Well here is Part II of my planned III part Naruto: The Filler Free Viewing guide. As I said previously due to the absolutely insane amount of total episodes in both series this Filler Free Guide will be split into three distinct parts. The first part covered the original series “Naruto” which you can find here. While Part’s II and III will cover the beginning and ending of “Shippuden”. For those of you who haven’t seen my previews entries in the series check out my Fairy Tail and Bleach write ups.
Introduction: First things first as is obvious by the change in character designs Shippuden takes place 2.5 years following the ending of the original series. In it everyone has grown into teenagers with new and impressive powers. We also see new characters and enemies join together, in the end the show fundamentally its the same Naruto only super charged. For the record when I say Shippuden is super charged I don’t only mean the characters but the series itself, as Shippuden is currently on pace to have four times the episode count of the original series and far more intrusive filler then ever before.
Season 1 (Episodes 1-32): The first season of Shippuden actually begins near the end of the second season and beginning of the season three with a flash forward where the new Team Seven finally meets Sasuke who has become much darker due to his training with Orochimaru. Most agree this was done as after literally years of filler in the previous series people wanted to see the popular brooding bad boy a little more then our protagonist. However once we flash back we get the true start to the new series with Naruto returning to Konoha after years of ninja training with his legendary mentor Jariya. Unfortunately for the now not so young Genin Naruto is quickly conscripted into a life or death mission against the resurgent Akatsuki who have taken prisoner the newly raised Kazekage, Naruto’s own friend Garra.
Filler (0 Episodes): The entire first season is completely canon and even flows quite well. Serving as a reintroduction to lapsed fans its a perfect reentry point to the series. As it seamlessly reintroduces older characters who have new importance, fan favorites, and the main conflict. Really it’s a lot of fun. Hell I’d argue it sets up the series so well you don’t really need the first one as much.
Season 2 (Episodes 33-53): In this set of episodes we see a new addition to Team Seven who will functionally serve as Sasuke’s replacement/mysterious newcomer to the team in Sai. The show also gets to the meat of the issue regarding the missing Sasuke as new information forces Team Seven to move out and confront longtime villain Orochimaru. It’s in these episodes that the truly monstrous nature of Naruto’s Tailed Beast forms become evident.
Filler (0 Episodes): Once again this season is filler free. Marking the first time that Naruto went a full year without a single episode of filler. Again I expect this was to make up for the fact the production company almost destroyed the series with excess filler at the end of the previous season.
Season 3 (Episodes 54-71): “Hey director, I’m so glad we got to animate all those really neat scenes on the screen FINALLY it felt like YEARS. I still can’t believe how cool Kakashi looked when he first used his...” “Hey hey hey man spoilers” “Oh ya right... so what are we going to be doing next the manga has some really cool villains coming up one is even immo...” “Nope! It’s a filler season” “This again... great... so what’s it going to be about” “You know that really cool ability in the manga that only one character is able to use?” “There is a few of those, which one?” “Ummm... all of them we’re basically going to use all of them.” “How does that make sense?” “You should know by now filler doesn’t make sense” “Ya... I should”.
Filler (17 Episodes): All but the first three episodes and even those episode are HALF FILLER. Seriously the entire set can be condensed into 35 minutes of canon animation. What makes things worse the forgettable filler villains actually have powers that the canon would later say is impossible. This isn’t an example of the anime doing something kinda wrong and then rectconing it later this is the anime breaking one of the cardinal rules of the series. Ironically even with all the narrative mistakes later in the manga/series a concept originating in this filler will actually appear in a major way in the main series, however that only further makes this filler make less sense after the fact. Honestly it’s best just to skip the entire thing as nothing here really is worth the time.
Season 4 (Episodes 72-88): Interestingly season three’s filler actually reintroduced us to some lesser known but prominent cast members from earlier in the series, these characters will continue to play very important roles in this season. Of course like most Naruto directorial decisions the reasoning for their added prominence will become evident quickly. However despite its narrative flaws season 4 does a good job at raising the stakes for the entire series afterwards and show casing characters that while interesting had less then eventful exposure before. One such character actually gets their crowning moment of awesome in this season that would make any action director nod in approval.
Filler (0 Episodes): None really. Another solid outing from Naruto.
Season 5 (Episodes 89-112): “I’m guessing we’re going back to filler soon eh Director?” “You sound worn down.” “Ya I realize that’s the way of this show can we at least try to make it good - it doesn’t all have to be terrible side missions about curry”. “How about an all out battle royale against a rampaging Tailed Beast - and even a Sasuke cameo. You know for the fan girls”. “That... actually sounds decent”.
Filler (23 Episodes): Basically every episode except for the first which was kind of set up. However this filler isn’t the intrusive kind of filler that exists as a bad diversion as really it has a logical place within the entire story. While certainly never reaching the highs of Kishimoto’s own writing the story itself is a serviceable one a fan could sit through for a cour or too while being entertained. So I wont say totally skip them but they are filler all the time and missable. However it kinda sucks that it’s becoming apparent the series is moving into a alternating seasons of anime original/manga content.
