Fantasy Counterpart Culture – TV Tropes
Creating a completely new culture from scratch can be a daunting task. Think about everything the word culture encompasses—music, food, clothing, etiquette, dance, religion, and combative traditions, to name a few, and even if one manages to pull it off, one runs the risk of ruining audience’s Suspension of Disbelief by having one’s creation seem too strange. To lighten the burden of creating a believable fictional culture creators often base one or more of their creations off of real human cultures from various times or places. The countries may have significant names resembling the place they are based on.
This is especially common in fantasy settings, but by no means exclusive to it. It’s also often found in satire, as a means of indirectly poking fun at the culture in question.
There are also sound literary reasons for using this trope. Making the Shire an idealized England transplanted to Middle-earth makes it easier for readers to identify with the point of view characters, since they probably have much more in common with Bilbo than with Thorin. Guy Gavriel Kay‘s The Lions of Al-Rassan is a thinly disguised historical novel, but changing the names of the countries and religions means the readers don’t know how the story will end, helping to maintain dramatic tension.
It’s also more easily justified in works containing humans: the Real Life counterparts of the fictional cultures have all actually come into existence and are the results of real groups of people coming together to build something over time. Basing a new society on one that’s already had a turn at some point in human history can both help the audience relate and provide a creative framework to twist and turn said society into an interesting variant of its former self. However this approach still has its risks — if the Fantasy Counterpart Culture is based on a too simplistic view of a particular region of the world, it ends up lacking both in depth and originality.
Compare with Istanbul (Not Constantinople), when a real place is referred to with a more archaic or obscure name (e.g. “Columbia” instead of “USA”). Compare also with Days of Future Past, where a futuristic society duplicates (often explicitly and intentionally) the culture and styles of a historical period. Compare with No Communities Were Harmed, which is this applied to a locality, and Fantasy Counterpart Religion for when is applied to a religious group. Compare Fantastic Fauna Counterpart for a similar concept applied to animals, i.e. an animal species being used as a substitute for another.
See also Culture Chop Suey, Space Romans (and the more offensive version, Space Jews). A Nazi by Any Other Name, Medieval European Fantasy and Wutai are frequently-occurring specific types of fantasy counterpart culture.
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Anime & Manga
- In Attack on Titan, the culture within the Walls seems to borrow heavily from Germany. The Shogun/Oriental clan that Mikasa is descended from appears to be based on Japan. Once the world outside the Walls is introduced, things go further with the introduced groups all resembling early 20th century cultures. Marley is Nazi Germany, with its captive Eldian population dressing (and treated) like European Jews of the same era.* With this in mind, and taking into the consideration that Marley intentionally kept the Paradis Eldian population in captivity from the outside world with the Titans effectively being their “guards,” you could even draw comparisons to the Walls being a massive concentration camp. Hizuru is based on Japan, and the Middle-East Union appears to be based on the Ottoman Empire. We also see that some of the Anti-Marleyan volunteers were came from Marley-occupied nations that appears to be based on Russia (Yelena) and an African nation (Onyankopon).
- Berserk: Midland is medieval Denmark, Kushan is a combination of India and the Middle East (but mostly India, it is named after the Kushan Empire), Chuder/Tudor is most likely based on the medieval Holy Roman Empire, Serpico and Farnese’s homeland is Italy (with the Holy See as a stand-in for the Papal States), Farnese’s fiance’s homeland Ys seems based on England.
- The Elf Tribe from Black Clover is one of the Biblical Jews. The elves are a race “blessed by mana” similar to the belief that the Jews are the chosen people of God. The elves were massacred by the Clover Kingdom, a country with Roman names including “Julius”, “Augustus”, and “Nero”, drawing a parallel to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. The Kabbalah is heavily associated with the elves, with their strongest members comprising the Apostles of Sephira and the elves reincarnated by placing the magic stones in the Tree of Life Monument. Elves like Kivn have Hebrew-inspired names, and they are resurrected using a spell named “Noad Nephesh”, Hebrew for “destined soul”. Patry’s first outfit has him wear a kippah, a traditional Jewish cap.
- Roshtaria and the other human lands of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World are fantasy stand-ins for the Middle East of the Arabian Nights.
- For the Evillious Chronicles franchise, all of the setting is inspired by real world countries and their cultures. It takes place on the fictional continent of Bolganio, which is overall Eurasia, with the titular region of Evillious being Europe. In Evillious, the country of Lucifenia is France, Elphegort is Germany, Marlon is Great Britain (with a country that’s absorbed into it, Lioness, as Ireland,) Asmodean is the Arabian Peninsula (with Eastern European elements), Beelzenia is Italy/Spain, Levianta is Russia, and at one time there is the Tasan Empire which parallels Ancient Rome with Beelzenia. Some of these countries later form the Union State of Evillious, representing the modern European Union, and on the Eastern side of the continent in a Japan parallel. Off the continent is Maistia, which parallels the Americas.
- The Familiar of Zero takes place in a suspiciously medieval European setting. Based on the names (which are simply archaic names for the nations they represent), Tristain is Belgium or the Netherlands, Albion is Britain (complete with a rebel leader named Cromwell), Gallia is France, Romalia is Italy, and Germania is (obviously) Germany.
- This is a little more complex. Halkeginia (Europe counterpart) is loosely based on seventeenth century Europe: the Kingdom of Gallia is the Kingdom of France with some Spain in it, the Kingdom/Holy Republic of Albion are respectively the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Republic (with some Germany in it), the Holy Empire of Romalia is the Papal States (other parts of modern Italy don’t have equivalents), the Empire of Germania is a combination of Germany, seventeenth century Austria and seventeenth century Poland, the Kingdom of Tristain is the Netherlands with some France in it, the Grand Duchy of Grudenholf is Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (and, as seventeenth century Luxembourg is under Austrian Netherlands rule, is under Tristain rule). There is also an unnamed state which could be Spain or Portugal. Outside of Halkeginia, there is also elfans’ states like Sahara (Ottoman Empire) or humans’ like Rub Al’khali (probably the Emirate of Diriyah).
- Shinka in Flower Flower is a counterpart to India.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- The country of Amestris is based on a combination of European countries. It’s ruled by a military dictatorship similar to Nazi Germany, but they speak English, and the military ranks are also English based (with the rank of Field Marshal replaced with the rank of Führer); however, their badges to denote their rank are inspired by Imperial Japan. Character names are based on names found in various European nations such as the U.K and France. The technology used is the same or similar to the technology found around World War II.
- Xing from the manga is the counterpart of the East Asian countries, most prominently China, though Fu and Lan Fan have obviously ninja-influenced fighting styles and weaponry and Ling wears sarashi, so there’s a little bit of Japan in there, too.
- Ishval is perhaps the counterpart of the Western Asian countries, but their persecution by Amestris is heavily based on the plight of the Ainu people in Japan.
- Additionally, Drachma is the counterpart to Russia, Xerxes seems to represent a mix of ancient European and Near-East civilizations, most predominately Greece, Persia, and maybe Rome, and the Japanese-exclusive Brotherhood/Mangaverse games seem to suggest that Aerugo is FMA’s version of Italy.
