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My Way or the Anime – Trainwreck Fantastic »« Serious Business – Original IPs, Niche Markets, and the Risks & Rewards Thereof

My Way or the Anime – When Filler Isn’t

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No, this isn’t going to be about slice of life, though it will get mentioned.

First of all, an announcement. You may or may not have noticed, but this column no longer carries the Stilts Out Loud name. I changed it to My Way or the Anime, for three reasons: 1) I use that post type more than any other by a wide margin, 2) I think it’s a clever name, which shows how easily amused I am, and 3) I had another use for the Stilts Out Loud name. Let’s talk about that.

For a while now (since day one, in fact), I’ve alluded to my creative writing. Specifically, I wrote a novel, which I’m currently in the process of editing. I want to finish it so I can let you all can read it, but I must admit that it’s sometimes hard to find the motivation. I write something like four hours a day, and it’s difficult to do that every single day! I don’t want to slack anymore, though – it’s time to put up or shut up. That’s why I’m going public. That’s why I’m going to tell all of you about my progress, so the guilt of not getting to work will be too much to bear.

To that effect, I just launched a personal blog at StiltsOutLoud.com. There I’m going to talk about the process of re-writing and editing my novel, with a heavy dose of motivation, inspiration, and philosophy about writing, storytelling, and making great art. If you liked the frequent inspirational bents in my Sakurasou posts, I suggest you check out the new blog – that kind of writing will be in frequent supply. My hope is to give you a peek into my mind, motivate myself to keep writing, and maybe inspire some of you to chase after your silly dreams as well. Here’s the first post if you’d like to get started, though feel free to skip any posts that don’t sound interesting to you – I plan to post frequently, so it might be hard to keep up. I hope you’ll check in once in a while though. Hopefully you’ll find something worthwhile.

Please excuse my selfishness. Any further updates on the new blog will be confined to a sentence or two at the end of these posts. Let’s move on to today’s topic, shall we?

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Sorry my selfishness isn’t as amusing as other’s, funya~

In the comments on last week’s post, some readers and I got into a brief discussion about fillers. Filler episodes have an undeniably bad reputation, and deservedly so. Yet I think some people see filler where there’s a great deal of worth. That’s what I want to talk about.

First of all, let’s get the definitions out of the way. To me, an episode (or scene, or arc) becomes filler when it provides no worth to the story, the character, and isn’t even entertaining. Filler has a negative connotation, and only episodes that deserve as much should be given the scarlet F. The best examples that spring to mind are the infamous Naruto (and to a lesser degree, Bleach) anime fillers. While occasionally an episode would be okay – the Bleach fillers were decent, at least in comparison to those in Naruto – they added nothing to the story or characters. They were constrained by their source material, forced to maintain the status quo until their respective manga got further ahead. If they were all cut, nothing would have been lost, and the universe would have been better for the lack of clutter. That is the essence of filler. If there’s any worth in a scene, episode, or arc, then it’s probably something else.

Can original stories have filler? Yes and no. They can certainly have “non-vital” episodes, as can the source material adaptations are based on. These are the episodes that, if cut, they wouldn’t stop the story from coming to its ultimate conclusion. In the comments last time shifobrains referred to the Yayoi PSYCHO-PASS episode, and he’s half right. If that episode had been cut, the story would have been fine. It wasn’t useless though. It had a purpose, even if the series could have survived without it.

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It wasn’t the only thing. Kou fanservice was fun, though.

Let’s call episodes like that fluff. They’re not critical to the plot, but not totally useless. By this definition, most slice of life series are 90+% fluff, and that feels right – not much happens in each one, so while any single episode could be cut without many problems, they’re not useless. Cut all the fluff out of a slice of life show and you don’t have anything. So there must be worth in those episodes.

Arbitrary_greay hit the nail on the head, and it’s something I first noticed years ago when I was watching the third season of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. Since that show was made for younger viewers, there tended to be a stark contrast between plot and fluff episodes – there was some overlap, but it was obvious when the story moved from one to the other. Yet those fluff episodes outnumbered the plot ones handily, and it was during those that I came to truly understand the characters. I remember a day where I watched Aang and Katara dance, Katara save an unimportant village, Sokka learn how to fight with a sword, and the antagonists have a beach party. Any one of those episodes could have been cut or handled via exposition, but they showed facets of the characters that plot-inspired action never could. I mean, two episodes later I watched Toph and Katara become con-artists for a while! How could they have wrapped the same character insights found in that episode into a plot-heavy one?

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Possibly some kind of prison brea– Oh, they did that. Different characters, but still.

So fluff isn’t the right word. Though inaccurate, what we might call “filler” or “fluff”, when done really well, could more accurately be called character development. It might be slow and it might be hard to see where it’s going at the time, but it’s in all those little events that we come to truly understand the characters. This echoes real life – most of our lives are a series of uninteresting events! It’s only by talking and seeing and sharing in each of these mundane events that we come to know one another, and that’s what defines our lives. Crises are uncommon, and though fiction need not echo reality, in this case there’s value in it. It fleshes out the lie that is the story, and makes it more real.

There’s another angle by which filler becomes something else – if it’s funny, or entertaining, or interesting. Much is forgiven if something is interesting, because is there not worth in a smile or a laugh? We could even say that’s character development if we wanted to, but that’s trying a little too hard to make this theory neat. No, the bottom line is that if something is entertaining, even if it doesn’t add much to the story, it’s probably worth seeing. Creators just have to make sure not to put too much of that in when viewers are expecting plot. It’s a balancing act, as all of storytelling is.

Now I’ll turn it over to you! Have you ever seen filler in an anime/manga adaptation that was actually pretty good? What’s your opinion of whether original materials can have filler? Do you like character development episodes, or are you all about the plot? Also, feel free to share any particularly good stories that used “fluff” to flesh out its characters, to good effect later on. I can always use more shows to add to my massive backlog, Orz.

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I still have to watch Strike Witches, because I promised Moomba. For some reason, he thinks I’ll like it. I wonder why?

May 15, 2013 at 10:05 am
90 comments »
  • May 15, 2013 at 10:29 amChris

    If it’s a anime series based on an adaptation e.g manga, I consider anything that wasn’t in the original manga version to be filler.

