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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Series Review: Bliss Out With Cafe Food

While Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori isn’t the most original, exciting, or beautiful anime out there, this one ended up being a surprisingly good anime just to chill out to each week during the Spring 2018 anime season.

Review:

This is another one of those shows where I genuinely went into the first episode expecting to drop it at the end, maybe write up an impressions post, and never think about it ever again. However, I think I phrased it best in my First Impressions post where I said:

…I really just fell into a happy watching coma while watching this…

And yeah, that’s more or less the experience of watching these four guys serving tea and really great looking anime food in a cafe using plates and cups made by one of the guys while serving latte art that is kind of terrifyingly bad.

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Exhibit A.

It isn’t as though this show didn’t have a few mis-fires. While some people really enjoy Gure’s character, I found him kind of the painful weak link in the set of four and when we were thrown an episode that entirely focused on him it kind of broke my general calm mood while watching. The other three characters, Sui, Tokitaka and Tsubaki all have their moments and I quite enjoyed watching their interactions. Even Gure was fine when diluted by the rest of the cast. It’s only when the show focuses on him for a longer period that it started damaging my calm.

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Visually this anime isn’t exceptional. The cafe, Rokuhoudou, is a beautiful cafe and I’d love to actually know somewhere like that to eat because just going there would be an experience. However, other than a fairly washed out colour palette for everything except the food, there’s nothing really distinguishing about how this looks. With character designs they are all pretty ordinary so a lot of the support cast and cafe guests end up blending together, not that it matters all that much.

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For the most part this is a slice of life and just follows the general daily business of the guys at the cafe so don’t expect much in the way of a compelling story. There is an ongoing plot involving Sui and his family but it kind of gets introduced in the first couple of episodes and then abandoned save for minor mentions here and there until the very end. This isn’t a plot driven drama so if you are looking for a story that moves, look elsewhere. Normally I would, and yet I really did have fun here.

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Do not watch this show while hungry.

Maybe it was just good timing because I happened to watch the first episode while really stressed and to be honest, there’s literally no way you can remain stressed while watching this. There were a number of episodes where I just completely spaced out while watching altogether and while that might not normally equal a recommendation, it was more or less exactly what I needed at the time.

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If you want a clear idea of what you are getting into, each episode is basically split into two parts. Normally one of the guys will mention something or be thinking about something that will somehow connect to some customer problem or issue and then everyone will band together to drink tea until the problem goes away. Okay, that is somewhat sarcastic, but really they don’t go about solving all the world’s problems and they do like to think about things, usually while sipping on tea.

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How much mileage individuals viewers will get out of these episodes will depend entirely on how well they like the focus character and the customer that they are helping. What that means is that some episodes will strike home better than others, but the series as a whole is pretty consistent in terms of tone and quality. The exception is episode 5 that goes off on some weird tangent that I still haven’t figured out. Just weird.

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Overall though, I’d recommend giving this show a shot unless you absolutely despise slice of life stories. I’m not normally a fan of anime that lack a driving plot, but this one worked for me and at the very least it isn’t another cute girls doing cute things slice of life.

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Karandi James

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Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three: Episode 18

My Hero Academia - Episode 56 - Kaminari

Part of me wonders this week if maybe Kapodaco and I are both just really cynical people given the team pulling together and happy endings aren’t really working for either one of us here. Then again, maybe we’ve just been spoilt by previous arcs in My Hero Academia and now we’re wanting more. Either way, this is what we thought of episode 18. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Kapodaco:

About two months ago, the first major trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate proudly proclaimed, “Everyone is Here!” My Hero Academia decided that sounded awesome, so they made everyone pass this latest test. In short, it didn’t have quite the impact the former announcement had.

I honestly think this is a missed opportunity. Why does everyone need to pass? Now I’m convinced that everyone will pass regardless. All the characters we’ve come to love (Iida) and loathe (Mineta) will all pass because plot armor, probably. There’s still one more test(?) to go, so maybe not everyone will pass, but I think it’s likelier than not.

Why not have everyone pass? I think it could go for good writing material. While not unique or new, those who don’t could use it as growing material. Let’s say Iida decided to sacrifice himself for the rest of the class. How would he react to being put behind? How would he deal with being on the sidelines while watching everyone else advance? Would he be okay with it knowing of his sacrifice, or would it eat at him inside? And what of those on the other side? Would they try and fight harder in Iida’s honor? Would they take advantage of his kindness and rub him the wrong way? The potential storylines are plentiful. Instead everyone wins and all is good and happy. It feels a little… childish, I think.

