning the art of ninjutsu with his classmates Sakura and Sasuke. The trio of student ninjas study under the instruction of their teacher, Kakashi. With Kakashi, the group faces a series of dangerous and daunting tests and challenges. Through their adventures, the young ninjas learn the importance of friendship, teamwork, loyalty, hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and right vs. wrong.

The key characters are Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura. Naruto, shunned by the village because he bears the taint of the fox demon imprisoned within him, is a rascally orphan who has grown into an attention-seeking troublemaker. Although his preoccupation with playful pranks leaves him struggling to graduate from Ninja Academy, he's determined to become the next Hokage. Sasuke, the top student in Naruto's class, comes from the prestigious Uchiha clan. Sasuke is driven by a secret desire to win revenge against a mysterious person who wronged him in the past. And the smart and studious Sakura is
the brightest of Naruto's classmates, but she is constantly distracted by her crush on Sasuke. She hopes to some day win Sasuke's heart…if Naruto doesn't get in the way.

About ShoPro Entertainment/VIZ LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, ShoPro Entertainment and VIZ, LLC recently announced their upcoming merger to become one of the most comprehensive and innovative companies in the field of manga publishing, animation and entertainment licensing of Japanese content. The new company, whose name will be announced shortly, will be owned by three of Japan's largest creators and licensors of manga and animation, Shogakukan, Inc., Shueisha, Inc. and Shogakukan Production Co, Ltd. (Sho-Pro Japan).

ShoPro Entertainment/ VIZ is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English speaking audiences in North America and a global licensor of Japanese animation. The new company offers an integrated product line including magazines such as SHONEN JUMP and SHOJO BEAT, graphic novels, videos, DVDs, audio soundtracks and develops and markets animated entertainment starting from initial production, television placement and distribution, to merchandise licensing and promotions for audiences and consumers of all ages.

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