Season 6 (Episodes 113-143): I’m not going to spoil much for you here but this season IS HUGE! Basically the entire main order of the series is restructured. This is done by having not one, nor two, but three of the biggest fights in the series nearly one after themselves. The season also reveals a threat so huge it makes the other villains in the series look like a wet paper tiger. All around its a amazingly fun season I could probably sit back right now and watch without a single regret. It’s that good easily the BEST season of Naruto Shippuden up to this point.
Filler (0 Episodes): Some people will say the “Tails of the Gutsy Ninja” episodes are filler. These people are WRONG. They may not have been drawn by Kishimoto per say but the idea they didn’t come straight from his brain is laughable. These are episodes that are required watching for all fans of Naruto and of Jariya fans in particular.
Season 7 (Episodes 144-151): “Owwww... Director, why does my head hurt so much?” “We’ve been partying for eight weeks you lightweight” “Why? We have a show to run... oh ya the filler. Was it any good?” “To be honest I don’t much remember... anyways if comes up later in the show lets pretend it didn’t happen”. “Works for me”.
Filler (8 Episodes): So ya... that’s basically it. They took an actual character from the manga spun him off into his own mini-filler arc (he’s the 6th Tails Jinchuriki) and promptly kills him off at the end (oh sorry SPOILERS...). Why because when you spin off a character from a dead guy in the manga really what else can happen? Honestly this was the worst kind of filler short, pointless, and gets forgotten almost instantly. It’s worse because a little Dragon Ball style anime padding could easily have eaten up these episodes.
Season 8 (Episodes 152-175): Again I will try to refrain from anything to spoilery. However if Season 6 was the best at the time this season is the best there is. Bar none. As basically one major part of Season 6 was set up for Season 8 and the payoff at the end is huge. The level of the fights in this season again takes things to a completely new level and set the tone for the end game. If there is one issue that could be made its that the amount of power creep in the series has now reached critical levels. This becomes evident going further. It also sets an amazingly high bar for literally everything that comes after it giving the rest of the series (remember I still have Part III to right after this) a kind of let down feeling. However for now go with it it’s an amazing sequence of episodes with crowning moments of awesome for actually quite a few characters (and one amazingly touching scene too). I’ve personally watched many of these episodes in order maybe 4 times.
Filler (2 Episodes): Right after the major fight and the encounter we’ve literally being waiting close to a year too see. The show runners insert a two episode filler arc set during the Chūnin Exams. Seriously they broke up some of the best episodes with some of the worst. To make matters worse it was a two episode special that was heavily hyped... ugh! Episodes 170 and 171 are best to be avoided like the plague. Sadly these kind of episodes quickly become the norm with flashback episodes becoming increasingly common. Canon to the anime yes but totally pointless.
Season 9 (Episodes 176-196): “Hello again another smashing Season wasn’t it. It’s time’s like these I love working on this show don’t you Director?” “Must you always be so chipper? You know EXACTLY what is coming next by this point and your good mood make me the bad guy.” “Filler? Really? The manga has like 100 chapters on us seriously they’re already doing the Gre...” “Shaddit, spoilers. It’s filler time, but I’m out of ideas so lets do more flash back arcs to the original series that worked well before”. “Ummm... Sir long filler arcs IN the original series almost got us cancelled.” “Don’t worry we’re popular enough that’ll never happen now, who do you think we are Bleach?” “Won’t the viewers be upset?” “Not my issue”.
Filler (20 Episodes): As I said above this is really the begining of the bad era of Shippuden filler which is primarily composed of flashbacks to Naruto as if people didn’t get enough Naruto filler the first 18 months it aired back to back to back. Really I’m not sure why the creative team decided to do this other then the fact the upcoming story lines are harder to fit in continuity filler (although they do try check out Part III for that!)
Season 10 (Episodes 197-221): Again like much of the non-filler seasons this moves along at a very fast pace. Although not nearly as exciting as the previous arcs its still quite important. Mostly as the ninja world is trying to make sense of recent events and clean up the damage done by the villains lose on this world. In short Season 10 serves as the set ups to one of the longest arcs in the series and does so by interesting many new key characters that will do more in the future. Making this quite literally the perfect time to end this Filler Free Guide.
Filler (0 Episodes): No filler whatso ever. Isn’t that great.
Conclusion: As I said above this is a perfect place to end as the series has reached a very clear climax and now reset into the build up phase. Unfortunately the show has learned bad habits making watching it from week to week a chore. That being said it remains one of the best shonen shows to binge watch after the filler is out of the way. As I said Naruto is really good at compartmentalizing the filler and the alternating seasons of two cour filler with two cour manga material tends to be the case going forward. All around Shippuden is a solid show and I hope you can look past its flaws if you want to watch it. As always thanks for reading this it’s a blast. Leave comments I always look forward to feedback. Anyways I hope you come back for Part III in a little while where the show starts really getting crazy (yes it gets crazier - mostly due to this a**hole).