Within many forms of written and visual media, viewers generally despise filler that takes your attention away from the plot or delay the progression of the story. What they tend to hate more is the non-canon filler, which often redirects the viewer’s attention away from the plot. What viewers fail to understand is that filler is quite essential to a good anime as it allows the creator to provide viewers with deeper meanings to the characters, their world, and even the plot. Unfortunately, most viewers fail to even search for these deeper meanings amidst the impatient wait to find out “what’s next?” This article will provide insight into the topic of filler through Dragon Ball Z non-canon, as well as canon filler.
A Major point on canon filler.
Now before diving into the non-canon there is one point to make on canon filler. The fight between Goku and Frieza has a ton of filler episodes of them just charging up and yes it doesn’t really add much to the plot, but it does do something for the viewer. Those episodes build up an aggravated viewer and this makes Frieza one of the most hated villains of anime history. In addition, the fight is the longest anime battle of all time which ends up taking nearly twenty episodes of airtime. Aside from making the viewer dislike Frieza, it also provides ample time for Frieza to spew an arsenal of monkey jokes.
Filler for character development *Spoilers that don’t necessarily affect plot*
Now one of the most humorous episodes is the episode where Goku and Piccolo are forced to get their driver’s licenses by Chi-Chi. Now many may be thinking, “What does a ripped super-human and a giant green alien monster (who can fly) crammed into a car with the intent of getting his license have to do with anything?” Well, this leads to greater bond between Goku and Piccolo, as before they were enemies. Piccolo only really cares for Gohan (Goku’s son) and by having a non-canon filler of the two bonding, the episode displays Piccolo’s character transformation from an enemy to a friend.
*Spoilers from Dragon Ball that are essential to the plot*
Piccolo was not only once an enemy, but he was the evil counterpart to Kami, guardian of the Earth. Initially it was determined that trapping Piccolo in a spirit jar would ensure Kami’s safety (in the case that Piccolo died, Kami would follow); however, as Piccolo’s character developed, he became less evil. Now that Piccolo is a good guy and a Z fighter, this non-canon episode displays just how far the feud between Goku and Piccolo has evolved and changed, providing a reflection to the past.
Furthermore, dragging attention away from the plot, as occurs in non-canon fillers, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is important to have a break from continual plot or else the viewers get bored of the same routine. Without non-canon fillers in DBZ, we would see the tired pattern of: new enemy, train, fight enemy, win, and repeat. Non-canon fillers don’t follow the previously mentioned pattern, but rather focus the story on one character, and help in making the Great Saiyaman Saga so successful (personally my favourite saga). Viewers will always need a break from the bigger picture.
Filler for plot development *Spoilers that DO add to the plot*
In the Cell Saga, the Cell Games are announced during which the Z fighters have ten days to prepare for the fight. Goku and Gohan use one day in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (which is one year inside the chamber, but one day on the outside), three days in the real world for training, and the remainder for relaxation as instructed by Goku. Despite Cell being stronger than Goku, Goku seems confident that the Z fighters will prevail. This is the first time that Goku has ever taken training lightly and thus displays that he has confidence in another fighter (Gohan), and this makes him seem more human. Goku has the mentality of a human during his relaxation which is roughly, “If the earth is going to come to an end, I may as well enjoy the last few days.” Not only does Goku seem more human in this mentality, but the show presents the idea that Goku is not invincible and can be beaten. It notions the idea that Goku may finally have met his match, giving the viewer a sense of realism and allowing the viewer to connect with Goku on a more personal level.
There are many more examples that can be used from DBZ to establish why fillers are so important, but these examples should suffice for the point being made. Without fillers, anime would be a rinse and repeat concept in which viewers would become bored of a series and be unable to finish it. Furthermore, fillers extend the length of an anime, extending its life and preserving the sad deprived feeling of finishing an anime that you will always want more of. If you watch Dragon Ball Kai, you can see that it removes all the filler and has the feel that it’s progressing way too fast. Years pass in a couple of episodes every time a saga ends and it kills the character development. Personally, I believe that without filler, anime would become significantly less popular. Hopefully this analysis helps you in looking for the broader impact of filler and appreciation some of the reasons for why it’s there. Charging up for five episodes builds up a much more epic character than one that charges for a single episode. Take a note from one of the oldest and most successful anime series, Dragon Ball Z, and treasure filler for its deeper meaning.