‘Naruto’ and ‘Fillers’ are two words that have gone together since the anime started being broadcast back in 2002. Fillers are always a pain in the ass and sure, many animes have a big amount of them (Bleach, Detective Conan…) and, to a certain point, I could understand why. But, no matter how hard I try, I can no longer justify their presence in Naruto.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the anime.
To understand why, let’s take a look at the Naruto universe at the moment. With the manga having ended back in November, every single Naruto fan (except for the anime-only watchers) already knows the resolution of the current 4th Ninja War along with the full end of the story (deaths, pairings, endgames…). Next to that, we have Naruto: The Last, a canon movie that narrates the events before the last chapter of the manga and that has already been released in Japan. There’s also another movie and a manga coming out in the spring based in the events of the last chapter. Oh, and a musical. Basically, the only piece of media that is still talking about the Ninja War is the anime. So 2014!
As both a Naruto anime watcher and manga reader, after reading the ending of the manga, I couldn’t help but wish that they would just be done with everything that was happening in the anime and animate the last parts that I was interested in. After all, I wasn’t a big fan of how this arc was played out. But then again, I’m always super impatient to see my favourite parts animated. However, this is not a matter of the anime still being pretty far behind (you can’t blame an anime for that!). The problem comes when they actually place incredibly long flashbacks and fillers in the middle of it. Right now, it’s a filler on the Chunin Exams, an arc from the original Naruto series.
And yes, you could be a die hard Naruto fan and enjoy even the fillers because hey, canon or not, it’s more material for gifs, vidding and basically enjoy watching. However, fillers also piss off a lot of people. Both anime-only watchers who just want to see how everything ends once and for all and manga readers who want to see the ending animated.
Naruto has not only always had a big amount of fillers, but also flashbacks. Hell, a few episodes back we got an entire episode dedicated to Gara’s full backstory, as if we didn’t know it already. Repeating events in flashbacks are almost always unnecessary and the longer they are, the more they piss off the audience for wasting the episode’s time. But if you really have to insert a flashback, it is always a bad decision to put it in the middle of a battle (let’s not even say in the middle of a war that’s supposed to be thrilling and exciting). This is something that other animes like One Piece have learnt to do.
But fillers are not only bad for the fans, but also for the anime itself. Even though it’s understandable that the anime wants to go on for as long as it can because Naruto always translates as “lots of money”, they’re also wasting an opportunity. While everybody is talking about the aftermath of the war and the things that could happen in a potential future, it feels like the anime is being left behind in a spiral of flashbacks, fillers, incredibly slow-paced telling of the events and, if that wasn’t enough, poor animation. You’d think that they’d want to join the ending party but, so far, it doesn’t seem like it.