Anime Reboots Are Doing Away With Filler – for Better and Worse

One of the biggest criticisms of many anime adaptations in the past few decades has been the prevalence of filler episodes. These additional stories are usually (but not always) not based on anything from the source material and are typically inserted into the shows so as to essentially delay the anime's storyline while the manga produces more material.

However, this occasionally frustrating trend has been downplayed in newer adaptations of older manga. New shows such as 2021's Shaman King have, in fact, completely done away with filler, hastening the pace compared to the old show but also losing some of its characterizations. While filler can definitely be a drag on the main narrative of a show, it can also be vital to the characters and make their development as important as the plot.

Why Some Fans Hate Filler Episodes

boruto naruto filler

For one thing, those who want the anime to be as accurate to the manga as possible are likely to have an issue with anything added that wasn't in the source material. Original anime being so different from the source is the main reason anime like 2001's Fruits Basket and Fullmetal Alchemist received new adaptations after the originals ended.

It doesn't help that many of the more notorious examples of filler episodes in shows, such as Naruto, are particularly scorned among the fandom. In cases like these, the filler episodes add nothing of value to any of the characters, are typically based around inane concepts and fail to be funny when they try.

As mentioned, a lot of filler added to a show is often a consequence of adapting a series so soon after the manga first became popular. Nowadays, some of the more popular shonen anime may not begin production until a few years after the manga begins. This allows for a noticeable lack of filler compared to previous decades, as well as a much more manga-accurate story. This 1:1 accuracy for new shows has been lauded by modern anime fans, but it doesn't quite work as well with older manga.

Why Getting Rid of Filler Hurts Anime

Getting rid of filler in anime definitely has its drawbacks, and there's perhaps no bigger proof of this than the new Shaman King anime. The series' pacing has been criticized by longtime fans of both the manga and especially the older series, who see the new show as going way too fast in telling its story. The original series made its introductory episodes slower-paced, and this turned out to be better for the characters of Yoh and Manta.

The added jokes, humorous elements and episodes in the old Shaman King made their characterizations and relationships stronger, with said bond lacking in the new show. Thus, when the new Shaman King has the two acting like they're already close friends, it doesn't feel earned. The same can be said for the recent reboot of Digimon Adventure, which lacks many of the old show's more down to earth, laidback episodes.

This makes the show and others like it more plot-focused than character-focused, which is a legitimate form of storytelling. What isn't particularly good writing, however, is making a show simply feel like a series of set pieces and sequences merely cycled through, seemingly out of obligation more than any real interest in telling a good story. It becomes particularly egregious when said story has been told before, and done better no less.

To be fair, this could just stem from fans who are more familiar with the past material, so they may recognize it being blown through faster than others. Either way, it'll be interesting to see if other old manga and anime are remade into new shows and how fast they tell the same story, especially with some of the criticism of recent remakes.

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