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.
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.
Naruto is best example of this. Naruto is broken into two shows, with a two year gap between the original and current series, Shippuden. The 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.
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.
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!