Friday’s Feature: The Value Of Rewatches

I’m no stranger to rewatching shows. Even when I was a little kid, I would play VHS’s literally to death. I’d watch my favourite shows and movies time after time, getting to the end of the video and instantly hitting rewind and beginning all over again. Once DVD’s became a thing there were many titles banned from being played in the house usually when I could identify the film from the five seconds of sound. I will admit I’ve watched some films to death to the point where even I won’t watch them anymore and I’ve done the same with more than a handful of books where I start reading them and realise I can literally recall the entire story in vivid detail to the point where I’m not even paying attention to the words anymore.

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This is in stark contrast to some other people I know. A certain relative of mine used to be a great source of novels, mostly because he would read science fiction but he only ever read a book once. Then he would give the book away and knowing I loved to read I received quite a number of these books to add to my own collection. When I asked him if he would want the book back he asked me, “Whatever for?” He genuinely could not understand the point of reading something a second time, let alone a third, tenth or fiftieth time. Whereas for me, the point of trying something new is to see whether it belongs in the permanent collection or not and my greatest lament is that I don’t have enough time to bask in the books, movies and anime that comprise my ongoing collection and explore new media, and actually live a life that involves real human interactions and work.

That said, if you were to ask me what I get from a rewatch or reread my answer would vary depending on what I had recently returned to. It seems to come down to a few basic things.

01. The Rewatch To Understand

Darker Than Black

In the case of something like the original Steins;Gate, Darker than Black, or Evangelion, the rewatch is usually needed to try to get the plot clear in my mind. While I didn’t not get it the first time (way too many negatives there), it is more that a lot of the enjoyment isn’t there the first time because you are spending so much time reasoning and puzzling rather than actually absorbing. It also means you miss substantial amounts of character work, visuals, music, etc because the plot is all encompassing. Repeated rewatches, taking a break and coming back to it, watching in chunks or binge watching, all bring something new out of the experience. Even after the plot is clear, there’s so many other questions and aspects that you can turn your attention to that it never feels like the anime has gotten old.

02. The Rewatch To Relax

Akagami no Shirayuki

There’s a great feeling that comes from crashing into the couch cushions and hitting play on a DVD that I’ve seen a thousand times before. One that I know won’t tax my brain, isn’t going to ask more of me than I can give, and at the time has the exact tone I am looking for. You can’t get this from a series you’ve never seen as you never know what to fully expect and part of your brain stays on alert. Whereas, I know exactly what I’m in for when I press play on Snow White with the Red Hair, Ouran High School Host Club, or even Inu x Boku SS which are all some of my favourite binge and sleep anime that I put on when I just want to crash out.

03. The Rewatch To Share

Yuri on Ice Episode 4

Of course when you come across a great title you want to share. you want someone else to watch it with and to laugh and cry and discuss each moment with it. One of the best things that happened the first time I watched Yuri on Ice was that just after it finished airing I visited a friend and told her she needed to see it. Two days later we’d finished a binge watch of the series and the two of us were happily humming History Maker in her kitchen together. There’s something about watching a show with someone else that really elevates the enjoyment of it, plus you have someone to talk about it with once it is done so this is perhaps the most satisfying of all rewatches.

And then we have the new one.

04. The Rewatch to Analyse

Yuri on Ice Episode 6

I’ve never really done this before, but recently I started yet another Yuri on Ice rewatch with the express purpose of reviewing each episode in far more detail than I had before. It’s a new style of watching I’ve never tried and I’m loving it. Admittedly, a lot of the enjoyment is coming from the subject matter, but it is making me want to give other much loved shows a similar treatment. What I have noticed is that it is taking a very long time to get through a single episode and it isn’t a single watch of the episode I am doing. The other thing that makes this different from any other rewatch is I am only watching a single episode at a time. This viewing is not being binged. I’ll get back to my Yuri On Ice rewatch later this year once things settle a bit for me.

While I do get that some people are happy enough to watch something once and move on, I am as well for shows that are enjoyable enough but don’t grab me. However, the whole point for me is finding those shows and stories that I will never get tired of and want to watch and read again and again.

What is your stance on rewatching anime?

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Friday’s Feature: Plot vs Character and What is Darling in the Franxx?

There’s something of an ongoing debate going about whether stories are better when they are plot driven or character driven, or whether some sort of balance is needed in between the two. For me, it always comes down to what type of story it is as to what I prefer the focus to be.

