After being robbed of their savings by Snake at an Internet café, the Simpsons start scrounging for money for their family vacation. They soon learn they can get cheap plane tickets by booking last-minute flights to an unknown location. The flight they get onto flies to Tokyo, Japan, where the Simpsons take in Asian culture — and must compete on a game show in order to fly home.
This episode includes examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Godzilla attacks the plane at the end. Harry Shearer, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria all appeared in the 1998 version of Godzilla.
- Adaptational Villainy: Gamera and Mothra, both heroes in their respective continuity, are among the kaiju menacing the plane the family's boarded on at the end of the episode.
- Amusing Injuries: The family participates with a Japanese game show, which are notorious for being sadistic (not on the scale the show has it, but pretty close), or as the host says, "Your shows reward knowledge. We punish ignorance."
- Animeland: The show's take on Japan, which is one reason the actual country does not air the episode (the main reason being that the Emperor is shown, which is a social faux pas in Japan unless for educational purposes).
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: When the Simpson family first sees the Japanese game show.
Marge: "Family Wish Show"? Hmm, that gives me an idea...
Lisa: I think we all had that idea.
Homer: I didn't. What is it? Lunch?
- Artistic License Geography: Several Japanese landmarks are all shown within a short distance of each other.
- "Ass" in Ambassador: The United States Ambassador to Japan is unsympathetic to the plight of the family having no money to get home, coldly telling them to get jobs to pay their own way, snipes at them not to try and take his job and even has armed servicemen at the embassy chase them off of the premises.
- Bait-and-Switch: After Homer loses their last bit of the family's yen, the next scene is of the ambassador assuring him that the U.S. will not stand idly by while one of their citizens are stuck. Not in the country, mind you, but in the metal detector inside of the embassy, which a guard then shoves him out of.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: While on the web, Homer invested in "something called News Corp":
Lisa: Dad! That's FOX!
Homer: AAAAAH! UNDO! UNDO!
- The "UNDO! UNDO!" is heard at the end on the 20th Century Fox Television logo.
- Brick Joke: When Homer and Bart are released from prison, Homer just walks straight through the wall, like he did when he arrived at their hotel room earlier in the episode.
- One of the items being sold in the 33 cent store is "Skittlebrau", a supposedly fictional product that Homer had imagined in "Bart Star".
- The Mr. Sparkle commercial from "In Marge We Trust" plays on the Japanese hotel's TV.
- The cat burglar music from "Homer the Vigilante" plays when Homer robs Ned's house.
- The Cameo:
- Uncle Pennybags, the mascot of the game "Monopoly" makes an appearance.
- Homer mistakes Emperor Akihito (who, at the time, didn't look that old) for a sumo wrestler and throws him in the sumo thong Dumpster.
- Notorious kaiju monsters Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan and Mothra have a cameo near the end.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Homer and Bart's stay in a Japanese jail.
Homer: I'm sick of doing Japanese stuff! In jail we had to do this dumb kabuki play about the 47 Ronin, and I wanted to be Oshi but they made me Ori!
- Cutting Corners: The Simpsons try to do this after they get robbed and attend a seminar to help them save wisely.
- Early Installment Weirdness: This is the only episode where Lisa says "The Simpsons are going to [place]!" Later episodes would always have it be Homer's line.
- Easy Sex Change: As Chuck Garabedian shows the audience the picture of his boat packed with beautiful women.
Chuck: And those beautiful women? They used to be men.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: The family have an epileptic fit after watching Battling Seizure Robots.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Homer is completely disinterested in going to the new Internet cafe until Bart tells him about "a website that shows monkeys doing it."
Homer: C'mon, Lisa! Monkeys!
- Gratuitous Japanese: After the family's last one million yen flies off with the wind, Homer yells out "Shimatta baka ni!"note in frustration. Otherwise Bart and Homer speak accurate Japanese.
- Harmless Electrocution. When tied to Tokyo Tower, Homer is struck by lightning several times in a row, but survives.
- Hollywood Hacking: You can't just steal someone's money with a floppy disk.
- Hurricane of Puns: Woody Allen does a commercial claiming that "Fujikawa rice crackers can make your Interiors go Bananas."
- Inherently Funny Words: When Homer mistook Lisa's copy of Wired for a MAD-style parody magazine called "Weird":
Homer: "Gigabyte"! (laughs) They've done it again — "gigabyte".
- The Internet Is for Porn: Lisa protests that the internet is more than a global pornography network, but Homer stopped listening at "a website where monkeys do it".
- Japanese Politeness: The hotel where the Simpsons checked in had a sign stating they had 20 percent more bowing.
- Japandering: The Simpsons see Woody Allen doing this.
- Kabuki Theatre: Homer complains that he and Bart had to take part in one while they were in jail in Japan (and he didn't get to be the character he wanted to play).
- Karma Houdini:
- Snake steals all of The Simpsons' vacation money and (as far as the episode is concerned) he doesn't get punished for it nor do The Simpsons get their money back.
- By the same token, Homer steals Ned's tickets to Chuck Garabedian's seminar, and the entire Flanders family's seats to Japan.
