How One Word Captured the Imagination of a Nation

Community IconCommunity April 10, 2018

It’s very rare for one film to inspire a country, let alone the world; and yet, that’s what happened with Hayao Miyazaki’s “天空の城ラピュタ” (Castle in the Sky). In addition to inspiring dozens (if not hundreds) of stories, games, and minds; the film has come to inspire one of the biggest Internet memes many, outside of Japan, have never heard of, “Balse!”

For the uninitiated, Castle in the Sky follows the journey of Sheeta and Pazu as they try to both find and protect the fabled island in the sky, Laputa. At one point in the movie, Sheeta and Pazu cast the Spell of Destruction by holding Sheeta’s family crystal and exclaiming “バルス” (barusu, balus, or balse).

As a yearly tradition since 1988, Japanese television has aired Castle in the Sky to millions of viewers.

In 2003, Twitter users began tweeting the word “バルス” at the exact moment in the live annual airing of the movie.

What started as a small community effort, grew over the years into what has become known as” バルス祭り” (the Balse Festival). The Balse Festival peaked at 25,088 tweets per second in 2011, beating out a previous Twitter record set by Beyonce’s pregnancy at 8,868 tweets per second.

This record was further demolished in 2013 after Japanese netizens, in what seems like a very big coordination of different sites and entities, had a Balse Festival reaching 143,199 tweets per second.

The Balse Festival has become a fun way for fans and brands to unite behind a common interest using technology. The humble beginnings of this campaign go to show that just the right amount of quirkiness and initiative can snowball into something Internet-shaking. ?

Will you be the one to create the next Balse Festival?

Image from Ship of Fools Wiki

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