For example, I loved Fruits Basket even though the anime has almost no plot. Tohru is living rough when she’s taken in by the Sohma’s and then she meets various Sohma’s and helps them out with various things but there’s no real driving plot. There’s the ongoing issue of the curse and some of the inner workings of the family that link things together as well as the characters themselves, but realistically it is the characters and their interactions that drive the audience’s engagement with the story. The plot itself isn’t really doing that.

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However, there are some anime that take the same approach as Fruits Basket and bore me silly. I end up wondering why the plot can’t get moving along. This is usually when I haven’t made any kind of a connection with the characters and so their interactions offer little of interest for me. Other people will find the cast perfectly charming and the story will work for them, but it ends up being very much about whether the characters work for them or not.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my overall preference would be for stories that had a clear and driving plot. A definite goal that is being headed for and an end point that can either be achieved or failed. I’ll put up with some fairly ordinary characterisation as long as I can see where the average characters are trying to get to and I’m interested in that journey.

But what do we do with stories that can’t seem to decide what they are?

And by that, I don’t mean character driven stories that actually have a plot (such as Baccano) or plot driven stories that put some time into their characters (Psycho Pass), but rather stories where the character development seems to be actively competing with and at times undermining plot development.

psycho

Our current case study: Darling in the Franxx.

The first episode of Darling in the Franxx set up a real standard dystopian future with generic teens becoming mecha pilots and having to protect their city from some inhuman enemy. Certainly Zero Two as a character left an impression even back at episode 1, but the episode itself was very much setting up a plot driven story. At its core we had Hiro, the one who was being left behind having failed to become a pilot and having had to fight to overcome this, finally getting a chance to pilot with Zero Two, the rumoured pilot killer.

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As expected, the next couple of episodes focused on this partnership that allowed Hiro to overcome this weakness and gave some backstory on the main character. There were some diversions as other characters had a little bit of development to flesh out the world. And then they face a minor crisis, the third time piloting which was meant to be the end of the road.

All of this was pretty standard fare for the genre and while some of it was clearly exaggerated to a level that almost became self-parody, it was setting up what should have been a really interesting story.

From episode 7 on, however, the story has kind of flopped about and if the last two episodes are anything to go by, we’ve become strictly a character drama set to a back-drop of the dystopian world.

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Episode 7 of course being the infamous beach episode. While it did some world building and had some character moments, we all know why the super controlling adults let the kids spend a day unsupervised on a beach. The production team wanted an excuse to put the cast in swimsuits. It broke the logic of the world and just because they give us an explainer about one of the scientists being eccentric and trying different things doesn’t mean we need to swallow it.

We had progressive episodes after that which moved us through the support cast and gave them all more depth and interest. It was lovely and all but it started to feel like a totally different show. Then we had the blow up with Ichigo and Zero Two in episode 14 where fans went crazy and I honestly had to stop and wonder why they cared so much. Sure there had always been the whole love triangle going on but to me it had always been background to a story that kept getting buried and delayed. The only reason I cared about it at all was because the character relationships directly effected their ability to pilot.

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Then episode 15 hit us with a massive amount of plot points, utterly and completely buried under a thinly disguised teen melodrama.

Which made me think that maybe the entire time I had it wrong. Maybe Darling in the Franxx never intended to be plot driven. Maybe the robots and dystopian setting were all just background to a teen version of Days of Our Lives and it just took me 15 episodes to notice.

My problem with that theory is that the first episode doesn’t support it. Actually, the first three episodes don’t support that idea. The characterisation is very much background as the plot is being firmly established. It is just after the ground work was laid down, the story abandoned it in favour of character development.

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And that’s where we get this character vs plot problem.

This story isn’t delivering a satisfying plot because for chunks of it at a time the plot has been forgotten and when we finally had some plot development it was rushed through and not given the time and attention needed to have an impact.

And the character drama, while it is definitely a drama, comes in after the fact and just kind of starts taking all the attention but at the same time what it is offering isn’t really that unique. It’s just another teen romance gone wrong and if that was what the show was going to be about, I probably wouldn’t have signed up to watch it.

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What really gets me here, is that we’ve seen character driven mecha anime done right. Neon Genesis Evangelion all but wrote the book on teen drama and mecha pilots. And it was extraordinary.

The key difference?