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What’s done is done. Everyone has passed, as well as some important(?) characters shown before and during the first test. In terms of the episode’s content, there were some nice moments to them. Bakugo acknowledging Midoriya’s worth was a nice moment. Everyone beginning to get together and celebrating was nice. Mr. Naval Laser has a very rare humane scene. People do feel important here. As for the rest, it’s kind of like last episode, except the fight scene is shorter and the rest is baiting emotions by wiggling the possibility of not everyone passing. Speaking of that fight scene, there was too much “This is how it was done!” talking, like last episode. Filler dialogue. Ick.

I’d say this is better than last episode, but only barely. It’s still around the zip code of “Fine” and nothing more. With the potential of not everyone passing being used as a threat, only to have everyone pass anyway, it felt a little anticlimactic. But the small moments of character interaction were enough for me to remain interested even when what was happening onscreen was very… talkative. Bring on the rescue squads.

My Hero Academia Episode 56 - Celebrations

Karandi:

I’m with Kapodaco here in that everyone passing just doesn’t have much impact. While there was at least the possibility of failure being wiggled about in the previous episodes, by the midway point of this episode it was more or less a foregone conclusion that they weren’t going to let anyone from UA actually fail and then it was just a matter of waiting for it to happen. From a plot point of view it is a lost opportunity and worse, the execution has done little to elevate what is a pretty standard arc to anything particularly memorable.

However, this episode was better than last week. Kaminari, a character I usually don’t think much about, gets a fairly decent moment in this episode as does Aoyama (though there are some interesting implications from his behaviour that I hope get followed up on).

I’ll even give Uraraka and Sero some credit for that great plan to catch the others that they came up with more or less without Midoriya’s input. But like with other character moments that have come out of this test, this one builds on something we saw during the previous tournament where Uraraka refused Midoriya’s plan to come up with one on her own. While it is great for cohesion that we see this idea continue to play a role in her character development, when there is nothing else on offer it doesn’t feel like the most satisfying payoff from an episode.

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Then we have the brief but fairly important interaction between Midoriya and Bakugou. A moment of acknowledgement as well as a moment where Bakugou shows us once again he does think and put things together and coupling this scene with his previous moments when All Might essentially passed the torch, even if it hasn’t been explicitly said I think we can conclude that Bakugou has figured everything out. That said, did we need the flash back to Midoriya slipping up earlier when talking to Bakugou? Scenes like that make me feel like the writers don’t trust the audience at all and it really broke the flow of the moment. If they absolutely had to include a flash back it should have been sandwiched in at the start of the episode with all the other recap stuff to remind us this was a thing and then we could have just enjoyed the scene for what it was without intrusion.

Despite all of that, the episode was a slight improvement on last week and I am kind of interested in the rescue test because to be honest that seems like the more common work a hero should be doing. Helping people rather than beating them up.

My Hero Academia Episode 56 - Midoriya

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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out Kapodaco’s blog next week when we review episode 19.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl Series Review: Average Is Being Generous

Self-proclaimed otaku with a dislike of flashy girls draws the attention of a flashy girl. Must be love.

Review:

3D Kanojo: Real Girl falls into a couple of pretty obvious traps that prevent this anime from ever rising above being fairly ordinary and actually make it pretty painful to watch at times. And I’m not talking about the characters themselves, though many viewers did seem to find Tsutsui pretty hard to take early in the series as he is a fairly unlikable protagonist (kind of the point though).

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No, what this series does wrong is set up a premise that is pretty standard, made only even vaguely memorable by the strength of the character personalities (whether you like them or not) and then essentially spent the first half of the season eradicating any discernible evidence that the characters ever had a personality outside of their romantic trope. It’s painful to watch as the characters are leached of all defining traits outside of boyfriend and girlfriend from a standard high school romance and even the few attempts to recall that Tsutsui was supposed to be an otaku and Iroha had a reputation for playing around just kind of fall flat as these two generically empty shells of characters go through the motions of every cliche misunderstanding that can occur in such a story.

