I first ran into filler when I was a kid and anime was a thing. At the time, I doubt I noticed it very much, except to skip what was not worth the bother. Now I know that filler episodes are one of the many, many toxic byproducts of the way anime and manga industries work. They make a kind of sense. If you keep your plastic toys on an old stove, they may melt. Nobody likes it, but then, no one is going to invest energy or money in an improved toy storage system.
It’s disturbing how apt that actually is. Anyway.
Anime filler happens generally because… well, to borrow a phrase from film criticism, the script hasn’t arrived. Although it’s a bit literal in the case of anime, as they’re often adaptations of comics that are still being published weekly. But filler happens in other forms of media too. Very rarely in film, or so I hope. There are unnecessary scenes and plots that should have been cut well before filming, but that’s not really filler so much as bad writing.
I was twelve when the first Harry Potter book came to my country. My brother just sort of had it–since it was published by Scholastic, it probably came from school in that miasmatic way such books generally did–and I don’t remember why I wanted to read it. Mostly I remember that I had to stay up late at night to read it because he was taking it to school the next day. I was careful not to bend anything, even the spine. It hurt my hand to hold the book that way. The next day he came home from school and had apparently dropped it in the sink while washing his hands. I find that funny now, I doubt I did then.
(hehe, that was filler, by the way.)
Like lots of things, mostly books, I got most of the people I knew well into the series–and then at a certain point, I discarded the books and everyone else stayed in the fandom. I got fed up at book 5. It took forever, my interest had waned in deference to things I didn’t have to wait for, and then I had a borrowed copy and…. wuf, I hated it. I stopped reading after the fourth or fifth chapter. It was frustrating and a little boring, even.
This was actually a little important to say because I have to explain why I haven’t read the last three Harry Potter books, and I don’t think I have. All that was why.
I actually don’t know why I’m reading the books now. Completionist Syndrome? Anyway, I’m in almost the middle of book 5, and that took me at least three days. Twice, I have looked at the corner of my Kindle screen and seen a pagecount that would have meant I had finished another book. I looked up how long this one is, and it’s not only the longest book in the series, it’s over 257 THOUSAND words.
There is so much foot-dragging filler that sometimes I start to fear Twilight flashbacks.
Most filler in novels is navel-gazing, or repeated discussion whether in dialogue or internal monologue. When I read books with these types of filler, I call it reading with the November calendar juxtaposed. Someone was obviously writing to a wordcount and didn’t edit things down after. The kind of writing that gets sentences like this:
His shoulders drooped as he sighed, looking to his best friend who hadn’t said a word all through the fight, not even to defend himself against the strange girl that neither of them had ever seen outside of that one time in the library.
Other filler is worse. Similar to the repeated discussions, you get scenes that push back action, things that have already happened happen again with zero change in character reaction. Scenes where nothing really happens. Harry gets yet another detention.
They don’t just start a secret Defence Against the Dark Arts club, they talk about it. Then they talk about it again. Then they meet somewhere to… talk about it! And then they talk about how they got caught talking about it. And then they finally, finally meet, and even then, EVEN THEN, they repeat discussion from the previous meetings.
I am not going to finish this book any time soon. I’m reading like 40 pages minimum a day. Even reading 100 pages a day, I’d be at it for more than a week, and I have other books I’m reading too.