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Fillers, popularity and profits May 23, 2006

Posted by Lupus in Anime, Ramblings.

Anime, in terms of how much story they can pump out each week, moves much faster than manga. An average episode of anime might contain as much story and action as two to three chapters of manga, and this means that anime based on manga often catches up to their original, run out of things to base themselves, and leave the production team with a dilemma:

Do we do ‘fillers’, or do we stop the anime?

Filler as I use it here means “original content not found in the manga, used to fill up the time needed for the manga to develope more storyline.” Two very popular shows are now in their filler arcs: Naruto and Bleach.

While Bleach has decent filler contents, Naruto fillers suck. Naruto fillers has been going on for a long time now, ever since Sasuke ran off to Orochimaru, and tries to fill up the two years left blank by the manga. The quality has very apparently decreased – the drawing loses consistency, the animation quality drops off, and the story becomes absolutely laughable.

Why did Studio Pierrot decide to make their own story, instead of waiting for more manga material to work with? The answer is obviously profit, the thing that drives all corporations. As long as popularity for the series continues, advertisements, tie-in merchandise and other sources of revenue will continue to generate a profit for both the studio and the TV station broadcasting the show.

But such low quality production is as likely to make the show unpopular as it is to keep up its popularity. A lot of people followed the Naruto anime, but once it entered the fillers arc, these supporters began to drop in numbers. It has become so unpopular around here now, you can’t even find any of the newer episoders on the *cough* legal *cough* file sharing network at my university. On the other hand dozens of people share the manga and good television shows like Prison Break.

If, like I said, popularity wanes due to the existence of such filler arcs, wouldn’t it be better to stop producing the show all together until there is more content to work with? Many fans who are pushed away by the fillers simply would not come back, because they have lost faith in the show. That means that when the story resumes there would be less people watching the show and buying its merchandise, which leads to less profit for the companies.

Maybe the answer is that overall, the profit from running fillers are better than not showing the show at all. Afterall, with a second season to air after a long time (and Naruto fillers have been running for a looooong time) popularity will take time to gain its momentum again. Also, during the time when the show leaves the public’s mind, tie-in products would probably suffer more devastating sales drop than if they continued to show inferior fillers.

But all this profit comes at the cost of the anime’s – and the production studio’s – goodwill and reputation. This is probably a cost that many in management never thought about. While the Naruto and Bleach manga continue to suceed and gain popularity, the fillers are slowly but surely destroying the anime’s reputation – and its fanbase. Maybe by the time the original story rolls around again, there will only be a few hardcore fans left, and Naruto might never attain its immense popularity again.

(I also have thoughts on anime that don’t have enough manga material ending, but that’s another story altogether.)



1. dandycandy - May 25, 2006

The anime that has the worst fillers of all time is hands-down, the Dragonball Z series…how the animators can turn 25+ volumes of manga into almost 500 (and I could be quite off) episodes is beyond me. I can understand how no one ever wants to see a fight end in one episode, but after 20, 30, even 50 episodes, it’s getting old. I wondered if Goku would ever beat Frieza, if Gohan would beat Cell, or when the new storyline should show up in the first place. And yet, just like the soap operas in the states, people will be hopelessly hooked to the storylines because they don’t want to miss a thing. Whatever. And let’s not get into Yu-Gi-Oh. Everyone said the dawn of the duel would be the final series, but then End Game came out – and I swear, that animation looks choppy as hell. So though there are fans that see if for what it is and lose faith, there will be plenty of others out there who are willing to tough it out for the sake of knowing all that’s going on.

2. AE - May 26, 2006

Eh, I dunno. I remember when I was younger, I watched lots and lots of DBZ unquestioningly. Naruto and Bleach will inevitably shaft the older audience, because it targets the kids that will return to watch the same old, same old. And among younger audiences, the worst fear is to be forgotten so taking a break runs that risk. Watchers are fickle and will move on to newer, shinier things.