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Which brings us to the second trap which is that this anime has nothing new to say or bring to the table. While being derivative or basic genre fiction isn’t a death sentence in and of itself, if you aren’t bringing anything new then you have to at least bring your A game and 3D Kanojo: Real Girl is anything but.

I won’t lie. I actually quite enjoyed the first episode. While I didn’t like the main characters, given they were both pretty unlikable, I found them interesting enough and was curious as to how they would come together. Unfortunately, they got together in fairly quick order and then proceeded to do that on again, off again thing where the story would have them being happy and then just throw a random spanner into the works of one or the other’s emotional make-up to have them suddenly get annoyed at the other for being who they were. It didn’t help that literally every issue the two had as a couple could have been solved by a conversation.

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However, the narrative isn’t the only area where this anime falls a little short. The pastel colour scheme and character designs work well enough, but are also fairly unremarkable. Then we had some fairly obvious character off-model moments in the latter half of the season which weren’t a complete game over for the series but certainly made watching it less enjoyable as you had to wonder if one of the characters had just turned sideways or if they’d actually morphed into a different human being.

The OP is also pleasant enough but totally forgettable.

Then we have the support cast who all seem like they might be important. And yet not one of them ever brings anything of consequence to the story. Occasionally they are a catalyst for some kind of drama but then they just kind of fade into the crowd of generic ‘friends’ that Tsutsui somehow has and at the end they all go for ramen.

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Which brings me to my other concern with this series and that is that things get forgotten fairly quickly. Iroha says she can only date for six months. Tsutsui never asks why and the audience never gets an answer. Another character literally frames Tsutsui as a potential child-predator and yet that’s also forgotten. Tsutsui just goes about his normal life afterward and the guy who did it is never actually held accountable for being a liar and making false reports to the police (defamation of character, etc). In fact, he becomes one of the friends in the background. The kids at school go from being completely anti-Tsutsui to exactly as they were at the start which is ignoring his existence, but someone who has gained infamy for potential trouble with the police probably isn’t regaining their peaceful life that easily.

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It all just adds to the overall feeling that no one really knew what the point of this story should be. Nothing has weight and nothing matters. Stuff happens, it is overcome and then the next things happens. While it never becomes unwatchable, nor is there much reason to watch it.

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Ultimately, there’s no real way to recommend 3D Kanojo: Real Girl. It won’t be the worst thing you ever watched, but it isn’t really something you need to watch either.

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Karandi James

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Devils’ Line Series Review: Get Ready For Dark – And I Am Talking About The Colour Palette Not The Story

An anime that started with a fairly poor first episode and pretty much never got any better, Devils’ Line was one of my bigger disappointments to come out of the Spring 2018 season.

Review:

I would really like to start this review with an overview of the story, but unfortunately, I’m not sure there really is one. There’s a few different ideas, but none of them ever develop or end up being resolved. And that’s part of the problem with Devils’ Line as a whole, though it certainly isn’t the only issue sucking the life out of this series.

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Firstly we have Taira Tsukasa, who is one of those super pure girls who has never fallen in love. Then her friend from school tries to attack her and it turns out he’s a vampire and she’s rescued by another vampire who turns out to work for the police hunting down devils (and don’t ask why vampires are called devils in this story, they just are). All of that seems fine but then Tsukasa is apparently in love with the rescue vampire, Anzai, and the two of them are in a relationship.

If you are wondering what happened in between the rescue and the falling in love, other than Anzai forcibly sticking his tongue down Tsukasa’s throat, I’m going to say not much. The story just expects that audience to believe these two are now in love.

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Seriously in love. Like they’ll throw themselves into life-threatening danger on more than one occasion for the other person. Even though vampires and humans can’t actually be involved in a relationship and there is government discussion around a law to allow humans and vampires to have sex only is supervised by a doctor (what?).

I’ll get to the other plot lines that trail about in this mess in a minute, but I want to take a moment to look at Tsukasa’s character, because she is perhaps the stupidest thing about this entire series, and there are some stupid things happening in this series.

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The girl meets a guy once who after saving her, by injuring her mind you, gets so out of control because she’s bleeding that he forces himself on her, shoving his tongue into her mouth, and has to sedate himself to calm down. She’s then just totally fixated on him. Letting him into her house, chasing him around the city and into danger… A sniper takes a shot at him while he is in her house and she gets cut by broken glass leaving a permanent scar on her face, and the only comment she makes regarding that several episodes later is that it hurts less than not being with Anzai. I actually can’t recall a single decision or comment that came out of Tsukasa’s mouth that wasn’t either asinine or stupid, and as she’s a character a lot of the action is built around her presence really hinders the story.