- In the 2003 anime version only, we find out this is literal, as Amestris is an actual Alternate Universe version of central/eastern Europe in the 1920s.
- Paninya, Jerso, Focker, and an unnamed Central Library employee (anime only) are all black, implying that there’s likely an Alternate Universe equivalent of the African continent as well.
- There is no Xing in the 2003 anime-verse; however, a passing reference to an eastern country, along with chopsticks and Asian-looking characters existing, imply a similar country exists.
- Judging by the name, Sciezka/Sheska could be from a FMA counterpart of Poland (or said Poland-counterpart could be part of Amestris).
- Fushigi Yuugi has each of the locations in the Universe Of The Four Gods designed after a real-world counterpart.
- Kounan (the realm led by Suzaku and Miaka) is basically Southern Imperial China.
- Kutou (protected by Seiryuu and Yui) is Eastern Imperial China.
- Sairou (represented by Byakko and Suzuno) is based on Western China and The Silk Road.
- Hokkan (under the watchful eye of Genbu and Takiko) is based off of Inner and Outer Mongolia.
- Basically every planet that’s not a Planet of Hats in Galaxy Express 999 ends up being one of these.
- Dozens of planets are clones of The Wild West — it pretty much seems to be the default setting for a planet in this universe.
- “The Planet of a Pint Sized Room” is an exact doppelganger of early-60s Tokyo complete with a college-aged Expy of the creator in his starving artist phase.
- Planet Prometheum and Idle Reflection are very unflattering Eagle Lands (Type 1 and 2 respectively.)
- Masspron is China.
- The Planet of Forgotten Parents is the Philippines.
- Planet Kilimanjaro’s Grasshopper Men are white African settlers.
- The other Planet Kilimanjaronote yes, there are two Planet Kilimanjaros is WWI-era Europe.
- Planet Fury is New York City.
- Planet Future is Canada.
- The Planet of Illusive Love is Gay Paree complete with berets, baguettes, and a Foreign Legion.
- Windy Hill is Scotland.
- The Cheyenne Fish are Native Americans, the Waterpress are white settlers. (Just how a New World-Old World scenario managed to develop on a Water Planet is not explained.)
- There are a few in Hunter × Hunter as well, though they tend to deviate sharply from what they’re based on:
- The Republic of East Gorteau has a number of similarities to North Korea. The most obvious is its dictator, Ming Jol-Ik, whose name is an anagram of Kim Jong-Il, though his style of ruling—via cult of personality and with an incredibly uneven mix of technology, alongside extremely strict rules of who can get in and out of the country—suggest that too.
- Kakin appears to be the series’s version of China. The royal family have the name of Hui Guo Ruo, the Chinese phrase for twice-cooked pork, and the emperor has a very stereotypically Chinese look. The country is depicted as an emerging world power, quickly gaining influence and able to gain leverage with the rest of the world. Kakin is also located on the continent of Azia (though it’s actually pronounced “AH-zee-ah”)
- A counterpart to Japan exists as well, with the ninja Hanzo coming from that country. He is one of the few characters to know what sushi is.
- Though it’s unclear if Yorknew City is its own country or part of a larger one, the architecture, dense population, and fashion of the area, as well as its name and the fact that one of the world’s busiest airports is located there, definitely evoke New York City.
- In Knights of Sidonia, Sidonia is basically Japan IN SPACE!!!
- Many of the nations in Kyou Kara Maou! are vague approximations of Real Life nations, with Makoku being Medieval Europe and Konanshia-Subererea being the Middle East, among others. One of the most obvious is the Shildkraut nation. We are originally led to believe it’s a parallel to Japanese hot spring towns, but then it’s then used for a Viva Las Vegas! episode, right down to the lights being recreated with magical stones.
- Almost all of the countries in Lapis Re:LiGHTs are very clearly fantastic equivalents of real world nations. The most blatant of them all is Yamato, which is Japan in all but name with its culture, the traditional performing arts that the band Kono Hana wa Otome fuses with its rock music, and even its food like sweet red bean paste. Other examples include the main setting Waleland, which appears to be based off of Britain, its neighbours Dortdgard (Germany), Firenza (Italy), and Marlseillu (France), and the other “Far East” country Ryuuto (China).
- Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic has a lot, but the most prominent ones include the Kou Empire, which is Ancient China, and the Reim Empire, which is the Roman Empire. Other notable examples include Heliohapt being Egypt, Sasan being ancient Persia, Kina being Japan while Imuchakk looks like a hybrid of Inuit and Norsemen.
- Two of the three invading countries in the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth are clearly based off of Earth cultures. Fahren is mostly based off of Chinese culture and stereotypes, although it does have a few Japanese things (such as ninjas). This is explicitly lampshaded by Fuu. Chizeta’s culture seems to be based off of Middle-Eastern and Indian cultures, and the princesses fight using Djinn. However, they also have Osakan accents. Autozam’s highly technological culture, while not as clear cut as Chizeta or Fahren, has a few parallels with the United States of America: the President’s son is named Eagle Vision, the military has green berets, strongest of the three superpowers, and so on.
- There is a major case going on in Maiden Rose where half the countries aren’t named but are easily culturally identifiable. Klaus comes from a small German state that was conquered by the Western Alliance superstate, also primarily German. This superstate is fighting the Eurotean superstate, which has pre-revolution Russia as the dominant culture. Eurote in turn subdued Taki’s country, an unquestionable Japan analogue. If it weren’t for the Magical Realism the story would probably be an outright Alternate History.
- The Vagan civilians in Mobile Suit Gundam Age dress and build in very Middle-Eastern style, while their soldiers and upper class dress in Space Clothes and feudal Japanese styles.
- In the Universal Century, the different forms of Zeon all have an aesthetic based predominantly on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Federation in general is a mix of the US with the uniforms of the Imperial Japanese Army. The Zanscare Empire meanwhile seems to be both the Ancien Regime and Revolutionary France IN SPACE.
- Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit takes place in an Alternate Earth with an Alternate Ancient Far East, specifically Korea.
- In My-Otome, set in the distant future on another planet, there are some more or less evident matches between fictional and real nations, at least judging by the names of known inhabitants. Artai seems to be an Eastern European/Slavic/Chinese nation, Florince is France, the United Kingdom of Lutesia is a blend of ancient Rome and modern Italy, Aries is the United States, Annam is Vietnam, and Zipang is Japan (in fact, for the last two, those are real-world, if ancient, monikers for these countries).
- Altai is named after a region that’s adjacent to China, Russia and West Asia.
- One Piece:
- The island nation of Wa-no-Kuni is clearly this for feudal Japan, what with its isolationism and its samurai. (“Wa-no-kuni” is in fact an old way to refer to Japan.)
- Further on, the Shandians are pretty clear analogues for disenfranchised and displaced Native American populations.
- Alabasta is a fairly obvious portrayal of Ancient Egypt (with additional Middle Eastern influencing).