3. Lupus - June 12, 2006

DandayCandy: Yeah Dragon Ball indeed was very fillerish. But that filler is different in nature to what I’m talking about here. Dragon Ball created content by un-neccessarily dragging out the series. Things that could be done in 2 or 3 episodes were expanded out to many, many more episodes. The story remained faithful, and thus was still somewhat engaging. The material they had, regardless of the way it was delivered, is good. Naruto’s and Bleach’s fillers are content created by the animators that don’t really hold a torch to the mangaka’s work. I never watched the Yu-gi-oh! anime so I don’t know what that’s like. From what I’ve heard though I’m glad I’ve kept away from it.

AE: That might well be, but I’m against tarnishing a product’s reputation in order to appeal to a younger audience. Anyway I’ve always believed that Naruto and Bleach are targeted at an audience aged 13 and above – they are pretty violent and explore some ideas that wouldn’t be found in shows that are targeted at viewers under the age of 12. I can’t believe that Naruto and Bleach’s core audiences are those who would simply forget a show because it stops airing for a while. Genshiken and Honey & Clover are shows that have hotly anticipated second seasons, and that’s after a break of more than a year (Genshiken got owned by Kujian, but my point on anticipation still stands).

I admit though, Genshiken’s and H&C’s target audience are significantly older than those of Naruto’s and Bleach’s, 18-24 vesus 10-18.

4. Megan - June 20, 2006

Ah, I am having a hard time trying to decide whether I should continue downloading Bleach every week. The fillers are okay for it. Though, I heard the manga just gets better and better, and I do know that the anime is getting worse and worse. I don’t read the manga so I kind of lose. I think Bleachs’ filler arc will end very soon because they are putting out more and more one-hour sepcials. Then again, that could plainly mean nothing. As for Naruto, I want to start watching it because it is so popular and with the dub out I won’t have to go through hours of downloading.

With the comment about Honey and Clover, I found it to my liking, and I am only a 15 year-old. It teaches lessons and touches the heart well so I believe the second season will grab that strength again (as we all can hope). Honey and Clover’s fanbase is constantly growing and if they were to stop Naruto for at least six months I think people will still love it ’til it would air again. IMO, I think the fanbase would grow over that time because it gives time for anticipation for upcoming episodes and time for people who missed episode to trackback.

5. tommie - July 6, 2006

i think that the anime series of naruto should have one final awsome season then they should start speeding up the production of the manga in america so that way it doesnt turn into pokemon (a show that has no one who liked it still watching it) if they keep going with the series they might ruin it and lose a great some of profit

6. Crayotic Rockwell - July 11, 2006

I think we all remember what happened to Rurouni Kenshin when they went ahead with a filler arc eh.

I’ve always been of the mind personally that instead of creating a filler arc or stopping the show outright, the smarter play would be to create an alternate universe or connected franchise to the original series. Ie. Naruto takes a break, and then Naruto Xtreme Dattabayo! begins.

This way everyone keeps their jobs, merchandise keeps pumping out (potentially more), writers don’t have to worry about breaking potential canon, and the studio can take a different tact (whether it be going for a different vibe or dropping quality) without having to worry that they’re going to lose their original audience in the process.

It’d be a hassel for negotiating licencing, but when you’re a popular show you probably don’t care anyway :)

7. Lupus - July 11, 2006

Megan: Yes, some of the themes in H&C are universal, but I think it would be harder to sympathise with the characters if you’re not going through the same thing. Obviously the love problem assaults anyone age 13 or above, but the university/personality crisis that faces Takemoto might be harder to grasp. Generally I say what the target audience is by how old the protagonists are (doesn’t always work, of course).

tommie: It’s hard to speed up manga production. After all, there’s only so much one person can do in a week. Most of the creative process happens in one mind, and then the mangaka has to get the approval of the editors. I think drawing any more than the 15-19 pages a week most shounen titles currently have would be very difficult.

