Last night, my nine-year-old daughter Jane and I watched an episode of our favorite cartoon together: Gravity Falls. (See Jane's interview with the creator of Gravity Falls, Alex Hirsch, here.)
In the episode, the kids break into a derelict 7-Eleven style convenience store and find out that it's haunted. Inside the store, 12-year-old Mabel discovers a cache of powdered sugar candy called Smile Dip, which has strong psychedelic qualities. While she is drooling and glassy eyed, she goes on an incredible inner journey, as evidenced in the video snippet above.
At the end of the episode, some random-looking text appears on the screen for a second or so: RQZDUGV DRVKLPD! I paused the video and snapped a photo:
Jane reminded me that the beginning of every episode has a weird cartoony occult image that flashes on the screen for a fraction of the second. This image, also, contains random-looking text: VWDQ LV QRW ZKDW KH VHHPV
It's text written in a substitution cipher. Jane and I had cracked that cryptogram a couple of months ago. It says, STAN IS NOT WHAT HE SEEMS (Stan is Dipper and Mabel's great uncle, proprietor of the Mystery Shack occult curio store located in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.)
Jane and I used the same substitution cipher to attempt to decode the text from the episode we saw last night. We came up with: ONWARDS AOSHIMA!
"That doesn't seem right," I told Jane. But Jane said, "No! That's what Mabel says when she's riding the dolphin." She was right!
What does "Onwards Aoshima" mean? Google revealed that a lot of people have already cracked the cryptogram, and that every episode of Gravity Falls has a cryptogram at the end of it. but I haven't come across any explanation of what the term means. Aoshima is an island in Japan, but what does that have to do with Gravity Falls? The mystery deepens!
Gravity Falls is a thoroughly enjoyable cartoon. These little puzzles that are sprinkled throughout each episode take it to another level. I love this show.