    I have been a long time fan of One Piece (playing One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 on my Vita as I speak) and I know quite a lot of other One Piece fans enjoyed the G8 arc which happened in the anime, taking place after Skypiea Arc. It had lots of funny moments in it and the production team somehow managed to tie things together very well.

    What I didn’t enjoy: take the recent episode 594 for example. After a very good first half which saw the formation of the Show Spoiler ▼

    , I was treated to a second half of nothing more than a anime only 5 minutes of 2 no-name centaurs running away from Smiley, a poisonous slime. I mean, 5 minutes of filler characters running…really Toei?

    When production teams can pull off really good filler arcs, I’ll tip my hat off to them…but fillers can also be considered a necessary evil though, especially when it comes to long running shows such as One Piece or Bleach (only arc I really liked was Rukia’s rescue. The Bounto Arc…really?)

    • May 15, 2013 at 11:23 pmpetitorenji

      Yep yep… filler characters filling up the filler episode time slot with filler actions. I feel your pain. On the other hand, Fumoffu was an incredible 12-episode filler.

      Perhaps any filler which gives the audience a fuzzy feeling inside (ex Natsume’s The Little Fox’s Hat, as Chalryn kindly pointed out), or a few laughs and surprises (日常!), we’ll be more than happy to ignore “life-goes-on” endings, static characters, and lack of rising actions.

      • May 16, 2013 at 3:01 amStilts

        To be fair, I don’t think Fumoffu was even fillers. Don’t quote me on that, but I know author Gatoh Shoji wrote a lot of Full Metal Panic! short stories, so I always assumed they were pulling the Fumoffu episodes from there.

        Regardless, the rugby episode is still one of my most frequently re-watched episodes of any anime ever. Mao’s training manual is fearsome!

      • May 17, 2013 at 10:37 amsonicsenryaku

        @stilts

        THE best fumoffu episode ever; seriously why isnt there enough buzz at how uproariously hilarious fumoffu was; it was in my opinion one of the funniest animes ive ever watched; i used to think anime comedies where full of trite cliches before i saw fumoffu

  • May 15, 2013 at 10:40 amWildKaiser

    I’m all for more character development! The only times I consider something a filler is when an anime has a source material and the episode is an anime original. If the anime is an original, it just doesn’t feel right to me to call it a filler. I’ll just call it a “bad episode” or something. However, those “bad episodes” and fillers have to be of absolutely zero worth if I had to call them that.

    Like recap episodes. I don’t know about you but I find them to be useless. Unless they’re done Gintama style where they actually are hilarious as heck and they add stuff instead of just a full on recap. (Actually now that I think about it, Gintama recaps aren’t really recaps)

    Oh and another I’ve noticed from lurking around is that people throw “filler” around way too much. Some seem to think it means “an episode where no action happens”. I think that’s nonsense but that’s just me haha.

    Looking forward to seeing what other people think about fillers are also on the lookout for those fluff-y character development!

    • May 15, 2013 at 10:49 amStilts

      I forgot about recap episodes! Yes, most of those are definitely filler…even with ones that add some extra information to the show (like my recent favorite example for almost everything, Garupan), it’s hard to think of them as anything but filler.

      About the only exception I can think of is if the visuals and the words don’t match, like one Hayate no Gotoku chapter I read recently. It was neat seeing some visual gags while the narration took care of the recap. Hard to do that and be entertaining, though.

      • May 15, 2013 at 11:21 amWildKaiser

        Haha that Garupan recap was okay for me as they introduced all the girls and gave more info about the tanks. That and I can listen to Miho talk all day.. *ahem*

        The ones that are utterly useless are those that recap without adding even a single bit of new content. I don’t consider the narration “new content” though since most of the time it goes like “And this is what we did.. *recap* … we were attacked by..*recap*. Reborn comes to mind haha.

        Ah never read Hayate but that chapter sounds pretty interesting!

      • May 15, 2013 at 2:41 pmEH2

        A funny thing happens in Denno Coil.

        There are 3 episodes that were written by guest writers for that show: the one with the fish-type Illegal and the water-in-the-sky glitch, the one where everyone gets “facial hair”, and the one with Plesio. (PLEEEEEESIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ;_;) The one in the middle could be cut from the show in its entirety and it wouldn’t matter much, the development given to the characters is later reinforced through other scenes in the show, and the detail with the Illegal’s aversion to light is reintroduced in the immediate next episode. However, it’s still pretty funny and it made me remember the days when I used to play Age of Empires all goddamned day long.

        But all in all, we could call that the “filler episode” of Denno Coil. The other 2 are really far from being fillers, as they bring very important points (Daikoku Underwater reveals Tamako is part of the DCDA and adds a bit of worldbuilding; and The Last Plesiosaur is huge on character development, and makes you cry like a little girl every damn time you watch it. Plesio ;_;).

        Then we have Episode 14.

        Episode 14 is the show’s recap at the middle of its run, told from the perspective of Fumie’s younger brother Akira. He goes through the characters and most of the concepts used on the show… …while revealing several new plot points (such as the pink Micet). The episode later ends on a very dark note, revealing the main villain of the story and setting a more serious tone that will prevail throughout the rest of the series.

        So, even if a recap, you can’t call it filler.

      • May 16, 2013 at 2:37 pmYou know, for kids!

        What about Zetsuen no Tempest‘s recap episode?

  • May 15, 2013 at 10:51 amGiorno Giovanna

    You know that feeling you get when the story is drawn to its inevitable conclusion that changes their lives forever, and you wish you could see more of them before they moved on/died/went to a higher plane of existence etc.?

    I think fillers are great for seeing how characters in even a serious plot live their day to day lives or interact with various things, it allows you to see more of their character in general and get to see how they spend their time.

    I can’t think of any specific filler I would like to point out for excellence, except that once in a while I always hear people commenting, “THAT WAS A FILLER? BUT IT WAS SO GOOD!”.