- Water Seven looks very much like Venice, particularly its trademark channels crisscrossing the island and the fact that it’s slowly sinking.
- The duel between Ace and Blackbeard takes place on Banaro Island, an island that looks like The American West. It was a town filled mostly with taverns and cowboys with guns.
- Dressrosa looks like a combination of Spain and the Island of Misfit Toys.
- The city that Trafalgar Law hails from, Flevance, seemingly takes cues from Casale Monferrato, as both are nicknamed “The White City” and are prosperous because of the materials that are exclusive to their city, the Amber Lead (Flevance) and the asbestos (Casale Monferrato), and both materials are also toxic.
- The Flower Kingdom is unmistakably one for feudal China, boasting pagodas, martial artists, and those really tall, narrow mountains.
- Elbaf is based on medieval Scandinavia, particularly Viking culture, as can be seen by the inhabitants’ horned helmets, thatch houses, and that they travel via longboats.
- Speaking of the Vikings, the Whole Cake Island arc introduces the Germa Kingdom. A kingdom of rapacious pillagers and conquerors who plough the seas on massive ships and favor big crumbling castles, they might be a fantasy version of Vikings. They even use a Nordic cross in their decorations. For the record, Eiichiro Oda has described the Vikings as his favorite band of historical pirates.
- The Reverie arc introduces a number of nations that have clear analogues to real-world places: Ballywood is based on the United States (including a “King Ham Burger” who resembles Abraham Lincoln), the Kingdom of the Dead is based on Mexico, Roshwan Kingdom is based on Russia, and Tajine Kingdom is based on Morocco. There are also unnamed delegates who strongly suggest there are countries in the One Piece world themed on the United Kingdomnote This may be Rommel, as the few times it’s shown, the architecture evokes that of Westminster, on Germany, and on the Inuit as well.
- Mariejois itself seems more politically structured like The Vatican, but Pangaea Castle itself is designed after the Château de Chambord in France, so it’s likely that the rest of the city is designed after the Loir-et-Cher region in France.
- The six countries in Saber Marionette J are based on the countries their founders came from. Japoness is based on feudal-era Japan, Xian is based on Imperial China, Romana is like a mix of Roman and Renaissance Italy, Peterburg is a mix of Czarist and Soviet Russia, Gartland is Nazi Germany, and New Texas is based on modern-day United States.
- The titular state in Saiunkoku Monogatari is a fantasy counterpart of Imperial China, especially that of the Tang and Song Dynasties.
- Shaman King: Patch and Seminoa sounded a lot like Apache and Seminole. But the similarity is only linguistic. Not to mention the fact that the Big Bad has the name Hao, which is strangely similar to “How” (the stereotypical greeting used by the natives of North American in fiction).
- Shin Angyo Onshi takes place in a recently-fallen empire very similar to early modern Korea; several characters are foreigners from what seems to be Europe.
- Strike Witches is very guilty of this, considering it’s set in an alternate version of Earth during World War II. Based on the names of various characters, the Fuso Empire is Japan, Liberion is the United States, Karlsland is Germany (minus Those Wacky Nazis), Suomus is Finland, Orussia is Russia, Romagna is Italy, Gallia (no not that one—or that one) is France, and Britannia (not that one either) goes without saying. References are also made to Real Life locations, such as London, Yokosuka, and the Ural Mountains. Some of the Real Life currencies also carry over: While stationed in Britannia, the main character is paid in pounds, and Fuso’s currency is the yen.
- Hatz from Tower of God is so obviously Japanese that it hurts.
- Trinity Blood: Though it takes place in the distant future, the Methuselah/New-Human Empire is an amalgamation of the Byzantine Empire, several Eastern European nations and has some slight Arabic/Ottoman influences. Their capital is called Byzantium, their language is a mix of Russian and Romanian and their currency as called Akçe (the same as the Ottoman Empire’s).
- Nihon-koku in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- is quite obviously a mixture of a magical and historical version of our Japan. It’s actually noted upon in-universe when the gang arrives at Ichihara Yuuko’s shop for the first time and she tells Kurogane that her Japan is his Japan too, just a different version of it.
- The Twelve Kingdoms takes place in an Alternate Universe where a very strongly enforced divine mandate means that all twelve eponymous kingdoms are for all intents and purposes Ancient China.
- Some of the countries in Utawarerumono apparently takes place in real places in Japan. The protagonist’s country is based on feudal Ezo (that’s Hokkaido) with the people emulating Ainu culture but the most blatant one would be Shikeripetim which looks like a carbon copy of feudal Kyoto! Possibly justified in that the story takes place on Earth a long time After the End of human civilization, where the Little Bit Beastly survivors managed to recreate a low-tech agrarian society.
- Given Frank Miller‘s outspoken views on The War on Terror, a number of critics suggested that the Spartans and the Persian Empire in 300 represent the United States and Middle Eastern Terrorists respectively, in a strange example of real (albeit very fictionalised versions of) historical cultures acting as allegories for modern ones. The Iranians apparently agreed with this assessment, and banned the film adaptation as a result. However, other readers (particularly those of a more cynical bent) have read precisely the opposite into the story, seeing the arrogant, bullying Persian superpower as representative of Type 2 Eagleland and the fanatical, outmatched Spartans as representative of Middle Eastern insurgents. It should probably be noted that the original comic was first published in 1998 and was inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, which is often considered to be a metaphor for the Cold War.
- The people of Gemworld in Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld are a mix of medieval European cultures. It is revealed midway through the mini-series that the Gemworlders are actually refugees from Earth’s ancient times, who fled to the Gemworld after a celestial event altered how magic works in Earth’s dimension.
- In Beyond the Western Deep, each of the Funny Animal nations have at least identifiable cultural analogues in the real world, if not particularly evident due to the species based trappings: Sungrove is obviously regular medieval Europe (with Tamian mythology have Native American-esque aspects, and the Lutren having Polynesian traits), the Felis are by creator admission based on both the Roman Empire and medieval China, the Canids resemble both the Roman Empire and medieval northern Europe, the Ermehn resemble Germanic peoples (and bear a passing aesthetic similarity to Scotsmen), the Vulpin are clearly Arabic and the Polcan look like stereotypical pirates, but overall can be more easily compared to Sea Peoples.
- Boneville in Bone is clearly a cartoon version of the United States of America.
- Angor (a.k.a. Earth 8) from The DCU is very similar to the real world but with a few superficial differences. Doubles as an obvious pastiche of Marvel Universe, as its populated with analogues of the Avengers/Ultimates and villains like Dr. Doom.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)‘s planet Mobius has long had stand-in cultures for Asia and Australia… but this was finally justified by the revelation that Mobius is actually Earth of the far, far future.
- Wolfskin: It’s never mentioned what the name of Wolfskins race is, but he and they are fairly obviously Vikings. There’s also the Noi who resemble Samurai in look, but whose knowledge of gunpowder puts them closer to the ancient Chinese.
