Top 5 Anime in Historical Settings

Tuesday's Top 5

I’m going to be honest, this list was harder than I first thought and that is because I made the decision early on to not include anime from fantasy historical settings. They had to be real places (or close enough). Now, that doesn’t mean my choices are based on historical accuracy, because they definitely aren’t, but I just wanted to exclude all the vaguely European/pseudo-medieval fantasy settings before I began thinking through the list. That said, there are still a few anime, like Princess Principal, that just didn’t make the final list. So as always, I’d love to know what some of your favourites are so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Number 5: Sirius the Jaeger

Admittedly, this one is a newer anime for me as I’ve only watched it recently, but I had a lot of fun with it. I also enjoyed the 1930’s setting in Tokyo and the travelling about the group did. While it probably isn’t going to get massive points for historical accuracy (not entirely convinced about vampires plotting to take over the world and working with factions of the Japanese military), the time period felt very much a part of the story and the setting was very nicely integrated. All and all, this one was just fun to watch.

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

Number 4: 91 Days

Set in the Prohibition Era (1920’s – 1930’s), 91 Days isn’t set in a real place but is kind of a composite of fairly similar places in America during the era. And again, the setting is very much a part of the story and the era, and its many cliches that have been constructed largely through fiction, are very much integrated into this story. I really did like the set up for this anime and the setting was great, or at least it was different from another Japanese classroom setting, so while I found the middle of the narrative got a little lost, I really did enjoy a lot of aspects of 91 Days.

91 Days

Number 3: Baccano

Well, we’re still stuck around the 1930’s, but this time we’re in Chicago. Baccano is just fun from start to finish with larger than life characters all with their own stories being interwoven in a fast paced mess that comes together beautifully by the end. Whether you are enjoying the story of the immortals gangsters, wondering what happened to the missing brother, following the massacre on the train, or any of the other events, Baccano is one story that knew exactly what it wanted to be and it took the audience on an incredibly ride.

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Number 2: Katanagatari

I knew at some point on this list I’d have to include something from the Edo period in Japan, and then I remembered Katanagatari is incredibly loosely set in the real world and not a fantasy setting. Now, I loved this anime and I’ve recently fallen in love with the first volume of the books, and it is just a great story in its simplicity. Two characters are trying to collect 12 swords. There’s a lot of politics and character background information that fleshes out what seems like an incredibly simple story, but ultimately this one is really fun, visually stunning, and the setting is fantastic.

Number 1: Black Butler

It is a good thing I clarified I didn’t care about historical accuracy because one friend of mine at least found Black Butler truly dreadful. Set in the Victorian era in England, the story follows a young Earl and his butler as they go about solving mysteries on behalf of the Queen and while the Earl tries to find those responsible for the death of his parents and his own trauma. And yeah, there’s a lot of liberties taken with the setting and time period but I absolutely love Black Butler so it had to top this list.

As I said, I’d love to know your top picks so be sure to leave a comment.

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Katanagatari One – Novel Review

Katanagatari Cover Art

I tend to let it be well known that I have a serious love of books. I surround myself with them in my daily life. Books I’ve read, books I mean to read, books I plan to read again… Piles of books stacked on shelves and in odd little corners all in an order that makes perfect sense to me and me alone. I will seldom be found without a couple of books in the bag I’m carrying and certainly wouldn’t travel without the lighter e-reader version of a library.

So with that context, when I say that Katanagatari 1, a compilation of the first three stories of Sword Tale, is an extraordinary book, I do not say that lightly. I say it with love and admiration as right from when I first opened the package this one arrived in and felt the cover and admired the art work, that there is something very special about this book.

Katanagatari - Fold out image - Togame and Shichika

Part of that may be it is a rare case where I have a hardback version of a book, if only because there was no paperback version and I was keen enough to read this story that I did splurge a little on my usual book budget (a decision I do not regret in the slightest). However, unlike many hardcover books with their plain cover and then floppy book jacket that gets in the way while reading until you simply discard it in irritation, this one has the art beautifully attached to the actual cover with no flappy extras to interfere with the texture and feeling of the book or with trying to read it.