    Ah, that’s right, it was one of the earlier episodes of Ao No Exorcist that focused on food that explored the brothers’ living situation, and another that was the characters at the beach that went into Izumo Kamiki’s character a bit more. I reckon those were good fillers, other than that I rarely see fillers due to most anime being novel adaptation and pressed for time as it is, with Haganai for example, skipping out most lengthy dialogues that were present in the novel in favor of scenes with more substance, fanservice and plot included.

    Another example I doubt I’ll ever forget is Naruto’s corny episode where they try to see what Kakashi’s face looks like. But honestly, their fillers went a bit overboard afterward.Also, hopefully noone discusses about Avatar being an anime or not here.

    In conclusion, I think fillers are alright when the author of the series pitches in the story, so you don’t have the characters acting too weirdly from canon. Good example of filler arc was the Arcobaleno arcs in Hitman Reborn.

  • May 15, 2013 at 11:00 amfloe

    Haruhi’s Endless Eight episodes are my favorite fillers. I was crying tears of pain and joy when it was finally over. Character development was immense as well. :D

    • May 15, 2013 at 1:44 pmStilts

      Someone actually liked Endless Eight? D: I’ll admit that the character development was there, but they presented it in a hamfisted way. That wasn’t really filler though, just an arc that could have been better done in half or a fourth of the time.

      • May 15, 2013 at 5:05 pmskylion

        Replace the word ham, with the word stink, and you have it right there.

      • May 15, 2013 at 5:33 pmPasserby

        So much hate for Endless Eight, as usual. It’s a bit of a shame. I would write (and have wrote) at length about it but I doubt this comments section is the forum for it. I will only say that there is not enough experimentation in anime these days, even failed ones like Endless Eight.

      • May 15, 2013 at 8:58 pmDa5id

        But there’s experimentation that just does not sound like a good idea even on paper. Like Endless Eight.

      • May 15, 2013 at 11:25 pmCrunchie

        I really liked Endless Eight, and appreciated it more when I realised it was only animated because the movie made reference to it. The whole second season of Haruhi could be considered filler, but it was all done because the movie needed it, so it’s more of a “build up” than “filler”.

      • May 16, 2013 at 3:14 amDa5id

        Wait, how so? I don’t remember anything from Endless Eight being relevant in the movie.

      • May 16, 2013 at 5:07 amGiorno Giovanna

        Finally, someone else that sees how the repetition was significant in Nagato’s actions, and how Kyon slowly pays more and more attention to her throughout each time loop, that leads up to his actions taken in the movie that decides which timeline the world is on, leading to current events. Have some Cure Sunny.

        I really didn’t think it was a failure because it set out to depict to the audience what a few hundred years of time loops would feel like and how a artificial human interface program could develop an irregularity for the rest of the series without compromising the overall plot; Basically Nagato having some semblance of emotions for the future of the series.

        Also, to be honest, I’m sick of people saying “I don’t remember anything from Endless Eight being relevant in the movie.” or “It was a bad decision to go ahead with it etc.”. Firstly, this kind of discussion regarding Endless Eight shouldn’t be considered to begin with, as Crunchie says, it was really more of a build up than anything else. And it wasn’t as if the production budget was slack for the episodes in question either.

        Every time someone brings up this Endless Eight discussion, I can’t help but feel that there is some form of hatred towards the success that Kyoani has at garnering attention with any of its productions, just because a select group would prefer something that caters more to the target audience group they belong in. As Passerby says, its really something that can be debated at length, but really not worth the time when it comes to convincing others that write it off as a production mistake.

      • May 17, 2013 at 1:26 amDa5id

        But couldn’t that build up be handled in maybe THREE episodes, not EIGHT?

        Really though, you could just say that Nagato’s ability to show emotion and Kyon paying attention to her came from their interactions with each other over time and just cut out Endless Eight entirely. Or at the very least just watch the end, seeing as it gets the point across just as well in an eighth of the time.

  • May 15, 2013 at 11:06 amshifobrains

    I love character development episodes. Some of the best episodes in Rinne no Lagrange were character driven “filler” instead of plot driven arcs (take episode 9 in the first season). But, you have to develop the right characters at the right time.

    At the moment the Yayoi episode appeared, it was right after Makishima’s razor blade meet a certain someone’s neck. I’m pretty sure most viewers were expecting some character development for Tsunemori or a continuation of the plot at hand. Instead we got an episode dedicated to arguably the least interesting and least focused character in the team’s cast. Yayoi’s role in the main plot and as a character was a stoic female Enforcer. She acted as an extra body to be placed on the secondary squad so that other characters could shine. If you looked at what she did throughout the series, it was mostly standing next to Ginoza or being placed out of the way in the control room in the finale. The Yayoi episode snatched the audience out of the immediacy of the twist that Makishima brought into the fold without shedding light onto the right characters. It was just an episode put in to take up space in a rigid seasonal schedule.

    Using Avatar: The Last Airbender was a great example of how filler episodes can add character development. However, what if, right after Appa’s kidnapping in season 2, the next episode was dedicated entirely to Momo’s past before joining the group? It would probably be entertaining, but it would have completely taken the audience out of the immediacy of the situation the group was currently in. The pacing of the show demanded that filler take a back seat to allow for the plot to move forward, and when character development was needed it was focused on the right characters.

    I want to restate that I do not hate filler, and I did not hate the Yayoi episode. It just came up at a time when it should not have.

    • May 15, 2013 at 1:46 pmStilts

      Ahhh, very true. In that case it was more of a problem of timing than anything else. I had forgotten that since I marathoned PSYCHO-PASS in spurts, so it was only half an hour until I saw more plot, heh

  • May 15, 2013 at 11:16 amflCer

    I hate fillers… They don’t contribute to the story and even if they add more dimensions to the characters, most of it is inconsequential to the storyline I’m looking forward to seeing.

    Part of the reason why fillers are called fillers is because it is an episode that the studio makes that must not make new developments that can influence the ongoing storyline by the original author. That’s why it will always have restricted freedoms and somehow that always usually it boring.

  • May 15, 2013 at 11:56 amCybersteel

    Best filler? Loli Rin episode in Fate Zero.

