One of the biggest issues that I have with super long serials are their fillers, more so when those fillers are exclusive to the anime adaptation. It’s one of the main reasons that it took me so damn long to pick up Naruto, and why I haven’t dived into other beastly titles like One Piece and Toriko. When you already have a lengthy plotline that is actually well written, the incessant bombardment of unnecessary segment additions can be wholly frustrating. Even so, I must confess that after watching through all of Naruto (excluding Shippuden, which I’ll be starting later in the month), I’ve actually found somewhat of an appreciation for fillers. To an extent.
The original Naruto story doesn’t provide its minor characters with the history and depth that they deserve. It really breaks my heart because so many of my favourite cast members are supporting folx, such as Rock Lee or Shikamaru Nara. I’m not saying that they don’t have any complexities, because they totally do. But given their unique skills and the events in their lives that have driven them to pursue their own unique Ninja Way, they deserved so much more than what was provided, especially Rock Lee.
Some of the filler episodes for the anime fulfil this role quite superbly. Most of my favourites are ones that are centred on the lesser known individuals, or people who get significantly less screen-time as the series unfolds across two separate serials. Yes, our dorky hero is there as well, but it’s not about him or his growth usually. For a brief moment, Naruto becomes the supporting friend and I really love watching those kinds of segments the most. It has given me a newfound understanding for what some filler episodes can do for a long-running series.
For today’s Top 5 otaku list, I wanted to share with you my favourite fillers from Naruto’s anime adaptation. These are extras that didn’t make me sigh with exasperation, but made me excited to keep watching, and they’re the ones that I’m probably never going to skip if or when I ever decide to revisit the franchise. There’s also another reason why I adored these instalments. Can you spot the common trend across them all?
Episode 101: “Gotta See! Gotta Know! Kakashi-Sensei’s True Face!” This episode is so stupid. But it’s hilarious and it has Kakashi-sensei, who is one of my favourite dudes. I can still remember from when the manga was ongoing how obsessed people were with Kakashi’s face. I can’t really blame them, after all his mask did a fantastic job of adding to his mysteriously handsome charm. The episode revolves around Naruto and his friends trying to sneak a glimpse at Kakashi’s naked face, and the myriad ways that they keep on failing is just delightfully absurd. I feel like it’s the one episode I can watch when I’m having a rough day, sort of like the episode from Ouran High School Host Club when everyone visits Haruhi’s house for the first time. It’s just too damn funny and silly to resist.
Episode 106: “The Last Leg: A Final Act of Desperation” The arc that this episode is associated with involves Naruto’s team helping out a local village with a race that will determine the next leader of said village. The arc as a whole was a bit average to me compared to other side missions that the team takes on, but I found this specific episode to be pleasant for a couple reasons. There’s a scene within it that contributes to Sasuke’s bitch tantrum later on that I appreciated very much; an excellently subtle way of adding some depth and foreshadowing for what’s to come in the near future. Additionally, it’s one of the final missions that Team 7 does together, and the tension that threatens to break them is so apparent that it really helps to build up anticipation for the events that follow. It was surprisingly well done.
Episode 99: “The Will of Fire Still Burns” The episode follows Naruto as he tries to help Konohamaru come to terms with the new Hokage in the wake of his grandfather’s death, and it also follows Rock Lee as he struggles in the aftermath of his injuries. This was such an emotional episode to watch because on one hand you have the grief and a sense of betrayal (from the village) that Konohamaru is feeling. Then there’s this hopelessness and incredible sense of sadness from Rock Lee as everything he’s worked so bloody hard for is breaking apart in front of his face. It’s one of the more evocative segments of the series and it really highlights the vulnerabilities of these characters, making them feel more sincere and empathetic.
Episodes 157: “The Curry of Life” Rock Lee eats curry laced with osaké and then fights some baddies in this finale to the Kurosaki Family Removal arc. He is such a strange, strange child, but I love him. I found this episode to be quite interesting because there is an abundance of laughter to it, yet it’s counterbalanced with garnering serious sympathy for the antagonist. The tension that stems from the dude’s grief and even his denial to an extent, felt very natural. Normally, there’s too much of one and not enough of the other with these sorts of fillers. Plus, the fight scenes were quite fun, especially when Drunken Fist Lee pops into the picture. It was a decent wrap up to the arc overall.
Episode 196: “Hot-Blooded Confrontation: Student vs. Sensei” I feel like folx who have seen the Naruto anime won’t be surprised by my number one choice (if you’ve followed my other Naruto posts on BiblioNyan that is) as it’s got my number one sensei-kōhai duo: Guy and Rock Lee. Essentially, Guy gets trapped and his students have to come to his rescue. As the episode unfolds, we get to watch Guy and Lee go head-to-head with their skills. They have the best chemistry out of everyone in the series and their respect and admiration for one another is so fucking beautiful. It’s inspiring and uplifting and also jam-packed with heartfelt mirth. So, watching them having to battle one another, so to speak, was both fierce and exhilarating, making it my favourite filler thus far.
Aside from being marvellously entertaining, these fillers have given me a newfound appreciation for the extra padding that occasionally accompanies anime adaptations, especially with respect for minor and supporting characters, who can be even more fascinating or loveable than the main cast. If there’s any specific type of fillers that I feel are unnecessary, it would have to be recaps that occur between handfuls of segments. I don’t mind a recap between twenty-five or fifty episodes, as long as it’s not a full twenty-four minutes. But to have them every five to ten? That’s ridiculous and super annoying, mainly during a binge-watch.
How do you feel about filler episodes? Do you have any favourite fluff segments from Naruto that you loved or enjoyed more than others?