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Balus!

The movie that set a new record for number of tweets (and, no, it’s not “Sharknado”)

On August 3rd, Twitter broke its previous tweets-per-second record by over 100,000. Castle in the Sky, a 1986 Hayao Miyazaki film, was the cause of all the ruckus—to the tune of 143,199 tweets in one second, most of them coming from Japanese viewers broadcasting a single word. Sharknado, a campy TV movie that dominated US Twitter traffic during the evening of its broadcast last month, reached only about 5,000 tweets per minute at its peak.

It’s no surprise that this test of Twitter’s infrastructure came from Japan. The last record of around 30,000 tweets per second was set at the moment 2013 began in Japan, mostly from tweets of ake-ome, a shortened version of the Japanese wish for a “Happy New Year.” And Miyazaki’s fantastical, hand-animated movies—eight of which are among the top 15 grossing films in Japanese history—have caused their share of Twitter traffic before:

Castle in the Sky carries a tradition of en-masse internet participation. During the climax of the beloved film, a magic word—balus—is spoken by the characters to trigger a spell of destruction to crumble the movie’s titular fortress. According to the Wall Street Journal, during the 13 times that the movie has aired in Japan, fans have built up a tradition of saying the word together at the exact same moment (115 minutes and five seconds into the film). In the age of the internet, this tradition moved to message boards (and reportedly crashed them) and it seems that it’s now been adapted for Twitter.

The spike marks a milestone for Twitter, according to a post on the site’s blog, and not just because of the record that was broken, but because no significant outages were reported. This is in sharp contrast to three years ago, when the 2010 World Cup shut Twitter down repeatedly. Twitter reps told the Wall Street Journal the site’s servers had been fortified since then, and so indeed it seems. On a normal day there are about 5,700 tweets per second, so it’s unlikely that Twitter will see this kind of strain to its new infrastructure again for a while—at least not until Castle in the Sky airs again.

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