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Unreadably Fast Text
A quirk of movies and TV shows where text is shown on screen, but doesn't stay on screen long enough for the audience to read it. It's not a subliminal message, and it's sometimes not even relevant to the plot, but you'll have to buy the DVD (or have TiVo) and pause it to see what it says. Credits are often like this.

Usually a form of Freeze-Frame Bonus. Often the text will mention something about how the people who took the time to freeze-frame the text and read it clearly have too much time on their hands. A common joke is for an advert to have contract small print or medical side-effects shown like this.

Note that it's not just that you couldn't read it because you read slow. It's that the director intentionally made it so you can't possibly read it in the time it's shown onscreen.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion shows a paper with a very detailed description of the 2nd impact for only a second or so.
    • There's a lot of this in episode 22 (the infamous Mind Rape episode), and even more in the Director's Cut version.
    • Near the end of The End of Evangelion, we also see a bunch of letters to Gainax, some graffiti on their studio walls, and even a death threat to director Hideaki Anno.
    • The monitor of the Jet Alone's computer shows text highly reminiscent of the listing of TSR programs produced by the MEM command from MS-DOS, including one with a name similar to HIMEM.SYS.
    • There's another 2I description, but it's only a description of Second Impact for the first sentence or so, after which it pulls a Prince of Bel-Air and the rest is a history of Studio Gainax with Gainax strategically replaced with GEHIRN and the words 'Second Impact' liberally sprinkled throughout.
  • Studio Shaft does this all the time.
    • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei flashed screenshots from internet Flame Wars for several frames during the opening credits, and had numerous things written on the blackboard that would only be visible for a few seconds.
      • And the second opening... good god. Good luck even being able to pause at the right time.
    • Hidamari Sketch has tons of these. The first episode of the second season flashes plot-relevant proverbs on the screen throughout the episode, but only keeps them on-screen for about half a second. If you consider that the proverbs are in English and the audience is Japanese, it's pretty much impossible for them to read it before it goes away. There's also a crossword puzzle flashed on screen in one episode for only a second or two. If you solve it, the answers end up being a bunch of other popular anime series.
    • There's a slip of paper reading "Nice Boat" that flits by in the first episode of ef - a tale of memories.
    • Bakemonogatari has series of these images in the start of each episode, that contain basically a quick exposition of Araragi's thoughts on the current matter.
    • Madoka makes frequent use of this, typically either in German or in the runes made up for the series. The messages are far too long, or move to fast, to read without freeze-framing (and then translating it, for those who don't speak German). The text ranges from spoilery warnings about the dangers ahead to quotes from Faust, the story from which Madoka draws heavily.
      • During the battle with Walpurgisnacht, one of the missile launchers coming out of the water says SHAFT. Self advertisement, anyone?
  • In Suzumiya Haruhi Yuki's programming is shown faster than the eye can follow. The code is somewhat realistic (consisting of valid snippets of the C programming language) if you look at it frame by frame. She also has a habit of speaking much too fast to understand, in SQL computer code... backwards.
  • In Bubblegum Crisis, the list of Griffon owners which is shown briefly on the screen includes real-life musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.
    • Also, the HUD of an ADP officer briefly flashes "Budweiser King of Beers" and "St. Louis, Mo" in episode 1.
  • Episode 10 of Super Dimension Fortress Macross has some text briefly on the screen which is a screenshot of a text-based computer game from 1971 based on Star Trek.
  • In one episode of Maison Ikkoku, there's a scene where Yusaku Godai is at a pay phone, and a bus goes past in the street. On the side of the bus is the handwritten logo text from the film version of Pink Floyd's The Wall.
  • When Heero is looking over the giant glob of text in the first episode of Gundam Wing, it's really a Photoshop readme.
    • In another episode, Quatre is looking over the blueprints for his Gundam; it includes random technical text, including a couple of Shout Outs to the Universal Century timeline (namely, Gundarium and the ALICE AI from Gundam Sentinel).
  • Serial Experiments Lain has several paragraphs worth of tiny text explaining the drug Accela.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist occasionally has pages of English text on screen that are legible but flash by too quickly to read much of. If you pause to get a better look, the first few lines are on-topic Surprisingly Good English and the rest are meaningless gibberish.
    • Incidentally, the legible lines are taken verbatim from Dungeons & Dragons players manuals on alchemy. Fullmetal Alchemist evidently runs on a D20 system.
