Anime fans have come to both expect and accept that long-running anime occasionally dabble in "filler." This refers to when an anime adaptation of a series such as One Piece, Naruto or Gintama has a detour into original content not seen in the original manga. It's a major part of anime production as sometimes a series catches up with the concurrently running manga, and needs to give the manga more of a lead.
It can be a confusing concept to anime fans who don't necessarily read through manga, but thankfully a viral Gintama scene perfectly explains the practice. In one of Gintama's many fourth-wall breaking scenes, Gintoki explains why an anime production produces filler. Check it out below thanks to @0taqueen on Twitter.
this 100% explains 蛇の道 pic.twitter.com/fv1BI6mNMs— trish not trisha (@0taqueen) April 14, 2019
As Gintoki, or more specifically the Gintama staff, explains, when an anime produced alongside a currently running manga catches up to the point where the manga is, it must take a detour to allow the manga to get ahead more. Though it does come with the risk that the manga will either be cancelled, or even end before the anime gets back to the series' canon. There's even the chance that the filler of an anime goes to such an extreme that it's basically a completely different story from the original.
Fans are split about the idea of filler material in an anime series as sometimes these non-canon adventures are remembered just as fondly as the original manga ones. Famous examples include Bleach's many non-canon arcs such as Zapakuto Rebellion, or Naruto's "Power" arc. Filler material is often introduced into weekly action series to keep the same time slot, and thus fans sometimes deem it unnecessary as they just want to continue the story.
Gintama's approach, however, is that it just goes on hiatus when the anime catches up to the manga, and that approach has its own fans and detractors. Gintama was originally created by Hideaki Sorachi for Weekly Shonen Jump in 2003. The series is set in an Edo period Japan that's been invaded by aliens known as Amanto. After the shogun surrenders, humans then are forced to live alongside these invaders. The series follows a samurai Gintoki Sakata, who picks up odd jobs with his friends Shinpachi and Kagura to pay the rent for their Yorozuya home base. After ending its run in Weekly Shonen Jump (and had fans thinking the series would end forever), the series will be continuing in Jump GIGA magazine.
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