Filler episodes and arcs are usually considered the bane of anime.
They're slow and padding at their worst and considered significant wastes of time. Good fillers exist, not just as individual episodes but as story arcs. From character moments to important backstories, these fillers help their respective anime.
Here are ten filler episodes and arcs in anime that make a case for why fillers can be great!
Note 1: This list is strictly the author's opinion but isn't exhaustive and will contain spoilers for all anime discussed.
Note 2: Only one per series must explain how and why it fits into the series and what it brings to the table.
Most enjoyable fillers in anime
1) Naruto — Itachi Shinden Book: Light and Darkness
The Itachi Shinden Book: Light and Darkness arc covers episodes 451 to the first part of 458 of Naruto Shippuden. The arc focuses on Itachi Uchiha's life leading up to and following the Uchiha Clan Massacre.
It shows several unexplored aspects of the older Uchiha brother, his best friend Shisui (seen below getting his eye stolen by Danzo), his girlfriend Izumi, and more of the massacre up close.
Put simply: Itachi was stuck in a Catch-22: there wasn't any convincing the Uchiha to stand down, and Danzo Shimura was going to do worse if Itachi didn't do anything. Obito got himself involved, which also made everything messier.
It's a very dark filler arc that ultimately sheds light on the entirety of the Uchiha Clan Downfall/Massacre. It adds unforeseen context and the complete picture of Itachi's life from childhood to when he joined Akatsuki.
2) My Hero Academia — Long Time No See, Selkie
The prequel to the My Hero Academia: World's Mission movie is considered a filler episode due to being anime only and the obligatory beach episode. It is also one where Froppy, Uravity, and Nejire stop a smuggling operation for the quirk overloading Trigger drug.
It's a lighter affair than the first entry. It shows off the skills of Uravity and Froppy to stop a plane and take down a smuggling boss, especially with Uravity's new fighting techniques.
It has Nejire Hado slowing the plane down and Ryuku making sure it stops with Uravity making the plane weightless.
It also has a stinger, as the main villain of World's Mission states they have everything they need "for humanity's salvation." This may be a filler, but it shows how much the girls grew from where they started.
3) Hunter x Hunter — Zoldyck Family Arc
This filler arc introduced fans to the Zoldyck family, including Killua's father, Silva Zoldyck, his mother Kikyo Zoldyck, and his grandfather Zeno Zoldyck. It also revealed several important things: everyone in the family has a successor, and Killua needs to be rescued before he's tortured into obedience.
What follows is a thorough exploration of the entire family line, their history as assassins, and why exactly Killua ran from them.
Long story short: he didn't want his life to be controlled, a sentiment most would definitely agree with. His father, Silva, though looking like the meanest sort of dad, is kind to Killua and sets him free. Though his mother objects, Killua is able to barge past her without incident.
The arc gives context to why Killua is the way he is, and also, it is just tense in general to see Gon and the others having to go through trial after trial as Killua tries escaping on his own. The family would make subsequent appearances, and this arc ultimately cements Killua and Gon's friendship from Killua's side.
4) Boruto — Time Slip Arc
This Boruto arc is comparable to the Black Moon clan arc from Sailor Moon or the Future Trunks arc in Dragon Ball Super because of the time travel aspect. Only this time, it's the main character going backward instead of forward.
It's Boruto and Sasuke venturing back in time to stop Urashiki Otsutsuki from stealing the tailed beast chakra in the past. Someone must've been a huge Back to the Future fan.
It has all the time travel tropes fans expect: trying to minimize contact with people from the past and ultimately failing, having to stop someone from changing history, a future character meeting, and interacting with their parents. Name a trope, and it has it.
It's enjoyable to see Boruto stumble into Naruto and the rest of the older genin, just in the new and improved animation style.
This arc was made for the 20th anniversary of Naruto, and it shows. From deceased characters like Neji showing up to Jiraya closing in on the mystery of Sasuke and Boruto's identities to the battle against Urashiki, it's a wild ride from start to finish that gives Boruto more respect for Naruto's life and is a celebration of the series.
5) One Piece — G-8 Arc
The Straw Hats are trapped in a heavily fortified marine base! Considered one of One Piece's best filler arcs, this one lets fans see what the Marines deal with all day.
It also shows how pirate/marine conflict isn't black and white. It's also got a genuinely good person as an antagonist in Commander Johnathan, who chases the Straw Hats down while likening the cat and mouse chase to a chess game.
It's a game of minds and wills. It's also a nice change of pace for the straw hats to infiltrate the base. One of the big highlights is when Sanji and Luffy need to cook for the Marines, and Sanji ends up showing off a bit too much.