- The country of Dystopia in Requiem Vampire Knight is a demonic version of England inhabited by lizard people whose queen resembles Elizabeth I (its heavily implied that it might as well be her) and their capital city is named Donlon. Their greatest heroes are also twisted, hellish versions of the Knights of the Round Table with King Arthur and Lancelot being dragon knights and Merlin being an talking egg.
Films — Animated
- The Last Unicorn takes place in ancient Ireland.
- The Princess and the Goblin is set somewhere in Hungarian history.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Earlier Disney Princess movies didn’t identify the settings by name, but most of them derived part of their aesthetic from real-world cultures. Cinderella has a vaguely French setting, the world of Sleeping Beauty was an English Chivalric Romance but appears to also be set somewhere in France in the 14th Century (that is made explicit in the movie), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs appears to be set in Germany in the 15th Century.
- Beauty and the Beast specificially states that it takes place in France (“Marie! The Bagettes!”), but some people claim that it has elements of a Bavaria-like principality.
- Despite Aladdin taking place in an Arabian counterpart, its major design inspiration was a neighbor of the Middle East, Iran — homeland of the script supervisor, who brought pictures of his city, and of Persian miniatures. Shades of the curved Arabic calligraphy are still seen, specially in how words (and credits) are written. note The early versions of the 1001 Nights originated from India and Persia before entering the Arabic-speaking world, so this is not all that odd.
- The world of Kumandra from Raya and the Last Dragon is a Culture Chop Suey of various Southeast Asian cultures, with each major tribe borrowing particular traits from a different group, i.e. Fang is the Khmer Empire, Talon is Singapore, etc.
- Earlier Disney Princess movies didn’t identify the settings by name, but most of them derived part of their aesthetic from real-world cultures. Cinderella has a vaguely French setting, the world of Sleeping Beauty was an English Chivalric Romance but appears to also be set somewhere in France in the 14th Century (that is made explicit in the movie), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs appears to be set in Germany in the 15th Century.
- Frozen is one of the few Disney series that explicitly features numerous fictional counterpart countries in one universe:
- There is confusion over whether Arendelle is a city-state or a country as there are implications of both. “Frozen Fever” depicts it as a Norway substitute. However, in response to backlash over putting Arendelle into Epcot’s Norway pavilion, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” has veered more into city-state territory and stressing that Arendelle exists within (or at least within the same world as an) actual Norway (as we see a baker with a gingerbread cookie shaped like Norwaynote shape of Arendelle in the novelization). Nevertheless, Arendelle is a fantasy counterpart to Norway.
- The Southern Isles is revealed in “Frozen Fever” to take the place of Denmark.
- According to The Cameo of Rapunzel and Eugene, Corona from Tangled exists in the same universe as Frozen. That means Corona takes the place of one of the German states pre-German Unification.
- In the comic “Feels Like Home”, royalty from the country of Yuwabe arrive in Arendelle. Yuwabe is clearly an African country, with the queen’s name (Mahereb) and their enjoyment of cassava implying it’s a counterpart to a West African country.
- Vakretta, Chatho, Zaria, Kongsberg, Blavenia, Seven Islands, Riverland, and Eldora appear in the A Frozen Heart and Anna & Elsa books but, like Weselton from Frozen, aren’t specified as counterparts to anything specific. It’s unclear if they’re standard Fictional Countries or not. Eldora has a mix of Arabic and Spanish aspects, but it’s still too vague to pin it as being a counterpart to any specific country.
- In Frozen II, the Northuldra tribe are the Frozen counterpart to the real-life Sámi people. They live in the forests north of Arendelle (the fantasy counterpart of Norway), herd reindeer, are nomadic, and have suffered historical discrimination from one of Arendelle’s previous leaders.
Films — Live-Action
- The 2007 Canadian sci-fi short Food for the Gods featured a majority Asian cast playing a tribe situated on a distant planet similar to Native Americans as well as being rich in Asian themes, including a backstory referencing prehistoric Japan, and a fictional subtitled language that is loosely derived from Japanese and other Asian language influences.
- The Hobbit film series:
- The Dale appears to be modeled on Russia or Hungary, though with predominantly Northern accents.
- The Dwarves’ lack of homeland is based on Jewish culture, though little else in their culture feels Jewish.
- In The Battle of the Five Armies, the Ironfoot dwarves have a Roman theme going for them. Their leader wears a helmet with a centurion-style crest and they fight in the turtle formation.
- Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the clothes, architecture, and cultures were clearly inspired by Real Life historical cultures just as in the books.
- Rohan is reminiscent of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. An invented scene features a song in the Old English language.
- Gondor is reminiscent of the Byzantine Roman Empire as well as Late Medieval Western Europe in general.
- The Shire is reminiscent of an idealized rural England, and also has a lot of Irish elements, particularly their dance and music. There is a lot of crossover between old English and Irish dance/music. Tolkien used familiar stereotypes of English yokels, but Hollywood comic peasants are always Scotirish, hence the mixture. And hence Pippin’s Scottish accent although he is Frodo’s cousin (and although most of the Shire, including Sam, and even Merry — another cousin — use the generic country accent known to English actors as “Mummerset.”)
- Despite taking place in a Like Reality Unless Noted universe, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a few examples:
- Asgard, despite the Norse Mythology aesthetic, is actually more similar to the present day United Kingdom, with a backstory not dissimilar to the British Empire. Asgard itself is physically small but controls several client states across the universe, and it’s made clear in Ragnarok that it got that way through a period of brutal conquest that it is now ashamed of (though unlike Odin, the UK doesn’t just pretend it never happened).
- The fashions and aesthetics of Wakanda were purposefully designed to resemble a variety of cultures from all over Africa, but in terms of its culture it’s most similar to the Mali Empire: A nation founded by an alliance of several tribes, with an economy founded on an absurd wealth of a resource that is rare in the rest of the world (Gold for Mali, Vibranium for Wakanda).
- Wakanda is also Not So Different from the United States of America. It’s a global superpower that was founded by immigrants from various cultures, and in the present day has been forced to realize that it should be doing more with its power and wealth and is now forced to decide between helping the outside world or outright controlling it. In this metaphor, T’Challa loosely stands in for Theodore Roosevelt, who broke the United States’ isolationists policies and turned it into a major diplomatic player. Discussing this parallel makes up a lot of the running time of Black Panther.
- The Kree Empire on the surface seem to just be the “Aliens as Nazis” variety of Scary Dogmatic Aliens, what with their Fantastic Racism, neo-fascist policies, and aggressive military expansionism. However, both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain Marvel show them to ultimately be closer to Imperial Japan, what with their fanatical belief in a God-Emperor (here in the form of the Supreme Intelligence), practicing the brutal enslavement of “lesser races”, and having long-lasting family dynasties that feel suicide attacks are the only proper penance for cowardice/retreat. Even the ancient Kree experiments that ultimately resulted in the creation of the Inhumans have their roots in the infamous Unit 731 atrocities.