  • Dirty Pair
    • In episode 1, a computer monitor briefly displays names of cast members of Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • In episode 7, there is a brief shot of a control panel. The text on the buttons consists of musical references, especially to the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
    • In episode 5, a computer screen shows what's supposed to be a list of people associated with the Criados space station, but it's actually a list of famous musicians (including Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu plays with this. In the art episode, Sōsuke asks advice from the eccentric art teacher. The art teacher's response is a whole, mindless lecture. At first, it simply records the parts Sōsuke understands (i.e. military terms). Then the teacher gets sped up and the subtitles get recorded in whole. He's unintelligible without the subs too.
  • Sumiyoshi, one of Those Two Guys in Excel♥Saga, speaks in text (which simply appears onscreen) rather than talking normally. In one episode, he gives a long and detailed explanation of the Puchuu's recent plot, but it's such a long block of text, and disappears so quickly, that one needs to pause the video to read it. The other guy complains about this.
  • The opening to Cowboy Bebop has background text all over the place. Even if it's not always scrolling too fast to read, there's too much of it to catch in the time it's on the screen.
  • The Tatami Galaxy sometimes is hit by this, as the narration of the characters, particularly the protagonist, can get very fast very quickly.
  • Sonic X featured this during the Sonic Adventure 2 adaptation, in understandable English. It managed to get replaced by blocks in place of text in the International Release, possibly due to usage of the words "Christ" and "Damn".
  • Code Geass has a scene in an early episode where Suzaku is studying for a history textbook. It's only shown on screen for a few seconds, but it sheds some light on the series' alternate history.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Street Fighter II: The Movie has detailed Power Level information displayed for a short time.
  • One of the copyright warnings for the DVD of Fight Club flashes by in a moment. If you freeze it or take a screencap of it, it says "If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second of your life. Don't you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can't think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all who claim it? Do you read everything you're supposed to read? Do you think everything you're supposed to think? Buy what you're told you should want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you're alive. If you don't claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.......Tyler." Take a look.
  • At one point during the credits of the Leslie Nielsen film Wrongfully Accused, the words "People Nobody Cares About" appear, followed by a list of names scrolling far too quickly to read.
  • Towards the end of Election, a paragraph of a quick-moving newspaper reads "If you've paused the film to read this entire article, your time would be better spent renting 'Citizen Ruth' from your local video store."
  • The 1988 feature-length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time is full of these from beginning to end, but no more so than at the end of the "speed" sequence of the film-within-a-film of the same name, which contains what amounts to Mike Jittlov's personal manifesto about the power of the creative spirit, elucidated one frame and sentence at a time.
  • Done by accident in Ax 'Em. There are three opening prologue text screens... and they're each barely on screen for three seconds. Not that they're accurate anyway.
  • Yatsu's slideshow in Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.
  • The opening credits of Godzilla (2014) feature the names of the cast and crew surrounded by narrative text that gets quickly redacted about a half-second after appearing. The text deals mainly with the efforts of MONARCH and the military to kill Godzilla and cover up his existence, along with text about a Conspiracy Theorist who thinks the Illuminati are behind all this.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville, happens a lot to articles and documents that are usually clear enough to be read but are only shown for a few seconds. However, if you pause the moments, most of them are serious text.
  • LOST. At one point, in the beginning of Season Two, when Sawyer is in the water and there are sharks, you can barely get a glimpse of a shark with a DHARMA logo on it. If you look very carefully and squint a little.
  • Speaking of Dharma: Chuck Lorre's 'vanity plates'.
  • After a Cliff Hanger season finale, Red Dwarf started its third series with a Star Wars style prologue explaining why the main character's children were gone, one of the supporting cast had turned female, and a one-off character from the previous series was now a regular, with a different actor. None of this was actually remarked upon in the show.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV show has faux computer graphics that were deliberately too detailed to read in full unless one paused one's VCR (as was then in vogue).
  • Regular feature on The Adam And Joe Show, to the point where they would warn you at the beginning of each episode to start your VCR as this was a "high density program".
  • One episode of Brass Eye had the single-frame screen text "Grade Is A Cunt" as a Writer Revolt about Executive Meddling.
  • Charlie Brooker's Newswipe did this in a recent episode; in the middle of a very fast-moving list of the countries attending the G20 summit, "Bottom Land" is listed, followed by "No, not really. We made that one up and you bothered to pause this to read the phrase "Bottom Land"; what a dismal little prick you are"
  • During the sixth episode of Nathan Barley (a collaboration between Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris), there is a brief shot of a police sign appealing for witnesses to a crime to step forward. The small text at the bottom of the sign both contains a Freeze-Frame Bonus joke (on a subject that anticipates Morris' later project Four Lions), and insults the viewer for being sad enough to pause the DVD to check if the shot contains a Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    "What are you reading this for your obsessional deviant DVD bandit sodsplit."
