We’re only two episodes deep into A-1 Pictures’ anime adaptation of Nier: Automata and it’s already got viewers putting on their thinking caps and deciphering secret coded messages.
Since the anime adaptation of Nier Automata, Nier: Automata Ver 1.1a, started airing this month, it’s re-opened old wounds for fans of blindfolded robots with a penchant for nihilism, and has many viewers theorizing about how creator Yoko Taro will distinguish the anime from its source material. Back in September, Taro revealed that the anime’s affix “ver 1.1a” would relate to the show’s storyline deviating from that of the 2017 video game. Apparently, Taro is a man of his word because the anime’s narrative combines the game’s route a and route b, features a new narrative about a botanist machine, and each episode ends on a quirky puppet show where 9S and 2B explain the game’s multiple endings.
While some fans theorize that the Nier anime has gone so far as to reference the fan-made secret church door mod in the Copied City in its opening sequence, it turns out the anime has genuinely been sending viewers secret messages in the most unlikely place: the anime’s eye catches.
An eye catch is a short animation that plays before and after a show’s commercial break. Think of the illustrations and music that play in the middle of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood episodes to signal that the show is about to come back on. However, if you pause Nier:Automata Ver1.1a’s eye catches at just the right moment, you’ll see lines of code hidden within the glitchy effects of its title card.
MyAnimeList user exloseur, their friend tyrelipinpon, and r/Nier subredditor Lifedealer999 managed to decipher the messages hidden in the first two episodes’ eye catches by converting the lines of code to text using a hexadecimal converter. After converting the text, the internet sleuths had to translate the results from Japanese to English. Below are the messages in Japanese and English, which we’ll update with each new episode:
Episode 1:or not to [B]e
An android is a being that repeats life and death.
Will the chain of reincarnation bring salvation or collapse?
Episode 2: city e[S]cape
“How is it different from human intelligence?
The secret code within the Nier anime is akin to the prose within the game’s codexes or the philosophical conversation between Pod 042 and Pod 153 at the end of the game. The throughline between the anime’s secret messages is that they question the YoRHa units’ mission to safeguard humanity, which as far as they know, is living it up on the moon while they have to clean up the mess on Earth. While it’s far too early to tell where these hidden messages will go as the anime progresses, I think they might be a device that emphasizes the thematic concerns of both the game and the series, sending messages to the show’s viewers about what it means to be human.
As the series progresses, I expect these messages to increasingly break the fourth wall and clearly address the viewer. I’m banking this on the fact that, in the opening, we see real-world locations like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku, so Taro clearly wants viewers to have the haunting awareness that the post-apocalyptic world of the show is the very same world we live in today. Either that or Taro is gonna repeat his “one trick” and delete users’ Crunchyroll accounts once the anime ends.