Future Tense

The Most-Tweeted Moment of All Time Came During an Airing of a Classic Miyazaki Film

Cover for English-language DVD version of Castle in the Sky
Cover for English-language DVD version of Castle in the Sky

Image via Amazon.com

When you think of the types of events that set off social-media frenzies, you might think of sporting events, celebrity pregnancies, natural disasters, or presidential elections. But as of today, the most-tweeted moment of all time had nothing to do with any of these. In a blog post, Twitter reports that it recorded a new record for the number of tweets in a single second on Aug. 2 at 10:21:50 a.m. eastern time—or, more relevantly, at 11:21:50 p.m. Japan Standard Time.

The impetus for the record: an airing on Japanese television of the 1986 Studio Ghibli anime Castle in the Sky. In what has become something of a tradition, fans of the Miyazaki film apparently conspired to tweet the word “balse” at the exact time that it’s uttered in a pivotal moment of the movie. The result of the “Balse Festival”: a global peak of 143,199 tweets in one second, destroying the previous record of 33,388.

This isn’t the first time Japanese users have played a key role in breaking the mark. The old one was set this past New Year’s, at the moment the clock struck midnight in Tokyo. And back in 2011, it was another airing of Castle in the Sky that topped the then-record of 8,868 tweets a few moments after Beyoncé announced she was pregnant at the MTV Video Music Awards.

The airing of Ghibli films is such a phenomenon in Japan that, as the Wall Street Journal reported recently, the country’s stock traders have developed superstitions regarding the confluence of Ghibli movies and U.S. jobs reports. “In eight of the past nine such convergences,” the Journal notes, “the data came in weak.”

All of which goes to show three things: Japan is weird, Miyazaki fans wield a surprising amount of Twitter clout, and Twitter has gotten way, way better at handling momentary spikes in usage. (The social network handled the spike without resorting to a fail whale.) Twitter’s blog post about the new record focuses on the latter, with lots of fascinating details for those who know and care about the difference between JVM and Ruby VM.