Naruto is one of the most popular and long-running anime series of all time, spanning over 700 episodes and several movies. However, one common complaint from fans is the large amount of filler content in the anime, especially during the middle of the series.
The filler refers to those episodes that are not directly adapted from the original manga. These non-canon episodes and arcs deviate from the main storyline to showcase side characters, explore new locations, or develop backstories and lore not depicted in the manga. While filler is common in long-running anime adaptations, Naruto takes it to an extreme with over 40% of the episodes being filler. This notoriously high filler percentage has elicited complaints from many viewers who feel it slows down the pacing.
There are a few key reasons why Naruto contains so much filler.
The Naruto Anime Caught Up to the Manga
The Naruto anime series is based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. For most of the series, the anime aired on a weekly basis while the manga was serialized weekly as well. This meant the anime production eventually caught up to the manga and ran the risk of overtaking the source material.
To avoid getting ahead of the manga and having to create original anime-only story arcs, the anime incorporated a significant amount of filler. This allowed the anime to slow its pacing and let the manga get further ahead before adapting more of the main story. Many anime series adopt this approach when faced with catching up to their source manga.
Filler allowed for more character development. While many filler episodes consist of episodic side stories or extended flashbacks, some provide more screen time for side characters. Important characters like Rock Lee, Shikamaru, and others received spotlight episodes to further develop their backgrounds and personalities.
These types of filler episodes appeal to fans who want to see more of their favorite secondary characters. Spread throughout the series, filler provides opportunities to showcase different ninjas and explore their histories and abilities. This expanded the world-building beyond just what was in the manga.
Filler Provides Lighter Moments Between Major Arcs
The Naruto manga storyline contains several intense and dramatic story arcs dealing with dangerous threats against the Leaf Village or explosions of conflict and war. The filler episodes allow the audience a breather between these serious arcs with more lighthearted misadventures.
For instance, filler episodes like the Laughing Shino segment or Gotta See! Gotta Know! Kakashi-Sensei’s True Face! provide some comedic relief through silly premises compared to the high-stakes main story. This tonal balance helps prevent the overall storyline from becoming excessively dark.
Filler arcs explore additional lore and world-building. While not advancing the main storyline, filler provides interesting explorations of the ninja world. For example, filler arcs like Land of Tea Escort Mission and Land of Birds take Naruto and his friends to new locations not shown in the manga. Other filler spotlights different aspects of the Naruto universe like specific jutsu, the ANBU black ops, or historical figures and events. This world-building beyond the manga gives fans a broader look at the diverse characters, lands, history, and abilities in the series.
In the end, the sheer amount of filler in Naruto can be attributed to several key factors – the need to prevent the anime from outpacing the manga, extra time to develop secondary characters, a hefty episode order to fill, and production challenges for the animation studio. While some fans understandably grew frustrated with the filler during the show’s long run, it ultimately allowed the anime to expand on the manga’s story and deliver over 700 episodes of ninja action. The filler served an important purpose, helping Naruto become one of the most fleshed-out and memorable anime worlds.