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Cultural Cross-Reference

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You're watching the dub of an anime or non-American animated series, playing a localized version of an imported game, or reading a book or manga/manhua/manhwa in translation. You stumble across a cultural reference that you're absolutely sure couldn't have been in the original — it just seems too culturally out-of-place to have been in the original source. Except that it was in the original.

Thanks to the increasingly international nature of popular culture, combined with Pop-Cultural Osmosis, an all-too-familiar cultural reference has managed to make its way halfway around the world, showing up in a completely unexpected place.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Bread Barbershop: The food barbershop owner's name is Bread Pitt, a pun on the name of the American actor Brad Pitt. You'd think this was done for the English version when it was translated from Korean to make it funny for English viewers, but nope, his name is the same in Korean.
  • Happy Heroes (from China):
  • The Indian cartoon Lamput has an episode called "Martial Art" that cross-references different cultures twice over.
    • An official Instagram post from a Lamput production crew member mentions the episode is a homage to famous martial arts movie stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
    • The episode's "THE END" card is displayed on the in-universe movie theater's screen alongside a logo clearly meant to be that of the Motion Picture Association of America.
  • The song in Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Idiom World episode 4 is sung To the Tune of... "Feliz Navidad". "Feliz Navidad" is a Western Christmas song that's not that popular in China, where the series is produced. The episode isn't even a Christmas Episode.
  • The Indian cartoon Simple Samosa has an episode called "Khelo Samosa" where Samosa and his friends save their town's citizens from being trapped in an arcade game and forced to play the parts of enemies and damsels in distress against their will. Two of the game's levels are references to famous Nintendo games, specifically the iconic Donkey Kong stage and a castle level from Super Mario Bros. for the NES. Do those references sound like really obvious ones? Almost none of Nintendo's games and consoles have officially been released in India.note 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • A significant subplot in Whisper of the Heart revolves around translating John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" into Japanese for a school performance.
  • A Totoro doll appears at Bonnie's house in Toy Story 3. See here. He was added in reference to the strong working relationship between Pixar and Studio Ghibli (the former having done localization work for the latter's movies up until 2011).
  • In The Emoji Movie, one of the characters watches Piko Taro's "Pen Pineapple Apple Pen", calling it a visual treat.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There's this cop movie from Hong Kong where a jaded veteran cop has accepted his lot, having been crippled in the line of duty but winding up with a promotion. He says that his daughter got him hooked on manga, where he learned about something the subs called "fair trade". Think the actual translation might be "equivalent exchange"?
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium has a Sgt. Frog doll appear.
  • Sunny is a Korean film about a group of woman being reunited due to the illness and later death of their friend. A large amount of it is flashbacks to them as high schoolers during The '80s. There are multiple references to Western media, especially the song "Sunny" by Boney M.
  • The Suicide Squad briefly features a tiny Mafalda keychain hanging inside Milton's truck. Argentian and Spanish viewers quickly took notice of this after it dropped on HBO Max since the film came out almost a year after Quino's passing, who was the creator of the Mafalda comic series..

