Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Coming of Fillers (*)

Oh, right. For anyone who wouldn’t be familiar with the term, « filler » usually refers to a distinct kind of episode (or batch of episodes) in a Japanese animation TV series. Namely, an episode or a set thereof featuring a scenario that’s not in the original manga the anime is based upon, and specifically designed to keep the TV series going while waiting for more of the manga to be published so there’s enough manga story to adapt. Fillers usually are produced when the anime adaptation catches up to the manga too quickly—often because of the anime production rate is so incredibly quick.

Now, to a huge majority of anime fans, fillers are a torture, the epitome of evil, and boring. As a rule, fillers are despised and hated, to the point that fansubbing groups will even drop a project they had on the series plagued with the fillers curse. This recently happened to Bleach, one of the most popular shounen anime of the last months.


Because, in this day and age of digisubs and easy to find scanlations closely following manga publication in Japan, fans of a title avidly follow both manga and anime. And if the anime catches up too quickly to the manga’s story, these fans see the fillers coming, and know them for what they are—and resent them like hell because they stray from the main storyline they enjoy. In short, to most fans, fillers simply shouldn't be allowed to exist.

It’s true that fillers can last for quite a while, weeks, months even, to the extent of a full season. It’s true that if you follow the manga, it can be frustrating to see the anime just go away from the storyline you know and want to see animated, but there’s no help for that. Besides, I’m sure the same fans would start howling around if they heard that their favourite show is on pause for one or two seasons, time for the manga to advance enough on its own before the anime adaptation can resume.

And there’s one thing people often overlook, in their disappointment and rejection of the filler episodes: that those episodes can be extremely entertaining, can bring depths to some aspects that weren’t explored before, and stand as a worthy part of the anime in their own right. They can serve to dwell on secondary characters, often much more interesting than the hero himself (although I have to admit that Kurosaki Ichigo is a really good main character, a rarity in a shounen manga), to develop those who are usually restricted to a static and cliche sidekick role. Fillers are the occasion for the anime scenarists to show their talent. If they're lacking, the fillers will be an absolute waste of time (I hear Naruto suffers from that, but I have yet to find what heck is interesting about Naruto, so don't mind me). But if you have good scenario writers, then you're in for a hell of a good time, sometimes even better than what the original author came up with.

Saint Seiya, Asgard is certainly a perfect example of how fantastic a whole filler season can be. The Asgard season introduces and explores fantastic characters (the only drawback is that they have to be out of the way once the story arc ends because they don’t exist in the manga), and brings a lot of richness and emotion to the whole Saint Seiya anime. To many people, even though it was a filler season, it’s one of the best Saint Seiya seasons (behind the Sanctuary chapter, but the Sanctuary chapter is…I have no words, I love that too much ^^;;; ).

I’ve been following the Bleach TV series very closely (note to self: write a piece on Bleach one of these days, since it’s one of the very best stories ever to be released by Jump), and while I have noticed the “dreadful” arrival of fillers—even without following the manga, you can usually tell these things if you’re a bit familiar with scenario making and writing—I’ve enjoyed what I saw so far. The Bleach fillers introduced interesting characters, and showed interesting relationships develop, delved more deeply in already known characters, which is always a good thing. Perhaps one of the fans’ frustration is due to the fact that these fillers are more focused on character development than on “cool battles with awesome power display”. It’s kind of understandable, if that’s the case, but disappointing.

Because Bleach, as Saint Seiya before it, is much, much more than a basic, boring fighting shounen flick. There is a depth, an intrigue, complex characters and way more than just brainless hacking enemies to pieces. But I suppose those aspects fly way over the fanboys’ heads, and so they rant and rant, and rant.

Ah well, whatever the reason for the fans’ sulking and growling, at least it has caught my attention enough for me to get my hands on the manga scanlations, so I can find out what’s so extraordinary as to warrant such negative reactions. I doubt I’ll find anything to really back up the grumpiness and bad moods, but who knows?

Maybe I’m going to start howling like everyone else.

But quite frankly, I doubt that, because I’m enjoying the anime, and while reading what happens next will certainly make me impatient to see it adapted to anime, I will still enjoy the story currently developed in the anime. And with long holidays coming for me, when I get back and regain an internet access, chances are the anime will have progressed so much that we’ll be getting back to the manga’s storyline.

So, my advice to all the sulking fans out there is simple: enjoy what you have, and stop focusing on getting your every whim realized instantaneously. It may not seem like it, but the world doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way. Sooner or later, you’ll have to come to terms with that.

So, why not do it now?

(*) Once again, this title was inspired Babylon 5, the most fantastic SF TV series ever to be produced. All credit and admiration where it's due. *bow*

PS: I'm taking advantage of having to edit this piece to correct a lack of preposition somewhere up there to confirm that I was right: even after reading all the manga scanlations available, I am still perfectly happy with the anime.

And I also confirm that I'm disappointed in fanboys. But then what else is new?



Anonymous said...

You like Bleach!? :) Me too!
But I hate the fillers... (are you grouping me with the hated "fanboys") :P

The fillers move very slow. Not much character development of the main cast imho. Except we see more of everyone, chad, orihime, ishida etc. In terms of story, I find the plot mediocre at best, not exciting at all. No captivating mysteries or hidden motivations of the cast in the filler plot. The rendering of fight scenes in fillers aren't as grand and well made as the main plot too.

Telling fans to accept the low grade fillers as part of the series are like telling us to swallow poison together with the gourmet food... :( I'd rather not watch the fillers at all.


Fuu-chan said...

Tsk tsk tsk, I don't hate fanboys, I'm just disappointed in them ^_-

And, while the fillers are slow, I did find myself enjoying qute a few things in them. Ishida, for one. And the three new Bount detectors ^^

At least two of the Bount characters are very interesting, and I did enjoy the flashbacks and background stories.

And as I said, the thing is, there's no help for fillers. You need to have them, or you need the TV series to stop, and the way things go, stopping a show means losing momentum, and risking that another title will gain popularity, thus jeopardizing any future re-start of the TV series.

As to the contents of the Bleach fillers, the one truth in the universe applies: YMMV.

But, as I'm the one who writes the entries, I get to rant and be a pain, and be as subjective as I feel like ^^

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the fillers. But 99% of the time the plot sucks and animation takes a huge dip. That's what bothers me (and other fanboys). Maybe there is a fundamental difference how different genders deal with it :P. When the fillers aren't on-par, we just stopping watching it all together. We still have the manga though :P.

And yes, I know this is your blog so you get to do whatever you want. Just don't be too hard on my comments when you decide to censor them. :P


Fuu-chan said...

Okay, I'll promise I'll be nice and considerate when censoring your comments *grin*

Still, maybe you're right, and gender makes a difference in dealing with fillers when it comes to shounen. Who knows?

Anyway, the one good thing about all the bad stuff I read about the fillers was to make me read the manga scanlations. And that was very enjoyable. So, maybe, just maybe, I should be both disappointed and grateful at once. Hmmmm... there's a thought ^^