Even in episode 1 of Evangelion, when they were definitely setting up the setting and the plot, the audience became aware of Shinji as a character and his short comings and the issues he would overcome. He wasn’t generic pilot protagonist who we might get to know later, as Hiro definitely was early on in the Franxx (though I guess people who like Hiro’s character will probably disagree with me on that). It kind of links to what I said at the start of this post. I enjoy character driven stories when I connect with the character and Evangelion did it right.

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Darling in the Franxx made me think I was getting a plot driven story and has since delivered more or less anything but, and the overall impression I’m left with is that it is just a bit of a mess that hasn’t quite figured out what it wanted to be. That isn’t to say that a lot of what has happened hasn’t been interesting. There are definitely things to think about and moments that have been pretty spectacular. But to look at the anime as a whole, my main impression would be that it is messy and a little bit problematic.

What do you think?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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March Podcast for Patrons – Mecha Anime

This month I turned my attention to Mecha anime in my podcast for patrons (patrons, if you are wanting the password for the podcast post, it is available on my patreon site for you). If you are interested the following anime are discussed:

  • Evangelion
  • Gundam
  • Full Metal Panic
  • Star Driver
  •  Knights of Sidonia
  •  Heavy Object
  • Code Geass
  • Darling in the Franxx

If you are interested in becoming a patron and accessing the monthly podcast or patron only episode reviews, please visit my patreon site. I am going to continue to work towards creating better content and a greater variety of content and I really appreciate your support.

Goals - March 2018

Once I reach $50 a month I plan to hopefully release a video post for patrons (and once I get better at making videos doing this with some frequency).

At $100 a month I plan to remove WordAds from my site which means patron only posts will not have any advertising attached to them.

At $300 a month, in addition to patron videos that will hopefully be more regular by then, I will produce 1 video post a month for the blog which patrons will have early access to. Increasing that to 2 video posts a month at $500. Though these are goals at this point in time and will need to be reviewed as I get closer to these targets.

However, I would love to know what you would like to see on the blog and if you become a patron what you would like to see as a reward. Be sure to let me know in the comments of visit my patreon site and give me some feedback.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to see Patreon2more great content on this blog, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month.

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Another way you can support the content here is by buying a copy of ‘Thoughts on Anime 2017‘ as an ebook. It contains a selection of reviews, features and top 5 lists from 2017 and while the content is available free on the site, this is a great way to give a one off show of support for the blog. It is available for $3.99.

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Top 5: Character Poses

Tuesday's Top 5

Pretty much every anime fan will admit that at some stage they definitely struck the pose of their favourite character (usually a fighter) in real life. There’s something very cool about character poses on screen and something utterly ridiculous about using them in real life and yet some cosplayers really pull it off. Today my top 5 includes 5 character poses I love seeing and am really glad that they are either parodied regularly in other anime or that cosplayers enjoy them too because it means endless streams of images to admire.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Rika from Chuunibyou

Number 5: Steins;Gate

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This one is fantastic but mostly because you can actually pull it off in real life without looking too ridiculous, which makes it a fairly safe pick for most people who while they would like more anime in their everyday life don’t want to have people start avoiding eye-contact with them. There are some more dramatic poses from Steins;Gate but the back to back in the lab coats is pretty classic.

Number 4: Soul Eater

Maka and Soul.jpg

I’ll admit, Death the Kid with Patty and Liz is also pretty iconic but there is something insanely fun about taking on one of Maka’s stances and if you happen to have your scythe handy (or a broom stick or anything else really) you can really prepare to fight. Of course, the key to Maka’s look is not actually how she stands given other than the crouch it isn’t exactly the same each time, the key is in that piercing gaze. Nail that and it won’t matter how ridiculous you look.

Number 3: Evangelion

Gendo pose.jpg

The Gendo Pose. Probably doesn’t need much explanation and while it isn’t really a cosplayer favourite, it is an overly referenced and parodied look in anime. Plus, it is all kinds of fun to strike it in meetings when no one knows what you are doing. Even more fun if one person knows what you are doing and the rest are oblivious.

Number 2: Full Metal Alchemist

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I dare you to tell me you watched either version of Full Metal Alchemist and didn’t at one point in the month after the viewing clap your hands together when something broke or didn’t work. It may not be the coolest pose but once again it is all about the attitude while doing it. This isn’t a clap your hands if you believe in fairies moment.