  • May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pmGiNoCo

    I like fillers! For instance taking king of fillers Bleach, my most beloved arc was when the swords came to life. Liked it more than real canon ones. Fairy Tail fillers were good also. When I started the watch One Piece around episode 300 (playing for memory here) it was a recap episode. However if you look at the time line it was the first “filler” after 10 years of being in the air waves. Season one Chihayafuru recap/filler was great. Season 2 Chihayafuru filler wasn’t good. I liked some of Naruto “fillers” when they showcased the secondary character, specially my love Ten-Ten. However seing Naruto fart and run for a bathroom was disgusting and hated every minute of it.
    So I’m a 90% love all kind of filler and 10% hate them when distastefull (sadly this is ambiguous) to my taste. I sure can live with them and won’t be detrimental to my overall enjoyment of series when done correctly and nice.

    • May 15, 2013 at 1:48 pmStilts

      I did hear that some of the FAIRY TAIL fillers were good, though to be fair, I heard it from Stereoman, so who knows if it’s true… :D

      • May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pmShrubbery

        I’m a fan of Fairy Tail (Not as much as Stereoman though), and I can confirm that Fairy Tail fillers were good. I have experieced bad fillers first hand in Naruto (the current fillers are the worst yet) and Bleach. Sometimes I thought they were so bad, I didn’t even have the spirit/willpower to watch them (I still did). But Fairy Tail fillers weren’t as bad and they were not as abundant as in Bleach or Naruto.

        I’ve looked into it a bit, almost more than 50% (!!) of Naruto is filler, this completely messes up the story. Because of the amount of fillers the story seems to be told slower (read = too slow) which ends up with a bad experience. In my eyes fillers in shorter series aren’t as bad as in long shounen ones because of this.

  • May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pmCarVac

    Railgun?

    Railgun.

    The lighthearted character-building, and then the deep darkness the characters get drawn into which shows you another side of them.

    Clearly the best combination of plot and filler there is.

    • May 15, 2013 at 2:40 pmLibelula

      But “lighthearted character-building” is not really filler. It serves a purpose -that is the build-up of the story. The “plot” would lose ist impact without those parts. So it cant be a filler…but it of course can be boring;)

    • May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pmJ_the_Man

      Railgun Season 1 has to be one of the best examples I can recall (Of course, I have a limited number of Anime I can point to for my examples) when it comes to appropriate use of filler. It added a natural flow to the story before and between the main plot, and you got to see the characters when they weren’t under the stress of fighting the big bad or the apocalypse.

  • May 15, 2013 at 12:07 pmZen

    The economic dimension of true filler is basically a big cost-benefit analysis thing. It isn’t worth doing if your show’s following isn’t large enough to guarantee a significant payout/profit for episodes that are usually of inferior quality to the source material; when you run out of source material to animate, then you are presented with two options: One, either make some filler to allow the source enough time to catch up; or two, stop animating for a bit until a substantial amount of new source material builds up. For shows like Naruto and (previously) Bleach their followings are/were large enough to justify continuing to make filler episodes in the absence of adaptable source material; enough fans would continue buying the Blu-rays regardless of objective quality to guarantee a significant profit. Other less popular but still long-running shows decide to go the Gintama route where they actually stop animating for a several seasons whenever they run out of source material. And some, like Bleach start out being filler heavy and then switch to a version of the second model as they approach their end and popularity declines because lots of filler ceases to be fiscally sustainable (The Bleach anime “ended” but I find it very had to believe that they won’t animate the last part of the story when the manga ends, much like Inuyasha). To everyone who complains about “bad filler” in long-running shounen , well, it’s there because the market will sustain it- so unfortunately it’s probably here to stay, although (thankfully) probably only for the most popular of offerings…

    • May 15, 2013 at 1:51 pmStilts

      Very true, and something to keep in mind when those long-running shows go into filler territory. If a noted one- or two-cour show has a “filler” episode, it probably has a reason to be there, but a never-ending shounen will just do it because they can get away with it.

      Makes me happy that FAIRY TAIL didn’t go that route. Not that I’ve seen any of its filler (I read the manga), but at least the possibility still remains.

  • May 15, 2013 at 12:36 pmstarss

    The filler one-shots (meaning, a story that only spans one episode) for Fairy Tail were good as well as fast-paced and probably the silliest things I ever seen in that show. Instead of trying to add something to the main story, it focused on tinier crisis’, like a potion that spun out of control. But Fairy Tail also has filler arcs, and those have a few more problems. Characters are flanderized or just have poorly-explained motivations just to push the story to the good stuff, and of course, they just reset everything so it won’t have any affect on the manga material.

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:03 pmSixFlags

    A nice discussion! And I truly share your views on filler’s and character development with the Avatar: The last airbender example.

    In my personal anime history and as one of my all-time favourites, Aria (The Animation, The Natural, The Origination) would be THE definition of an entire series basically consisting of “fluffy” but character developing episodes. And it was done splendidly.

    • May 15, 2013 at 1:52 pmStilts

      Ahhhh Aria, one of the shows I feel vaguely guilty for not having seen, but will probably never get to. So…much…backlog!!

      • May 15, 2013 at 5:03 pmYuu

        Or you could just take up the manga…

        An Aria does deserve the name “fluffy” every ep/chapter makes you fluffy inside, in the good way…

      • May 16, 2013 at 1:56 amScruffy

        If you do get round to Aria my recomendation is take your time with it. Watch an episode a week along with the rest of the stuff you do, preferably just before you head off to bed. You’ll have the most wonderfully relaxed sleep!

        Seriously though .. just do it .. WATCH ARIA!!!

      • May 16, 2013 at 7:21 amSixFlags

        I can only second what Scruffy said!

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:18 pmShugima

    Stilts, this is not so much aimed at this topic, but more on your novel. I don’t know if this has be asked, but are you considering putting the novel out in paper format, or strictly as a digital novel? Because you could consider some crowdfunding with kickstarter for the paper format of the novel, I think some of us here would love to see that.

    With the backing you get from here, you might be able to realise your dream and get an extra reward out of all your hard work here at Randomc.

    • May 15, 2013 at 2:03 pmStilts

      If all goes well I would love to see my work printed! If I do though, I want to make them something really special – not just trade paperbacks, but beautiful tomes that are more collector’s item than just a way to get at the words. If just reading the story is the goal, nothing beats digital. I want any physical copies to be a richer experience.