The point is this filler arc is great for character moments and testing the intelligence of the protagonists. It's easy to win when you're powerful, harder when you have to think.
6) Sailor Moon — Makai Tree Arc
Following the defeat of Queen Beryl and Metallia, the whole Sailor Senshi was revived and adrift in life without memories of what happened. This Sailor Moon filler arc mainly helps the Senshi regain their memories, though it nearly broke Usagi as it all came flooding back at once.
It also gave Usagi a new transformation, and it was short at 13 episodes.
Ali and Ann are good villains, too, only wanting to survive and no big universe dominating plans. Sailor Senshi also premiered some powerful attacks, like Supreme Thunder Dragon for Jupiter and Bubble Spray Freezing for Mercury (who was desperate for a killing move).
Another highlight is Queen Serenity giving Usagi the moon rod, a staple weapon of Sailor Moon's ever since.
7) Kill La Kill — A loser I can't hate
Although not technically considered a filler, this Kill la Kill episode might as well be. It's about Mako and Ryuko's different perspectives on Honnouji Academy's system coming to a head. The short version of the plot: Ryuko and Mako start a fight club with the intent to bring the whole system down, and Mako's family advance rapidly and become greedy as a result.
It was a slow transformation from poverty to riches, with greed corrupting Mako's family and Mako herself paying off to the prior episodes' explanation. The higher the stars, the better the life, so it goes in Honno City. Mako herself shoves Ryuko into more fights until she can barely stand.
The ending comes when Ryuko refuses to fight Mako, who received her own fight club uniform, and Mako breaks down in tears for nearly killing her best friend. Realizing how far greed has taken her, Mako let Ryuko slice up her uniform, and the entire family bowed to her and apologized profusely.
It is an interesting rags-to-riches story that concludes with Satsuki smirking at seeing the uniform get sliced up and setting up the Naturals Election to weed out the weaker clubs. Satsuki's smirk at seeing the uniform sliced up and Mako rejecting power and money for family foreshadows that she's secretly on the right side.
This episode helps demonstrate how greed can sink its hooks into the kindest of people, a theme throughout the series.
8) Dragon Ball Z — Android Saga prelude (Z Warriors Prepare & Goku's Ordeal)
Between the Frieza and Android sagas, there was a major filler-laden lull in the action in the original Dragon Ball Z broadcast. The Garlic Junior saga didn't exactly impress, and it took the Android saga to bring people back.
After the brutal killing of Frieza, King Cold, and Frieza's allied forces, Trunks delivered his warning about the Androids.
These two filler episodes are the Z fighters preparing for the Android attacks. The audience gets to witness Vegeta's nightmare about not being a Super Saiyan (echoed with Goku's nightmare in Episode 139, "Unwelcome Discovery") and his training at well over 300 times gravity.
It shows how stubborn and utterly foolish Vegeta was being, though he didn't object to Bulma being alongside him while he was knocked out. Likewise, it generally shows all the Z fighters training.
The other filler episode is the famous "Goku and Piccolo driving" episode. It is just a breather episode before the Andriod saga began.
It's a fun and funny episode that sees Goku and Piccolo try to get drivers' licenses to help Chi-Chi and ultimately fail when they end up racing and crashing.
9) Pokemon — Episodes 15-18 (The S.S. Anne/Giant island arc)
The filler SS Anne arc is one of the first real examples of humans in trouble in the Pokemon franchise that isn't caused by a Pokemon. It showcases Team Rocket, Ash, and company stuck aboard a sinking ship and trying to survive afterward.
Full of genuinely dangerous moments and only compounded when James' Magikarp evolves, this arc also introduces the head of Team Rocket, Giovanni. He serves as the background and final villain of the season.
Beyond that, however, fans see Team Rocket and Ash's friends work in tandem when a crisis looms (not for the first time either), the island of giant Pokemon is pretty neat, and Meowth of all Pokemon reveals he speaks Pokemon. The end is a much-needed break in a resort town.
10) Bleach — Zanpakuto Rebellion Saga
In this Bleach filler arc, a rogue Zanpakuto named Muramasa sparks a Zanpakuto Rebellion in Soul Society. It turns weapon against its owner and ultimately results in several memorable clashes, with Rukia having to fight hers and calming her down just one of them.
It helps that each of them takes a different form to fight their owners. It gives a sense of appreciation for the weapons and the owners too.
It may be a filler arc, but it's considered a great one for its attention to character development and progression.
Fillers can be great for character and world-building, and hopefully, these ten examples proved why. Fans should check all of them out, either on Crunchyroll, Hulu, or wherever else they can watch or stream anime!