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Cultural Cross-Reference
aka: Cross Cultural 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 
  • 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.
  • From the Chinese series Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, 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. 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).

    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 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 Incredible Hulk, Suga as Black Panther, Jimin as Spiderman, 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.

    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 
  • The Mad Butcher enemy from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia looks an awful lot like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He even has the chainsaw, despite the game taking place in the 19th century. There's also the Jersey Devil that shows up in the Agila Swamp.
  • Battalion Wars II's last boss was described by Kaiser Vlad as a "fully armed and operational mining spider". You do the math.
  • The Final Fantasy series has recurring minor characters known as Biggs (occasionally mistranslated as "Vicks") and Wedge, named after Luke Skywalker's fellow Red Squadron pilots in Star Wars.
    • In addition to "Biggs" and "Wedge," Final Fantasy VIII had a character named "Piett" (as in The Imperial Admiral from ESB and RotJ) as well. The characters Nida (like "Needa") and Martine (who was named "Dodonna" in the Japanese version) are also Star Wars references.
    • When Celes is introduced in Final Fantasy VI, if Locke is still wearing the stolen Imperial soldier uniform when he releases her, she'll remark "Aren't you a little short for a soldier?" and then he switches back to his regular clothes when he realizes he's still in disguise.
    • There's also the final boss of the ninth game quotes Yoda: "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
    • Vicks, Wedge, and Piett also appear as part of a guessing game in Chrono Trigger.
    • Aside from Balthier's uncanny resemblance to Han Solo, Final Fantasy XII also throws in several Homage Shots to Star Wars.
    • The very first game had numerous creatures, spells, and even a major character (Bahamut) lifted directly from Dungeons & Dragons. A few were name-changed, such as Kary on the NES who received her real, D&D name of Marilith in later releases, and Wizard and Sorcerer on the NES, who are clearly Mind Flayers. Others, such Lich and Nightmare, keep their D&D origin. Finally, some that D&D took from mythology appear closer to the D&D form than to myth, such as Kraken and Tiamat.
    • Bahamut is a recurring character in Final Fantasy, and his visual reference almost always evokes his Dungeons & Dragons origin, though he doesn't always take on Bahamut's significance. Exhibits: Bahamut in the Final Fantasy Series and Bahamut from one of many Dungeons And Dragons settings.
  • While Viva Piñata is native to Britain, the Ponocky species' Punny Name references the popular Japanese cookie snack Pocky.
  • Shin Megami Tensei tosses in a few of these. Possibly the most famous are a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Michael Jackson and Lawyer Friendly Cameos of Audrey Jr. and Betelgeuse in Shin Megami Tensei II, but they take demons and other things from such diverse sources that they're hardly the only ones. Among others, the inhabitants of the Velvet Room in the Persona series have theme naming from Frankenstein that goes far deeper than the cursory knowledge one would expect, and Persona's Philemon is derived from a Jungian figure that's obscure in cultures you would expect to be familiar with his work.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • The Metal Gear series contains so many Shout Outs to American and British action movies you could easily forget it was made in Japan. The surprise was Metal Gear Solid 4 including a Shout-Out to Police Squad!.
  • The NES game Monster Party would have been released in Japan as Parody World: Monster Party, with parodies of Alien, Gremlins, and Planet of the Apes. These references were removed in the US release.
  • When Gig of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is asked about any of the other World Eaters, he responds by describing Superman, Martian Manhunter, a generic Green Lantern, and The Flash.
  • EarthBound was made in Japan, but has a huge number of Shout Outs to The Beatles and others, though a few references, including one to Monopoly, were decidedly Lost in Translation, some deliberately to avoid potential lawsuits.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins you are asked a riddle that begins 'The smallest lark can carry it...'. One of the multiple choices is 'A coconut'. However, Monty Python and the Holy Grail probably has more cultural penetration than any film you can think of. How often do you hear "I'm not dead", "It's just a flesh wound", etc. More than one game has sentinels asking "What is your name", "What is your quest" followed by something difficult. And the ancient game Wizardry 1 has the Vorpal Bunny that had only a few hit points but could suddenly do 100 damage.
  • The first Silent Hill game, during a level in the school you can obtain a list of teachers, which reads: K. Gordon, T. Moore, L. Ranaldo, S. Shelley. A much larger list of references is available on That Other Wiki.
  • Nostalgia features a minor pair of NPCs, the newlywed Anastasia and Dmitri. Yes, like the Don Bluth Anastasia movie.
  • Touhou:
    • The references range from the overt (a lot of the gameplay in Undefined Fantastic Object is one big Space Invaders reference) to the subtle (Flandre's theme music and one of her Spell Cards take their names from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None) and everything in between.
    • Another overt reference comes in Urban Legend in Limbo, where every character has a super move based off of an Urban Legend; Mamizou's is based off of The Men in Black, and has her using a Neuralizer on her opponent.
  • In Yoake Mae Yori Ruriiro Na: Moonlight Cradle (a collection of side-stories), there's a scene in which Stars and Stripes Forever appears as background music.
  • The Quox in The Tower of Druaga is apparently named after a dragon from Tik-Tok of Oz.
  • World of Warcraft:
  • In Tales of Innocence, Iria's father comments that her siblings are called Monica, Ross and Gunther — characters from Friends. Some actually believed this to be an attempt at Woolseyism by the game's fan translator, but when questioned about it, he confirmed that yes, that's in the Japanese script too. He was as surprised as anyone else.
  • The Witch and the Hundred Knight has one of eponymous characters (the protagonist, though not the player character) named Metallica. The localization took out the c to avoid lawsuits.
  • Animal Crossing, despite being a Japanese game, has two different references to the 4th of July (American Independence Day):
    • The villager Apollo, a bald eagle (the USA's national bird) whose birthday is on July 4. It's also speculated that his name (which, unlike most characters, is the same in both the Japanese and English versions of the games) is a reference to Apollo 11, the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon.
    • In the original game, July 4 is the anniversary of the opening of the town's train station. This "holiday" is celebrated with fireworks, Redd giving out balloons and pinwheels, and Tortimer giving you a model bottle rocket.
  • Harle, one of the Loads and Loads of Characters in Chrono Cross, is apparently based on Harley Quinn from the Batman series. She even had the same color scheme in an early prototype.
  • If you enter your name as "SOUTHPARK" in Ao Oni then the game's sprites will be drawn in the South Park paper cutout style, complete with plentiful references to the series with characters saying catchphrases from the show and rats eating the corpses of any of the characters who die.
  • Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti was only released in Japan, yet most of its Boss Battles reference American Horror Films.
  • Yo-Kai Watch:
  • Secret of Mana has werewolves strike a Michael Jackson pose when they heal themselves. If that's not enough, zombie enemies sometimes moonwalk.
  • Splatoon is what happens when Nintendo takes a look at 1990s Nickelodeon and rolls with its aesthetic. It is noticeably western in style and has an emphasis on Americasia. The most blatant cross-cultural reference is in Splatoon 2's Octo Expansion. In it, the rapper-and-DJ duo Pearl and Marina dress up like The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, respectively.
  • The makers of BlazBlue love giving characters alternate palettes that are explicit references to other works of fiction, including foreign works. For example, Hazama has had palettes that make him look like The Joker, The Mask, Dick Tracy, and "Smooth Criminal" Michael Jackson. BlazBlue: Central Fiction has a few themed sets, the most noteworthy being Es, Izayoi, Taokaka and Bullet having palettes for Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long, which ended up being unintentional Production Foreshadowing for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.

    Visual Novels 


    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Cross Cultural Reference


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