Afterlost Review Episodes 3 + 4

The conspiracy grows.

Episode 3

This was a bit strange, which is a weird way to start a review about an anime that wiped out a whole city and has ghost like people and helicopters chasing motorbikes. And yet, Afterlost continues to be a bit of a perplexing story mostly because I’m still not entirely sure what story I’m getting. The supernatural search for the truth makes sense, the buddy/journey thing works, the mystery might eventuate into something that works and the action elements, while not awesome are fine enough.

But this episode we got something else again and I guess it adds to the overall mystery, I am just not sure what.

Geek, Takuya and Yuki are still heading toward Lost and Takuya is conveniently on the phone with the red-head from last week. Convenient because it means we can cut the phone off in a blast of static to show where they have crossed into the most recent phenomenon. And what is that? Well, we’re in a closed space with a time loop because an idol regrets breaking up with her group.

I’ve been wondering for a bit what the idol group have to do with anything given they’ve had a presence in the previous two episodes, but even after we spent most the episode on them, I still legitimately have no understanding of what they are contributing here. Two things did come out of this clearly. The first is that the group definitely disappeared during Lost and the second is that it seems like their producer knew they were going to disappear before it happened. How and why, who knows, but it is just another piece of information to process.

However, Takuya and Yuki then part ways with Geek who is mourning the fact that changing things inside the closed space didn’t actually change the past – good reason to bail on your friends – right before Takuya and Yuki are attacked by Yuki’s brother which results in her making things go boom.

It is difficult to say if I like this or not but at this point I’m intrigued. That said, it is intrigue that could easily tip into frustration if it is all disjointed without any gain so I guess we’ll see what episode 4 brings us.

Meanwhile, I’m going to ponder the tag for this anime: Where I End and You Begin.

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Episode 4

And now we’ve clearly moved into police procedural story as we follow a plucky lieutenant who had follower her father into the police force investigate the events surrounding Lost mostly due to personal interest with her father having been caught up in it. This is actually a pretty interesting episode as she gathers bits and pieces of information and ultimately links a chemical company to Yuki and Lost. However, we were warned members of the Agency were everywhere at the start of this episode, and that is proven true by the end.

On the bright side, okay it is a pretty dark kind of bright side, Takuya didn’t instantly bounce back from his injuries. He’s actually taken some fairly critical damage this time after being thrown off his bike, yet again, and then psychically beaten up. I’m amazed his arm is still functional but still he isn’t exactly brushing this one off without a scratch given he spends most the episode hospitalised.

Yuki also has some things to think about. You know, her thought to be dead brother being alive and psychotic, her existence leading to Takuya being injured, herself being used for medical experiments among other things. Honestly, Yuki is coping a lot better with all this than a lot of anime characters would and certainly significantly better than most people. However, once again we see that pretty much everyone who comes in contact with Yuki ends up in trouble given the police girl didn’t really have any leads left until Yuki opened up to her.

I don’t feel like this episode got us any closer to actual answers but it did do a lot to consolidate bits and pieces we’d heard before and dropped just enough new titbits to keep me wanting to know more. It is very effective at this whole bread crumb game. Though I’ll end up sorely disappointed if at some point I don’t end up with a loaf of bread.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 6

The first assignment.

Episode 6

Oh look, my guess was right. Episode 5 we’re told about demons with supernatural abilities and episode 6 of Demon Slayer brings us face to face with a demon who moves through water and can just kind of pop out of the ground or walls at will, and somehow has divided himself into three. It isn’t bad foreshadowing so much as just kind of telegraphed and lacking in any kind of build up, but that’s more or less the only fault I’m going to pick here and it is at least a consistent feature of this anime.

Nezuko now has her own custom suitcase to ride around in, or sleep in as the case may be, and while it looks too small for an actual human let’s just go with it. I wonder how much better and faster Tanjiro would be at fighting if he put the case down first before trying to fight. I mean at one point he was fighting a demon while holding a girl and carrying his sister on his back. That has to slow him down some.

That’s something a creepy stalker would say before locking you in a basement.

