Episode Title: "Reincarnation"
Writer: Aaron Ehasz
Director: Peter Avanzino
Although "Reincarnation" is technically the last episode of "Futurama" this year, last week's episode ("Overclockwise") was the defacto sixth season finale.
Left completely detached from the series' continuity, "Reincarnation" gets to dive even deeper into the insanity of "Futurama" by exploring it through the animation style of three different eras. It's not quite at the level of the two "Anthology of Interest" episodes, but there are a lot of terrific moments.
The first incarnation of "Futurama" finds the crew in black and white animation inspired by the style of Fleischer Studios from the '30s. It's a world in which everything is improbably alive and anthropomorphic… like the Planet Express ship, the buildings in New New York and even the Moon; which has its own ass.
Like any world of "Futurama," Fry (Billy West) loves Leela (Katey Sagal) and he would do anything to prove his love for her; even if that means leaving a doomsday device on the surface of an indestructible diamond comet in the hopes of giving Leela the perfect engagement ring. Bender's (John DiMaggio) advice to Fry about winning Leela by getting her pregnant was just about the perfect line for his character in any era. But it's left unexplained how Fry got Amy (Lauren Tom) pregnant instead and why Amy resembles and acts like Toot from "Drawn Together." I mean it, she was more Toot than Betty Boop.
There's a certain innocence to Fry and Leela's courtship in this segment that was kind of refreshing. These versions of Fry and Leela don't have the same character depth of their real incarnations, but there's something charming about the way that Leela is impressed by the unexpected results of Fry's attempt to get a diamond for her. Their ultimate fate is a little bit sad and romantic at the same time. But I suspect that if Fry and Leela ever had to die together, they probably wouldn't have minded being frozen in that particular moment forever.
The second segment brings the crew to life in 8-bit gaming glory. Although this might be even more primitive than 8-bit, since most of the video games referenced here are from the earliest part of the '80s. Here, Professor Farnsworth (West) finally discovers the answers to the mysteries of the universe by examining the smallest form of matter through his special magnifying lens. The brief Space Invaders and Galazian references within that sequence were both pretty amusing.
However, the ultimate knowledge gained from the experiment nearly destroys the Professor when he believes that there is no longer a point to his scientific calling. It's actually a premise that is strong enough for a regular episode of the series. How can one of the galaxy's greatest minds continue without finding something to solve? The ultimate solution from Fry is a little simplistic, but appropriate enough for the segment. The second "Anthology of Interest" better integrated the characters with the classic arcade tropes. But I still laughed at the Gauntlet and Dig-Dug shout outs. I guess I'm easy that way.
The final segment was the highlight of the episode: a parody of Japanese Anime series from the '70s and '80s complete with bad voice overs, head scratching dialog and the actual theme from "Voltron"! There were even times when the animation seemed to be intentionally different or out of sync with what the characters were saying just to recreate the dub effect that Anime fans probably notice all of the time.
Everything about this segment was fantastic, from the Professor's new and more dramatic voice, a fierce looking Dr. Zoidberg (West) and Amy's Sailor Moon-like costume. Even the captions were part of the joke as they constantly identified a Japanese building as a more famous American location. The alien menace here could only communicate through interpretive dance… and Fry's attempt to answer in a reciprocal dance hilariously mistranslated into an arrogant challenge in their language.
In the end, it's the good Dr. Zoidberg who saves the day by shedding his shell and seemingly standing very, very still in a series of dramatic close ups. It's a crazy moment that makes no sense, but God I loved it…
I'm a little disappointed that Comedy Central didn't hold this episode back until the holidays in order to mitigate our withdrawal from "Futurama." As a whole, the sixth season had some problematic episodes and it seemed to take a while for the writers to recover the magic that made "Futurama" so memorable in the first place. But in the end, the still managed to stay on par with the previous seasons of the series and stand as a worthy continuation of "Futurama."
Here's to season seven next year!
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.