Usually when we hear a Groening cartoon is about to parody an anime, we suck in our breath and wait for something really bad. The Simpsons’ anime parodies so far have been either based on the bad 1960s dubs the writers watched as children, or distant, borderline-offensive, usually-made-up orientalisms. Even in the show’s prime years, the show never knew what an anime really was and never bothered to do any research.
In the comics, it was a different story. People who worked on the Bongo version of The Simpsons also read plenty of manga and created parodies that were very close to the real thing. When artist Nina Matsumoto posted a Simpsons version of Death Note online, the Simpsons Comics editors were so impressed with the drawing, they hired her to illustrate their own parody of it. That Death Note comic jump-started Matsumoto’s career — she now designs plushies and T-shirts for Fangamer and other companies, and if you’ve bought a product that depicts a popular video game character in the past five years, she likely designed it.
Where are we going with this? The Simpsons — the actual show — will be spoofing Death Note as one of their three Treehouse of Horror segments next Sunday, and it doesn’t look like the show at all. It looks more in line with Nina’s comic — the Simpsons characters rendered in an accurate Japanese style. (She has not confirmed yet if she had anything to do with the short.)
The animation for the segment is not by Rough Draft or by anyone else who’s worked on The Simpsons before, but Dr. Movie — technically a South Korean animation studio but one that specializes in anime for Japan.
There are actually two Treehouse of Horror episodes this year — the first, a full-length parody of “It” starring Krusty as Pennywise, aired last Sunday.