Now, full disclosure, I was already in love with the narrative here because the anime is something of an extraordinary watch with its 12 episodes of 40 minutes and quite unique art style. So I went in to this one knowing the basic outline of the story and what to expect. Still, I feel that whether you go in knowing or not nothing can diminish the pure joy of reading this book.

Katangatari - original table of contents spread

The care gone in to the book’s presentation only continues on the inside. The fold out art work is stunning, a table of contents given in English, and then a page which shows the first book’s original content’s page (this version of the book contains the first three ‘books’ of the 12 book story).

Throughout the book are footnotes which provide reference to the original kanji used and how it has been translated which helps at times to make sense of puns or jokes the characters are making or just adds insight into what the particular name of a place or attack might mean. These don’t need to be read in order to follow the story but they add enough in that I found myself regularly going back to read them if I’d gotten caught up in an action scene and skipped them for a page or two. While unnecessary, they just add a little something more to the story and I really appreciated them.

Katanagatari - Footnotes

Peppered throughout the books are liberally illustrations with double page spreads showing characters, action sequences or new settings. Each consistently demonstrating the unique art style that the anime certainly emulated and they are striking images that are well worth spending some time just taking in.

At the ends of chapters and in the transitions between books there is a character note page that usually outlines information about the ninja or enemy faced in the book and again this isn’t necessary information but it just adds a little extra.

Katanagatari - Double page image

All and all, Katanagatari has gone all out with worthwhile extras.

But, what about the writing and the story itself given this is a book review?

I’m pleased to say that the writing style is nothing short of lyrical. You flow from one event to the next with dialogue keeping the pace swift in places or bringing it up short in others. Enough description is given as is needed to sketch the scenes without belabouring the points. Action is tightly written and again enough description given that you know what is going on, and if they happen to linger over explanations of particular attacks there is usually some purpose behind it.

Katanagatari - Nanami

Overall though, the tone of the writing is highly entertaining. While I know this version is a translated work and some of the author’s original style probably got strained out in the process, there’s a genuine love of language and words that comes through with the writing style that makes it pleasant to read. There’s also a fierce desire to not take the situations overly seriously as the characters lurch from one scenario to another.

Togame, the Schemer, and Shichikia, her sword, are a wonderful duo who bounce off one another in personality and dialogue in a way that is fun to read. The zany nature of the ninjas introduces provide enough in the way of sensationalism without crossing over into sheer ridiculous (though at times it is a fine line). There’s some tongue in cheek and self-aware comments from the narration but none so persistent that it becomes grating, and you just can’t help but feel that the author knew exactly what they were doing and where the lines were that would push it from amusing to silly, self-aware to smug and kept firmly on the side of enjoyable without sacrificing individuality in the process.

Did I mention I really loved reading this?

Katanagatari - Shichika and Togame

While the story across each of the three books is formulaic, enough elements are differentiated that it doesn’t feel like a rinse and repeat effort and there is method in the repetition. The scenario of collecting the twelve swords automatically sets up a quest of the book situation where one sword becomes the target of the hunt and Shichika and Togame need to deal with whoever stands between them and the sword. However, in just these three books we travel from Shichika’s home island to a desert to a shrine and in each place they face off against a different kind of enemy with a different reason for holding firmly to the sword.

I honestly couldn’t say I was dissatisfied with anything in regards to reading this story. Except of course where book 2 is not yet released so I’m now waiting for the next three stories so that I can continue the journey.

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My Pirate Crew

So Lyn Sheridan kicked off this tag and it seems like it could be great fun. You know, other than the fact that I get boat and every-other-mode-of-transport sick I think being a pirate could be great fun. Is there a job for pirates who walk? Anyway, huge thank-you for the tag and let’s see who I’m including in my crew.