Just in case we thought his keen sense of smell was just a gimmick this episode uses it as an ongoing point as Tanjiro tracks the demon around town and ultimately uses scent to attack. The visuals of the red smoke for the demon’s scent are quite effective and at least it is a practical counter to an enemy you can’t see until it attacks.

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On that note, Tanjiro’s water based attacks look awesome this episode. Actually, the whole fight sequence was kind of fun, which is just as well because the tracking the demon and the fight took up the lion’s share of the screen time. There was one odd moment where the episode went to first person with Tanjiro’s sword waving in front of the audience that was a little jarring (and to be honest made me a bit queasy – there’s a reason I have no interest in trying virtual reality), but otherwise the visuals worked very well.

Lastly, Nezuko’s appearance at the end was more or less expected but still pretty awesome. I’m not entirely sure about the morality of hypnotising her and I’m pretty sure it would be narratively better if she just wanted to help others because of her attachment to her brother, but it does at least mean they don’t have to justify her actions as she fights demons.

Kimetsu no Yaiba continues to be entertaining and the quick pace of the story means there’s no time to be bored. While there’s not a huge amount of depth here it is working well enough.

He does look good in that uniform though.

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One Punch Man Review Season 2 Episode 4

Meet Metal Bat – He Hits Things With His Bat

Episode 4

While there’s a little of the Saitama joining the martial arts tournament in this episode, he’s decidedly in the background, as this episode focuses on S Class Hero Metal Bat (they really need to fire the guys who come up with these idiotic names). Anyway, Metal Bat is stuck babysitting some executive from the Hero Association and his son when some centipedes attack.

It’s exactly the kind of silliness I came to expect from One Punch Man in season one after the mosquito attack. Really you have one centipede, than a bigger one, before a giant one attacks. Through it all Metal Bat does his hero thing but before he manages to take down the massive one (if he even can), Garou shows up.

See, even as a little kid Garou just wanted monsters to succeed. He has a goal. In any other show he’d be the protagonist.

For those who have enjoyed One Punch Man up until this point, there’s nothing in this episode that will disappoint. Between the ironic humour of Mumen Rider trying to convince Charanko that Saitama would never enter a tournament under a false name because he is a hero to the eye-roll inducing display of ignorance by the executive and his son at a train sushi restaurant, it hits all the right marks to leave you with a smile, particularly when Metal Bat thinks to himself he’s going to kill the executive if one more plate gets put back on the train.

The fight is also interesting enough if standard fare of keep making the enemy bigger. While Metal Bat doesn’t have the most interesting fighting style, I mean he hits things with a bat, they certainly kept him moving and managed to keep each section of the fight fresh as we moved from the restaurant to the street, to seeing the impact across the city.

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My only actual complaint would be the decided lack of Genos this episode.

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Fairy Gone Review Episodes 3 + 4

Why have one coincidence when you can have 5?

Fairy Gone Episode 3

Episode 3

In episode 3, Fairy Gone seems to focus on the black fairy tome. After giving us a few scenes tying up loose ends from their last mission, Free and Marlya meet a Vice-Minister who explains what the fairy tomes are and why people are searching for the black one. Or kind of. Despite the amount of screen time the explanation takes up we still don’t really know why people want it other than it was torn out of the original tome.

From there it should be a simple matter of meet the scholar and collect a piece of the tome but you know why make things easy?

Free encounters yet another face from his past (again, is it really that hard for them to meet new people, does every encounter have to come with back-story and complications) in the form of Bitter Sweet – what a name? There’s some wine drinking and some really unsubtle dialogue and then a chirpy yellow fairy starts creating a raucous.

Because, you know, two groups after the tome wasn’t enough, let’s also throw in the mafia. We then have a three way chase sequence that ends in a bit of a fight and stand-off.

I actually enjoyed most of this, though again it will only work if ultimately these threads they are spinning come together in a satisfying manner. However, it felt like everything took longer than it should and more than once in a scene I found my eyes flicking to the clock to see just how long it had gone.

