How an Old Japanese Anime Broke a Twitter Record

Japan loves anime. It also loves Twitter. And this past weekend, the country showed what it could do when it combined both: set a world record.

Over the weekend, classic Studio Ghibli anime Castle in the Sky appeared on television. And Japan held what it calls a "Balse Festival" (バルス祭り or "barusu matsuri"), which is to simply write "balse" (バルス or "barusu") in a key moment.

Right now, I'm going to spoil that key moment. You've been warned.

Castle in the Sky was released in 1986, so I don't feel bad about spoiling it (and you've been warned). In the climax, the Spell of Destruction is cast with the word "balse" to bring down the city named "Laputa".

The moment the word was uttered, all of Japan seemed to hop on Twitter to tweet "balse" (バルス), and at the peak, hitting, as website Watashi to Tokyo pointed out, 11,349 tweets-per-second. Twitter was able to withstand the battering.

The number of tweets surpassed the previous record of 8,868 tweets-per-second, when Beyonce announced she was pregnant.

In the past when Castle in the Sky was shown on TV, websites like 2channel and Nico Nico Douga were hit hard. This year, Nico Nico Douga even had a live viewing party. The site was pounded. 2channel was even taken offline after threads began going "balse" crazy.

In Japan, kids grow up watching Ghibli movies. Whether you're in a paediatrician's office or even at school, you're bound to either see the movies or hear the music. I remember one well-known otaku scholar saying that no serious anime fan in Japan will say their favorite anime director is Hayao Miyazaki—it's a bit like saying your favorite basket player is Micheal Jordan. Too obvious.

Yet, before Castle in the Sky was broadcast last weekend, folks on bulletin boards and Twitter were reminding each other of the impending Balse Festival.

There was a flash-mob element to the whole thing, an everybody-else-is-doing-it element, but at its core, it showed that Miyazaki can still dominate the internet, with a decades old anime you can rent and watch whenever you like.

It's just more fun watching it with millions of people with itchy Twitter fingers.

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(Top photo: mAsaEvo7のページ/Studio Ghibli)