Anime Filler: A Guide
This is a subject I always wanted to write about; where I would like to differentiate the types of filler that do it right and the kind that does the anime a disservice. Filler can be fairly notorious, sometimes even to the point of ruining an otherwise good series. Now, most of this filler occurs with longer, epic series that go for hundreds of episodes but will still occasionally occur in shorter series now and then.
Story Stretching – This is the kind of filler that will just really drag out an event. Usually a lot of dramatic pauses will be added in and everything is handled with a slower pace so the production team can get as many episodes out of the manga as possible without catching up with it. “One Piece” does this often and sometimes it will really feel like nothing has happened in the span of a few episodes. This can be annoying but it is far better than some of these alternatives.
One of the craziest examples of this that I ran into happened in Naruto Shippuden. Where a small event that was literally 2 pages of the manga (Sakura treating Kankuro in a first aid tent) was turned into an entire episode as they embellished and added their own events.
One Offs – Now these are just random one episode stories which are entirely irrelevant to the rest of the series. Most of the time these will put the characters of the show in a different setting (For Example: School Rumble loved doing this with a samurai setting, tribal village and even a magical girl world) or will dramatically change the personalities of some characters for comedic effect. These are rarely serious and are nice breaks in a series although can sometimes still be annoying.
Story Expansions – These are complete story arches that are completely made up for the anime but still retain the current storyline of the anime in question. A lot of the time, story arches made up for the anime tend to lack depth and will often feel out of place. However, if the production team somehow links the story of the main series to the filler, it can feel more like the natural progression of the plot and will not be a pain to watch.
I'd say this type of filler is pretty rare as it can't always work without conflicting with the manga. One example that does come to mind, again, comes from Naruto Shippuden. It was a story arch they developed about the containment of a “one-tail” beast where the Konoha ninjas try to stop Akatsuki from collecting it. At the time of this airing, I was not reading the manga, and this story arch felt entirely natural to me. It made sense to the story progression and had some pretty compelling new characters. I did not even know it was filler until some time later.
Side Stories – This is another common kind of filler that is simply used to break the narrative. These usually are just stories about minor characters or random events that have little meaning. Usually they draw from the manga but will rework the order of events to make it into a self-contained episode.
Recap Episodes – This isn't just native to anime but to all television shows, the dreaded recap episodes. Where a series just shows old clips and maybe adds a tiny bit of original story but nothing worth watching for.
One egregious offender of this was “High School of the Dead”, a 12-episode anime that has a recap at episode 5. What? Now for anime that have hundreds of episodes, fine, have a recap, but a 12 episode series? No, please no.
Non-Source Material Spin Offs – These are story arches just completely made up for the anime, usually introducing new characters that will never be brought up again after the arch is over. These almost always feel out of place and really just detract from the anime. Often times, I will stop watching the show and just wait until whatever random story they had come up with to be over. To be fair, not all are terrible, but they usually just take you out of the moment and make the main story take a back seat.
Interruptions – This is what I am calling “Bleach” filler. Now if you watch the “Bleach” anime, you know exactly what I am talking about. This filler takes it to a whole new level, not only are these interruptions completely made up for padding, they actually happen in the middle of actual story arches, not in between them.
Before “Bleach”, this was unheard of. One moment we are in the middle of a grand battle then the next episode, a narrator actually says, “Let's pretend this happens....” and just starts a new story out of nowhere. The show itself states that this never really happens and it doesn't actually matter. One of these interruptions actually lasted for over a year as well.
It is just insane, so much so, I gave it its own category. Now I know they have to wait for more of the manga to come out to turn it into the anime but this filler utterly drove me away. After the same story arch being interrupted multiple times I gave up on this anime and decided to solely read the manga to not deal with this disgraceful filler.
So that is my list of different fillers. The good are fine and should be encouraged over the alternatives. I would rather have a fight drag out for Goku vs. Frieza amounts of time then sit through a completely random story arch.
So please if you have any additional kinds to add or any comments at all, leave them below.