Filler Episodes – Treading Water

The filler episode. A dreaded phrase for anime fans, and sadly one that comes up all too often. Nearly every anime series has at least one filler episode. Some dozens, and a few, hundreds. What is a filler episode? What makes them so bad? In my opinion, a filler episode is everything wrong with anime.

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Most anime is based on manga. The manga, typically releases weekly, 48 weeks per year, delivering chapters ranging from 10 – 20 pages. Often times before a manga is finished, an animated version is produced. An episode often covers multiple chapters. With this imbalanced production, the anime quickly catches up to the manga. This is when problems often arise. The anime producers begin to create artificial speed bumps to allow the manga creators time to work head. Enter the filler episode.

Filler episodes are often brand new content created specifically for the series where nothing of consequence occurs. This often makes them non-canonical. Nothing can occur during filler episode that affects a character or changes the status quo, as this could create a deviation from the manga. No one will die, no one will leave, no relationships will change. They are, story wise, completely pointless.

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Naruto is best example of this. Naruto is broken into two shows, with a two year gap between the original and current series, ShippudenThe first series contains 220 episodes, 89 of which are filler episodes. That’s about 40%. While Shippuden has 343 episodes (as of this writing), and 126 of those are filler as well, breaking down to 36%. Well over a quarter of both shows are non-canon, ultimately making them a waste of time.

The average series has either 13, or 26 episodes. These typically are safe from filler episodes as they have a story with a specific beginning, middle, and end mapped out. Though they often fall victim to the mid-series recap episode, usually airing around New Years, recapping the series so far, and reusing resources. This is to give the animation crew a break.

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The Garlic Jr. arc in Dragon Ball Z was entirely filler. Inuyasha is almost entirely filler, with only 167 episodes and over 100 of them space fillers. Bleach is almost as bad with 366 episodes, and over 100 fillers.

Not every show has fillers though. Instead, they tend to draw out the content, making battles last as long as possible. But that’s just poor animation. Yu Yu Hakusho and One Piece are the biggest offenders, though Dragon Ball Z practically invented the concept. How many DBZ characters does it take to change a light bulb? One, but it takes him 6 episodes.

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Fullmetal Alchemist bucked the trend, taking their own path. During the first series, they began to do filler episodes. Rather than continuing down that path, they crafted their own story, going in a different direction from the manga. Once the manga ended, the show was reanimated, strictly adhering to the manga, with only a single recap episode. No fillers, no drawn out fights.

Filler episodes have their place. If you like to see more adventures of your favorite character doing more stuff, this is easily a way to get your fix. Me, I don’t have time for that crap. I want to experience the story. Less is more.

Do you enjoy fillers? Have any you particularly liked? Comment below!

FMA:B FTW. 

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7 responses to “Filler Episodes – Treading Water

  1. For me, fillers are a case-by-case basis. Citing Inuyasha, I LOVED the Panther cut away. It brought out Sesshoumaru (who was sorely lacking screentime at this point), and fleshed out the history of the world, which, if a filler arc can’t move its plot, expanding the universe is a second best. But…being Inuyasha there were some truly terrible ones, too.

    I was also amused by Shippuden’s “If the character dies in the next arc let’s give them a filler arc” approach. None of them were especially good, but the whole idea seemed silly. That’s not counting the 15minute flashbacks bookended by “STORY!” we’ve come to know and love over the past year.

    • I like the idea of world expanding, but they have to be careful because they don’t want to add something that can contradict a later plot point. Like Garlic Jr. in DBZ, how does he fit in? As for Naruto, when they flashed back to a moment in the same episode, I was done.

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  3. I really enjoyed the Key of the Starry Sky arc from Fairy tail.It brought back my second favorite dark guild Oración Seis. It showed just how weak the main characters have become in the past 7 years. Even though they did get stronger throughout, it is overshadowed due to them getting second origin down the line The two problems I have with the arc are the ludicrously stupid Jiggle Butt Gang, and an overpowered Satan Soul for Mirajane that so far has never been used again. In my opinion, this filler arc wasn’t a chore to watch, unlike most.

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