  • The Replicator code from Stargate The Ark Of Truth was actually javascript taken from the Royal Bank of Canada website.
  • Fist Of Fun, a mid-90s BBC comedy show, did this with jokes designed to be only viewable if you recorded the show and paused the video. One of these was an advertisement for the Lee and Herring Video Repair Shop, suggesting you visit if you broke your video player by pausing it too many times.
  • Lewis Black ranted about networks that do this with credits at the 2007 Emmys (saying that the people who worked on a show deserve to see their names at the end, instead of having them squashed into half the screen and sped up to make room for more advertising).
  • There was a limited vogue in The Nineties for ITV factual kids' shows, notably How2 and Bad Influence to have a 'datablast' over the credits, which would be reams of text re-capping the show's content, displayed really quickly over the credits, to be viewed by taping it and freeze-framing your way through it.
  • Jon Stewart of The Daily Show often highlights this for some of his informational graphics, suggesting people will go use their TiVo to go back and read all of it later.
    • On The Colbert Report, after several episodes of listing "Super Pac" donators in a news-ticker form at the bottom of the screen, they decided to cut to the chase. Colbert told viewers to "get [their] TiVo remotes ready" and then listed all the remaining names in a matter of seconds, in a screen-filling stack of text rows scrolling by at breakneck speed.
  • An episode of Trailer Park Boys has Julian reading a note aloud. The camera shows the contents of the note as he reads it, but then pans down to show additional text for a split second. The text says "If you're freeze-framing this on DVD, you're fucked!"
  • The opening credits for Tokumei Sentai Go Busters has some text that flies by during a Montage, freeze-framing reveals it to be a portion of text from That Other Wiki's article on Super Sentai (specifically, the part discussing each of the series in brief).
  • One Mad TV sketch parodying badly-translated Korean soap operas had a character utter a single syllable, while a paragraph of subtitles flashed on the screen for a split-second.
  • Saturday Night Live uses a hyper-fast scroll for corrections on its parody of Fox and Friends.
  • French humourist trio Les Inconnus made a gag named "Thrza" (actually a fake movie extract taken from a sketch mocking cinema critics), in which the eponymous character speaks in a roughly Spanish-sounding language while French subtitles are displayed with an increasing speed until they cover all the screen and goes too fast to be readable. At this point, there is actually a quite visible phrase in the middle of the text which could be translated by something like "... about the most vicious among you who would be patient enough to read everything...".

    Theater 
  • Blue Man Group lampshades this in the performance of their show Tubes. Three performers simultaneously flash cue cards to the audience filled with lots of text, waiting just a few seconds before moving to the next one. One of the cards says you can't read all of them and should just pick one Blue Man and stick with him. Later versions of the show have used LED signs and touch screens with the same purpose.

    Video Games 
  • In Xenogears, Chrono Trigger's Lucca Ashtear makes a cameo to dispense a tutorial to the player. When asked, she delivers several pages' worth of info in about half a second, then asks the player if they got that.
  • In Super Mario RPG, the gardener in Rose Town spews several almost unreadably fast messages after you bring him the seed and the fertilizer, accompanied by the music going double-speed (and Mario becoming dizzy and falling down afterward). The same happens when finally his dreams come true and see their grown beanstalk, the one that give you access to the Lazy Shell equipment. In total, he does this three times.
    • This seems to be a running gag in the Mario RPGs. Every game in the Mario & Luigi trilogy does it at some point, and it's been done once or twice in the Paper Mario series as well. For example, in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a woman in Twilight Town grows increasingly frantic when talking about her missing husband, and begins talking in this manner when listing his flaws.
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has one occurrence of this (made all the more funny because it comes completely out of the blue since the character previously only spoke a single word at a time).
    So this big galoot here, right? Hes all like, I have no seeeat! No seeat! And he wont shut up! But he wont stop, and were all, we just cant do it, buddy, OK? So we have no idea what to do. And this lugs getting surlier. Hes not going away. And he has no seat! Nothing! Not a chance! So we do some solid thinking and totally fail. No big seats! I mean, we got small seats! We can do a small seat, sure, but this guys huge, so hes not gonna fit in a small one! Please! And it's kinda bugging me, 'cause I'm on my feet all day! I mean, I'd LOVE to sit in ANY seat! Its like, hey, pal, how about you try our job just once, yknow? Itd break him in two seconds! I work hard, Boss! Really hard! And this dude sits through life?! So spoiled! It makes me ill! All the suffering in the world, and this guys seating problem is urgent? Nooooooo! (beat) Ooooo!