The Rules

  1. Display the My Pirate Crew logo and add ‘My Pirate Crew’ as a tag.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  3. Link back to the original post here (so I can compare your crews to mine).
  4. Select seven anime characters and give them a position on the crew. These are the positions you can to fill. Warrior, sniper, chef, doctor, scientist, navigator, strategist, mechanic, entertainer.
  5. Nominate 5-10 bloggers.
  6. Set sail and rule the seas!

The Crew

Let’s start out with a navigator because I’m going to get hopelessly lost. This may be a weird choice but I’m picking Homura from Madoka Magica. I’m not entirely certain about her map reading ability or even navigation but that’s kind of pointless. She can just go back and fix it if we make a mistake so I’m thinking this is the perfect choice for a navigator.

Homura Akemi Madoka Magica

Next, we’re going to need a chef because food is really important to maintaining morale, and you know, just because food is really good. I’m actually cheating here and I’m going to bring all four of the guys from Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori because food, dessert, tea and coffee are all super important.

The mechanic is perhaps the easiest position to fill. Winry from Full Metal Alchemist. Seriously, why wouldn’t you pick her? If Kaylee from Firefly were an anime character I’d have picked her but she’s about the only person I’d pick over Winry.

Winry Rockbell Full Metal Alchemist

Right, so warrior, because I probably need someone who can fight in this crew if I’m actually putting together a pirate crew. There are many incredibly strong fighters in anime but then I had to think about who I’d actually like to spend time with in close quarters and I ended up deciding Hei from Darker Than Black. He doesn’t talk all that much but he’s pretty proficient and I’m certain that electricity and water couldn’t possibly be a terrible mix.

Strategist is again and easy one to pick. Admittedly, she didn’t do so well out of her strategist in Katanagatari but things worked out for everyone else so I’m definitely picking the self-proclaimed strategist Togame. While I’m not entirely sure that her motives and mine will align, I’m certain that she’ll lead us to some interesting pursuits.

Katanagatari - Strategist Togame

For the doctor, much like my navigator, I’m not so worried about them getting it right. I’m picking Orihime from Bleach and she can just reject the damage and reverse it back to before it was. It’s a neat trick and works on all injuries. Not so sure whether its effective on things like catching a cold but I’m thinking given she’ll bring you back from being pretty much dead she’s definitely worth having around.

Bleach Orihime

Finally, entertainer, because everyone needs entertainment. I’m definitely hiring the duo of Yuri and Victor from Yuri on Ice (and please don’t point out the lack of reality of having an ice-skating rink on a pirate boat). You know what, we’re going there and if worst comes to worst they can just get drunk and have a dance off.

Yuri on Ice Episode 8

And that would be my highly dysfunctional crew. I’m sure we’d have fun. Or sink. Either way.

The Nominees

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Princesses

Tuesday's Top 5

The Princess list turned out to be easier than the anime Prince list. That’s probably because there’s a lot of princesses out there who happily sit as bystanders and then there are the extreme warrior princess tropes that run around. Finding a princess who is an active participant in their story but not a juggernaut of violence is actually fairly challenging. Still, here are my top 5 picks for anime princesses who have that regal Princess air to them (at least at times) but also take an active role in their plot. Bonus points for great outfits and as always I’d love to know what my readers thing.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Teresa (Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love)

Number 5: Princess Hitei (Katanagatari)

hitei.jpg

As the antagonist for a lot of Katanagatari, Princess Hitei didn’t really get to do a lot (and in honesty I’m not entirely sure if she’s a real Princess), but her manipulations and schemes certainly directed a lot of the action within the series. More importantly, when her schemes all came crashing down around her, she proved herself adaptable which is a fairly vital survival trait and one she demonstrated beautifully. Not to mention, her look is crazy but distinct – like most characters from Katanagatari.

Number 4: Chaika (Chaika – Coffin Princess)

Chaika

Alright, I know she’s actually a clone of a Princess and only one of many, but Chaika is awesome. Her magic is a little inconsistent and takes forever to power up, but you have to admit when it works, it is pretty brilliant. And even knowing her whole life is being manipulated, Chaika still manages to find her purpose for moving forward. Kind of have to love her (and her hair clips – those are gorgeous).

