Look what we have here folks. The end of Season Ten. Holy crap. I’ve done the equivalent of ten years of this show! Jesus! We’re getting close to me doing this insane project for a whole year of my life. Which sounds absurd. But I’ll tell you, it’s been a bit of a breeze. I really haven’t felt like this project was a burden. I’ve fallen into a nice little routine of watching these old episodes every weekend, and then spending the week writing up the little recaps. It’s been nice. I’m not going to lie, we’re getting to the era where I tapped out originally, which does kind of fill me with some trepidation, but whatever, I’m sure I can find the good in even the worst episodes. But let’s not focus on potential darkness, let’s all settle down and check out a crazy episode of the Simpsons where they visit and mock a foreign culture!
Things start off innocuously enough with Lisa sitting around reading a new issue of Wired magazine. Homer comes to give her crap, but she proves the magazine’s worth when it for some reason reports the opening of a new internet café in Springfield. So Homer and the kids head on down to experience the internet! Which is such a ridiculous and antiquated premise, but whatever. Anyway, they get to the café and start checking out this miraculous international pornography network, and start having fun. Bart starts Catfishing poor old Lenny and Homer start making investments in Fox. But disaster strikes when Snake runs into the café, and somehow is able to rob Homer by downloading all of his assets with a floppy disk. You know, it happened all the time back in 2000.
So the Simpsons are broke! And Homer is left with no other alternative than to turn to thievery. And he obviously makes the Flanders’ house the first stop of his new profession. Unfortunately Ned is awake and aware of Homer’s theft. But instead of freaking out, Ned just calmly explains that there are better ways to save money that theft. He lets Homer know that he and Maude go to some sort of thriftiness seminar hosted by a guy named Chuck Garabedian. Homer decides to take that advice to heart, and promptly steals Ned’s tickets to Garabedian’s next seminar.
So Marge and Homer go to the seminar, and it’s immediately clear that Garabedian is just a weird con-artist who makes his money selling his terrible ideas to stupid people. He basically just tells everyone to be weird cheap hoarders, but that really clicks with the Simpsons. So they start living their life that way, and exclusively shopping at a 33-Cents store. Which doesn’t go great. They do manage to buy some more of Marge’s dresses, but Homer also eats some dangerously expired plankton. Eh, whatever, they’re saving money.
And since their grocery shopping wasn’t too disastrous, they decide the next stage of their new life should be to take a mega-savers vacation. Which Garabedian says would work by just showing up at the airport and buying cheap tickets when people don’t show up for the flight. Which seems suspect. Who knows, maybe you could just loiter around in an airport in the hope that not only would a flight not be over-booked, but under-booked back in 2000. Whatever. The Simpsons head to the airport and just hang around, only to find that there are four tickets available to Japan. So the Simpsons are going to Japan!
We have a couple jokes on the airplane, like Bart’s Gameboy crashing the plane when he turns it off, and Homer’s weird almost-racist joke about seeing Japanese people at the zoo. We also get a really solid Rashomon joke. But enough about the plane, it’s time to get to Japan! And when they get to their hotel we immediately get the standard stupid American joke of Homer walking through the paper doors. His mind is also blown by the fancy robotic toilet while the rest of the family start having seizures from chaotic Japanese cartoons.
And after that refreshing seizure party, they decide to go explore Japan and get some good food at Americatown, a theme restaurant that’s just full of thinly veiled insults to America. Which, yeah, making fun of Americas is super easy. We’re the worst. Anyway, after their familiar meal they head out into Tokyo while Lisa begs them to do something authentically Japanese. This revolts Homer and Bart, who decide to run away, and then go do something Japanese. After briefly checking out Woody Allen filming a commercial, they head to a sumo match. Where Homer is a moron and ends up causing a big fight with one of the sumo wrestlers, before beating up the Emperor.
Yep, Homer Simpson has physically assaulted the Emperor of Japan. And there isn’t even a trial, because Marge and Lisa show up and just post bail, getting them out free. However, the punishment from the Japanese jail was apparently to do tradition Japanese things, so now Homer and Bart have no interest in doing anything authentic. Which pisses Lisa off, until Homer decides to placate her by doing some origami with their last yen. Which obviously then flies away, completely screwing them over.
So with no money, the Simpsons head to the American embassy in hopes that they’ll help him. Which doesn’t go well. The ambassador has no interest in helping the Simpsons, and just recommends that they go get jobs to make the money to get back to Springfield. So they do, and the whole family begins working at some sort of sea-food factory where they just gut fish all day. And while doing that they happen upon a commercial for a Japanese game-show where different families are rewarded with making their wishes come true. So they sign up and see if they can get tickets back to America.
However, it’s clear that things aren’t going to go great for the Simpsons when the host, voiced by George Takai, informs them that Japanese game-shows punish ignorance, unlike American ones that reward intelligence. And the Simpsons sure can be ignorant. So they begin punishing the family, mainly Homer. First they stick Homer in a pinata costume and have the family whack him with sticks, then they stick him atop a tower and let him get struck by lightning repeatedly. But it all comes to a head when they finally get to the last round, which is grabbing their tickets off a rickety bridge suspended over a volcano. So obviously they go get the tickets, and the bridge snaps, sending them down into the lava. Except it was all a trick! The lava isn’t real, and it just ends up flushing them back into the studio where they’re made fun of, but allowed to leave. So with their dignity destroyed, their money gone, and having done very few authentically Japanese things, the family board their plane back to Springfield, and are promptly attacked by Godzilla.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this episode. I’m generally not a big fan of the episodes that are all about the Simpsons going to a new city or country, and then just being obnoxious there. Sometimes it works, like “Bart vs Australia,” but this particular episode doesn’t really do much for me. There are some solid jokes, but most of the episode is just strange. I mean, Homer beat up the Emperor, and nothing bad happens to him. Plus, I’m not really that interested in Japan. I personally don’t have much interest in going there, and don’t find the culture all that engaging. And the show really just made fun of the stereotypes, and didn’t get that deep into what it’ actually like going to the country. I don’t know, it’s just not really my type of episode, and it felt like a super weak way to end the season. Oh well, come back tomorrow for me to dive into the crappy beginning of Season Eleven!
Take Away: Don’t fall into the Ugly American stereotype when visiting foreign countries.
“Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” was written by Donick Cary and directed by Jim Reardon, 1999.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons