Look, I’m all too aware that I’m breathing back some of the hot air I only just recently let loose on camera, but… in my defense, I did always qualify my sentiments by stressing that filler is only sometimes good.
Most times, as we all can agree, filler is pretty bad. And the biggest tip-off that you’re getting served, shall we say, stale spam in DBZ is if the episode centers on Gohan’s wilderness shenanigans, extended martial arts training or, worse yet, Gohan’s extended martial arts in the wilderness.
I feel like I’ve already watched this exact episode before. If we’re really going to break down the semantics of filler (and why not? It isn’t like there’s a limited amount of space available), I’d say the term should only be used pejoratively in instances when the animation staff is clearly just recycling assets they’ve already used. That goes for recap clip shows, it goes for the rote re-use of scenarios, and it goes for any other instance where the crew is just throwing something up so they can punch the clock for the week.
Episodes like the one where Vegeta nukes the bug planet, or the one where Goku falls pretty to the feminine wiles Princess Snake, on the other hand? I respect and enjoy those. You can tell that some staffers were faced with the predicament of not having any new manga to use, so they worked hard to fill the gap creatively. Cases like that offer an added layer of enjoyment, honestly; because there really is some fun in watching clever people solve problems.
Yet another episode of Gohan running around with that sabretooth tiger while Piccolo grunts at another monolith isn’t clever or fun, though. I don’t care if we get some resolution to this little training sub-plot because Gohan winds up on a little boat in the last couple minutes. Filler might as well be a synonym for “white noise,” and boy, did this episode earn that descriptor. After five minutes, I started doing other work in a different window while I just left this Hulu player running in the browser... letting the clock just run before I punched out.