  • Wangan Midnight: Maximum Tune has a bunch of scrolling text in its Attract Mode video. Upon closer inspection, it's a bunch of random characters, most of which are on the home row of a QWERTY keyboard.
  • In a Mario Party 4 minigame, Bowser gives a list of fruits (with repeats), and players take turns bringing fruits to him. Choose a fruit he didn't list, or bring him a fruit more times than he listed, and you lose the game (and your coins). At first, the list scrolls by slowly, but quickly becomes unreadably fast, turning the game into a game of luck.
  • Rock Band example: They're Red Hot on vocals.
  • The World Ends with You had this on Another Day, where one of the crew members, er, could "go on for days."
  • Persona 3's opening flashes an entire paragraph of French philosophical text onscreen for a few seconds. Then came the PSP remake's opening, which takes the trope to a ridiculous extent.
  • The beginning of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption features a reading from some sort of life-support machine log. It starts of with a simple status update, but as the eponymous corruption starts spreading, the text glitches, pauses, then suddenly start scrolling at an unreadable rate before everything goes black. If viewed in slow motion, most of it is gibberish, but there is the occasional readable phrase, like "Wii Format" and some German.
  • the credits of cat planet go comically fast set to equally fast music! you can press alt in windowed mode to stop them!
  • Devil Survivor has a flash of text just before you summon your first demons. If you freeze it for a moment you'll notice that it's actually Paul's Letter to the Romans which talks about salvation through Jesus. It also serves as a very fast piece of foreshadowing for Amane's ending.
  • Mars Matrix's arcade opening movie is full of scenes that flash a paragraph of backstory for less than a second. The stage result screens also give you your next mission in a very fast marquee.
  • Inverted in Braid , the credits screen of which has unbearably slow text. In order to read it, one must either have the patience of a saint or realize that the time control mechanics (in particular, Fast Forward) work even here.
  • Puyo Puyo Sun: Beat Draco's course (only 3 stages long and very easy) in single player mode, and the game will mock you for not playing the harder courses by scrolling the credits and music at warp speed. Compile loooooved making fun of their players.
  • The Bad Ending of Super Bomberman 5 zig-zags with this, as the credits continually speed up, slow down or grind to a halt. When you consider that the Big Bad Emperor Terrorin is a master of time & space, it's fitting.
  • When the Orange Box logo and copyright info comes up at the end of the Team Fortress 2 short Meet the Demoman, there is a tiny disclaimer at the very bottom of the copyright info which reads:
    All information regarding Demoman grenade behavior was obtained from Australians believed to be reliable at the time. It is submitted to the possibility of errors, omissions, or nerfing without notice.
  • The Something Else C3 Trailer uses this to warn potential players of its content.
  • Ikaruga has sorts of proverbs at the start of each level that stay on screen for only a very short time, and it's unlikely the player will be able to read all of it. Pausing the game (at least in the PC version) doesn't help much because the pause menu obscures some of the text.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney does this with Wendy Oldbag whenever she appears. In Justice For All, there's Richard Wellington in Case 1 and Moe the Clown in Case 3.
      • The special game over in 1-5 has the text start scrolling very slowly, then it gets faster and faster as Phoenix gets more frantic, eventually culminating in a very Big "NO!".
    • Apollo Justice uses it with Wesley Stickler.
  • This is used in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni during Keiichi's (and later Irie's) bullshit speeches: the text scrolls automatically at super-speed without the "waiting" icon appearing, so that the reader can only catch glimpses of it. After it does stop however, you can rewind it and the nonsensical Wall of Text usually has a few uncanny Shout Outs in it.

    Web Original 
  • Zero Punctuation
  • The Demented Cartoon Movie has a moment with a guy who's about to get blown up with a horrendously long speech bubble that lasts only a second. Fortunately, the movie itself comes equipped with a "pause" button.
  • YouTube Poops frequently include text or screenshots that are shown for only an instant, facilitating a well-timed pause to actually read them. Or you can read the comments to see if it's been transcribed by a previous viewer who already did the work.
  • In Linkara's review of New Guardians #2, he mocks the "genetically superior beings" concept of the comic using a clip of Adolf Hitler ranting. The second time he uses the clip, a piece of text pops up the split second before resuming the review. The text reads: "Yeah, I can see why Germany would want to follow this shouting, drug-crazed lunatic. ZOMG Easter Eggs! Hi TV Tropes!"