The other issue with the story being that despite the whole fairy soldiers being more or less wiped out in the war and the creation of them being illegal, it seems like every other person we meet is possessed. Much like continually running into people our protagonists have back-stories inter-connected with, they really are pushing coincidences a little too far. While it might be well and good to say that working in the job they do, Marlya and Free and more likely to encounter fairy possessed people, occasionally you think they would run into someone a little more ordinary.

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Episode 4

Something novel happened; we didn’t begin with a flashback. That said, immediately after completing the fight from last episode we had a flashback but it seems like there’s some progress here.

These fights are still ridiculously dark – need some more contrast here.

I don’t mind the fights between humans and fairies. They took a bit to get used to in this series but watching Free fighting Sweet and Marlya jumping into the fray was pretty cool and the fight in the tomb later was also kind of interesting to watch. Knowing a bit more about the parameters and limitations of the fairies would probably help add weight to some of the fighting, but mostly it works.

I am starting to get the impression that the ministry is pretty useless. I mean, they recovered the tome only to have it stolen almost the next day and it seems they are always a step behind or on the back foot.

Meanwhile, we meet some other characters who clearly work for Dorothea who are searching some other guy’s house though the why is not really clear or who he is, other than a name. It is a little disjointed when you jump from character to character but you don’t know who some of the characters are and others just haven’t been given any time to develop.

Still, the partnership between Free and Marlya has finally worked itself out and we have a bit of flow between the two of them. That’s what I making the majority of this episode pleasant enough to watch. Hopefully these two continue to build some chemistry as the series continues.

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Sword Art Online Alicization Series Review

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 7 Kirito

Proving that more is not always better.

There be spoilers below.

I remember back when Sword Art Online had just begun. I remember the first episode of the Aincrad arc and just how quickly it seemed to pass by and how heavily the bombshell at the end of that episode fell. I remember rapidly skipping to the next episode (it came out before I could stream things as they aired but that meant I could binge) and I remember just how absorbed I became with the characters and the story and just how much fun the whole viewing experience was.

Sword Art Online - Aincrad
Nostalgia, sigh.

Admittedly, the entertainment of the very first series from 2012 shouldn’t really have all that much to do with whether or not this story arc from 2018-2019 is actually any good, nor should I compare them and expect that to be the same. Kirito has grown as a character since then, the technology has moved on, and almost all the other characters we spend any length of time with in Alicization are completely new. It is its own experience but not stand-alone. The events in the real world do require pre-existing knowledge of the franchise to make sense so even if I wanted to give Alicization a clean break from the seasons of SAO past, it wouldn’t really be doable.

Could someone totally new to the franchise start with Alicization?

Sure. They’d miss some context for things but mostly I doubt that would change the overall viewing experience. Except perhaps that a new viewer would go in without any expectations of Sword Art Online and so some of the disappointment I faced while watching Aliciation wouldn’t have played a factor. Maybe a new audience member could just enjoy a romp in the new world with the new cast and not wonder what happened to the cool and reckless Kirito before he ‘grew up’ and became the boring, moralising and largely passive protagonist we encounter here.

I know. I just called Kirito boring. I didn’t think I’d ever do that. Lots of other people did even back in Aincrad but I always really liked Kirito as a character. Alicization was the killing blow though.

Part of this is because Kirito spends a large part of Alicization seemingly mentoring Eugeo. Being pushed into a mentor or teacher role means that he does need to explain and sermonise and take the high ground in order to lead by example. It also means standing back at times and taking the background role to let the student grow. And honestly, given the context of Alicization, which I’ll get to in a bit, Kirito moving into that role makes perfect sense, but it isn’t interesting.

The sacrifice of Kirito’s spirit and character, though a significant blow to my enjoyment of the franchise, possibly could have been rationalised as Eugeo is actually an interesting character to watch grow. While never as interesting or dynamic as Aincrad’s Kirito, he wasn’t a bad substitute. However, Eugeo’s character arc comes to an abrupt and fairly pointless and ridiculous end by the end of this half of Alicization. So ultimately I watched Kirito help another character grow at the expense of being entertaining in his own right and then that character isn’t going to do anything because they are already finished. Or at least, finished enough as I don’t doubt SAO’s ability to come up with rubbish reasons for this not to be the end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito
Or Kirito, you could maybe do something. That would be nice.

