Let’s Recap: Anime’s Use of Recaps or Filler Episodes

When viewing a long anime series, the recap episode or what others would call filler episodes would often act as a break in the series to give viewers a rundown of what has happened so far in the story. Sometimes recaps don’t come in the form of a full-fledged episode, but a five minute recount of the events that has happened in a previous episode.

Depending on how most people feel about recaps, sometimes they can be a helpful refresher of what happened in the series thus far or it can be an irritating break from the main story when all you want to do is keep watching until the end.

One episode of just recaps doesn’t bother me too much. Sometimes if a series is particularly long and a recap episode is placed somewhere in the middle to give us a break from the main story, I actually enjoy seeing the first half of the series being narrated by one of the characters in a nutshell. At times it highlights the best moments from previous episodes, and it’s nice to go back and relive those moments without actually going back to an episode to watch the whole thing again. Sailor Moon has some recap episodes like these, and I watched them for my own benefit. With a series mainly on DVD these days, it’s easier to skip filler episodes to get back into the main story. I still like the option to watch the recap episode if I felt like it. Usually the way they present a recap episode is through a main character reminiscing on the events that have passed with another character in the series. It’s the best way to include a recap episode into a series without it feeling like it shouldn’t be there in the first place.

The times where I think recaps are at its worst is when the beginning of each episode recaps the previous episode for the first two to three minutes of it opening. The worst offender of this method is Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. I don’t know why each episode is set up like this, but I absolutely can’t stand it. Is it really necessary to recap the last episode I just finished watching not too long ago? The start of each episode of Tsubasa ends up making me lose interest in watching the episode for a millisecond because of the time wasted on recapping the previous episode. Why can’t we just go straight into the new episode without the recap? It has been done without any problems in past animes and recaps only prolongs my enjoyment of the actual episode.

A scene from Clannad After Story’s episode Under the Green Tree

Another instance where I wasn’t a fan of the recap episode has happened in Clannad After Story. Just before the final episode of the series (which has nothing to do with the main story at all) viewers get a recap episode entitled Under the Green Tree. In this episode, Tomoya tells his daughter Ushio the story of how him and Nagisa met, became friends, and eventually fell in love. This is a recap episode where it’s set up in such a way that as Tomoya tells Ushio the story of her parents’ lives, the viewer gets to relive all the key moments from the entire series as a whole. While it was nice to go back down memory lane with Tomoya, I was disappointed by this episode. I was really hoping for an episode where we see Tomoya, Nagisa, and Ushio living their lives as a family before finally saying goodbye to these characters. Instead, we are left with an episode of recaps before the final episode of the series where we have an alternate reality type situation concerning Tomoya and one of the girls from the series.

Recaps in an anime can be a good or bad thing. It can remind us of all the events that have happened in the story so far and how far the main character has grown since the first half of the series. On the other end of the spectrum, recaps can be an annoying deterrent to keep us from enjoying the rest of the story right away.

What are your thoughts about recaps in anime? Do you enjoy them, hate them, or wish they never existed at all?

16 thoughts on “Let’s Recap: Anime’s Use of Recaps or Filler Episodes

  1. I don’t mind a recap if it’s a long series and it’s done well. I think that a recap would be much more useful if you were watching the series on TV compared to watching a DVD. Unfortunately, I always have to watch DVDs as the only anime series shown in the UK are Pokemon and Dinosaur King.
    I think that the Nana recap episodes are quite good, they poke fun at the fact they are recapping the story by having the characters talk about the series itself. Also, they are set in Junko’s Room which is the same setting as the bonus pages in the manga so it’s nice to see this set up animated. Interesting post ^_^

    1. Thanks! I agree. Recaps make more sense when the anime is being aired on TV at the time. Watching it on DVD…maybe not so much. Most of the anime I have access to are also on DVD so I rarely watch any anime on TV anyway.

      It’s nice when the studio who does the anime and adds a recap episode approach it in a creative way. They try to find a way to make it fit in seamlessly with the rest of the series.

  2. Anime having recap episodes always amused me because anime shows also traditionally have a recap of previous events before each episode, and a preview of the next episode after each episode.

