Stop toying with my heart!
Nanatsu no Taizai is still good, but this is not the way to do fillers.
I’ve yammered on about filler before (side note: I have no idea how that post holds up. I almost shudder to read it. I hope it doesn’t suck), and I’m on record as being a fan of them when well-used. What some people consider filler can be enriching to the story, because that’s where we learn more about the characters than simply what they do in a crisis. True, that’s the best way to really get to know someone (try it on your friends!), but the everyday stuff and/or hijinks are important too. Also, fun! Fillers ain’t always bad.
This isn’t how you do filler.
Before anything else: Nanatsu no Taizai’s inner strength still signs through, so while these four episodes were an ill-considered bout of wasted time, I don’t hate the series for it. Will I hold out much hope if more anime-original material is announced? No. But back to the manga material and I’ll be as happy as a Meliodas in a poster girl sisters sandwich (minus the Gowther/Hawk).
These four episodes certainly show how not to do filler, though. Of them, the first commits the second-most grievous sin: it’s forgettable. I couldn’t remember what happened until I went back and checked. The second episode was probably the best, because while it’s undoubtedly not necessary, seeing Meliodas and Ban go head-to-head was a lot of fun. That’s the only one that I didn’t feel like was a waste of time. The final episode is probably among the bottom two as well, though at least it hinted at some Gowther stuff. Something of worth happened there.
But the episode that committed the greatest sin was undoubtedly the third. Take heed, all who wish to tell stories, of the lesson learned here. I can summarize it succinctly:
Don’t fuck with your readers.
Now, don’t get me wrong. An author must be sadistic enough to put his or her characters through hell, so they can earn their happy endings (if they’re getting one). I know I do it with my own books. (Insert people whining about Stilts referring to his novels, insert Stilts not giving a damn.) But notice how I said characters. An author puts their characters through the ringer, which has an effect on the readers who empathize with and have come to be interested in and even care for those characters. What they do not do is fuck with the reader directly.
(Usually. All writing rules can be broken, save for a very select few.)
What the third episode does is fuck with us. It has this big shipy episode between King and Diane, and honestly? It was great. They even gave us this huge reveal that, holy shit, Diane actually does remember King from way back when! Whoa! Is this filler actually going to lead to some serious character development?
Nope. A contrived reason leads to King forgetting about the event, and gods fucking dammit am I pissed. A whole episode and a great reveal, all spoiled by the old amnesia gambit. Maybe it’s because I’ve been around the storytelling block a few times, but that ticks me off. It makes me wonder why they even bothered with the episode in the first place. To fill space? To jerk us around? They’re going to have to go through the whole reveal again later on anyway, and now it’s going to have less impact. They spoiled the moment and gained nothing other than our ire. Way to go.
I said all writing rules can be broken, save for a very select few. Here’s one that ought to never be broken:
“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” -Kurt Vonnegut
That’s the sin of this short season, and the third episode in particular. Even though the foundation was still good! (Though I’m not sure I like Diane being small all the time. I miss her being a giant; it’s a fundamental part of her character, and without that it feels like she has less potential for character-building pain, even if the shipping is much enhanced.)
So, how to fix it? I fell off the Bleach anime bandwagon long ago, but I seem to remember at least one filler arc where new characters persisted for a while once the manga plot kicked back in. Or they could have done pure fluff, four episodes like the sixth episode of Kyoukai no Kanata, which itself was roundly criticized for being an OVA episode stuck in the middle of the season (and for screwing up the pacing). If nothing in these episodes is going to change the plot, change us. Let us get to know the characters in new situations, so we have a deeper understanding and attachment to them, instead of trying to have it both ways and screwing it up.
Also, chill on the foreshadowing. It’s just not necessary. Embrace the fluff and don’t waste our time. At least that way it’ll be fun, even if it’s not liable to be memorable without access to the plot. Basically, would it killed them to have done a swimsuit episode? You blew your chance, you idiots! Guh.
Oh well. At least we’re getting another proper season of Nanatsu no Taizai, with the manga plot and all. Even if Seisen no Shirushi was a misfire, it ended on the best news of all.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for a FREE prequel short story. At stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: What happens when you work 80+ hrs a week, Re Zero: The hero who strives, I have four jobs right now, and Radical transparency. I’ll try.