      Anywho, my plan is to prove myself with ebooks first. Once I do that I’ll certainly be looking into Kickstarter : )

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:35 pmZannafar

    I don’t mind most fillers, but recap episodes need to disappear (also the recaps at the beginning of episodes in series like Naruto and Bleach, but I lost all hope for that already).

    Also, you should really keep your promise with Moomba and watch Strike Witches.

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:38 pmqwert

    Can you call Naruto’s filler filler though?

    Filler is literally the fluff that fills in the gaps between main story segments. I’m pretty sure Naruto is about at the point where the main story segments are filling in the cracks between the fluff.

  • May 15, 2013 at 1:52 pmKairi

    Character development. <3

    I wrote a paper on a similar topic on Monday, haha.

    I think you make a good point in separating the filler from the fluff and the character development; they’re really not the same thing though they might feel like it sometimes. Luckily I haven’t been around too much filler lately, because I remember the Bounto arc in Bleach, and that hurt. The Naruto ones are oft unspeakable.

    Also, you watch Avatar. D: More awesome points for senpai~

    • May 15, 2013 at 2:06 pmStilts

      Nyahaha, of course I watch Avatar! Though I haven’t started Korra yet, to my shame. At this point I’ll probably just start it when the next season is about to begin. Probably :X

      I’m weird sometimes. Well, most of the time.

      • May 16, 2013 at 4:09 pmc2710

        Why not do an expositon of the Avatar series here?

        I’d love to see it done

  • May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pmMagoiichi

    Whatever wasn’t in the original is filler to me.I only accept filler from series I actually love like Fairy Tail <3.As you can probably guess I hated Naruto and Bleach's filler to the point where I just stopped watching their anime and stuck with reading the manga.

    I like anime that has filler, but I couldn't tell if it was filler or not.

    • May 15, 2013 at 2:35 pmLibelula

      “I like anime that has filler, but I couldn’t tell if it was filler or not.”

      No matter how hard I think, I dont remember any anime, in which I didnt notice that it was filler.
      I do remember though that I thought a certain quiz-show-episode in Ergo Proxy was a filler, but it turned out to be one of the if not THE most important episode of the show. So the other way around my “prediction” arent that reliable XD

  • May 15, 2013 at 2:24 pmLibelula

    I find it hard to call “useless” episodes in a original series a “filler”, because that Shows a pretty arrogant attitude. You as a watcher are basically saying “this is how the story should be! I dont like this episodes so I dont consider it part of the Story, therefore I call it a filler”.
    Even if an episodes contributes nothing to the character development and concentrates completely on random stuff, I still wouldn’t call it filler, but of course you can critizise this if this Episode doesnt really fit in.
    But with an Adaptation, ist a different Story. We clearly have an original story, and even if we look at the animated version as having its own values, the references will be there, or else we wouldnt call it an “adaptation”. And this comparison allows the word “filler” I think. The own preferences though? Not really.

    Now are recap episodes in original stories filler? hmm,I think thats another story, because there it seems to be more a method to “stretch” a series, the meaning to “tell a story” seems lost.

  • May 15, 2013 at 2:44 pmLibelula

    The worst filler ever invented by humankind – “filler endings”! XD
    Seriously Id rather have an open end so I can hope for a continuation than something as horrible as the claymore ending….

  • May 15, 2013 at 3:25 pmThe Moondoggie

    I still have to watch Strike Witches, because I promised Moomba. For some reason, he thinks I’ll like it. I wonder why?

    Because you’re THE ero-blogger right?

    I guess fillers, for my part, are only bad when the anime is an adaptation and the number of episodes just won’t cut it. You won’t know a filler is one if it is in an original, right?

    • May 16, 2013 at 2:53 pmNaYa

      Indeed. Seishun seems to be racking up experience as the next eroblogger with Hyakka Ryouran, but Stilts is THE eroji eronii-chan.
      What happened to Jaalin btw? XD

  • May 15, 2013 at 3:27 pmmac65

    I still have to watch Strike Witches, because I promised Moomba.
    For some reason, he thinks I’ll like it. I wonder why?

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Especially Season 1, episode 7. Should be near
    the top of anyone’s bucket list. Just sayin’

    I’ll check out you blog – best wishes on your future success!

    • May 15, 2013 at 3:28 pmThe Moondoggie

      For full ero power, get the BD/uncensored release…

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:12 amStilts

      I-I’m not the ecchi blogger, I swear! Ohandalso, you act like I don’t already have the uncensored BD version all ready to go.

      …I just totally killed my first point, didn’t I? >_<

      P.S. Thanks mac65! It’s much appreciated : )

  • May 15, 2013 at 4:25 pmDelwack

    Silts:
    “Have you ever seen filler in an anime/manga adaptation that was actually pretty good? What’s your opinion of whether original materials can have filler? Do you like character development episodes, or are you all about the plot?”

    Stilts, if you are going to use two different definitions of filler in your post, please explain it more clearly last time. At first I thought you were completely contradicting yourself, but then I realized when you asked if filler can actually be good, you meant filler in the ‘does not exist in original material’ sense of filler.

    By your own definition of filler (no plot, no character development, henceforth called definition 1), filler can NEVER be good.

    If you use the alternative definition (dose not exist in original material, henceforth called definition 2), filler CAN occasionally be okay or better (e.g. the beach filler). But this ‘filler’ is not necessarily ‘filler’ by the first definition. If it is decent, you would instead call it ‘adapation decay’ or ‘alternative universe’ or maybe ‘jumping the shark’.

    Two different meanings represented by the same term. Perhaps that’s why people get confused sometimes.

    So to answer your questions:

    Have you seen filler (definition 1) that’s actually good? impossible by definition. [definition reminder: provides no worth to the story, the character, and isn’t even entertaining]
    Have you seen filler (definition 2) that’s actually good? yes.

    What’s your opinion of whether original materials can have filler (definition 1)? Yes. The author has run out of ideas, the series becomes hated, and is eventually put out of it’s misery while everyone sits around their cups talking about how it used to actually be good.

    What’s your opinion of whether original materials can have filler (definition 2)? Impossible by definition. [definition reminder: does not exist in original material].