This isn’t the first time Kirito has had someone he’s mentored and helped has died. The Moonlit Black Cats, particularly Sachi, were a large part of his character growth in Aincrad and Sachi’s death left emotional scars that Kirito had to work really hard to overcome.

The problem is that Eugeo’s character had pretty much 20 something episodes of mentoring and then before he surpassed his master he died and his death hasn’t seemed to amount to anything, though perhaps they’ll capitalise on it in the next half. All I know is that it left an incredible taste of dissatisfaction in my mouth.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23
Well, it was nice getting to know you Eugeo, even if it turns out to be pointless.

For all that I’ve just attacked the characters, I’m now going to back up a bit and actually look at the fundamental problems in Alicization as a series. Keep in mind, there are some really great moments throughout the 24 episodes. Sequences where one character or another really rises up and does something cool and dramatic and for a moment you can just get swept away. So I am not saying there’s nothing good about Alicization.

However, what really hurts Alicization, other than the time difference between events in the real world and the events in underworld which results in Asuna and the others getting bare minimum screen time and an absolute lack of audience buy in to the event in the real world…

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 6
Wouldn’t we love for this to have actually been explored. Sure maybe they’ll get to it in the second half but how long does it take to actually get to a point?

Okay, the time thing probably needs its own section because it was a really unnecessary contrivance that really hurt the pacing of the real world events. With the large gaps of time between when we even saw characters in the real world and how little progress that plot made over the course of a whole season, because events in Underworld move fast, it just isn’t a very effective way to tell a story, particularly in a season spread over more than six months. Perhaps binge watching would alleviate some of this issue but honestly, at times I all but forgot what Asuna and the others were even doing so the dramatic final for them really had next to no impact.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 6 Asuna

Right, so what really hurts Alicization, other than all that stuff, is the way they execute the story. The idea behind Alicization is actually really interesting with souls being digitalised and raised within a virtual world. The pseudo-science techno-babble explanations of the how and the why don’t really help here but the concept is cool. The problems within that world where those in control of the command codes are corrupt and others are forced through the Taboo Index to essentially obey those of higher standing within the world.

I mean, it isn’t terrible original if we put it in the context of a dystopian kind of story, but it works and there’s a lot of potential ideas for exploration and so many potential paths for the story to take.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Eugeo
And yes, I’m deliberately not going to discuss the use of sexual assault here. It actually fits what the narrative was trying to do and people have already discussed the execution of the scene to death. With so many other issues in the anime to address, the lack of nuance around this particular development is hardly the gravest sin.

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And while Alicization does take some interesting paths and does explore some of the concepts, it does it in an incredibly poorly conceived manner. Where large chunks of information are given to us through forced exposition in the form of incredibly long and artificial sounding dialogue exchanges between characters, and a lot of that information is either repetitive of previous bits of information, or just so abstract that it will make no difference whether the audience has it explained or not, it just doesn’t make for interesting viewing.

Imagine you were watching some kind of fast paced sporting tournament and every now and then the competitors stopped, poured out some cups of teas, and sat around discussing their motives, training methods, and the history of their coach. Then they just get up and start competing again.

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator
Buckle up, this conversation is taking a whole episode. You’ll get flash backs, but they are just going to keep on talking.

Alright, Alicization wasn’t that bad, but the analogy is kind of apt in terms of the enjoyment in viewing.

When you throw in the fact that Kirito and Eugeo set out from Eugeo’s home town to find Alice and end up enrolling in a school and just happily training for a few years (happily may be an exaggeration) and it doesn’t seem like they are in any kind of hurry to achieve their goal, the pace of this story seems all over the shop and goals that drive characters seem to do so selectively. Even once they get to the tower and begin facing off against Integrity Knights, it is very hard to care about these characters as antagonists and their motives for fighting, or not fighting, are really hard to swallow sometimes. As is Alice’s rapid decision to work with Kirito when they were hanging outside of the tower.

