Anime is everywhere these days. Every streaming service has a sizable selection of Japanese Animation and some (like Crunchyroll and Funimation) are entirely dedicated to this pop culture phenomenon. If you’re new to the anime fandom, you might have noticed something weird while bingeing on shows like Naruto or Bleach.
Often, the plot just seems to veer off on an irrelevant tangent. The story stops moving and it’s almost like everyone has lost the plot. It’s not your imagination, you’ve just had your first encounter with an anime filler.
What Is Anime Filler and Why Does It Exist?
Filler is a unique phenomenon that results from the fact that anime adapted from manga can run out of source material. Incidentally, “manga” is the name given to Japanese comics and graphic novels. It’s a common practice to adapt popular manga series into anime.
With ongoing anime, it can happen that the show runs ahead of the manga that supplies it with story. You’d think the logical solution would be to take a break and wait for the manga creator to catch up. However, the actual solution they often choose is to write their own side-story plot and keep making episodes.
That’s filler: a story that isn’t canon, doesn’t drive the plot forward and can’t have any effect whatsoever on the official plot that the manga creator is working on while the filler plays.
Do All Anime Have Fillers?
No, not all anime have fillers. First, it’s not all based on manga. While manga titles are a prime source for the anime industry, they can also be original animation or adapted from novels. It can also be a “light” novel, which is another popular literary format in Japan.
Then there are also anime adaptations of shorter manga series’ which are complete or those who have taken a break from publication, but ended on a complete arc.
So, a filler tends to be a thing with shounen (boys’) anime or other similar shows that run alongside a weekly manga series published in Weekly Shonen Jump and its competitors.
Should You Always Skip a Filler?
If no one was watching anime filler episodes of popular shows, the anime studios wouldn’t make them. So,it’s fair to ask whether you should skip fillers or not. On the one hand, you’ll lose none of the plot by doing so. On the other, who’s to say that the filler episodes might not be entertaining and interesting in their own right?
It is true that the writing done in filler episodes doesn’t stem from the original manga writer. Which means the quality and tone can be different from what made you like the show in the first place.
Sometimes, filler episodes aren’t pure anime fillers either. Some shows mix filler content and main plot points into the same episodes. Finally, there are some anime which diverge from their manga source material, so although those episodes don’t follow the source, they aren’t examples of fillers but are canon for the anime version of the show.
In the end, skipping episodes from the show, filler or not, is a personal choice and will differ from show to show. None of which matters if you don’t know which episodes are which!
How Can You Skip Anime Filler Episodes?
The filler is a contentious issue in the world of anime shows. There are several websites that are dedicated to tracking which episodes are filler and which are canon. Most of them will also let you know which episodes have a mix of filler and canon content or diverge from the source material.
Also, filler sites can only mark episodes as filler in retrospect. So, if you’re watching a show as it airs, you may not even realize that you’re caught in a filler arc. However, these filler list sites are extremely useful if you want to catch up on a show efficiently or don’t want to watch all 700 episodes of Naruto to get ready for the Boruto spinoff.
There are two excellent recommendations we can make when it comes to filler sites:
- Anime Filler List: This site is extremely comprehensive and easy to use.
- No Filler Anime: A website with great style and good information about fillers for newbies.
These sites lay it all out for you! We recommend having the relevant show open on your tablet or smartphone as you work your way through the episodes. It’s sure to keep the story quality and plot progression right where it should be.
If you want something a little more personal, there are often great filler guides on anime community forums, which also provides a good place to discuss that show with other fans.
Consider Reading the Source Manga
Just as with Western adaptations of books to film and TV, anime adaptations of manga don’t always stick exactly to the source material. If you really do enjoy a particular show, you can get more out of it by also reading the manga on which it’s based. Extra details about the story, characters that might have been cut from the anime and even story events that are never shown or play out differently can feature in the original material.
It used to be quite hard to get your hands on manga and few volumes were translated to English, but these days the same revolution that’s brought anime to streaming services have also brought manga to a screen near you.
For example, Shonen Jump has a digital app that gives you almost all their notable manga for only $1.99 a month. You can also buy manga on Amazon’s Kindle service. If you’re an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you’ll also get access to many manga volumes and even some light novels. Although sneakily, Amazon Kindle Unlimited always seems to include only the first few volumes as part of the plan.
Tip: Many people may not know this, but if you’re a Crunchyroll Premium subscriber you also have access to a library of manga through their dedicated manga app. Just install the app and log in with your account credentials.
Where to Watch Anime Online
Now you know how easy it is to avoid seeing any anime filler episodes if you don’t want to. But do you know how to access all the shows you might want to watch?
Many people are discovering anime through mainstream streaming services like Netflix, but there’s much more out there. Check out The 6 Best Places to Stream Anime Online for a more comprehensive list of places you can get your anime fix.
That’s not to say Netflix isn’t doing interesting things in the anime space. They’ve been investing money in original anime shows and we’ve highlighted the notable titles in the 5 Best Netflix Original Anime You Can Stream Right Now.
What’s your opinion on anime fillers? Do you always skip it or do you think there have been filler arcs that are worth watching? Let us know in the comments and do share if you have any filler site suggestions of your own.