If anime fans start watching a long-running series, or one inspired by a manga still being published, there’s one thing they know for sure: there will be filler episodes. Filler episodes do, as their name implies, fill in the gaps between major storylines or, like with Naruto‘s The New Chunin Exams Arc, set during a time skip between series. They can even feature interesting anime-only characters, like Guren. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t go over well with fans and filler episodes can be viewed as worthless by fans, even with incredibly popular shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.
Updated on September 2nd, 2021 by Amanda Bruce: Some fans might argue that it seems like there is more filler than canon in anime. That can be especially true when a series lasts for hundreds of episodes, as Naruto does. Filler episodes give fans a chance, however, to spend more time with sidelined favorite characters. That’s the case with Naruto as characters like Shikamaru Nara and Kakashi Hatake find themselves with a large presence in filler episodes and they each deserve their moments to shine.
15 Road To Sakura
One of the few episodes in the series to tie into a Naruto movie, “Road To Sakura” actually references Naruto: Road To Ninja. The movie features Naruto and Sakura visiting a whole other version of their world, dubbed a genjutsu world, as it’s hinted to be a hallucination. This episode, however, also hints that it’s very real.
Much of the episode is spent with Ino trying to help Sakura jog her memory after she suspects the latter has amnesia. All of Sakura’s memories of her friends, however, turn out to be the exact opposite of what they’re really like, hinting at what that other world is like when Sakura reveals she isn’t the Sakura that Ino knows and vanishes at the end of the episode. It certainly doesn’t fit into the larger series continuity or provide the audience with any new information, but it’s an enjoyable diversion for those who enjoy the movie.
14 Kidnapped! Naruto’s Hot Spring Adventure
After Jiraiya and Naruto set out to retrieve Tsunade and bring her back to the village to become the new Hokage, they run into a slight complication. That complication involves a pair of gang members pursuing Tsunade to retrieve payment for her gambling debts.
The audience gets to see hints of the dynamic between Tsunade and Jiraiya as the two discuss their lives, but they also get to see just what lengths Shizune will go to in order to protect Tsunade. Shizune thinks Tsunade’s gambling debts could lose her mentor the Hokage position, so she pretends to be Tsunade to take care of the situation herself. It’s one of the funnier Naruto filler episodes while still expanding on the character dynamics.
13 A New Formation: Ino-Shika-Cho!
Team 10 is a fan favorite, especially Shikamaru Nara and his relatable character arc, so any filler with the group at the center is usually pretty well received. This particular episode features Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji acting as the distraction, fighting an enemy while Naruto goes off to complete a mission.
Traditionally, the Yamanaka, Nara, and Akimichi clans all team up, so the three characters have presumably been working together for a while off-screen. That’s part of what makes watching their fight so fun. Even though they’re still learning, they work together a bit more smoothly than anyone else, and it’s a nice preview of what’s to come when the group ends up having to take on their fallen sensei in the Fourth Shinobi World War.
12 The Four Corner Sealing Barrier
This particular episode is actually part of one of the longest and best Naruto filler arcs. It features the anime-only character of Guren, a Crystal Release user who has a skill unique to the anime, encasing her enemies in crystals.
While the arc is a long one, this episode is where Gurne truly becomes conflicted about her role in Orochimaru’s plans. She isn’t willing to sacrifice the child she’s been caring for and is no longer truly interested in becoming a vessel for Orochimaru either. It’s the kind of chapter in the anime that allows the audience to see that not everyone who finds themselves working with Orochimaru is actually one of the villains, just caught in a bad situation.
11 Sealed Sand: The Counterattack!
Like Team 10, the Sand Siblings are fan favorites. Much of their inclusion in the anime is in non-filler episodes, but there is an arc that sees members of the Konoha 11 have to team up with the siblings to save one of their own. That’s when this particular episode occurs.
It’s always interesting to see different combinations of team-ups. Here, Shikamaru, Temari, Kiba, and Kankuro have to work together to save Gaara (who is attempting to save his student), and they’re eventually joined by Lee and Naruto. While Temari and Shikamaru would go on to work together a lot, the rest of the characters don’t team up nearly as often as fans might like, so it’s a nice diversion from the usual team-ups.
10 Follow My Lead! The Great Survival Challenge
Quite a few Naruto filler episodes tease the future relationship of mentor-mentee between Naruto Uzumaki and the fifth Hokage’s grandson Konohamaru Sarutobi. This filler episode is one of them as it places the young shinobi in Naruto’s Academy class in charge of younger shinobi teams for a training exercise.
Naruto is the leader of Konohamaru’s group, and though he doesn’t have all of the answers as he works with them, the team bands together to help their leader. It’s also fun to see other young ninjas, like Rock Lee, enjoy being sensei for the day.
9 Laughing Shino
When Naruto’s anime writers focus on comedy, they excel. Most fans wouldn’t expect Shino to appear in one of, arguably, the funniest filler episodes of the series.