Sword Art Online Alicization Eugeo
Yep, priorities.

What it comes down to is you’d get a moment of excitement or interesting interaction and then Alicization would hit the breaks to explain something to you and just when things got going again it would do the same. With the narrative pacing off the characters really needed to step up to sell some of these exchanges only they didn’t. Outside of Kirito and Eugeo, barely anyone got any screen time and the few who did didn’t really draw me into the story so much as just existed within it.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 4

The music is workable but doesn’t give anywhere near the sense of excitement that I found in the score in the original series. Visuals work fine and the various attacks are pretty cool to watch. Eugeo really wins out here with his sword being exceptionally beautiful and its attack leads to some really interesting effects. Kirito is less lucky and because he gets limited time to go crazy with his sword there are far less moments where he just looks super cool on screen in Alicization. However, overall, Alicization is kind of average to look at. Character designs work as do settings but very little of it is stand out or amazing.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo Ice

I really did want to like this latest Sword Art Online. I was excited about the return of the franchise and to be honest, my love of the original has meant that subsequent iterations get a lot of leeway. However, Sword Art Online Alicization is not just not good, it is openly obnoxious at times as it drags the audience along and through unnecessarily long sequences and seems to care little about making any character actually more than just another plot point to be resolved. The end results is I didn’t have much fun watching it and realistically, if it hadn’t had the SAO connection, I’d have dropped it after the first cour rather than persevering through all 24 episodes. What’s worse than holding on 24 episodes? Watching 24 episodes for the thing to end on a cliff-hanger.

I feel like I’m writing a break up text to SAO with this review.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this. For those newer anime fans, I still think trying the original SAO is worth it despite the online hate factory for it, but Alicization is a lesser show in almost every way imaginable and while there were many readers of the light novels proclaiming that Alicization would fix the narrative issues with SAO, I think Alicization the anime just found new and improved ways to annoy an audience.

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Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Review Episode 5

The tender shounen protagonist.

Episode 5

And here we go getting an abbreviated version of the fight we saw at the end of the last episode and between the demon’s head getting lopped and his death we see a flashback of his terrible luck turning into a demon and killing his family before the demon slayer came. I always wondered in Bleach why they felt that as a character was dying it was a good time to give the audience some context for their behaviour and life. I mean really, we might have cared back when they were still involved in things but given they are in the process of dying I don’t think it makes all that much difference.

Tanjiro’s farewell to the demon and to the other children trained by his master was however an affective moment and one that distinguishes Tanjiro from the other demon slayers we’ve seen thus far. His continued efforts to communicate with demons and to try to find a solution to his sister’s condition, even while he fights them is fairly admirable even if not overly practical. At least he isn’t hesitating to land the final blow anymore.

Most of these kids never even spoke or had any real screen time and yet I still feel kind of sad for them.

The test complete, the few survivors get a brief run down on levels and stuff and we have the sickly sweet Tanjiro, the girl who stares vaguely away for almost the entire sequence, the scaredy cat, and the angry and obnoxious guy. It isn’t the most nuanced scene and while I’m sure the choosing the ore is significant, really this scene was perhaps the low point in the episode. His new crow is cute though later when the crow speaks the voice isn’t at all what I was expecting and it kind of killed some of the cuteness.

However, Tanjiro finally returns and Nezuko is conveniently awake. They really are just having her sleep and wake to their own narrative convenience, but awake she is in order to welcome Tanjiro home. The music swells as he hugs her and then the master comes out to hug them both. It is sweet, touching, and entirely over-wrought. Served which about as much subtlety as the reminders of Tanjiro’s sense of smell or the demons being evil. It works, to be sure, but without any nuance it is a scene that is brazenly asking your heart to swell with the music and to be honest Demon Slayer has yet to move me emotionally so mostly I just kind of noted what it was trying but felt little.