    Do you like character development episodes, or are you all about the plot?
    Both. The best episodes do a lot of both. I’ll take either one by itself too, though.

    The first two questions seem a lot deeper than they really are because you’re conflating 2 different definitions for the same term! Not a good idea.

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:15 amStilts

      Ahaha, my apologies. I probably should have marked when I was switching between my definition and the common (even if I think it’s misused) definition. Filler certainly is a tricky little idea, which is why I think we often see people cry filler where its not appropriate.

      Arguing over definitions is tiresome though. Back to the examples, says I!

  • May 15, 2013 at 4:53 pmdytianquin

    Stils, I don’t know if I missed you talk about this in previous posts, but is the book you’re working on the reason why you stopped covering anime on randomc? Could be that you wanted to give more anime to the newer writers for their benefit? I’ve been missing your posts lately. You were one of the reasons I started coming to this site after all. Though, I am enjoying Sheishun and Kairi a lot. Since, I am a reader and already enjoy reading your posts, I will try to get my hands on your work once you publish, or do what you will with it! What kind of work are you doing? Is it in the sci-fi or fantasy genre? I’m really curios to what kind of story you will be presenting to the world.

    Now, about the topic at hand. Character development is one of my favorite things about shows period. I want to learn about people or the characters I’m watching. I want to attach to them on an emotional level. I feel that is one of the best experiences in watching shows. The experience of knowing, understanding, and loving a character is really what makes enjoy great anime. I loved Sakurasou for this very reason. I understood the type of people the kids in Sakurasou were and loved them for it. I’m all for the fluff, but I’m all against fillers like Narutos ones. It’s the very reason why I stopped watching Shippuuden even though I enjoyed all the main arcs.

    Tim

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:21 amStilts

      I took a break from episodics for multiple reasons, of which wanting to finish editing my book was one of them. It’s hard to get into the flow of editing (or writing) when it gets broken every few days by a post that I need to get out right now (because my pride wouldn’t allow me to put it off). I could also feel myself just straight burning out though, so I knew I needed to take a break. Plus, I actually wanted give these editorials the attention I felt they deserved. It was hard doing episodics + editorials + working on my book, but so far the latter two together have been working quite well.

      Anywho, I’m glad to hear that you enjoy my writing (and are enjoying Sei-chan and Kairi as well!). And my book is fantasy, though more of a “hard” fantasy ala Fullmetal Alchemist. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it when it comes out : )

      Now if you’ll excuse me, you reminded me of Sakurasou again (not that it’s ever far from my mind), so I now need to go throw on 「DAYS of DASH」 and write for another three hours. My sleeep! ;__;

  • May 15, 2013 at 4:56 pmSeishun

    Congrats on your new blog, Stilts nii nii! Keep up the good work, my finger’s always just one click away from pre-ordering your novel ;)

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:25 amStilts

      Nyahaha, domo domo *scratches back of head and bows*

  • May 15, 2013 at 5:06 pmYuu

    Saiyuki.

    The whole later part of the anime is “filler”, but… great stuff…

  • May 15, 2013 at 6:06 pmConsumed

    I personally loved the Inuyasha filler. There were plenty of romantic moments and funny side stories that I grew up cherishing. They are a part of the reason I’m such a huge fan of the series today and I refuse to accept the fact that they’re non-canonical lol, its canon in my heart ^_^

  • May 15, 2013 at 6:33 pmPasserby

    Rather than being too stringent with technical definitions, perhaps we could settle for a practical one. The purpose of filler is to increase the length of your show. As such, the prime directive of filler is to maintain the status quo. It should not advance the plot or develop characters; those are things that are the meat of a show, which they’ll get back to eventually. Notably, character development episodes are not filler; there’s more to narrative than just stuff happening.

    I don’t think there generally is that much filler in anime, since most shows are constrained by a set budget over a set season length. More often we the filler analagous to the stuff in the unending Western sitcoms in the burgeoning shounen giants like Bleach, One Piece and Naruto today. It is true that it is possible for these filler episodes to entertain–the point of anime is to entertain–but at the end of them we will feel like we’re back where we’ve started. This is why fillers are more prolific in sitcoms; it just works better. People watch sitcoms partially for familiar feedback; they subconsciously desire more of the same and for retention of status quo. In an anime where there is a progressive plot an episode where there is no development feels out of place and distracting.

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:24 amStilts

      Very true, very true! It’s funny, but neverending shounen and western sitcoms are actually similar in some strange ways, this among them. The tendency to drag the story out and bleed viewers for whatever they can get out of them ends up with a lot of worrisome storytelling decisions as series far outstay their welcome.

      Also, I just got a mental image of Naruto guest starring on How I Met Your Mother. I may not be able to sleep tonight.

    • May 16, 2013 at 9:56 amCarVac

      I wouldn’t say “set season length”. There have been recent shows that run shorter than usual: Hyouka was 22, while Mondai-ji and the second season of Kore wa Zombie desu ka? were both only 10 episodes.

      All three were well paced.

      • May 16, 2013 at 7:28 pmPasserby

        That just says more about their set length; shows like that are of peculiar length because they were planned that way. No indefinite extensions based on ratings here.

  • May 15, 2013 at 6:49 pmtart

    Personally, I thought the Fullmetal Alchemist (and movies) fillers were pretty well-written, especially considering how at the time the manga wasn’t finished.

  • May 15, 2013 at 7:00 pmkornpone

    Great topic for discussion Stilts, and thank you for the passing Sasamin ref.

    That was just such an over-the-top show in so many genre-bending ways (yuri-cest-harem-battle-goddess-trap-mecha-SoL?), it’s a shame more folks didn’t spend the time to immerse themselves in its twisted yet oddly chipper world.(上級者向け過ぎる?)

    Which makes me wonder if you’d be up for a My Way… (excellent new series title btw ;) on the popular and commercial (non?)viability of genre-bending anime. Often these truly innovative works break ground for developments in future, more mainstream works, but are themselves relegated to the lonely landfill of largely forgotten, one-cour whatwasthatcalleds. Sure, you can imagine other creators or directors being profoundly inspired by such gems, but in many ways their moment in the limelight is all too fleeting.

    Funya~ x)

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:32 amStilts

      I just might, I just might! My cardinal rule is “does it interest me”, but considering how I just wrote a few short paragraphs of notes when I copied your idea over to my note files, I just may tackle that issue one week. Will have to see if it tickles my fancy when it’s not 5 in the morning, lol

      • May 16, 2013 at 7:50 pmkornpone

        Excellent! Can’t wait to see it —and here’s hoping the tickles are still there later ;)

        Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is in this category for me too: although leaning heavily into gag territory (Kotori, the heroine, is impossible to take seriously) the entire delivery is fresh and edgy in ways that have bled into other, more serious works. And going back a bit further is Kyoran Kazoku Nikki (2 full cours of zany goodness!), an innocent-looking but out-and-out irrepressible explosion of genres, tropes, and just about everything else.

        Genres are walls in the sandbox of creativity. And every now and then, someone’s gotta break ‘em down, eh? ^^);

  • May 15, 2013 at 7:53 pmArbitrary_greay

    I’ve heard that the Sailor Moon anime gives a lot more development to the other characters through its filler-ific approach where the manga is all Usagi’s story.

    From that standpoint, I wish more series had more filler. A lot of single-coeur anime these days feel hollow because they don’t have any interludes to let development sink in and feel natural. Instead, tell-not-show rules the day, and that’s a huge no-no for me. For example, in Rinne, Dizelmine and Villagulio desperately needed some fleshing out during Season 2. Why didn’t we ever see Dizelmine be adorably fail worthy of being Lan’s brother, even if only in flashback? How did Villagulio reconcile the throne with the “Harem Night!” troll? Their interactions never hinted at anything like the Lan-Muginami dynamic, despite an attempt at a parallel of Dizelmine-Yurikano-Villagulio to the Vox Trio. Those are humanizing moments we could have gotten without need extra plot if Rinne had had a full 26 episodes like anime days of old.
    (A great deal of anime these days rely on tell-not-show because they’re deathly afraid of changing source material for the sake of optimizing it for the real-time motion medium, and instead throw in great chunks of talk-talk-talk to evoke the tone of the original, which was text to begin with. Whereas western fandom adaptations these days are becoming much better at even rejecting the tone of the source material in order to let the medium reach its full potential. See Lord of The Rings, The Avengers, Hunger Games, the Sherlock adaptations, etc. But that’s a different topic…)

    What boggles my mind is why filler is done so badly at all. Fanfiction provides all sorts of examples of possible filler episodes that bring new value to the series without disturbing the status quo. Source material authors generally avoid fanfiction so that they don’t accidentally plagiarise things into canon, but anime adaptations are under no such constraints, because they aren’t writing the future canon. Not to say that they should steal fanfic plots, but that fanfiction proves that there are many great stories that can be told without falling into the usual filler pitfalls. Mayhaps the writing team aren’t actually fans of the work and so don’t get inspiration? But there’s a solution to that, too.

    Hey, remember the time that Power Rangers hired a former PR fanfiction writer to do the Time Force/Wild Force crossover episode, and it was one of the best Power Rangers episodes ever?

    • May 16, 2013 at 3:36 amStilts

      That’s because fanfiction writers care. They care enough to write for no reason other than to write. That’s true of some people who work on anime too, undoubtedly…but perhaps not the people working on X filler episodes or on Y series. When you get people who are technically good but not passionate about what they’re working on, it may not mater how great they are – it’s liable to end up feeling soulless and dead in the end.

  • May 15, 2013 at 10:42 pmChalryn

    I’m actually quite a big fan of the slice of life genre, so I can’t help but feel like my opinions of filler/fluff don’t amount to much. xD However, the aforementioned character development is one of the things I usually enjoy the most in “fluff” episodes, even if it’s pretty minor. Shows like Naruto and Bleach have enormous casts of characters, many of whom get left out of the spotlight for extended periods of time, so even just having them show up for an episode or two outside of the canonical storyline can be nice, so long as they actually contribute in some way. (Using Naruto for example, the filler arc in which Hinata develops a new technique was something I enjoyed, since I always liked her character and whatnot. Never used it again afterward, but even if just a standalone instance, I enjoyed it, since it was something that the canonical storyline wasn’t offering.)

    Being a slice of life fan, though, it probably goes without saying that I’m (usually) not in any rush to get anywhere with a story, provided the material given between major developments is entertaining/interesting/amusing/etc., at least. I feel that episodes dedicated entirely to character development play a major role in a series’ universe, even if the plot isn’t furthered by it. Granted, for certain kinds of series (namely, action-oriented stuff like shounen series), it’s difficult to really expand on characters (especially when there are a lot of them) without breaking off from the main story for a while, so it’s difficult to really balance things out… But personally, this is precisely why I love stuff like slice of life series, and even favor a fair number of shoujo series over shounen. The amount of characterization that you can get from some of these series really allows for such a greater degree of connection to the series and its characters, and that’s something that makes a series much more special and memorable to me. But then again, that’s just a personal bias of mine, so I guess it really just depends on the demographic of a series, and how effectively the creator(s) can implement character development and balance it with plot progression, action, etc.

    Although it’s an example from a slice of life(-esque?) series, one good filler/fluff (see: non-canonical) episode was episode 7 of the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou, “The Little Fox’s Hat.” In fact, it was apparently a pretty big hit with many viewers, and they later brought back the central character of the episode in season three just by popular demand, basically. (And from what I recall hearing, that episode, too, got pretty high ratings.) The central character was pretty adorable, and the two episodes were rather heartwarming, much in the way that many of the series’ other stories are, if not more so.

  • May 16, 2013 at 12:35 amzztop

    I liked some of the comedy/ 2ndary character romance filler episodes from Inuyasha(an old,old series that got me into anime!).
    Most notable to me was the one episode where Inuyasha got possessed by a female flea demon(with mind-scarring effects on Shippo the fox demon) and another one where Miroku is prepared to give up on Sango after realizing his prospects don’t match up to those of the wealthy, handsome daimyo proposing marriage to her.

    And in Inuyasha’s case, the addition of a filler anime character helped ensure a proper, happy ending for one of the minor characters as well(Koga the wolf demon).