Number 3: Princess Serenity (Sailor Moon)

Serenity.jpg

This girl has way too many titles and while the modern day Serena isn’t exactly instilling confidence in her leadership most days, her past life and future self certainly lend her some credibility that even if she isn’t there yet she will be one day. Besides, the girl has saved the world how many times? You have to cut her some slack if she wants to spend her afternoons playing video games when there is no world threatening evil afoot.

Number 2: Yona (Akatsuki no Yona)

yona2

While I still feel Shirayuki was the superior red headed character of these two, technically Shirayuki is not a Princess (marry Zen already), and so Yona takes the number 2 place on this list. I will admit, as much as Yona didn’t impress me when I first saw it, time and a rewatch has definitely made me appreciate her more and now that I’m two volumes into the manga I’m kind of hoping to learn even more about the Princess who lost everything in one night and yet refused to give in.

Number 1: Euphemia li Britannia (Code Geass)

Euphemia.png

Okay, her ending was pretty tragic for everyone involved, as it was supposed to be, but even before the event that made her infamous, Euphemia was a pretty special princess. Despite her lack of combat abilities compared to her siblings, she didn’t just sit on the sidelines. She worked her strengths and found other pathways such as diplomacy to achieve her ends and she almost succeeded at bringing about peace. I’m laying the blame for her untimely end entirely on Lelouch and I’m just saying we lost a very fine Princess.

That’s the end of another list but as always I’ll now turn it over to the comments and ask you who your favourite or top 5 anime Princesses are.


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Katanagatari Series Review: A Story of a Strategist and Her Sword on the Fetch Quest of a Life-time.

Overview:

Togame is a self-proclaimed strategist and in order to gain favour with the shogunate, she seeks out the aid of an exiled warrior to help her collect 12 legendary swords. The warrior is long since dead but she does meet his children and recruits Yasuri Shichika, a swordsman without a sword, to help her on her quest.

Review:

On the surface, Katanagatari is as simple as it gets. There are 12 episodes and 12 swords so pretty much each episode is the story of Togame and Shichika travelling to a location, confronting the person with the sword, and eventually collecting the sword. However, despite the fairly simple plot structure, this show manages a number of interesting developments, and with its striking visuals and interesting characters manages to keep the story feeling fresh from start to finish (also throw in a healthy dash of truly awesome music that gives the show a fairly unique tone).

Katanagatari6

I’ll actually get my major criticism of the show out of the way before I talk about all the reasons why you should stop reading this review and just go and watch the show. The biggest problem this anime has is that the villains for the most part are completely throw-away characters. The sword owners are all eccentric and interesting in their own ways (though we barely get to know most of them before the sword is collected and the characters have moved on), but there is also a troop of ninjas who have been hired to stop them and all of these characters have increasingly ridiculous outfits and abilities and really don’t add anything other than a few eccentric fights to a show that already has enough. Likewise, there’s a Princess plotting against Togame and while she’s needed for the final plot to work, for the majority of the run time she is an irritating distraction from the more interesting story that seems to be going on.

With that criticism out of the way, let’s get to everything that makes this show amazing.

Katanagatari5

First and foremost, from the very opening scene this anime looks unique. I think it is quite beautiful in some ways and bizarre in others, but it was just such a visual pleasure to watch. The outfits, the hair, the trees and scenery were all just wonderful to look at and while there is always a rich array of colours on the screen it never quite crosses the line to becoming an eye-sore or a distraction in the way that shows like No Game No Life occasionally manage. The character eyes were probably the only part I didn’t really think were pretty to look at, but even then they were striking and memorable.

