There’s a real sense of the epic as the current season of Futurama comes to an end. And when I say ‘epic’, I don’t mean it in the rather overused and redundant way we get constantly these days (bloody young people). I mean truly awe inducing and magnificent.
Reincarnation (originally written as the show’s final finale) features a rare pre-title sequence, featuring an introduction from God, no less. More shockingly, however, the titles dispense with the tagline gag for the episode; simply stating ‘Reincarnation’ under the Futurama logo. This. Is. Serious.
The episode uses the Anthology of Interest model. using three separate segments though this time the stories are all linked by the appearance of a Diamondium comet. Up first is Colorama, a Max Fleischer pastiche that is so jam-packed with gags that you’ll be coming back to this nugget time and again.
I shan’t spoil the many jokes for you but it evokes hilariously the work of the Fleischer studio, with some neat references to Betty Boop and Popeye, whilst aping the animator’s style throughout. Certainly some of the funniest Futurama moments ever (not to mention clever) are featured in this six-minute story.
Next up is Future Challenge 3000, an 8-bit tribute to 80s video/arcade games. It’s an extremely cleverly constructed piece that will please old-skool gamers no end with a plethora of familiar sound effects, visual nods and one-liners (always good to hear a Galaxians reference). For me, however, the gags weren’t as strong, more smirkful and knowing than true hearty laughs. Though some rather dirty suggestions from Leela will raise more than an eyebrow.
The final sequence is titled Action Delivery Force and is an anime parody, with the crew of Planet Express characterised and animated in the Japanese style. Particular influences evident are the excellent Battle of the Planets (or Gatchaman, as some call it) and Voltron. The theme tunes get a welcome outing here in a terrific battle scene with an alien race who communicate through dance.
Like the first segment, it’s insanely clever and beautifully referenced but also delivers the laughs thick and fast (as do Fry and Co. with every sentence in true anime fashion). Settling down to a full episode in this style would not be an unpleasant experience.
And just to show off how bally clever these writers are (apart from delivering laughs by the dozen) they’ve neatly linked the three stories with some remarkable brainwork. Each medium used is inadequate for the each segment’s resolution: a new colour is created in Colorama (a black and white cartoon); Future Challenge 3000 features the answer to life, the universe and everything but is too low resolution to display it to the audience; and the dance moves in Action Delivery Force are too quick for us to appreciate as the anime’s frame rate is too slow. That is clever at work!
Anyway, regardless of how intelligent Futurama is (and can be), the season 6 finale ends demonstrating that the show is as strong as ever. Reincarnation includes some of the finest moments in its history and is candidate for best episode ever. Here’s to Season 7!