- Most of the design of the Telmarine on Prince Caspian are admitted to be based on Medieval Spain. Bringing some criticism and implications…
- Which kinda makes sense, seeing as Prince Caspian was apparently an allegory for the Protestant Reformation and subsequent conflicts. One illustrator for the books gave Miraz a shield with the Holy Roman Empire‘s two-headed eagle.
- And the Telmarines are descended from old naval era brigands. But remember, the good Narnian humans of the subsequent books are Telmarines, not to mention Caspian himself. Only this one movie would feature Telmarine antagonists, and apparently the common people backed Caspian over Miraz given the parade at the end.
- The Star Wars films contain a few among the Culture Chop Suey:
- The forest moon of Endor is, to some extent, an equivalent of Darkest Africa in a galaxy far, far away. The Ewoks themselves are very, very similar to African pygmy tribes and Hollywood Natives. When convinced to aid the Rebels against the Empire, the Ewoks become forest-dwelling primitive insurgents just like the Viet Cong.
- Some fantasy counterpart cultures verge on Space Jews territory:
- Tuskens resemble Bedouins, but were inspired by the way Native Americans are portrayed in old Westerns.
- Neimoidians have been accused of representing Asian cultures and Yellow Peril stereotypes.
- In The Mandalorian, the Mandalorian tribes and clans come across like modern Judaism, with a diaspora of different sects with various levels of orthodoxy.
- The Empire is basically Space Romans and A Nazi by Any Other Name, complete with The Queen’s Latin.
- In The Force Awakens, the First Order drops a lot of the Roman aesthetic in favour of a stark, harsh SS look — they were explicitly compared by JJ Abrams to Nazis who fled to South America following the end of World War II. However, supplementary materials explain that the Empire proper had a lot of limitations on what kind of weapons it could build after the original trilogy’s Galactic Civil War. The Empire thus started building up a new army in secret, which is essentially what happened to Germany after World War One. Furthermore, given the fact that the Galaxy Far Far Away is now split between two ostensibly peaceful powers — the New Republic and the First Order — it is basically in a state of Cold War, with the mysterious and sinister First Order taking the place of the Soviet Union. Note that while the Empire got its Stormtroopers from willing recruits, the First Order takes children from their families and moulds them into ideal soldiers, echoing Cold War ‘Communist brainwashing’ fantasies. On the flip side, the Resistance is a rebel group funded illegally by the New Republic, not unlike the Viet Cong or the Contras.
- Naboo, with its classical architecture, elaborate fashions, marshy terrain, and strong artistic and intellectual traditions, is somewhat akin to renaissance Italy.
- The holy city of Jedha serving as an important site for believers in the Force, introduced in Rogue One is clearly meant to evoke a Middle Eastern site of religious pilgrimage like Mecca.
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer introduces two planets based on pre-existing cultures on Earth: Ando Prime, an icy mountainous world inhabited by wise, peaceful monks and is the Galaxy’s counterpart to Tibet; and Baroonda, a world of jungles and coastlines whose people refer to themselves as Majan, the Head Priestess wears a white cloak and sun-like headdress, and the races take place near the city of Majaneetza, together paralleling the Mayan Empire.
- Cantinflas film Su Excelencia has the Cocos Republic as a surrogate for basically any Latin American country, although for obvious reasons it has many similarities with Mexico, even though the name and the apparent size of the country (which seems to be smaller than Mexico) are more reminiscent of some Central American and Caribbean states like the Dominican Republic, Guatemala (it has fictional Native American ruins), or Costa Rica (Costa Rica was neutral during the Cold War and has a place call Cocos Island). Dolaronia is clearly the United States of America, Pepeslavia is probably the USSR or Yugoslavia, Salchichonia is Germany (they even reference the Wall), and Caramba is India or Nepal, or both.
- The Back o’ Beyond begins in Sairith, a country very similar to 1700s Britain.
- The Erogenians in The Challenges of Zona are somewhat idealized Celts while Kivallia seems to be Plantagenet era England.
- Crystal Heroes takes place in the country of Ramecia, which, in its name, indicates it as being a fantasy version of the United States of America.
- Dominic Deegan has a several fantasy cultures that are strongly flavored by real-world counterparts: the Callanians are medieval western Europeans (knights, castles, feudalism, etc.), Semashi are renaissance Italian (high culture and homeland of numerous renowned composers with names like Ciarenni and Montefiore; being as they’re dark-skinned humans, it also suggests Caribbean influence), the werewolves are Russians (living in northern latitudes and drinking lots of vodka), the Nagasta are Japanese (island-dwellers who are renowned for their seafood and traditional martial arts), and the orcs are Magical Native Americans.
- Niyam and the Fae in Even In Arcadia are counterparts to 19th century China. Seen further when it becomes apparent that the Gaians are trading with them in drugs much like the British did before the Opium Wars.
- In Harkovast, almost all the races are fantasy counterparts to real world ancient cultures, such as the medieval European Darsai or the feudal Japanese Tsung-Dao.
- Parodied in Homestuck by Gamzee Makara, who comes from a sort of fantastical, Interfaith Smoothie religion that worships the Insane Clown Posse. Except due to shenanigans, his religion actually inspired Insane Clown Posse, not the other way around. Gamzee’s religion was actually inspired by an Eldritch Abomination.
- Later on we learn trolls had a counterpart of Christianity, complete with a Jesus analogue, though it never moved past the “underground cult oppressed by an empire” stage (I guess that makes the Troll Empire Romans?). It’s hinted that it was more successful in an Alternate Universe.
- The trolls in general share many cultural practices with the Spartans, but it’s uncertain if this was intentional.
- We later find out that Damara, the pre-scratch version of The Handmaid, is from “Alternasia”, which is this to Japan.
- Sønheim in Leif & Thorn is closely based on Sweden and Norway, while neighboring Ceannis is more of a Culture Chop Suey. Thorn and his family are ethnically Iuilic, which is more or less fantasy!Jewish.
- A Loonatic’s Tale has an assortment; Nigota for Britain, and both Mercia and Mysteel for America (the trick is that they’re versions of America from different time periods, and different attitudes; Mercia is the more peaceable colonial America, while Mysteel is a caricaturized version of modern America and our tendency towards ultra-patriotism, gun-nuttery, and warmongerdom).
- The Order of the Stick: Azure City is one of mostly Japan and a little of the rest of East Asia also. We haven’t seen much of the rest of the world, but it seems from the Pantheons the North will be equivalent to the Vikings, the West will be Mesopotamian, and the East would be Greek if the Eastern gods still existed to make this version of the world. A single panel glimpse of the other Southern Lands suggests they’re Southeast Asian, Chinese, Himalayan, and Indian. The Western Continent turns out to be mostly warring Evil Empires and various Lizard Folk, although they do worship the Mesopotamian gods.
Roy: Wait, should I call you “Miko” or “Miyazaki”? I mean, “Miko” clearly sounds like your given name, but I thought that the surname came first in feudal Japan.
Miko Miyazaki: What is this “Japan” you speak of? I have never heard of it before.
Roy: Good point.