    I’m guessing the main reason for them is that long running anime rarely ever seem to get an extended break, so they have to do what they can to fill episodes and catch up. I never like recaps, but I guess it’s a necessary evil with a production schedule like that.

    1. That’s what I figured too. Rather than put episodes on a rerun like they do here when TV shows have to go on hiatus, the solution for long running anime series with no actual break is the recap episodes.

      It probably feels even stranger to see these recap episodes when you have the series on DVD and it’s no longer being aired on TV.

  3. hey seen Bleach?? o.O it’s not recaps they put up as fillers, they put up some really serious characters eating ice creams and saying ridiculous jokes as fillers… now beat that!! =P

    so yeah! recaps are pretty fine with me =)

      1. Yeah, those are actual filler episodes, but the thing is, I like them more than the main story because the characters are such a lively bunch that just watching them interacting together is so much fun. Slice of life Bleach spin-off, MAKE IT HAPPEN KUBO TITE! xD

  4. I completely agree with you concerning the recaps at the beginning of anime episodes! I cannot stand them! Everytime I watch a show that has them, I always sit there and think about how those precious minutes could have been used to actually tell the story!
    In general, I guess I find recaps to be okay. Usually really boring, but liveable. Sometimes they are even…better than some of the episodes up until that point. It is the filler arcs that I cannot stand. Hello Bleach and Naruto! Completely kills the enthusiasm to watch anything that comes after it.

    1. I know it’s glaringly pointless to have the recap before every episode of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Their recaps make it look like they are recapping the entire episode before you get on with the actual episode. >.<

      I never wanted to follow Bleach and Naruto because they are so long. I can only imagine how many recap episodes you get for those series.

  5. I don’t care for recap episodes at all because I don’t find them useful, especially since I tend to watch anime on DVD and can easily go back to previous episodes if I’m confused about what happened in earlier scenes. The worst series for recap is Gundam Seed – I believe there were four recap episodes in a span of fifty episodes. And there are some people who can’t stand recaps because they fill they’re insulting to the audience’s intelligence, since the producers who put recaps in are not just trying to fill time and save money – they’re also assuming the audiences’ memory banks don’t go back further than a week.

    1. The recaps does feel like an insult, doesn’t it? A full episode of recaps doesn’t bother me too much. What I can’t stand is when a new episode of the anime you are watching recaps too much of the previous episode you just watched. Like you said, are we really going to forget the events from a previous episode? Highly unlikely.

  6. I guess I’m in the minority here but I actually prefer at the beginning of the anime recaps to episode recaps. Granted no recaps would be my first choice, but if I had to pick one it would be the beginning of the anime since those only last a few minutes and I can fast forward through them. Meanwhile, episode recaps are a whole episode that is wasted and due to my slight OCD tendencies, I feel like I have to watch them to complete the whole show. D: And they are such a waste of an episode to me. The only time I liked them was the recap at the end of Sailor Moon R because it was framed in a really fun way and had snippets of the new season, which I thought was really cool. I never liked any other recap.

    Also, sometimes I don’t watch a series for awhile, so beginning of the anime recaps come in handy then. This only happens with longer running series usually though.

    1. The only time the recaps at the beginning of an episode has bothered me so much is Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. I know I keep mentioning this, but the way it’s done for this series is horrible. It feels like the equivalent of a whole episode of recaps. This is the only thing about the anime that has irked me so far.

      1. I actually didn’t mine the Tsubasa ones too much. They certainly were longer than normal and I definitely didn’t like how long they took, but in the end, I guess I got used to them as they became less and less annoying. Bleach had 5 minute recaps at one point and that also got to me, but they shorted the recaps before I got too annoyed. xD I’m guessing the anime studio thought waiting for the manga chapters and doing long recaps + filler was too much work as the Bleach anime has recently finished (while the manga is still on-going). I wonder if it’s going to be like Inuyasha. If it is, then the choice was for the best because the recaps were getting ridiculous.

  7. I tried to watch Naruto…I truly did, but the 6 minute recaps in every episode + 2 minute opening song +3 minute ending song + 10 minute talking leaves you watching what… like just 5 minutes of action per episode. Totally killed it for me.

    1. I’ve never watched Naruto, but it certainly makes you less inclined to want to watch an anime if a recap takes up most of an episode than the episode itself actually getting on with the story.

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