As previously guessed, the Simpsons character fated to die in an upcoming Simpsons episode next season is almost certainly Krusty the Clown's formerly-estranged father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky.
A recently-added copyright record for an episode entitled "Clown in the Dumps" simply confirms it:
Who's the only clown we know of in the Simpsons
universe? Krusty, of course (Sideshows Mel and Bob are mere assistant clowns, in my estimation). Why would Krusty be in the dumps? Because his father just died, that's why. The clues are piling up, and they all point to a dead rabbi.
I would bet my remaining bitcoin on it!
[United States Copyright Office via No Homers Club]
homage to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki
that delighted the internet a month or two ago was apparently ten years in the making:
The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said his team had been trying to work in an homage to Miyazaki on their show for at least a decade, but the eventual episode -- in which Comic Book Guy marries a woman from Japan -- was well underway before the filmmaker announced his retirement.
In the episode, Homer gets drunk with the Japanese woman's father for no apparent reason, they have an anime dream because Japan, and the father realizes he should let his daughter be with Comic Book Guy because he sees his face on No-Face from Spirited Away. The whole sequence is rather disjointed from the rest of the episode, and the awkward attempt to justify its inclusion by making it the story's climax makes for a weird, lazy plot progression (problem → get drunk → problem solved). If the episode was created just so the writers could finally put in a Miyazaki tribute they'd been wanting to put in for over a decade, you'd think they could've worked it in better.
Oh, and Miyazaki hasn't even seen it.