- Snow By Night takes place in a world that resembles the real one during Colonial Era, with Japethe corresponding to Europe, Everique corresponding to North America, Saronne corresponding to France, and Aradie corresponding to Quebec / Canada.
- Like Sonic the Hedgehog, one of its major influences, Exterminatus Now has Taika—basically Japan according to near-future sci-fi anime, complete with Humongous Mecha and secluded daemon-hunting orders—and Rodina, which we haven’t actually seen but is apparently the EN equivalent of Glorious Mother Russia.
- Sorcery 101 uses this with the England counterpart called Terra. It’s more an Alternate History world where some placenames differ than a fantasy counterpart.
- Twice Blessed has Ustav, which is obviously Russia, Lajuria, which is obviously Spain, and others.
- The Sahtan in Vattu come off as Rome by another name.
- The Wolf at Weston Court takes place in a country that’s this to Regency England.
- The hosts of Analog Control have proposed that the various dinosaurs in Star Fox Adventures are stand-ins for world religions. Most of these propositions are intentionally superfluous at best, though it does make them conclude the Always Chaotic Evil Sharpclaw are perhaps not as malevolent as they seem.
- This trope is discussed (and mocked) in the following tweet from the Twitter blog Worst Muse: “If your alien culture isnt a thinly veiled allegory for contemporary politics, whats the point?”
- Vulpines in the Darwin’s Soldiers universe are analogues of modern-day Native Americans.
- Neopets: Shenkuu is supposed to represent the Far East, Altador is Ancient Grome, Lost Desert and Qasala are Ancient Egypt, and Meridell and Brightvale are Medieval Europe. Mystery Island is based on Polynesia and other island cultures in the South Sea.
- Nocte Yin lives in Xon, Erisires equivalent of the Far East. In the fifth book, we get an actual comparison of which place on Erisire approximates which on Earth.
- Open Blue has the Axifloan Coalition, a loose alliance of colonial powers consisting of everything from a 17th Century Nazi Germany (Sirene), to Imperial Spain (Avelia), to the Dutch colonial powers (Remillia), to the Russian Empire (Yaman)… to Switzerland (Axiflos).
- In RWBY, each of the Four Kingdoms on Remnant has certain elements borrowed a real-world culture:
- The setting for the first three Volumes, the Kingdom of Vale (found in the eastern half of the central continent of Sanus) is an isolationist country that takes advantage of its natural borders to shun outside wars, with peace as its primary objective… at least on the surface, as its crafty leaders have long since realized that they cannot stay completely isolated, so they take quieter measures to get a head start on potential threats (i.e., Ozpin sending Huntsmen on stealth missions to investigate potential threats to Vale in neighboring kingdoms). In other words, they’re loosely similar to the United States prior to both World Wars, with the western sea and eastern mountains for Vale replacing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as natural barriers, and a crafty leader like the aforementioned Ozpin subtly influencing foreign affairs serving as an analogue to first Woodrow Wilson and later FDR sending aid to the Western Allies through legal loopholes long before the Americans officially joined the related conflicts.
- The Kingdom of Mistral on the eastern continent of Anima has a culture very reminiscent of Japan; houses with sloping rooftops, kitsune masks, Ninjas, poor resources, and close ties to the sea. However, it also unfortunately has a lot in common with 19th Century Singapore, as seen with both the aforementioned close ties to the sea and widespread criminal elements. And it also has some parallels to the Western Roman Empire during its decline, as both Mistral and Western Rome were massive empires whose borders were too large to be properly governed or protected despite the people therein all being unified under a common culture.
- invoked Word of God has explicitly stated that the Kingdom of Atlas from the northernmost continent of Solitas is intended to be an equivalent to the United States of America after the Second World War and resulting military-industrial complex. It started out as a frontier kingdom that enjoyed a technological boom as a result of mining, and post-war innovations have made it the world’s leader in technology. It also boasts the largest military out of all the kingdoms, with bases established throughout the world in the name of peace-keeping. And as a part of a criticism of the obvious racial and class inequalities found in the modern United States, the Kingdom of Atlas is plagued with inequality and Fantastic Racism, with the high-tech city of Atlas literally floating above the industrial slums of Mantle: The military and wealthy humans live in luxury in the “city of dreams” of Atlas, while the working class and Faunus live below in the crumbling, polluted Cyberpunk city of Mantle.
- It also has several noticeable parallels to the British Empire during its height. Just like Atlas on Remnant, Great Britain was at the heart of the industrial revolution on Earth, and one of the reasons for Britain’s dominance was because of the sheer amount of goods Britain churned out (which is paralleled in Atlas’ economic dominance). The notoriously massive and powerful British navy is comparable to Atlas having a massive and highly advanced fleet of airships ready to unleash Death from Above on anyone foolish enough to oppose them. Similar to Atlas’ military and government often being derided for brainwashing its own citizens, Britain had the common colonial tactic of creating schools in conquered territories so as to indoctrinate the local students into supporting British rule. And finally, the Schnee Dust Corporation’s sheer economic power and influence along with being notoriously militarized and intertwined with Atlas’ government (to the point where it’s debatable who is really controlling whom) can be seen as a reflection of the power wielded by the British East India Company during the empire’s height.
- The Kingdom of Vacuo (found in the western reaches of the central continent of Sanus) was a once-prosperous area that is now isolated to the point where the inhabitants don’t have as advanced technology as the outside world has, but still feature massive reserves of valuable natural resources (in this case, Dust) that are being taken advantage of by foreign invaders and corporations. Due to this foreign intervention, it’s almost entirely a lawless wasteland, with multiple factions vying for control. While there may still be a significant central power in the area (Shade Academy), in practice there is no significantly powerful central government. In other words, Vacuo is the Remnant equivalent of both the African Congo and Middle East (Syria in particular) after the end of Western imperialism.
- Finally, the “free” continent of Menagerie is clearly based off of Australia. Its founders were forced to settle there (though Australia’s non-native settlers were British prisoners, while Menagerie was settled to serve as a continent-wide Fantastic Ghetto for the Faunus), it’s located at the bottom right of the map, it’s two-thirds desert, and its wildlife is noted to be far more dangerous than what is found on than the rest of the planet.
- Every culture in The Solstice War is one. Fitting since everything’s a historical reference.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The series is influenced by a variety of different cultures from Asia and even parts of the Americas and Oceania, although Chinese cultural influences are the most dominant.
- The Air Nomads are primarily based on Shaolin and Tibetan Buddhism, mixed in with a fair bit of The Shangri-La and Western conceptions of Buddhist pacifism. In particular, their near-extinction at the hands of the Fire Nation can be paralleled with that of the invasion and sinicization of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, their nomadic lifestyle and loose (but vaguely theocratic) social structure resembles the early schools of Buddhism practiced in Mongolia.
- The Water Tribes are primarily based on circumpolar indigenous cultures such as the Inuit. The Southern Water Tribe also borrows from various Polynesian and Native American cultures, while the architecture of the Northern Water Tribe capital adds a mix of Chinese, Venetian, and even Indian influence.