  • The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami does this a lot, and it's considered one of the distinguishing features of his popular style from more traditional Japanese literature. It also makes sense, as he lived in the U.S. for much of his life. Examples include:
    • The novel Norwegian Wood is named for the song by The Beatles, which plays a pivotal role in the story. (It's also a bit of a pun, since the song refers to "Wood" as in lumber and the novel's title refers to "wood" as in a forest.)
    • Kafka on the Shore: the title character is named after Franz Kafka and the plot alludes to Oedipus Rex, which are not so unusual for literature, but the novel also features Colonel Sanders (as a pimp!), and Johnnie Walker as a cat-killer and possibly Kafka's father.
    • The title would also seem to be a riff on Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach.
  • In the first Night Watch (Series) book, Anton briefly considers telling Egor he can be a Jedi of the Light, but quickly decides it's a bad idea. He also specifically explains that Night Watch agents are different to Superman.
    • Another book has a girl named Alita wearing a t-shirt of Battle Angel...Battle Angel Alita.
    • 'Who is James Bond?' 'A mythological character.'
  • The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century, has The Squire's Tale, about none other than Genghis Khan. Ironically, medieval Europeans knew of him, but not of many of the places he conquered.
  • In Dance of the Butterfly, Skothiam is explaining the two rival families' secret duty and how they breed or find demon hunters, and Lilja likens it to force-sensitives becoming Jedi or Sith.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Ai Qing Bian Fu Xia by Alvin Kwok (Kwok Siu Lam) is a song about love.
  • Being a Western Hip-Hop-influenced group, Korean group BTS has made many references to rappers and rap songs from the US. RM and J-Hope's verses in "Hip Hop Lover" (itself an ode to the genre) are pretty much a list of their rap influences, including Nas, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, Eric B. & Rakim, Snoop Dogg, Gang Starr, Mac Miller, and Kendrick Lamar, among others.
    • They've also referenced several popular Japanese works in their lyrics, as the members are fans of manga, anime and videogames.
      • "Anpanman" heavily references the manga character of the same name.
      • "Attack on Bangtan" references Attack on Titan by title (the Japanese version of the song, "Shingeki no Boudan", is named after the original title of the manganote , so this was clearly intentional).
      • Other Japanese works they've referenced are Pokémon ("Intro: What Am I to You?") and One Piece ("Cypher Pt. 2").
    • WINGS is a Whole-Plot Reference to German writer Hermann Hesse's Demian.
    • "Not Today" is heavily inspired by Aragorn's Rousing Speech in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, down to RM's first lines semi-quoting it:
      All the underdogs in the world
      A day may come when we lose
      But it is not today
      Today we fight!
    • "Go Go" has the line "I wanna go cruisin' like Nemo!", in reference to Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
    • "Magic Shop" (as well as the "Fake Love" teaser) references James R. Doty's book Into the Magic Shop.
    • "IDOL" again references Anpanman in the verse "sometimes I become your superhero/Keep spinning, you Anpanman". The choreography for this line also has the members posing as various superheroes: Jin as the Hulk, Suga as Black Panther, Jimin as Spider-Man, J-Hope as Anpanman, V as Iron Man, RM as Captain America, and Jungkook as Thor.
    • Their work (including the multimedia BTS Universe) has also referenced Eric Fromm's The Art of Loving and Murray Stein's Carl Jung's Map of the Soul, with the latter also being the title and theme of the album MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA.
      • Both books plus Demian are sold in their company's official shop along with official merch, implying that those are required reading for a full experience of the story.
    • Agust D (a solo mixtape by BTS member Suga) has a track called "Tony Montana".
    • J-Hope's "Daydream" has the lyric "Like the hole Alice fell into/Like the road that leads to Hogwarts".
      • When J-Hope is flying on his bed into space in the "Daydream" music video, he looks at his phone, which displays the message "DON'T PANIC!"
  • The single in TXT's second EP is titled "9 and 3 Quarters (Run Away)", after the station to take the train to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, referencing said train repeatedly. It also has the line "bibbidi bobbidi" from Cinderella.
  • Ukrainian artist Russya styled the cover art for her 2017 album "Memories of the Future" off the cover art for Back to the Future.

    Tabletop Games 
  • An American example: Twilight: 2000 has some of the early modules set in Poland after WW III. Some of the Polish gamers can't believe that this game exists.



    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: Exandria Unlimited: "Twisted Mister" from episode 4 is based directly on the nue, the Japanese chimera with a snake for a tail, due to it being primate-based instead of a quadruped to reflect that it's an evil mutated Mister.
  • The nature of the Pooh's Adventures series, which edits together many different series to make them look like they're interacting with each other in a crossover, means that Pooh and friends (or whatever the designated protagonists are) could cross paths with just about anyone, including those from foreign series that aren't popular in the English-speaking countries that the series originates from. Case in point: The Pooh's Adventures wiki has pages for the characters from the Chinese series Flower Fairy, albeit they have more English-sounding names (for example, Xia An'an is renamed Chelsea Rubyheart).

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Cross Cultural Reference