Greetings once again, readers! I hope you’re in for a fun-filled (if perhaps fury-fueled) post, because have I got a touchy topic for you—oh, and sorry about the pun. I’m sure you can guess from the title, but today’s post is about “filler”. Filler is a casual term used for the parts of a story that don’t necessarily progress the plot but provide padding in between important plot points—in other words, stalling. This is most commonly found in Anime, as this Urban Dictionary definition will tell you:
A segment of anime, whether it be an entire episode or part of one, which does not appear in the manga of the title. Fillers, as the name implies, “fills” an episode with non-canonical material which has been written usually by the same company which animates it. (Source)
Ordinarily I would be fine with the occasional filler episode, but one of my favorite shows has gone too far.
I hereby call you to the stand, Naruto, you abusive, supercilious prune!
Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. I still love you, Naruto. Maybe it’s time we had an intervention instead of a heated trial. Your filler has gotten out of hand. For most shows, filler is only necessary if it is based on a manga or comic book series that has not yet been completed and the animators run out of story to work with, but you have no excuse anymore. The manga is finished. You were so close to the end when I heard that you planned for the next two episodes to be filler. How could you? You tantalize your viewers with the promise of one last battle to end this war that has been going on for almost 200 episodes and then instead of blood and guts we get fluffy flashbacks to events that we already knew about. I swear to Anime that if you show me another episode filled with recycled clips of Obito losing his eye, I am going to retaliate with the full force of my artistic skills and paint the most beautiful rage art you have ever seen! You will be reduced to tears by both the sheer beauty and the sting of its insults!
You see what you have reduced me to? I’m hurling nonsensical insults at a work of fiction! This is exactly why I hate filler in any sort of story. While the term was created to describe this trend in anime, it can be found in other TV shows and books when the writer can’t come up with anything good but has to meet his or her deadline. I understand in some cases there needs to be some padding between plot points in order for the story to progress in a natural way. I mean the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender couldn’t just go from one intense battle to the fight to end all battles; they needed some padding in between so the story wouldn’t appear too rushed or hectic. But at least the filler in Avatar: The Last Airbender was able to develop the characters and flesh out the world that the writers had created. The Hunger Games series did this as well when Katniss and Peeta were in between arenas; Suzanne Collins used this time to emphasize the extent of President Snow’s cruelty as well as give the reader a better idea of what it would be like to live in the districts.
What I am getting at in this blog post, which is starting to resemble a boiling pot of chamomile tea laced with Tabasco, is that filler can be in your story, but make it meaningful. Use the opportunity to prove to your readers/viewers that you have thought about everything in this world that you have created, from the daily routing of the town baker to your main character’s beverage of choice. I highly doubt it will be a boiling pot of chamomile with a shot of Tabasco, but who knows? It could make for an interesting protagonist.