- The Fire Nation is based on a combination of Imperial China and post-Meiji Imperial Japan. Like Imperial Japan, the Fire Nation is an authoritarian volcanic archipelago state technologically superior to its neighbors, with a coal-based military-industrial complex that justifies its conquests with the premise of “sharing prosperity” and uses methods like emperor worship and schoolbook propaganda to control its people (additionally, this blog post draws several parallels with the Tokugawa Shogunate). Firebenders are more powerful when the sun is up, and the rising sun happening to be the main symbol of Japan. Additionally, the comics depict the early inhabitants of the Fire Islands from the time before it became the Fire Nation as resembling the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. However, the Fire Nation’s material culture is primarily Chinese, particularly that of the Han and Tang Dynasties (perhaps not coincidentally, the Chinese influence on Japanese culture was at its strongest during the Tang Dynasty); this is to create a contrast between the two superpowers of the Avatar universe, with the Fire Nation based on the periods of history where China was at its most powerful while the Earth Kingdom based on China during its period of “decline” (the late Qing Dynasty). The Fire Nation also utilizes elements of Thai architecture, most noticeably in the roofing. The geology of the Fire Nation capital was based on Iceland, which may seem a little weird until you remember that Iceland is one of the most tectonically active places on the planet.
- The ancient city of the Sun Warriors (the precursor culture to the Fire Nation) is based off a combination of Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian architecture, while their clothing seems to be primarily derived from Southeast Asian tribal cultures, particular the headdresses which resemble Iban warrior headdresses.
- The Earth Kingdom is based on various periods of Imperial China. While its political situation parallels that of the Qing Dynasty’s last days, being an ailing empire struggling to keep control over its territories while getting brutally mauled by foriegn invasions (the Earth King even bears a close resemblence to the last Qing emperor), its culture draws from every Chinese dynasty; Toph’s family wears Tang-era clothing, Aunt Wu’s usage of oracle bones for divination comes from the Shang Dynasty, etc. It also has areas influenced by Vietnamese tribal cultures (the Foggy Swamp Tribe, despite their Mississippi Delta accent), the Ryuku Kingdom (Kyoshi Island), the Gobi Desert (the Shi Wong desert), and Korea (as seen with the hanbok worn by Song in the episode “Cave of Two Lovers”), each paralleling a real-life tributary held by Imperial China.
- Guru Pathik is pretty obviously supposed to be Indian, but nobody else of his ethnicity appears. Also, despite being a “spiritual brother” to the Air Nomads, he is explicitly not one himself. His title, philosophy, and spiritual practices give him a distinctly Hindu flavor, but like everything else in the series, it is a mish-mash of distinct schools and traditions (particularly tantric yoga and Advaita Vedanta).
- Sequel Series The Legend of Korra adds a few more examples:
- Republic City is a new state made up of peoples from all four nations, which grew out of the liberated colonies of a powerful empire, and is quickly becoming the world’s cultural and industrial centre. Essentially it is a mix of America in The Roaring ’20s with cosmopolitan Asian city-states like Hong Kong and Singapore (plus some other admitted influences like Nationalist-era Shanghai). The giant statue of Aang in the harbour is a clear parallel to the Statue of Liberty.
- The Korra-era Earth Kingdom is still mostly based on the Qing Dynasty’s final years; the realm is rife with poverty, the people are increasingly turning against their anachronistic and out-of-touch monarchy, and the Earth Queen herself is a dead ringer for Empress Dowager Cixi. However, it also has some Wild West influences: an urban and wealthy east and poor and rural west, the Kingdom being composed of semi-independent states ruled by Governors, an abundance of isolated farmsteads and small towns, large areas of relative lawlessness policed by sheriffs, and many of the settlements visited by the heroes have a distinctly Settling the Frontier feel to them. Which makes some sense considering that the war and the devastation wrought by Ozai during the comet would have set the outskirts of the Earth Kingdom back decades. After Zaheer kills the Earth Queen, the Earth Kingdom becomes more akin to early post-Qing China, with warlords and bandits running rampant until a revolutionary nationalist despot is finally able to reunite the country.
- The Earth Kingdom’s successor state, the Earth Empire, is reminiscent of many 20th-century dictatorships; Kuvira’s revolutionary rhetoric is reminiscent of both Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Shek, as are her hardline views on reunification, while the Earth Empire as a whole smacks strongly of Putting on the Reichnote or Showa-era Japanese imperialism for a more precise analogue, particularly the heavy use of internment camps for what’s basically a more family-friendly ethnic cleansing, plus the superweapon obsession.
- Given how the Fire Nation played the role of Imperial Japan in the original show, it’s perhaps appropriate that the reformed Fire Nation of Korra has a far less militaristic approach to foreign relations, to the point where its leader (Zuko’s daughter) refuses to launch a preemptive strike on the Earth Empire precisely because she doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of her predecessors.
- Sofia the First takes place in the Ever Realm, another realm connected to the “real world”. The Ever Realm is home to many kingdoms and is relatively peaceful (at least in the present; whatever violent history they may have if any is never addressed, with Word of God also stating that colonization never happened here).
- Enchancia was widely theorized to be the equivalent of Britain, although Word of God would later joss this, stating that it’s not based on any place specifically.
- Freezenburg is one for various Scandinavian countries. From what little we see of it, it’s usually snowy.
- Wei-Ling is based on China, with Mulan also being summoned in the same episode Sofia visits the kingdom to further seal the similarities.
- Elena of Avalor:
- Similar to the Avatar franchise, Avalor and its neighboring kingdoms are based on a mishmash of various Latin American countries. Cariza seems to be more based on the Caribbean islands judging by its Afrolatina populace, Cordoba seems to be based on Argentina and Uruguay due to Cordoba’s main colors being similar to those two countries as well as Prince Alonso’s outfit appearing to be inspired by historical Argentinian/Uruguayan fashion.
- Galonia is a Latino Jewish kingdom, representing the Jewish population in Latin America.
- Satu is one for Japan, with its royals wearing kimonos, in addition to their names obviously being Japanese (Toshi, Shoji, Tomiko).
- Norberg is based on colonial-era America, which is best shown with Naomi and Ambassador Nathaniel’s clothes. Fans originally theorized it was based on the Netherlands or Scandinavian countries for the same reason, although there certainly was Dutch presence in colonial-era America and before that.
- Done purposefully in a planet modeled on Ancient Egypt. It also hilariously inverts the usual Ancient Astronauts shtick: turns out the aliens modeled their culture after the Egyptians, who taught them the secrets of space flight.
- Also, the One World Order that governs Earth is a presidential federal republic with a constitution, two-party political system, Supreme Court, capital in Washington, D.C., citizens referred to as “Earthicans,” and the American flag with the stars replaced with a picture of Earth.
- The Olympics included The Republic of French Stereotypes (No one likes them!). Especially hilarious when you consider that an early episode established that the French language no longer exists.
- And Space Jews!
- And the Native Ameri—… Martians from Amy’s home planet.
- In a sillier example, there’s the Globetrotter Homeworld, and entire world and culture based on… the Harlem Globetrotters.
