A true Otaku can explain anime terms even in their sleep. If you are still looking to start anime, however, there might be a fair share of confusing words that may need some explanation. One of these commonly used anime terms is ‘filler’, which you must have seen a hundred times in the anime community regardless of whether or not you’re a fan. If you are one of the people for whom the anime filler definition is unclear, fear not! We will explain it in detail in this Article. So, what exactly is filler in anime? Let’s find the answer to that question.
What is Anime Filler
Filler is anime content that is not taken from the source material. It is added to fill in various gaps in the storytelling. Filler dates back to anime series as old as Dragon Ball. A large number of Dragon Ball episodes contain storylines and characters that do not exist in the manga and were added primarily to add length to each episode. This supplementary content makes the storyline progress more slowly and makes sure that the anime does not catch up with the Manga too fast.
“Ribbon Army Saga”, for example, has a long list of episodes that did not exist in the source material and are there for the sole purpose of delaying the next relevant story moment from happening. Other anime series such as Naruto and Bleach are notorious for containing filler, with the former containing almost 41% filler material! Certainly a story that ends up extended and dragged on for such a long time can lose some of the elements that made it great in the source material.
Why Does Anime Filler Exist?
While less common today, filler in anime is still a thing in many modern-day series and continues to face criticism. With all the negative feedback from anime fans, you might be wondering, why does filler exist at all?
The answer is not as simple as one may think. There are many different reasons why a directors of an anime may choose to go down the filler route . Let’s list some of the most prominent ones
To Avoid Catching Up With The Manga
Anime filler gives the Mangaka a head start, so it will not catch up with the Manga too fast. Most often the manga and anime are serialised in parallel on a weekly schedule. Due to unseen circumstances that might block the mangaka from releasing new material, the board of anime directors needs to make sure that they have a decent buffer of content to keep releasing episodes on a regular basis.
The majority of anime adapt the manga at the height of its popularity, as it is still an ongoing series. Manga chapters, while greatly enjoyable, are usually the product of a single author working with the help of a team. This means that the weekly chapters tend to be somewhat short and do not advance the plot very fast.
Before anime was released in seasons, fans used to enjoy a new episode almost every week. This situation was highly stressful for anime publishers, due to the threat of catching up with the manga’s latest issue. Anime filler gives the manga enough time to release more content with the drawback, that the anime adaption would have storylines that do not exist in the source material.
In modern-day examples, several anime and manga series (RIP Berserk) end up on etended hiatuses, because it’s difficult to not outrun an on-going manga serialization. Attack on Titan is a fan favourite example of filler usage. The writers take breaks frequently in order to avoid adding filler while keeping the releases annual.
There are also anime shows that have created completely original story arcs and sequels, all because the studio did not want to put a popular series on hold until the mangaka has produced enough content. An example of this is Black Butler season 2 (Kuroshitsuji). It has a completely original storyline that detracts from the manga. The second half of the first season is mostly original as it stops adapting the storylines from the source material.
To Fill Episode Quotas
When a series becomes very popular, studios and broadcasting channels wish to capitalise on the success. Contracts oblige publishers to release a certain number of episodes in a given period. Sometimes that number is high enough for the source material to run out.
A notorious example is Naruto filler content. The show contains a lot of it! The original story was extended excessively in the anime and gives the impression that the franchise is being milked for everything it’s worth. This is why Naruto is an example of poor filler usage.
To Offer A Fresh Take On the Story
just like manga authors, anime creators are passionate and well-versed in the genre. Copy-pasting the content of the manga might not always work however. There are just certain things that don’t work as well in the animated form. Anime writers use extra dialogue, and new characters to fill in the required runtime and flesh out the story.
Sometimes, the writers wish to add their own ideas into the mix. That’s when we have filler that does not stall the storyline, but is there to make changes to it and possibly add value. Writers can add extra moments of story development and add new characters that do not exist in the source material.
It’s a nice way to keep things fresh and not make the adaption a simple copy-paste. It also allows anime writers to present their take on a well-known story. In best cases, anime filler content adds in unexplained details and expands upon the original universe.
To Add Original Filler Content
This might sound strange, but original filler is a thing too. Not all anime is adapted from a manga series, it is the original work of authors! How? It’s simple. Adding anything to a storyline that does not stem from the source material is referred to as anime filler. And this extends to live-action TV shows as well, not just anime.
But since we’re talking about anime right now, here’s an example you will all recognise – anime fan service. Completely serious shows suddenly hit an odd pause in the story progression for moments of fan service. If the main cast is simply hanging out on a beach, you can be sure its anime filler content.
Is filler in anime bad?
Now that we have what filler is and why it exists out of the way – there’s only one question left. Is filler a bad thing? Our answer is yes and no. We will try to look at both sides of the coin one at a time.
Bad Aspects of Filler in Anime
Chances are the reason you’re reading this article right now is that you heard of filler in a negative context. It can be an unnecessary drag to watch and adds nothing important to the storyline. It makes watching a show with filler especially hard if you are picking it up later down the line. It’s hard to justify investing hours of time for content that is not essential to the story.
One of the most common examples of this is the anime Bleach. Its infamous Bount and Bount Assault arcs last a total of 46 episodes and contain purely filler. In the manga, the story just goes straight to the Arrancar arc instead of the Bount ones in the middle.
The Black Butler series is a great example too. Many fans were heavily disappointed with the filler in the anime. The directors of the series did not have a good understanding of their audience and interpreted the series in their own way. A very common pattern for bad anime filler.
The third season of the Black Butler anime completely ignored the episodes of season 1 and 2. It picked up from the exact point where the first season had stopped following the manga.
This example is somewhat typical, and in most cases anime filler fails to live up to the source material. In most cases Fans react to filler negatively, because it tends to be inferior to when compared to the source material.
Good aspects of Filler in Anime
in defence of anime filler, however, there are some examples that fans appreciate a lot. One example is the Sailor Moon series, one of the most popular anime with filler of all time. A lot of the anime filler featured in this adaption contributed positively to the storyline.
For example, it fleshed out the context that bridges different story arcs together which was missing from the source material. The Sailor Moon anime filler even has some moments that became the all time favourites for fans. A rare but awesome thing that can happen to anime filler occasionally.
Good Anime filler expands the story and answers questions that remained unexplained in the source material. For example, the first adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist used anime filler to give characters who die early more screen time. This created more opportunities to connect with the characters, thus making their eventual death way more impactful.
The remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is vastly superior in almost every way to the original. Nevertheless, many fans admit that the anime filler in the original adaption made them more invested in those characters.
Not all filler in anime is bad and some of it has positively impacted adaptions and the emotions of fans throughout the years. It’s not that common to see extended filler nowadays except in individual episodes, quite often fan service ones. It is an important concept in the history of anime. Mainly because it remains as a persistent element in both modern and critically acclaimed older titles of anime.