Crayotic: Awesome idea. I would love to see a “Naruto Xtreme Dattebayo!” or “Ruroruni Kenshin Xtreme Beach Massacre”. Okay, not massacre, but seeing Kaoru and Misao in bikini would be awesome =P

8. AnimeLover! - July 14, 2006

Hey! I have been watching Naruto recently and I keep wonderig when Sasuke’ is ever going to come back! I mean without Nauto and Sasuke’ always fighting making fun of eachother, always having a challenge to prove that one of them is the strongest, and most importantly fighting along side eachother its just no fun as it used to. But don’t get me wrong! I still LOVE the show and watch it every Saturday unless I know that I am going to miss it I record it! So, whoever the Director is for the show, please makeup your mind soon and put Sasuke’ back on the show because I am sooo curious of what is going to happen to Sasuke’ next! On both the U.S. and Japan! Am I right, or what?!

9. Aki - July 19, 2006

Haha I remember the long DBZ Fillers… Spending 3 episodes just powering up… I swear Buu could have Massacred them like instantly with all that ridiculous standing around and screaming….

I love Naruto tho… Even if the fillers are getting tiresome, its great for keeping people coming back. I mean you don’t necissarilly know what the next episode holds unless u see the preview from the episode before… I think many people might just watch an ep to see if the following episode might be the one to continue the next story arc.

For the record, though, I find Naruto a great story. In my book its up there with Hakusho. The main character has flaws. Has feelings. Isn’t afraid to cry. And a majority of the time is a pretty good guy. (Naruto always telling Sakura she did great even when we all know she didn’t do much…) I think it has decent morals: such as friendship, trust, not giving up easily, Not judging people on first appearences, and even teaching you to love yourself for who you are.

I have multiple friends who enjoy just watching the fillers to see their favorite chacters. My personal opinion is I’d rather laugh at pure stupidity for just a little bit. Sure drama is great, and its true that LOOOONG fillers can be annoying when you want the story to get going. But myself, as a Naruto fan, half the time just fidn myself enjoying more fun episode with some of the other characters. I’d rather not rush throught a story and have it end. (Even though the 500 Eps of DBZ were pretty long… ^^;)

10. gonzo - August 8, 2006

i wonder exactly when is the fillers stopping
it could be ep 208, which is in november or even later…
who knows
they should have enough content by now though…

i read what you thought about suzumiya (blabla something)
its definitely a really good series, and while not as charming as you would like
even though i probably would like to watch something as good as ghibli, every day, yet masterpieces dont grow on trees :)

11. phinx - September 22, 2006

naruto and bleach are the bomb however the filers blow and everyone knos it. just read GTO, hunterxhunter, gantz or watch tenjou tenge they ae all heaps good, nd u only gotta do it until naruto and bleach return back on track with the manga

12. crazybritoutforevenge - October 23, 2006

Won’t it be weird when the fillers stop… I’ll be watching Naruto one day and be like, WTF is this! And then after deep breathing and pschological counseling I’ll be like, so all that waiting was for this! And then I’ll get really into it and forget all about the fillers that I had to go through. I wish the manga would hurry up, I don’t want another 3 seasons of fillers! It’s a shame to miss out on all that great manga… DAMN YOU MANGA READERS, uh, if it wasn’t so expensive I’ll get more of it…. the bleach one, when he’s in hospital looks great! Ah, it started of with Naruto and now I’ve almost watched every anime ever created, and that won’t get me by! Why can’t the be like Full Moon, FMA or Fruits Basket they had no fillers! But the manga continued on from them I suppose, they never had more seasons to follow the manga, but they were all amazing!

13. arthurius - November 15, 2006

Anyway, I really expect that Naruto should be releasing the continuation of the story in the manga through anime this late quarter of the year. But it looks like it’s going to be next year, huh? Well I hope so… I temporarily stopped watching naruto for a while to make way for new anime releases (I need to criticize them, hehe). But im fine with Bleach with its fillers (cause I still enjoy them, hehe).

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