The Simpsons is a television series and endurance comedy project undertaken in large part by alumni of the Harvard Lampoon, which is just like any college humor rag, except it’s actually kind of funny and also owns a small castle. As might be expected of an erudite corps of writers working on a fairly mundane narrative, the show is most brilliant when it diverges into its trademark digressive realm of vignette, parody, and allegory. One such moment takes place in this week’s show (“Married to the Blob”): a minute-and-a-half long homage to the retiring Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps best known to American audiences for Spirited Away (2001), and the Studio Ghibli he co-founded. It’s an excellent bit, but there’s something amusing about a show that has outrun its creative lifetime many times over memorializing a man whose work continues to prove groundbreaking. (As Apu, the maybe-racist Indian character, exclaims at the end of the Miyazaki clip: “Ruined by whimsy!”)
For more on the specific references to Miyazaki’s oeuvre in the spot, Slate has produced a helpful video annotation. Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises, opens in February, but, in the meantime, his lesser-known directorial debut Castle of Cagliostro (1979) has been one of the more impressive free offerings on Hulu for some time.