- In Kulipari: An Army of Frogs a very odd example in that the soundtrack, art and mythology are clearly based off aboriginal Australians, but almost everything else about the in-universe factions, from clothing to social structure, are more medieval European. The scorpion army adds in a few Mongolian and Roman trappings, while the turtles are more comfortably native papuans. Naming is all over the place, with English names like Darrel, aboriginal Australian names like Jarrahnote Literally “eucalyptus” and just the plain weird like Marmoo.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Zecora the zebra in is obviously supposed to be from an African counterpart culture, given her accent and the fact that that her hut is decorated with stylized African masks. She was even meant to speak Swahili in her few foreign language lines, but the staff couldn’t find a translator in time and resorted to writing invented words that mimic the general sound of Swahili. The canon explanation is that Zecora “speaks Zebra.”
- The buffalo tribe in “Over a Barrel” were obviously supposed to be the Plains Indians in the “Cowboys vs. Indians” setup of the episode.
- Pinkie Pie apparently grew up on what is supposed to be a fantasy counterpart Amish rock farm — a literal one where her family grows actual rocks, somehow — complete with the conservative fashion, Nice Hat-and-sideburns-wearing father and parents sleeping in separate beds.
- Pegasus ponies in general seem to take some influence from Classic Greek culture (which makes sense, considering pegasi are creatures from Classical Mythology). Their architecture and fashion seem decidedly Hellenistic, and they were portrayed as a Sparta-like martial culture in a “flashback” to old times.
- Meanwhile, the other two types of ponies both represent Western Europe, but apparently evolved socially at different rates: In the aforementioned “flashback,” the unicorns are stuck in The High Middle Ages with a feudal monarchy, while the earth ponies dress like continental Europeans (from France, the Netherlands, and Germany in particular) during The Renaissance and have elected a chancellor.
- The setting of the Daring Do book series is quite plainly a pulp fiction-style depiction of South America, complete with Aztec/Mayan stone ruins and a villain, Ahuizotl, taken from Aztec Mythology.
- Season 3 introduces the Crystal Empire, which blends late-Victorian architecture, Crystal Spires and Togas fashion sense, and medieval/Renaissance sporting events.
- “Magic Duel” features visiting delegates from Saddle Arabia. An interesting note is that its male delegate carries a crescent moon coat-of-arms, and Saudi Arabia does not have this as its crest, although many of its neighboring countries do.
- Season 5 introduces the Kingdom of Griffonstone, whose culture seems to be caught somewhere between the Urals and the Caucasian mountains (primarily Georgian, Armenian and Kazakh cultures) with a dash of Tibet and Mongolia to round out the society’s remote mountainous flair.
- Whereas Griffonstone mostly scratches Mongolian culture, Yakyakistan all but embraces it, combining Mongolian aesthetics with temper and attitude not unlike those of Vikings.
- In “Campfire Tales“, Mistmane’s homeland, from its architecture to its culture to its dress styles, is openly based on imperial China.
- The desert village southern Equestria seen in “Daring Done?” and in Somnabula’s issue of Legends of Magic is heavily reminiscent of ancient Egypt. It is located close to ancient pyramids, its present citizens all seem to wear kohl and, in Somnabula’s time, its residents all wore distinctly Egyptian clothing, the area was explicitly ruled by a Pharaoh and the beginning of the flashback segment recounting Somnabula’s tale is in the form of animated hieroglyphics.
- In the present day, locations in Equestria are based on different cultures of different eras:
- Ponyville seems to be based on 17th to 19th century Europe, with their buildings’ architecture mostly being timber-framed cottages, which were popular in places like England, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Scotland, and Switzerland from the Renaissance age to the 19th century.
- Cloudsdale is very Greco-Roman in appearance, with plenty of columned porticos and even an amphitheater for public events like the Best Young Fliers Competition.
- Manehattan is roughly based off 1940’s New York City but with all the cars replaced with horse-drawn carriages. Some of which are painted like yellow checker cabs.
- Appleoosa is a 19th century American wild-west settlement, similar to those seen in Westerns.
- Canterlot seems to be inspired by France with a dash of Britain.
- The official map of Equestria reveals significant similarities to North America, albeit with as many horse puns as they can stuff in (“Manehattan”, “Fillydelphia”, “Baltimare”, “Vanhoover”…)
- In Equestria Games, in addition to the Saddle Arabians (who are more horse-like than pony), there are pony-like delegates from other cultures: a mare with a half-sun-like headdress akin to the Incan or Mayan culture, and a stallion with a very Mesopotamian headdress, beard, and hair/mane style. We find next episode these two are representatives from Maretonia.
- In “The Hooffields and the McColts“, the titular feuding clans are very clearly Appalachian hillbillies.
- Curiander Cumin and Saffron Masala, a father-and-daughter pair who appear in “Spice up your Life“, are very Indian in their names, appearance, and in the style of the restaurant they keep. Cumin specifically mentions that they moved to Canterlot from a distant part of Equestria.
- The Blizzarians in Storm Hawks are basically a species of Canadian furries (who live on the same planet as the human characters), complete with sometimes adding “Eh?” to the ends of their sentences. The series itself was made in Canada.
- Super Friends did this a lot with alien worlds. There was Camelon the medieval planet, Texacana the cowboy planet, Zaghdad the Arabian Nights planet, etc.
- TaleSpin had the Thembrians, warthog residents of a bureaucratic republic clearly intended to be analogous to Soviet Russia. Then there was Panda-La, a nation full of panda bears who were such blatant Asian stereotypes that the episode in which they appeared was eventually pulled from the lineup by Disney.
- The Transformers (the original ’80s cartoon) had the “Socialist Democratic Federated Republic” of Carbombya, whose leader was “Supreme Military Commander, President for Life, and King-of-Kings” Abdul Fakkadi, whose capital city’s population was “4000 people and 10000 camels”, and which was so stereotypically Arab and stereotypically evil that it prompted the departure of Casey Kasem—voice of Cliffjumper, Bluestreak, and the Teletraan-1 computer and of Lebanese descent—from the show.
- Bulkhead of Transformers Animated is a “mudflap” from an “energon farm” — that is, basically a robot redneck. He gets a lot of flack for it when he first shows up at boot camp, but it’s mostly due to his naivete rather than any inherent stupidity. In fact, he’s actually an accomplished artist and the most skilled space bridge technician ever.
- Most Human Alien members of the Winx Club hails from a Planet of Hats, ruled by one government and with only one culture. Stella, Aisha, Bloom, Flora, and Tecna all come from planets that reflect their personalities or connect to their powers in some way, but avert this trope by not having those cultures based on existing ones. However, Musa and her home planet Melody play this straight: Musa appears Asian, her parents’ names are obviously meant to ‘sound’ Asian, and some of the outfits that she wears, are obviously based on Asian fashion, as are her mother’s in flashbacks. Although it should be mentioned the planet’s princess, Galatea is Caucasian, suggesting the planet is more diverse than it seems.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture – TV Tropes
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