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In the “Reincarnation” episode of Futurama, they broke the episode up into three segments, each of which used a different style.

The first one was in an old-fashioned Max Fleischer style and the main gag was that Fry accidentally created a new color unlike any other color previously known, which of course we couldn’t see because the segment was in black-and-white.

The second act was in 16-bit video-game style—which Community had recently done—and the gag was that the professor’s fancy microscope was able to zoom to a super-microscopic level, allowing him to see the smallest form of matter in all its “beautiful, intricate, detailed” glory and thus allowed him to discover a grand-unified-theory. The gag of course being that because the segment was in 16-bit, we could not see the detail the professor mentioned and only saw a single pixel.

The final part was in anime style. I did not notice any specific gag about something that we would be unable to see because of the style used.

This page mentions a communications issue between the two races which seems like it could work because of how anime programs are (poorly) dubbed into English, but that would be pretty weak compared to the previous two. It also mentions Zoidberg doing an intricate dance, but the camera simply panning over him standing still. That really sounds like the second one, but I don’t see how it has anything to do with doing the segment being anime or why it would have been different had they done it in their normal style.

Does anyone know what the third gag was (or if there even was one—which would really surprise me if there were not).

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2 Answers

It seems that the Zoidberg dance was the "gag" in the third part. From wikipedia:

A running joke for the episode involves a key plot point in each segment being obscured by the specific animation style, though the characters themselves express amazement over what they see

This enforces your idea of the three parts having important information obscured because of the style. For the third part, wikipedia states:

The Planet Express crew attempts to relay a message of peace, but cannot communicate with the aliens properly due to both the humans' and aliens' inability to understand each other's language. Doctor Zoidberg successfully persuades the aliens to leave by shedding his shell and performing an intricate dance universally symbolizing peace, which is depicted as Zoidberg merely posing his body and standing still while the camera pans across his body per anime action sequence conventions.

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That’s what I figured, but what exactly does that have to do with anime? –  Synetech Aug 2 '12 at 17:14
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Okay, I think I figured it out. The reason that Zoidberg’s “intricate dance” was a joke when done in anime style is because anime tends to use limited animation frames resulting in a jerky motion, sort of like stop-go or claymation. For example, instead of smooth movements like many of today’s cartoons, even modern day anime seems to still use a more 60’s style with few intermediate key frames (like many smaller animated GIFs).

As such, instead of Zoidberg doing a smooth, flowing dance like the in-show characters see, we should have seen a simple, jerky dance, but instead they just showed a slow pan across his body.

For example, what the characters saw may have been something like this:

Zoidberg dancing smoothly

While we would have only seen this:

Zoidberg dancing jerkily

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