Shino and Naruto go on a mission that involves standing in for a man at a relative’s funeral. The catch is that the man won’t get his inheritance if he laughs during the service, which is why Shino in particular is chosen. Unfortunately, Shino is poisoned on the mission with a substance that leaves him unable to control his laughter, and Naruto is left attending the funeral alone and repeatedly tempted to laugh at the antics of the man’s relatives. It’s fun for the audience to see another side of Shino, and see Naruto attempt to get serious.
8 Multiple Traps! Countdown To Destruction
A lot of the filler episodes involve Naruto befriending characters the audience never sees again. In this particular instance, however, his new friend is an older man named Gennō that Naruto comes to believe is out to destroy Konoha.
Naruto and his friends face off against Gennō, and the older man eventually loses his life. It’s a fruitless battle, however, as it turns out he had no intention of actually destroying the village but was really just playing a game – creating a scavenger hunt. It’s pretty dark and acts a bit as commentary on the cycle of war and violence present in the series, making it unique amongst the Naruto filler.
7 Run! The Curry Of Life
This episode sees the always interesting filler team-up of Naruto, Neji Hyuga, and Rock Lee. In it, the three are incapacitated during a fight and need a special recipe curry to revive them.
Unfortunately, the curry doesn’t work on Neji since he can’t tolerate spicy food, so he spends the episode out of commission. It does, however, work really well on Lee – along with the bottle of wine spilled in the curry while it was cooking. It spotlights the rarely seen Drunken Fist fighting style with Lee, giving some screen time to a fan favorite in a unique story.
6 Gotta See! Gotta Know! Kakashi Sensei’s True Face
For any fan who wonders what Kakashi Hatake really looks like, this is the episode for them. Since Kakashi always wears a face-covering in public, his students start to wonder why. They want to know what’s under the covering.
As the episode unfolds, the kids come up with elaborate ways to uncover Kakashi’s face as well as speculate about just what’s covered up. Kakashi eventually takes pity on them and uncovers his face to reveal another mask underneath, much to his own amusement. It’s one of the most amusing amongst the best of Naruto filler episodes.
5 Blaze Away, Byakugan! This Is My Ninja Way
One filler arc after Sasuke defects from Konoha involves Naruto teaming up with Hinata, Shino, and Kiba to find a rare beetle that can detect Sasuke’s scent. This particular episode lands in the middle of the arc and finally gives Hinata Hyuga her due.
Hinata is one of the shyest anime characters to ever exist. Her own anxieties tend to get the better of her despite how much training she puts in. Here, Hinata perfects her very own new technique with the aid of her Byakugan and uses it to save Naruto, Kiba, and Shino. It’s one of the few times she gets to show just how strong she really is.
4 The New Chunin Exams Arc
The longer name of this particular arc is “In Naruto’s Footsteps: The Friend’s Paths.” It covers nearly 20 episodes, and it’s hard to pick just one. Which episode is worthwhile depends on just which character the audience member is most interested in.
That’s because this arc is set during the time skip between the two Naruto series. While Naruto is away training with Jiraiya, his friends take their Chūnin Exams again. The exams, however, are a joint effort by Suna and Konoha to lure out the Akatsuki. It allows all of Naruto’s former classmates a chance to shine, brings back the Sand Siblings, and explores new dynamics as Sakura Haruno has to take her exams with Ino and Choji since they’re down a teammate and she’s down two.
3 Genjutsu Or Reality?
This episode is set in the middle of a filler arc focusing on Kurenai Yuhi. The sensei of Team 8, Kurenai is mostly a background character – even when it’s eventually revealed that she’s pregnant with Asuma’s child at the time of his death. This arc fleshes her out a bit, but she’s still not a huge player in it. Instead, this episode messes with the heads of Naruto and his friends as well as the viewer.
When Naruto, Sakura, and Team 8 arrive in Konoha, they find their village destroyed. As it turns out, they’re actually caught up in a massive genjutsu that envelopes the entire village. They have to find a way out to get to Kurenai. It’s the first time the audience sees a genjutsu of this magnitude and it really sets the stage for the Infinite Tsukuyomi’s effect in the final season.
2 A Clash Of Fate: You Can’t Bring Me Down!
This episode brings the series full circle. It provides for some pretty lovely parallels to the beginning of Naruto’s journey.
For one thing, it features the return of Mizuki. Mizuki is the first villain Naruto encounters at the start of the anime and the person his first teacher, Iruka, saves him from. Naruto has the chance to return the favor as he and Iruka battle Mizuki. Naruto saves Iruka’s life and the two are eventually able to stop him.
1 Kakashi’s Anbu Arc
Much like the arc concerning the new round of exams, it’s difficult to pick just one episode of this arc that stands out. It’s entirely devoted to Kakashi’s wild backstory from before season one of Naruto, but it gives the audience so much more than that. Plenty of fans would consider this some of the best Naruto filler episodes.
There are more explanations as to just how the Anbu work, there are hints at Yamato’s backstory, and there are also more hints at Itachi and Orochimaru’s pasts. This arc is dark and allows the audience to better understand the man Kakashi is before he becomes the teacher for Team 7 when the series begins, but it also fills in a lot of the gaps in the series’ history.