Once you start to watch a lot of anime, you’ll discover a whole wealth of new terms. Two that you’ll often hear when talking about popular series are anime canon and anime filler, but what’s the difference between these terms?
While commonly used to talk about major anime franchises with many seasons and episodes, these terms can apply to almost any show.
Both refer to the relative importance of an episode (or episodes) to the main plot of the story but tackle it in different ways.
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What is Anime Canon?
Anime canon is anything that is considered by fans to be part of the original or main story.
Generally, anime canon is subjective, but some factors can indicate whether something is canon.
The phrase comes from the word canon, which originally meant works worth studying or works by a particular person.
Many anime are adapted from a source material, such as manga or light novels. If the anime adds new scenes that didn’t appear in the source, these are sometimes classed as non-canon.
Similarly, anime remakes can be classed as non-canon if they are made by different people who change certain story elements. Such works are largely considered irrelevant to the main story by the original show's fanbase.
However, there are many examples of added scenes and remakes that are considered canon, either because of their quality or because the original creators were involved.
A good example of a canon remake is the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, where the original creator produced a new ending at his own request.
Anime Canon vs Manga Canon
Sometimes, fans of shows will refer to certain episodes or moments as being anime canon or manga canon. This distinction is rare, but it usually refers to different storylines that appear in the anime adaptation of a manga.
The term manga canon is almost exclusively used for the longest-running adaptations, such as One Piece and Boruto. Here, the anime has added events that didn't appear in the manga but are relevant to the main story.
Manga canon refers to something in the anime that was also canon in the original manga; for most series, this is just called canon.
Anime canon, in comparison to manga canon, refers to an event created purely for the anime. Examples might include additional backstories or events not seen in the manga that still play a role in the main story.
As mentioned above, fan decisions about whether anime canon counts as genuine canon for the series will be subjective.
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What is the Difference Between Anime Canon and Anime Filler?
The simplest explanation is that canon refers to whether something is considered a part of the original story, while filler refers to something's particular impact on said story.
Anime canon, as mentioned above, is a subjective view of a moment, episode or series’ relevance to whatever’s perceived as the ‘main’ story. Canon ultimately determines if something is considered part of a story or not.
Anime filler, on the other hand, refers to a particular moment’s importance in a series’ main plot or storyline. A moment of filler can still be seen as part of a story – and therefore canon – but not as an important step on that journey.
The term filler commonly refers to lighthearted anime-only content where a studio may produce a ‘filler episode’, such as a recap, due to production issues or delays.
Filler can also apply to additional content outside of the main series, such as OVAs. Many anime produce comedic end-of-season episodes that are a real part of the main story (canon) but have no impact on its development (filler).
Anime fillers are seen as missable episodes, where someone wanting to rush through a series could skip ahead and not miss anything that will impact the show’s main plot.
Can Anime Canon Be Considered Filler?
Yes, both canon and non-canon anime can also be filler. This distinction is another good way of understanding the difference between both terms.
Filler episodes appear in both canon and non-canon anime content, especially for long-running series. Whether it’s a remake, a new scene or an honest adaptation of source material, filler moments can still appear.
Generally, most anime that are seen as non-canon can also be classified as filler, as they are seen to have no relevance to the main storyline. However, it’s important to remember again that anime canon itself can be subjective.
Just because someone suggests that an episode or series is non-canon doesn’t mean that there’s no importance to a story, original or otherwise.
Can You Skip Anime Canon?
Generally, you would not want to skip anime that is canon, as this will be part of the show’s main story.
This is the last important distinction between anime canon and filler. The latter usually indicates a part of a story – canon or non-canon – that can be skipped without losing track of the story.
Anime canon, on the other hand, is usually where the main story takes place. There may be some filler here, but all the crucial moments will take place here, also.
Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate the world of canon and filler! For a more visual representation of these terms in practice, check out our One Piece filler list.
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