I occasionally get asked where I get my post inspiration from. So let me give you an example:
I was in line to get my convention tickets when my trusted friend abandoned me out of boredom. Trusted may not be the right word. As a result, I ended up spending 45 minutes alone in line, mindlessly scrolling through my phone and eavesdropping on the conversation of the two guys behind me. At one point, one of the guys said: “I don’t mind filler, actually it can be a good thing. I find that the latest **insert hyper popular shonen show here** moves way too fast. There isn’t enough filler.” With all the grace and subtlety of a reality TV star that thinks they’re about to strike it big, I reached into my bag, demonstratively whipped out a notebook and frantically scribbled “what purpose does filler serve?”. Of course, I was standing up and holding a phone at the same time, so it ended up more like “wnor plusions d fuuur serve&” I don’t know why the word serve came out so well….
After staring at my note for 20 minutes, I remembered what it was supposed to mean and here we are! Inspiration!
I really thought this was a great topic. Filler has a pretty bad reputation among certain fans and is even used as an insult or a quick way to dismiss an episode. I think to properly appreciate this topic, first I need to define what filler is to me.
I think most people use the term to describe one (and in some instances several) episode that has absolutely no bearing on the greater story line. Essentially if an episode can be removed without it having any bearing on the plot, it’s filler.
But then again, Slice of Life or highly episodic shows could arguably be mostly filler. Pretty much 90% of all Natsume’s Book of Friends episodes could be taken out without the viewer loosing track of the plot but it’s the way all these episodes add up and layer on top of each other to create delicate characters and deep sorrowful worlds that make the story magic.
On the other hand, you can have an episode with important plot relevant elements (i.e. introducing a prominent character or setting up a future conflict) that is still presented in such a way that most of it is superfluous.
So where did I land here? Let’s see, to me a filler episode or filler parts of an episode are events that either don’t tie into the rest of the plot or don’t teach us anything new about the universe or characters. And I often really enjoy them.
Assuming that a filler episode is actual filler and not a bit of laid-back subtle character development, then it can be a chance for writers to stretch their creative muscle. Almost like canon fanfiction. You know, a way to leave the constraints of a carefully plotted out narrative for just a bit and explore the greater universe. Follow a secondary character around as they do irrelevant and occasionally unimportant deeds.
If the writing team is good, then filler episodes can be a chance for them to flex their creative muscles and show off what else they have to offer.
It’s also a good way for me to connect with the story. I’m the sort of person who hordes useless random facts about the universe around me. Having a collection of useless random facts about the lore of a specific show just brings it to life. But this sounds like a me issue rather than something that can be applied at large.
So now that I have told you what filler is to me, what role can it play for fans at large, in the construction of a series?
Like the helpful young man in line behind me pointed out, it’s all about pacing. (He pointed this out to his friend, I was just creepily spying). The way and rhythm at which relevant information is doled out in a narrative is extremely important to its effectiveness, clarity and eventual enjoyment of the audience. I think it’s a very underestimated aspect of narrative crafting and I’m a little perplexed at why my fellow bloggers don’t mention it more often.
In order for most people to form a proper emotional attachment to both the characters and events of a story, they need to have a bit of time to properly assimilate them. If everything is always in action, people’s minds flutter over from one event to the next which can be exciting but is not as effective for forming lasting impressions.
As such, having a way to slow down the narrative flow at certain points, keep the audience engaged in the universe but not crowd their minds with new information, instead forcing them to just exist alongside the characters for a bit, can be extremely useful for a writer. I like to think of it as the anime equivalent of just shooting the breeze with a friend or spending a quiet afternoon with your partner where you’re just reading books independently or something but you’re still together.
It’s those quiet irrelevant moments that allow you to just slowly share your universe with someone else to help form those invisible bonds. When you take those moments completely away, events start stepping over each other and you don’t have time to breath.
Like everything else there’s degrees of success in filler. Some is fantastic and manages to add to the atmosphere and realism of the show even if it’s unrelated to the rest of the events, while other is annoying and feels like a waste of time. However, reducing fiction only to the bare necessity (i.e. rigorously sticking to the principle of Chekhov’s gun) in my opinion strips it of a bit of substance and charm.
I like the little random things that make a person unique and I enjoy the small disparate elements that add spice to a story. I would miss them if they weren’t there. To me filler is a lot like that. How about you? Do you think filler is mostly a waste of time or do you enjoy it? Do you think it’s actually an important part of anime?