Katanagatari2

Once you get past the look of the show, the fetch quest these characters are on to collect the 12 deviant swords is wonderful in its simplicity and yet each sword has such an individual feel that every fight and every sword collection is distinct. The swords are classed as deviant for a range of reasons, but essentially they come in all shapes and sizes (and one of them is clearly a pair of guns and not a sword at all). Their handlers are equally diverse and they all have their reasons for not letting go of their sword. They present an array of challenges for Shichika and Togame to overcome over the course of the series so while the basic arrive, find sword, fight for sword, gain sword pattern is followed almost pedantically you can’t help but want to see what the next location and sword will bring.

katanagatari-02-shinichi-togawa-catching-phrases-in-the-desert-02

The show also delights in teasing its audience. Whether it is with the dialogue as the characters discuss a catch phrase for the hero, that only gets delivered once with the appropriate context to support it but gets used numerous times to humorous effect, or with the plot simply deviating from what is expected while still ultimately returning to the path we expected but not in the way we expected, it keeps you guessing where it will go next. A masterful fight between Shichika and one of the deviant blade owners took place almost exclusively off-screen and we only heard about the fight at all in a discussion over dumplings at the end of the episode. The episode in question had spent almost the entire time showing us Shichika’s sister fighting off some ninjas who had decided to try and kidnap her, which was highly entertaining, character revealing about the sister, and set up a future development that Shichika would have to deal with.

Katanagatari3

And that of course brings us to the characters. The best part of this show is the relationship that develops between Shichika and Togame. Given it begins in episode 1 with her boldly asking him to fall in love with her because otherwise she couldn’t trust him and Shichika basically agreeing because he’s a very simple person (at least in the beginning), the actual relationship developments between them are quite subtle at first but by the end you really do see how their journey together has changed both of them. Shichika also has a great moment with his sister, Nanami, midway along in the story that also pushes his growth as a character.

Katanagatari7

Basically if you want a classic adventure story with some decent action sequences, a bit of humour, and some very off-the-wall characters thrown in, you will absolutely love Katanagatari. There’s a few moments that might break your heart but basically this is a fun ride from start to finish and a show which I will quite happily return to watch again and again. Just a heads up (because I didn’t get one), while there are only 12 episodes, these are 40 minutes episodes so it works out to be about the length of a standard 24 episode anime.

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Katanagatari Kakyoku Shu Sono 2
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Green Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Today I am taking a look at the lovely green haired ladies of anime and I will admit this ended up being harder than expected.  While there was no doubt who was going to top my list, the other characters proved a little harder to split. Basically I was looking for interesting female characters where their green hair was a distinguishing part of their appearance.

I’d love to know some of your favourite green haired female characters. Next week I’ll tackle the guys but until then be sure to leave your picks in the comments below.

Note: There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to Sailor Neptune (Sailor Moon) and Akari (Chaika).

Number 5: Nanami Yasuri (Katanagatari)

Katanagatari8

Nanami gets points for being the second creepiest character I put on this list. She’s a devoted sister but I’m pretty sure that her notion of raising or caring for her brother has definitely crossed a few lines. Admittedly, he is really strong and made stronger by her interference in his quest but Nanami is still one terrifying green haired girl. Her particular ability to essentially use any ability she has ever seen makes her fairly terrifying to almost all who encounter her and if it wasn’t for her weak body she’s be an unstoppable force of nature.


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Number 4: Tsuyu Asui (My Hero Academia)

Froppy.gif

Now I am not the biggest froppy fan but even I have to admit that Tsuyu is one talented hero. If she wasn’t in the same class as the protagonist and his rivals she might even get to stand out occasionally. She’s level headed in a crisis, has a range of useful skills and is pretty determined. Throughout the second season she demonstrated numerous times that she has what it takes to be in the same class as the others and while I didn’t really appreciate her getting her own mission episode as it felt a lot like filler, even I had to admit it was very high quality filler and you could totally see this character carrying their own series.


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My Hero.jpg


Number 3: Lenalee (D Gray Man)

No real surprise here given I’ve made it fairly clear that I love Lenalee as a character. She’s such an awesome exorcist and a great partner for Allan. Unfortunately she gets sidelined too often, but the fight over the ocean on the way to Japan just proved how incredibly tough she is and how far she will go to save others and win the fight. She also got her innocence to evolve to the crystal type and while Hallow severely underutilised her I’m kind of hoping if we get another follow up series (please) that we’ll see more of this amazing character on the screen.