Number 1: Sailor Moon

Sailor pose.jpg

I should probably attribute this one to the fact that I was significantly younger when I watched Sailor Moon but I most definitely spent more time than I will ever admit practicing and perfecting each of the Sailor Scout’s poses. And their attacks. And pretty much anything else to do with the show. Favourites were of course Jupiter and Mars for attacks. But very little beats Sailor Moon’s transformation stance and then her little monologue ending with “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you”.

Okay, time to spill. What is your favourite anime pose or which one will you admit to practising in front of your TV?

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Appealing Anime Titles

Tuesday's Top 5

I’ve recently noticed that some anime have had some really interesting title images and thinking back I felt this list really did need an update. Not that the original titles on the list are in any way bad, just not so sure some of them hold up visually if I take away the nostalgia lens. So, here is the updated list of visually appealing anime titles. As always though, I would love to know what your choices would be so please leave us a comment below.

Please Note – Probably no spoilers this week.

Honourable mentions go to:

Vampire Knight and Tsubasa Chronicles and 91 Days.

Removed from the list: 

Evangelion – previously at number 3. I’m kind of sad about this one because the Evangelion title is actually really visually distinct and I certainly have very fond memories of it. However, looking at it now, it just doesn’t hold up to the others on the list.

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Attack on Titan – previously at number 2. As gorgeous as the image is and as iconic as the opening scene is, just looking at the title itself, this one really doesn’t hold up and needs to come off the list.

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Another – Previously at number 4. Another still totally fits the anime but again, it just can’t compare with some of the new titles I’ve added to the list so it had to come off. Still, it is a brilliant and simplistic title that serves its anime well.

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Number 5: Darling in the Franxx

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Okay, I have a lot of issues with the Darling in the Franxx anime but the title isn’t one of them. Actually, the whole OP is pretty spot on even if it feels a trifle wasted on the anime it is attached to. It is full of iconic moments and visuals and the title itself really does an excellent job of getting you interested in the show. If only the show managed to be good enough to deserve it.

Number 4: Sailor Moon (1990’s)


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Alright, it doesn’t look like much these days but back when I first saw this anime the opening song and the final shot with the girls striking a pose behind the title really left an impression. You have the main cast, including the cats (even before all the characters were introduced so you knew who was coming), you’ve got the crescent moon in both the sky and behind the title, you have the love heart over the I, and the weird spot light on the scouts with the rest of the background detail left kind of hazy but still quite pretty. By my tastes today, I probably wouldn’t think too much of this title, but the lingering impression it left forced me to concede this title serves an absolute purpose in appealing to the target audience of the show so it deserved a place on my list.

Number 3: Bleach

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This title used to be number one and in terms of nostalgia is still my number one (even over sailor moon). Why? Because it absolutely screams what the show is, which is larger than life. More importantly, this basic text title with it’s red, white and blue colour scheme is recognisable and stands out from the crowd. The flames out the side frame it perfectly. The whole thing is fun and not taking itself overly seriously while at the same time making you feel there’s something more to it.

Bleach actually gets a double hit here because in addition to the series title being iconic every single episode gets it’s own eye-catching thematically appropriate episode title screen. Preparing you for the episode to come in both subject matter and tone (even if you don’t get it when you see it at the start of the episode by the end you’ll know exactly why the title looked like that). I still haven’t done that top 5 list of Bleach episode titles and I really need to get on it.

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Number 2: Voice of Fox

Fox Title Screen

This really impressed me (for what it was) during the Autumn season. While it isn’t going to go on a best of the season list any time soon, there’s something quite enjoyable about it. However, the episode title is what really stood out to me as it really captures the spirit of the show and is incredibly iconic. You can get a fair idea of the emotions and ideas in the show just by looking at that title and the small details such as the flower in the centre, the use of limited colours, and everything else about that title screen just works.

Number 1: Banana Fish

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The text doesn’t get more basic than bold, black capital, however the words aligned beautifully with the water and the cityscape is visually compelling and there is no doubt that this was the title I most clearly remember of all the more recent anime and the one that I recognise the quickest when I see it. Not to mention, it lays the scene for the story and draws you straight back into the world of Ash and to be honest it is a fantastic title screen. Again, it doesn’t need to be complicated to be memorable.

Alright, over to you. What anime titles have grabbed your attention?

