It’s common knowledge within the anime fandom that series based off of on-going manga or light novels resort to producing original episodes, which serve as padding, in order for the anime’s story to maintain a certain distance from the original story.
However, there’s somewhat of an inherent problem with fillers or anime-original episodes. Half of the time they’re bad, sometimes they’re decent, and very rarely are they ever as good as the genuine articles. More on this after the jump.
The thing about filler is that it does have as much potential to be as good as an episode based off of original content. The term “filler” itself is widely skewed as it doesn’t have to be an anime-original episode. Episodes based on chapters of a book can also be considered filler as well — if they don’t serve to further the story or characters in any way, they can be considered fillers. The difference between anime filler and original manga filler is that anime filler isn’t written by the original author/mangaka most of the time.
This is where the problems arise. Since many anime-original fillers are written independently from the original manga writers, there’s always a high chance that those episodes or arcs will contain many contradictions and fail to retain the original feel of the story.
There are a few examples that come to mind. I remember Tsubasa Chronicle being one of the most terrible adaptations of any CLAMP manga that ever came into existence. It started off alright, until Bee Train decided that their ideas were better than CLAMP’s and started to break many established rules within their mangaverse. Heck, one filler episode revived an entire city’s worth of people (one of the most pivotal points of the plot was that DEATH CANNOT BE AVERTED) and they spent another whole episode trying to fix their mistake. And then we have another episode that tries to break a pairing established in Chobits (poor Hideki! D=), even though CLAMP never breaks pairings (regardless if it’s an alternate universe).
Eventually Bee Train decided to continue with their nonsensical happy-go-lucky fillers instead of moving the series along with the actual plot (which took a rather dark and gritty turn). Because their writing skills were sooo much better than the women at CLAMP. Thankfully, CLAMP stripped them of their rights to animate their baby and we have the faithful OVAs, but I don’t think Tsubasa will ever heal from BeeTrain’s extremely disrespectful fillers.
Another example would be the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters anime, in which over half of it consisted of filler that tried to top the actual story by adding RELGIOUS SYMBOLISM WITH CARD GAMES or making stuff up during the “canon” parts. The early parts of the manga could be considered filler, but at least they all retained a consistent feeling that could be taken seriously in terms of a gambling manga, unlike the anime’s betrayal to the manga’s mood during various fillers.
Anime studios should NEVER act as if they’re better writers than the person who wrote the product that they’re mooching off of. Not only is it disrespectful, but it almost always boggles down the final product in return.
From what I’ve observed from many adaptations I’ve watched, there is an EXTREMELY simple way to make good anime fillers and anime-original content.
Getting input from the original mangaka. It’s not that hard.
What makes Cardcaptor Sakura and Kobato superb adaptations of their respective manga despite being very different from their source materials in many ways is because they both had a lot of input from the head writer of CLAMP, Nanase Ohkawa. Even though they deviate from their sources in some cases, they keep the spirit and style of their original stories and thus have much of the same appeal and quality that made their manga counterparts well-liked by their fans.
If the result from the above can be so good, just think about an anime that sticks to the original story closely during the manga parts, with the filler padding having input from the original author(s)? Input from the original author can also be used as an opportunity to improve some of the weaker aspects of the original story, such as fillers that was already there to begin with, if they are considered so.
Less they pull a Dragon Ball and ignore fillers that end up contradicting the very next episode.
Just food for thought. ;P