Number 2: Mion/Shion Sonozaki (Higurashi)

Mion and Shion.png

So who beat Nanami as the creepiest character on this list? Mion and Shion of course (and no, I’m not even going to try to split these two because depending on the time loop you are in either one of them could be crazy and it isn’t as though they don’t switch places making it even more confusing). Still, these two are fantastic characters. The older sister characters of the group and the children of gangsters, they come across as tough as nails but are surprisingly emotionally vulnerable. They both go through hell at various times but fortunately they learn from the experiences eventually, like the other characters, and finally find their happy ending.

Number 1: Nel (Bleach)

Whether in her child-form or fully grown, Nel was a fantastic character that Ichigo met when he invaded Hueco Mundo. As a former member of the Espada, she is one tough cookie but she’s got a grudge and Ichigo has a soft spot for little sister characters so the two of them bond fairly readily after meeting. One of my favourite Bleach characters ever, and rocking her green hair and matching shirt, Nel well and truly deserves the number one spot on this list.

And that’s my list done but I’d love to know your picks and remember to check in next week when I count down my top 5 male characters with green hair.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Females with Silver Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Okay, I’ve already covered blonde, red and blue hair so today I am tackling silver hair (though I won’t argue if you want to tell me some of these characters have white or gray hair). Next week I’ll share me list of the guys with silver hair and I had a lot more fun with that list but there are still some great female anime characters with silver hair to be found. My final decision this week came down to characters that had silver hair that I found to be kind of adorable on a character I found to be interesting. As such it is entirely subjective and I’d love to know who you would have included on your list.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Villetta Nu (Code Geass) and Eucliwood (Is This a Zombie).

Number 5: Anju from Karin, Chibi Vampire

Anju1.jpg

Anju is arguably the most interesting character from Karin despite how little she talks. A great deal of the plot is pushed forward by her small moments of interference or her suggestions to other characters. She sits in the background a lot but she is very motivated and driven. What I like the most about her is that despite the fact that she is very attached to her sister, she isn’t trying to hold her sister back but is really trying to push Karin into a life of her own. It is refreshing to see a sister complex that results in actually helping the object of your affection rather than trying to control them. All and all, I really liked Anju as a character and episodes that had more of an Anju focus were very enjoyable.

Number 4: Togame from Katanagatari

Togame is a fascinating character and her journey throughout Katanagatari with Shichika is adorable. Her hair plays a fairly critical role in the development of their relationship early on and later in the series gets cut, so not only is her hair beautiful but it also has a purpose in the plot (though I will admit it is probably more white than silver).

Number 3: Sylvette Suede from Letter Bee

I haven’t got around to a review of this show yet but it is adorable from start to finish and Sylvette is one of my favourite characters. She’s the sister of a missing letter carrier and has a strikingly similar appearance and colouring. Throughout the show she develops a close relationship with the main character as he goes on his journey. She’s wheelchair bound and her cooking is fairly toxic but she’s most definitely the most resilient character in the show and the one who regardless of circumstances knows that they have to keep moving forward in whatever way they can. Utterly adorable character and the heart of the show for a lot of the characters.

Number 2: Kanade from Angel Beats

Kanade is just adorable. Even when Angel Beats first started and she was set up as the antagonist, I loved her character from the opening as she played the piano. As the story developed, we found out she was just kind of dreadful at communicating and she was actually trying to help everyone move on. She’s just such a sweet character and I really wanted her to be happy at the end of the series, which is why I always end up in tears pre-final credits and then smiling like an idiot post-final credits.

Number 1: Yin from Darker Than Black

So what beats Kanade? An emotionless doll who actually has more agency than it first appears, apparently. Yin is undoubtably my favourite character on this list. While early in the series, she really is just a doll, as the story progresses you see more and more often the small things she does because she wishes to and the way she builds her relationship with Hei. She’s a crucial part of the team and the only reason Hei managed to succeed at anything, so really should get the title of most valuable player for Darker Than Black. Plus, she’s just beautiful.

Alright, that’s my list of silver hair female characters. Who would you have included on yours?


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