Akira is free to watch in Japan via YouTube right now, but it won’t be for much longer. As the country celebrates the end of the year, Akira is one of those monumental movies that defined so much of popular culture that broadcasting it for free is just a nice thing to do for the holidays.
And because so many people are watching Akira, someone has found a hidden message that has remained secret until now.
Twitter user HikozaTwi has the specific scene screenshotted and shared on social media. This shot is at the 38-minute mark when the general is told of an impending disaster from a girl with precognitive powers. Beside her bed is a piece of medical equipment with a caution sign that looks like standard English, but it's not; it's Japanese written in the English alphabet.
Kotaku translated the message from what was apparently an overworked animator. "Why do we have to fill in this far! Knock it off! Enough."
Animation back in the '80s was an enormously labor-intensive task. People had to draw every frame by hand, and Japanese animation was particularly known for its exceptional level of detail and fluid motion, but both meant anime was the most labor-intensive style of animation. Where normal cartoons would have just left a caution sign with maybe a few squiggly lines (or not included the caution sign at all), Akira actually filled out that sign with actual writing. It looks like someone decided to use that as an opportunity to work out some frustration.
Akira is one of the most influential movies of its era, right up there with Blade Runner for defining the cyberpunk genre. Younger audiences might find it a bit trope-laden, but that's only because Akira is the source of quite a few anime tropes.
You used to be able to see Akira on Netflix, but it looks like it's been taken off the streaming service. But if you know where to look, you should still be able to find versions of Akira available online.
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