Though probably not as much as the fact that everyone seems to fall in love with her. her vampire friend who initially attacked her. Anzai as the saviour. Her lecturer at school who attempts to rape her. The girl is a dishrag and there is nothing about her that is interesting and yet every single person she meets seems to like her and either want to have sex with her or protect her, or both.

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But as much fun as the vampire/human relationship issues are, and they do permeate the entire story, even at fairly odd moments when you would think the cast would have better things to do than worry about whether Anzai and Tsukasa can sleep together, the story also seems to want to explore how vampires (devils) fit into modern society and how the general public responds to them. We get mass protests, terrorist groups, calls for segregation, and it all seems like this should go somewhere. There’s even a vast conspiracy within the organisation Anzai works for where there are double agents all pressing their own agenda.

This could have been a fairly gripping story really. And yet it plays out in the background with only a few episodes where it is the focus. Then we get to the end of the season and this story line just kind of stops. We don’t know what legislation actually gets passed or what happens to the conspirators or anything else. The story just turns its focus back to Anzai and Tsukasa’s relationship.

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There’s also some subplot about the institution where Anzai grew up and his parents. An escapee vampire from their joins the group midway through the series. Nothing ever eventuates from this plot point.

While I was harsh to Tsukasa earlier, I should probably point out that there isn’t a single decently developed character in the entire series. Not one character is actually interesting or well explored. At the end of the season you would be hard pressed to remember more than a handful of names and when you think about why some of the characters existed at all you will draw a blank. They contribute nothing overall to a story that goes nowhere.

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Then we have the visuals. Right from episode one it was pretty clear that this anime was not exactly a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Murky imagery, poor contrasts in the colours, and some really bad choices with animation to make the vampires seem fast (animation choices that seemed to disappear a few episodes in) all worked to make this series a pretty ugly thing to watch.

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This isn’t the worst thing ever but what really hurts is that we could have had a decent relationship between Anzai and Tsukasa and an exploration of the trouble they had in building an inter-species relationship. Or we could have had a compelling police drama where there were conspiracies to marginalise devils in society. The issue is, this show couldn’t handle doing both and the end result is an unsatisfying mess.

What did you think of Devils’ Line?

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Karandi James

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Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three: Episode 16

The higher they rise the harder the fall I guess. In the grand scheme of things I’m guessing this episode wasn’t actually that bad and yet as both Kapodaco and I will lament, it doesn’t have any of the spark that made My Hero Academia appealing in the first place.

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Kapodaco:

Last week there was some disagreement between Karandi and I about the importance of stakes within the episode that either perturbed or held stable our confidence with the events moving forward. This week I have a feeling that our mindsets will be a little more in sync.

To start with the point, this episode was rather weak. Do you see what I did there? I got to the point very quickly. This episode did not. While the stakes were visibly set by the tone of the episode, on a more practical level, not much really happened in this episode. The first three minutes consisted of the OP and a recap of the last episode. The next four minutes consisted of a lot of talking and introduction of new characters from other schools. Then for the rest of the episode, it inconsistently displayed actual plot and random flashbacks. If one were to dissect this episode specifically for new content integral to the pursuit of progressing the events that are occuring, one would end up with only a little.

The heroes of U.A. are now separated, save Midoriya, Ochaco, and that tape dude, whose name escapes me. Midoriya has had one hit to his “weak points,” meaning he only has two left before he’s knocked out. (Calling it now: he’ll get hit again next episode and will live life on the edge until the exam ends.) Todoroki’s solo act may come back to haunt him. That one crazy dude who pounded his head into the dirt eliminated 120 people to pass the exam. That’s all that really happens in twenty minutes. How is this so? Because this episode sure loves to TALK.

