Oh Naruto Shippuden, how I loved you... until episode 174.
SPOILER WORLD BELOW! SPOILER WORLD BELOW! SPOILER WORLD BELOW!
After the heartbreaking death of Jiraya and the world shattering fight against and subsequent death of Pain... did we really have to flash back to Naruto's childhood? And if we did, did it really have to last for 10+ episodes? I would have understood a month, 4-5 episodes, at the most. That would have provided a nice break from the drama, and set up the next story line quite well. But no...
It wasn't just the 10 flashbacks in a row. After that, there was a Tenten/Might Guy centric 3 episodes. No Lee, though? Rude.
Then four more flashback episodes. You know what? Featuring Jiraya in a flashback at this point DETRACTS from the poignancy of his death - it's like, "Eh, he'll be back in the next filler." >_<
Then a random flashback to a girlfriend(?) of Kakashi's, followed by a random episode from a memory of Neji's. Then, another one of Naruto's random memories. Episode 194 is called, "The Worst Three Legged Race." I can only imagine how amazingly engaging it will be.
Don't get me wrong here. I've been into Naruto for a seriously long time; I'm no stranger to filler arcs. Usually, Naruto filler arcs are short and funny OR long, but contribute to the story in some way, at least. Like the arc where they go try to capture the three-tailed beast. That contributed to the story in a way that added meaningful characters and kept us mostly entertained - it was only filler in that the three-tailed beast was never featured in the manga - but it added another set of details to the mystery of Akatsuki.
And therein lies my issue. 20 weeks of flashback filler episodes with no end in sight, and as an on-again-off-again reader of the manga, I know for a FACT that there are 3, maybe 4, significantly long story lines that both follow the death of Pain, and have yet to make it into the anime. I understand the need to keep a pretty good lead, but I think three stories (which will undoubtedly be broken into 50+ episodes each) is plenty.
If they did feel the need to get more of a lead on the manga, why a flashback? We all watched Naruto's first incarnation. We ALL watched it. If we're watching Shippuden, we saw the original. We don't need to go back there, for GOD'S SAKE.
Man, I loved Naruto Shippuden. However, how many episodes of the original Naruto were filler toward the end? Shortly after the Sasuke retrieval arc, I dropped it. I just could NOT bear to watch anymore hunts for bugs and flowers and NOTHING. I honestly don't want to drop Naruto Shippuden, but... I've stalled as of 174.
And every meaningless episode that comes out drives me a little further from the series.