  • In the The Nostalgia Critic's tribute to Siskel & Ebert, the Critic assures us that not all critics dislike certain religions.
    Nostalgia Critic: I for example only dislike these.
    (list of religions scrolls across the screen too quick to read)
    Nostalgia Critic: Especially the middle one.
  • The B Squad's recurring sketch 2 Black-Sounding White Gay Dudes has this for the end titles, which, if you slow them down, are the end titles from Gladiator

    Western Animation 
  • Invader Zim does this in "FBI Warning of Doom." The movie GIR is watching opens with an FBI warning that starts off as the usual piracy notice but takes a turn for the bizarre halfway through.
    "Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures in any medium (Title 17; United States Code, Section 501 and 506). The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigates allegations of criminal copyright infringements. They will hunt you down like the dirty monkey you are and force you to wear a moose skin and ride a greased pig while singing folk tunes. They are forcing me to ride the piggy as I write this. The piggy is smelly!!"
  • Pinky and the Brain has one episode where Brain flicks through a slide-show very fast. If you play it in slow motion, the slides read, "I am now controlling your mind. See, I have made you use the freeze-frame on your VCR."
    • The opening theme sequence to the same show had two of these. The first reads "Don't tell Brain that I hid this secret message. Ha ha. Narf." The second, naturally, reads "I know about your silly secret message. Pinky."
  • Family Guy has a newspaper that read "DVDs Paused to Read Newspaper Gag".
  • Used in The Simpsons, notably in the episode "Homer Bad Man", where Homer is accused of sexual harassment. A tabloid news program covers this and makes Homer look bad, but eventually corrects their story, listing it alongside a long, unreadably-fast list of other corrections.
    • Including lines such as "The people who are writing this have no life.", "If you are reading this, you have no life.", and "Licking an electrical outlet will not turn you into a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger." (More under "Freeze Frame Fun".)
    • And in the episode "Bart's Comet" where the eponymous comet is headed straight for Springfield:
      Kent Brockman: Now, over the years, a newsman learns a number of things that for one reason or another, he just cannot report. It doesn't seem to matter now, so... the following people are gay:
      Matt Groening
      Ken Tsumura
      George Meyer
      Joel Kuwahara
      Bill Oakley
      Elizabeth Jacobs
      Josh Weinstein
      Jane O'Brien
      Annette Andersen
      Jennifer Crittenden
      Mike Scully
      Dominique Braud-Stiger
      Greg Daniels
      Joseph Boucher
      Al Jean
      Ping Warner
      Mike Reiss
      Craig Feeney
      Richard Raynis
      Don Gilbert
      David Mirken
      Jacqueline Atkins
      Chris Ledesma
      Mark McJimsey
      Alf Clausen
      Allison Elliott
      David Silverman
      David Cohen
      N. Vyolet Diaz
    • Yes, all of this scrolls really fast. And yes, they are the names of people who worked on the show.
    • And in Two Bad Neighbors when Bart shreds Bush Senior's memoirs: a scrap of paper flits past the screen with the words "VP Dan Quayle" and "embarassment."
    • Used in "The Simpsons' 138th Episode Spectacular":
      Troy McClure: Matt Groening insisted that we make time to acknowledge the hard work of everyone who makes "The Simpsons" possible.
  • Futurama has a lot of background jokes on signs that can only be read this way. Many of them written in made-up alien languages that have to be decoded to make any sense.
    • The DVDs have one of these parodying the FOX Copyright warning that tells you how much of a nerd you are if you are decoding this.
  • In the "Channel Chasers" episode of The Fairly Oddparents, the credits of Adolescent Genetically-Altered Karate Cows move quickly, and Cosmo remarks that this is because they're animation credits, and as such, no one cares about them.
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast:
    • During the "shoot a ray, and you get a word!" sequence in "Batmantis", Zorak tells Space Ghost to shoot the theory of evolution, and Space Ghost fires a shot that is accompanied by three paragraphs of text humorously explaining Darwin's theory of evolution... which only remains on the screen for about a second.
    • "The Justice Hole" ends with "Stand By For Super Credits", and the entire credits scroll by in less than a second.
  • A quarter way through the run of Count Duckula, a bogus credit would go by fleetingly, and usually a bad pun in regards to something in the episode. In an episode which dealt with a flight on a plane, the bugs credit was "Runway - Del Shannon."
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Gerald Moves Out" when Mr. Hyunh points out the list of laundry room rules. The first few are standard laundry room rules, but the rest are jokes, such as "Riding in clothes dryer is forbidden without adult."


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