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Who Writes Anime Filler Episodes?

by Kim Morrissy,

AG asked:

Hello, Answerman! If I take a liking to a particular filler arc (for example, One Piece's well-regarded G-8), then it stands to reason that I'll enjoy other things the writers did. Is there a way I can find out who is responsible for why one filler arc's writing and execution was so much better than another filler arc? Is it usually the series director, composer, scriptwriters, or other staff positions? Whose credits should I explore for more of their work?

It's hard to give a straightforward answer to this because anime screenwriting is a team effort, especially with filler episodes. But before I get into the details, I will say that the director and series composition writer are the two biggest names you should be looking out for because any final decisions about an episode script must go through them.

Before anyone does any writing, a bunch of people invested in the story's creation attend a meeting together. This will include the director, the series composition writer, the individual episode writers, and the producers. In the case of an adaptation, the original writer is often invited to contribute. However, when it comes to busy manga creators, the editor usually shows up instead as the representative. They're there to ensure that whatever the anime staff comes up with doesn't derail the original creator's vision.

Once all the members are assembled and have a clear idea of how many episodes they need to fill, they begin exchanging ideas. There is no way of knowing who suggested what plot idea unless the creators specify it in an interview or some other public recollection. For example, Blood Blockade Battlefront director Rie Matsumoto has stated that she was the one responsible for coming up with the anime-original story of Black and White. Meanwhile, Case Closed producer Keiichi Ishiyama said that the anime-original films have one writer each, who works together with manga creator Gosho Aoyama to come up with the mysteries. The TV anime, which has a big team of 10 writers, works entirely separately from the film staff.

After the story's direction has been decided, the series composition writer will write down a rough plot outline, then assign the individual episodes to a small team of scriptwriters (usually 2-4 people). Sometimes, they take on all the writing by themselves. Whatever the arrangement, everyone will write their parts and then turn in their scripts for group feedback. This is when the finer details and execution get hammered out.

Because of all the back and forth involved in writing, it's hard to determine who the “ideas guy” was or why one filler story was great while another written by the same team was mediocre. But as far as who is most concerned with the nitty-gritty of writing and narrative structure, that would be the series composition writer. Once all the scripts are in, they have to ensure that everyone's work is consistent and fits the scope of the plot outline. A great story is more than just a collection of good ideas; the series composition writer is there to ensure that a baseline level of quality is always maintained.

As for One Piece's G-8 arc, its first episode (196) marked Hirohiko Uesaka's debut as One Piece's series composition writer. Although his anime credits outside One Piece are sparse, he wrote the script for the well-regarded One Piece: Strong World film before eventually stepping down from the series after episode 798.

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