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This ended up being one of the rare times when I began to realize I was watching Shounen. For those unaware, Shounen is one of my least favorite anime genres usually, due to the overused tropes attributed to the genre that wear thin on me very quickly. One of those tropes consist of filler dialogue, which only serves to delay progress and further ruminate the bad (and occasionally good) situations the character(s) is currently facing. This is the red flag for this episode: there is a lot of filler dialogue. Midoriya overthinking every action and explaining the stakes with each movement, characters from other schools saying the same thing over and over again/stating the obvious, the exam announcer continually telling people to hurry up (it’s always funnier the fifth time), and so on. And as if the writer is mocking us, it’s announced later on that 54 of the 100 people who are allowed to pass have already passed! We have seen one instance of a character passing! Can we, y’know, see more of that, please?

There’s even some sexual tension in this episode provided by a new character whom tape dude refers to as “The molester.” A female student from another school who revels in physical contact and intimate speech (for whatever reason) who’s responsible for Midoriya’s first “strike” or what-have-you. She also falls victim to filler dialogue (“I really wanted to talk to you more~ <3” ), as well as providing sexual fan service because… why not, I guess? Give credit to where it’s due, though: Midoriya could’ve reacted with a blushing face and an adolescent freak-out, but he held firm knowing the danger of her actions. Kudos. Even so, it felt a little out of place and self-indulgent. We’ll have to see if it has any significance in the future.

So when My Hero Academia, which has been pretty good about steering clear of tired Shounen tropes for a long while, begins to incorporate tired Shounen tropes into its episodes, color me concerned. All I can hope for now is that they’ll make the pacing a little better by, uh, doing something more in twenty minutes that could be done in five. Karandi was correct to be concerned last week, though perhaps not for this very reason.

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Karandi:

I hate it that I was right. This is more or less what I thought the sports tournament was going to turn into and it is the kind of thing I hate most about the shounen genre. As Kapodaco pointed out, we could more or less eliminate all but maybe five minutes of this episode in the future and it wouldn’t appreciably change anything. We literally learned nothing new about the main cast, the introductions to other characters aren’t going to stick even if they are by some miracle relevant in later arcs, and the fights themselves were not spectacular enough to make up for the deficit in character and plot.

By the half-way point of this episode I was feeling just a little bit bored, and that boredom turned a little into annoyance by the commentator. I don’t know if the writer actually thought it was funny to have the commentator bored by the action. However, when I’m already bored and a character who is in the show is watching the action and is pointing out that they just want it all over and done with, all that does is make me wonder why they didn’t just skip over something that is clearly dull to be a part of.

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Realistically we could have just skipped this sequence. Had the opening confrontation and then skip to the announcement of those who passed the test. I mean, there is a tiny possibility that they’ll pull some actual character growth out of this but it is going to have to be something pretty special to make me feel that this was anything other than fluff to fill pages and an excuse to introduce all new super powers.

For me this episode is probably the low point of this series so far and I’m really hoping it isn’t a sign of the direction this franchise is going. My Hero Academia won me over back in season one despite the fact that I was pretty determined not to like it but now here we are and I’m watching an episode that is devoid of any of the thematic or character moments that would make me sit up and take notice.

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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out Kapodaco’s blog next week when we review episode 17.

Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory Episodes 11 + 12: Reunited

While these two episodes certainly do a better job of bringing the season to a resting point, this remains pretty much not concluded with no real indication of a follow up any time soon.

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After a couple of weeks off we finally get the last two episodes of this season and it is the big and dramatic rescue attempt of Chidori (or abduction attempt depending on which faction attacking the one mansion you are). These two episodes bring us all our favourite characters into one location, we’ve got some great fight sequences, an accidental shooting, and a radio message from Chidori to Sousuke that would have tugged at the heartstrings even without the soundtrack kicking into gear in the background.

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Like most of the season, these two episodes were nostalgic fun and just good at doing what they set out to do. There was very little time wasted and yet the pacing didn’t feel too extreme. I did like that even after the main team reunited it wasn’t as though the months of separation and the fact that they were currently operating separately disappeared. Sure they helped each other out but they all stayed on their mission.

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Of course, what sours these two episodes and the season as a whole is the fact that we don’t know if we’ll ever get anymore and we are still undeniably not finished. At least Second Raid had the courtesy of bringing us to a very solid end point (even though the story would continue) with the characters all back together and doing their thing. But it is hard to feel too hard done by here. There was very little more I could have asked from a follow up season to Full Metal Panic other than an actual ending and I absolutely love the journey Sousuke has been on over the course of this season. Fingers crossed we do eventually get another part to this.

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Karandi James

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