Japanese netizens are bursting with excitement about Manuel Valls, who was appointed as France’s new Prime Minister this week. But what are these Twitter users so astounded about? Well, the newly appointed Prime Minister supposedly bears a striking resemblance to evil genius Colonel Muska, from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 movie Castle in the Sky.

And what’s more, in Japanese his name sounds just like barusu or “balse”, the incantation from Castle in the Sky. So this new guy not only looks like a character from the classic animated movie, his name also happens to be the movie’s most important word – which, incidentally, is a record-breaking Twitter meme in its own right.

NB: This article contains spoilers for Castle in the Sky, but c’mon, it was released in 1986…

Seeing as the Japanese language has way fewer sounds than English, Mr Vall’s last name is pronounced バルス (barusu). And barusu also just so happens to be the magical incantation that destroys Laputa in Castle in the Sky‘s pivotal scene. Barusu has become a bizarre Twitter meme in Japan, too. But first, let’s take a look at some photographic evidence!

▼ Here’s Colonel Muska, everyone’s favourite Studio Ghibli villain.


▼ Here’s Mr. Valls.


▼ Well, ok, maybe they don’t look very similar after all. But how about if we add some accessories? Yeah, that’s better.


…OK, honestly, we’re not convinced on the lookalike point. But what’s this barusu thing all about?

In the end of Castle in the Sky (see, I told you there’d be spoilers), Sheeta and Pazu recite a “Spell of Destruction” which blinds Colonel Muska and destroys the castle. The incantation is “BARUSU!” (Studio Ghibli sometimes writes it as balse, probably in attempt to look cool, but it’s never pronounced like that. The pronunciation is ba-ru-su). On 2channel and amongst Japanese Twitter users, though, the word has come to be used to mean “destroy!”, and is just something fun to indiscriminately yell at your friends.

▼ Barusu! Just be careful not to sound like you’re saying “balls”.

The movie is broadcast annually on Japanese TV, and since 2003, fans have taken to Twitter and other social networks to tweet, or otherwise digitally shout, the word barusu at the exact moment the spell is cast in the movie. Maybe they were trying to break Twitter or something. In 2013, the broadcast of Castle in the Sky saw a new world record set for most tweets per second, as Twitter went barusu-crazy with an astonishing 143,199 tweets-per-second.

For many Japanese people, therefore, Castle in the Sky is synonymous with the barusu meme. So while we’re still not sure about the doppelganger thing, you can certainly count on Japanese netizens to spot a weird movie-related coincidence!

Source and images: Hachima kiko