  • May 16, 2013 at 5:01 amarren

    Filler can sometimes be annoying and disappointing, but there are times when it feels like it isn’t entirely useless. Sometimes it helps build anticipation for something more exciting and sometimes it’s just fun. My favourite filler would have to be in Revolutionary Girl Utena – the filler episodes are usually pretty funny and explore some of the minor characters a bit more, the entire Black Rose arc is arguably unnecessary but very exciting, and two of the clipshow episodes suddenly reveal important plot points right at the end. Sure, there were times when I wished they were getting on with the real story instead, but generally the “filler” had a lot to offer compared to other anime.

  • May 16, 2013 at 7:03 amKentaiyoshimi

    Seirei no Moribito. The 26 ep anime adaptation was based off a 300 page novel, but it had a wealth of character development, plot, and intrigue that went beyond the novel. If it was just being compared to the novel, then Seirei no Moribito could be considered full of filler/fluff. BUT, all of the development was all done in a consistent, compelling, and intelligent manner, to the point where the adaptation might have been nowhere as good if it was simply a 100% faithful adaptation.

    Oh, and it has one of the best animated spear fights

  • May 16, 2013 at 8:46 amJackpot2121

    I can understand how annoying fillers can be, especially with Naruto recently (with some exceptions,) but there are times when a filler arc can be quite enjoyable and expand more on a previous topic that was not elaborated on, a prime example being Fairy Tail’s Key of the starry Sky arc.

  • May 16, 2013 at 8:59 am†Croos†

    I wish I can do filler post in RC. XD

  • May 16, 2013 at 3:51 pmc2710

    You know Stilts, I’m surprised you made a mention of Avatar. I thoroughly enjoy it and despite watching the reruns on TV, it’s novelty doesnt run dry.

    Back to fillers, when it comes to fillers, it’s a love-hate relationship for me. Its annoying if they use it as a fanservice or to side step the ongoing plot line

  • May 16, 2013 at 4:47 pmMelissa

    Stilts can you do a my way or anime on maho shojos. I feel like most people would rather have a Madoka like show rather than a Mermaid pichi pichi show

    • May 16, 2013 at 11:55 pmStilts

      I tossed the subject in my notes file, but to be honest I’m not particularly familiar with most of the genre, so I doubt I could do it justice. I never seem to be able to catch up with all the shows I’m watching each season, so I doubt I’ll ever get to go back and marathon a buncha mahou shoujo shows ;_;

  • May 16, 2013 at 6:05 pmVsin

    Mahou Shoujou Madoka Magica Ep 10? The thing is basically an alternate universe recap, but it still provides ample backstory and character development.

    • May 16, 2013 at 7:00 pmRegalStar

      It’s not a recap if it doesn’t go over material that’s already shown.

  • May 16, 2013 at 6:56 pmsonicsenryaku

    I have no problems with fillers so as long as they remain interesting; and that’s the thing about most fillers: just because they arent cannon, producers dont feel the need to put in the effort to make them engaging. In anime, we see filler arcs having lower animation budgets and lack-luster story telling along with clunky exposition, lack of style, and dissatisfying conclusions. I disagree with people who dislike fillers because they are not canon as i find that to be flawed logic. Writers make it seem like it’s almost impossible to make interesting fillers without disturbing canon but it’s not. It may be difficult, but certainly not impossible. You can still develop the main cast of characters, make interesting filler characters, and create an astounding story without hurting canon. As of a matter of fact, writers should see filler as an opportunity to create new, interesting stories and worlds that otherwise couldnt be explored in the canon; maybe even something that can top the canon and be judged in its own right.

    • May 17, 2013 at 12:01 amStilts

      Of, to be honest, do non-canon stories. I never understood why they didn’t just throw out some interesting alternate universe stories. Take the FAIRY TAIL OVA where all the characters are in a Japanese-style high school. I’m sure they could have made that into a mini-arc and everyone would have loved it!

      Fillers should be an opportunity to explore underdeveloped characters, introduce new characters, further establish characters we’ve already seen, or tell us a story we could never see in a million years in canon; personally, I just think that last one has the most potential because they could tell completely contained 5-episode (or whatever) stories with familiar characters that could stand on their own merits.

      Sorry, I took that off in a tangent : ) Thanks for the comment!

      • May 17, 2013 at 10:41 amsonicsenryaku

        Oh not at all I absolutely agree; but usually fillers are rushed jobs so we never get to see that kind of creativity blossom; and like u said, i think its a shame that the potential within fillers, such as doing alternate universe stories or mini arcs, is completely squandered.

  • May 16, 2013 at 8:03 pmJTShiro

    It truly depends on the approach to fillers. In Bleach’s case they usually came up with interesting ideas for the long term filler arcs (the standalone ones were hit and miss), but tended to fizzle out after a bit of time. Naruto’s filler approach is present standalone episodes or mini-arcs having no direction (meaning beyond stupid) and have in recent years focused on characters who no one cares about. Fairy Tail probably had the best long term filler arc due to pure entertainment value (perfect balance of fanservice gags, fights, and comedy)

  • May 16, 2013 at 8:41 pmTre

    Eureka Seven is the show that best exemplifies this for me. Many people insult those middle episodes, saying that it slowed down the story and made everything less interesting.

    I find that opinion absolutely horrific, because some of those episodes were among the best I have ever seen in any anime; I enjoyed them more than the plot-heavy episodes.

    There was that episode about Renton trying to get a boy to the hospital, only to have his parents refuse treatment for him because of religious reasons. Or the episode about the man who was taking care of his comatose wife in the vague hope that she’ll recover. Those were short stories that had little relevance to the plot, but the show would not be the same without them.

    • May 17, 2013 at 1:32 pmstarss

      Wasn’t Eureka 7 written as an anime first? I suppose in this case, filler is defined as an episode that has little barring on the overall story.

      • May 17, 2013 at 2:38 pmTre

        Yes, that was the definition I assumed for Eureka 7. The show is an anime original, but those episodes weren’t necessary for the main story.

      • May 17, 2013 at 4:03 pmDa5id

        What about the Soccer Episode? I think we could’ve safely removed that with little consequence.