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Karandi James
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XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Reasons to Watch Evangelion

Tuesday's Top 5

With the Netflix release of Neon Genesis Evangelion coming up, it seemed like a good time to dust off this post and revise it a little. And no, I still haven’t actually written a review of Evangelion but I’m pretty sure I am going to make that a priority to tackle early in 2019. In the meantime, here are my top 5 reasons why you should watch Evangelion – they’ve been updated a bit since when the post originally came out in 2017. If you haven’t before, next year is the perfect time to get into this.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: The Online Discussions

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Originally this was number 5 on my list but I’m going to be honest, in reconsidering what I love about Evangelion, this one didn’t rank as highly as some of the other points. Still, love or hate Evangelion, there’s a lot of ongoing discussions and debates about this anime. It is pretty much everywhere and anyone who has watched it has an opinion and those opinions are very diverse. The problem is, you can’t engage in these discussions until you watch the show.

Number 5: The Broken Characters

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Some people love the characters of Evangelion and see them as deep with real emotions and emotional scars. Others just like looking at the girls in their flight suits. Whichever way you choose to look at the characters of Evangelion, what has to be obvious is that each and every character is fundamentally broken. We have a hero who isn’t just a wimp, he is all but completely passive about life except in a few key moments.

The supporting team of heroes is made up of one who has an inferiority complex made significantly worse after she becomes fully aware that she isn’t the one who is actually going to save the day and the other who seems equally indifferent about the fate of the world as the hero. We have the workers of Nerv all of whom are pursuing their own agendas and the members of the oversight committee who think they are in control of most of the other people but really are more or less helpless spectators.

Individually these characters aren’t particularly interesting or particularly good characters outside of the context of this show. But as a cast they pose so many questions and reflect so many of the darker sides of human nature that the sum is definitely greater than the parts that make up the cast of this anime.

What works is that each of these characters presents to us a recognisable fault or flaw that we might see in ourselves or others. They make us consider who we are and how we interact with others. And, most importantly, they deliver some fantastic moments along the way. Passive, helpless, broken, or not, these kids save the world an incredible number of times and it isn’t any wonder that it takes a toll on their fragile mental health particularly when they aren’t exactly being cared for in the most suitable manner.

Number 4: You’ll Get The References

Seriously, Evangelion is one of the most over-referenced anime I have ever seen. Not that intertextual references are a bad thing but it has gotten to the point where people are referencing the references and the actual source material and purpose are kind of getting forgotten. Still, seeing a Gendo pose, an AT field, any quote about a machine not responding, the epiphany sequence (totally used in the Simpsons movie as well as a whole bunch of anime), the monoliths (though these were definitely borrowed even when they appeared in Evangelion), and so on can just make you smile. There are literally references to this anime everywhere in other anime, in TV shows and movies.

Number 3: Can The World Be Saved?

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I love that Evangelion takes place in a world that has been broken but is trying to rebuild. Facing the same threat again, it seems humanity is scrambling for a way to survive and like all good anime finds the only salvation in dysfunctional teenagers, but the world isn’t saved. At least not in any kind of form that would be considered saved in a traditional story. It puts all the struggles and minor triumphs these characters go through into perspective and the ending, while severely open to interpretation, really makes you think about all those stories where some big bad is just kind of swept away with limited fall out and makes you wonder about the credibility of either the evil they were facing and the effectiveness of the heroes.

Number 2: The theme song ‘Cruel Angel Thesis’ is amazing.

Originally this one was only an honourable mention, but that didn’t really do it justice. Long after the show is done, the opening song will linger within you and just hearing the first few notes can plunge you into a nostalgia trip that will last the whole day. This was the second anime theme song I learned to sing in Japanese (the first being Sailor Moon), and even now when I hear it I can’t help but sing along (very badly, off key, and with a lot of mispronunciations but I don’t really care).

There are few OP’s as iconic as this one, though for me Yuri On Ice’s History Maker comes close and I’ll see how I still feel about that one in another decade.

Number 1: It Makes You Think

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Again, whether you love this show in the end or hate it, whether you think the references are simply religious jargon tossed around and the symbolism is mish-mashed, whether the characters work for you or not, what Evangelion does brilliantly is pose questions for the audience to ponder. You may not like the answer you are presented with (or you may not be presented with an answer), but you will have questions and feel that there is more than one possible answer.

There we have it, my revised top 5 reasons why I would say you should watch Evangelion (other than, it’s Evangelion). If you’ve seen it what reasons would you give for watching it, or not? More importantly, with it arriving on Netflix (new dub or not) will you be watching it?

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NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
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