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By the end of the episode Nezuko is back asleep and Tanjiro has a first assignment. Of course, his master warned him about demons who can use supernatural powers so given he was warned about body morphing demons just before he was attacked by one I guess we can assume his first assignment involves a demon with magic powers?

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Fairy Gone Review Episodes 1 + 2

Messy beginning but potentially intriguing premise.

Episode 1

Well, having read many first impressions and early episode reviews of Fairy Gone I’d definitely revised my expectations downwards and that kind of paid off. While I can see why the first episode at least hasn’t exactly wowed viewers, I actually found it worked well enough. Sure, I doubt we needed to start the episode with a history lesson of places we don’t know or care about and I am almost positive we could have gained most that information more organically later, and I know the designs of the fairies are pretty much beyond ugly, but otherwise this did its job of kind of making me interested it intends to go.

Contrast would be nice.

One thing that does concern me is the absolute lack of chemistry between Marlya and Free. The two of them have many scenes together and exchanges in this first episode and while it kind of seems like they are trying to set up some kind of banter between the two, mostly the dialogue is coming off as stilted and the two are absolutely making no connection. I really hope they don’t intend for this to ever develop into any kind of romance because that would be as realistic and entertaining as watching a broom stick fall in love with a mop.

Marlya and Free - Fairy Gone Episode 1

There’s also a lot of information dumping going on in this episode outside of the history lesson. Free explains a lot of stuff to Marlya in a storage room that kind of seems like she should already know it given where she is and it is difficult for me to figure out how much of that information is relevant or that I need to care about.

Then there are the fairies that Veronica, Free and Marlya all use in this first episode. The connection and relationship between the human and the fairy is ill-defined. Veronica’s seems to have physical form and deflects bullets and things away from but also seems to turn into smoke and attack those she’s cut with her dagger, but the connection between the two is not really clear. Also, the fairy seems to disappear and then is called back but whether it can do this indefinitely or not is also pretty vague.

Still, considering I went into this with substantially lowered expectations after reading some reviews, I was pleased to find the first episode at least was watchable and given the genre and subject matter, I’m going to give it a little bit to find its feet because I’d like to see what it might do.

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Episode 2

This anime has already established a really weird pattern of putting seemingly irrelevant flashbacks at the beginning of the episode. I don’t know if Fairy Gone was trying to establish character backstory or what but the disconnected scenes we got at the start of this episode didn’t elicit any emotion other than some kind of desire for them to get to a point. We don’t care enough about the characters to care about random deaths in their background, particularly when none of the characters or events seem connected to what follows in this episode.

This guy’s name was Jet. He died instead of Free during the war. Why that matters I have no idea.

That said, once the episode proper began with Free making his report on the events of last week and then Free and Marlya joining up with two other members of Free’s team to spy on a possible arms deal, the rest of the episode proceeded relatively logically and entertainingly enough. Considering how much the characters seem to like explaining things it would be nice if we actually knew the limitations of the fairies but that seems like we’re just asking for too much and so we see Marlya unable to summon her fairy again after it was injured but that seems kind of random. How much do you have to injure the fairy to prevent its summoning given Veronica’s was injured last week but managed to still be summoned?

It also seems overly convenient that this week’s antagonist is summon from Free’s past given Veronica, last week, was from Marlya’s past. Given the whole unification war and that they are all travelling about, could they possibly just deal with someone not intricately tied into their past? Would these stories not have more impact if they came later after establishing the main characters a bit more so we were actually more caring about their backgrounds?

Wolf and Marlya - Fairy Gone Episode 2

There’s also some questionable design choices going on here with the transports just looking outright ludicrous as they scurry about and tip over seemingly far too easily.

But, despite the complaints, I am kind of curious and Free and Marlya seem a little more in sync this week. Wolf also seems like he might be an interesting antagonist if they actually bother to develop him. There’s plenty of potential plot fodder bubbling along here with different factions and levels of command and so I think I’ll kind of stay hopeful that maybe this one actually does eventually do something with all that potential. Those hopes might be dashed later, but for now I’ll keep watching.

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