- Literal-Minded: When Chuck Garabedian tells everyone to "squeeze every penny", Homer tries to literally squeeze a penny...until it gets lodged into his skin.
- Lucky Translation: The European Spanish version of Terminator 2: Judgment Day translated "Hasta la vista, baby!" as "Sayonara, baby!" Sayonara means "goodbye" in Japanese, so the phrase fits even better when Homer repeats it that way in the European Spanish dub of this episode.
- Mistaken for Racist: On the plane waiting to go to Japan, Homer is angry about their destination:
Homer: If we wanted to see Japanese people, we could have gone to the zoo.
Homer: What? The guy who washes the elephants is Japanese! His name is Takashi. He's in my book club!
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The Simpsons prefer going to an American restaurant instead of doing something Japanese (to the point that Homer and Bart run away from Lisa when she insists on doing something Japanese). Their waiter takes his "American" role very literally:
Waiter: Don't ask me; I don't know anything! I'm product of American education system. I also build poor-quality cars and inferior-style electronics.
Homer: [cackles] Oh, they got our number!
- Paper-Thin Disguise: When Moe sees Homer on Japanese TV, they realize Barney had been putting beers on Homer's tab by dressing like him, wearing a bald cap.
(Barney runs out)
- "Rashomon"-Style: Akira Kurosawa's movie is referenced cleverly in the following dialogue:
: Come on, Homer. Japan will be fun! You liked Rashomon
Homer: That's not how I remember it!
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- After the Simpsons win their plane tickets on the Japanese game show:
Homer: Before I go, I want to say something. Game shows aren't about cruelty, they're about greed and wonderful prizes like poorly-built catamarans, but somewhere along the line you lost your way. For shame.
- Then subverted the very next segment when he's shown backstage watching the show and laughing.
- Retroactive Wish: Attempted and failed.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- The scene where the Simpsons get seizures from watching Battling Seizure Robots is a reference to the infamous Pokémon episode ("Electric Soldier Porygon") that gave hundreds of Japanese viewers (most of which were children) seizures due to the strobe effects.
- This episode was written when "sadistic game shows" caught America's attention.
- Sadistic Gameshow: "The Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show," may sounds like a cheery gameshow where families compete for prizes. It isn't. As the host tells the Simpsons: "Now, our game shows are a little different from yours. Your shows reward knowledge. We punish ignorance," right before blasting Homer in the face with a mini flamethrower hidden in the microphone in front of him.
- The title is a reference to Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, an American World War II movie about the bombing of Japan.
- Lisa notices the Hello Kitty factory.
- Homer mentions he and Bart were in The 47 Ronin while in jail.
- One of Barney's lines to prove to Moe that he's Homer is "That boy ain't right," which is actually one of Hank Hill's catchphrases on King of the Hillnote whenever his son Bobby does something that Hank finds embarrassing.
- Near the end Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra and Rodan appear.
- Lisa seeing Godzilla's eye from the airplane window mimics the scene in Jurassic Park where the girl sees the T-Rex's eye through the car window.
- At the sumo ring, Homer borrowed Arnold Schwarzenegger's catchphrase "Hasta la vista, baby".
- The European Spanish dub version of that phrase is "Sayonara, baby!", which fits even better in the situation.
- The Latin American Spanish dub turns it into an unintentional Actor Allusion, as Homer's VA at the time, Humberto Velez, actually dubbed Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Latin American Spanish dub of Terminator 2.
- Special Guest: George Takei (who first appeared on The Simpsons as the first voice of Japanese restauranteur and karate teacher Akira) stars as the game show host Wink.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Bart's fish gutting song happens to be the same as Osaka Seafood Concern's Company Loyalty Song.
- Technologically Blind Elders: Homer finds the word "gigabyte" amusing, and this is his reaction when Lisa offers to show him how to order pizza over the internet:
Homer: The internet? Is that thing still around?
- Tempting Fate: Near the beginning of the episode, while Homer is having fun at the cybercafe:
Lisa: Dad, do we have any money left?
Homer: Well, let's check the old bank account. (brings up a bar graph on one of the computers he's using) See? Even after all my cyber-squandering, we've still got $1200.
(cue Snake holding up the cybercafe and robbing Homer)
- There Was a Door: In Japan, Homer walks straight through the paper doors rather than sliding them open, saying "I don't have time for that!".
- Toilet Humour: At their hotel, Bart shows Lisa and Marge that the TV is hooked up to a camera in the toilet. And then Homer uses it...
- Too Dumb to Live: Homer insisting on eating tins of plankton from the 33 cent store, despite Lisa pointing out it's two years out of date and Homer clearly suffering the effects of red tide poisoning from eating it.
- Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: At one point, Wink says the next question is about Japan. Homer asks if the answer is "Japan," causing Wink to look at the card and see that that is indeed the answer. He then yells at someone offstage (in Japanese), "You morons! Who came up with that answer?"
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Kaiju attacks have implicitly become so common that even Godzilla grabbing the plane in midair and shaking it causes no alarm for any of the passengers. Godzilla and his fellow monsters are rather annoyed by this.
- Vacation Episode: The Simpsons travel to Japan.