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AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017




Kuniko Ikuhara is an anime director. His shows are often characterized by their use of surrealism, off-beat humor and visual allegories to convey the mental journeys of their central characters. There is often a heavy emphasis on flawed adolescent relationships and the way the past shapes everyone's development. I learned of Ikuhara's existence only a couple of months ago, but I've already fallen in love with his particular narrative and directorial styles. I've found his shows to be very powerful and many of their themes resonated with me on a personal level. This thread is meant to be a place to celebrate and discuss Ikuhara's shows, as well as ones inspired by them.




Revolutionary Girl Utena is Ikuhara's most famous work. It follows Utena, a second year student at Ohtori Academy's middle school who wants to become a prince, as she stumbles across a mysterious system of duels administered by the academy's student council. The victor of said duels becomes engaged to the Rose Bride, an odd and introverted girl named Anthy who tends to the roses in the school garden, and may eventually gain the power to Revolutinize the World. The themes the show deals with include gender roles, emotional abuse, obsessive relationships and regret. Recurring symbols: roses, swords and cars.

There is also a movie called Adolescence of Utena that acts as a supplement to the show. It is very good and expands on some of the main ideas of the show with a heavy dose of surrealism.




Penguindrum is Ikuhara's first post-Utena show. It follows Kanba and Shoma, two twin brothers, as they search for the mysterious Penguindrum on behalf of a sentient penguin hat to save their terminally ill younger sister Himari. Along the way they meet other people seemingly searching for the same thing and must confront the consequences of the disastrous incident that happened 16 years ago. The themes the show deals with include dysfunctional families, child abandonment, guilt and fate. Recurring symbols: penguins, subways and apples.




Yurikuma Arashi is Ikuhara's second post-Utena show. I haven't watched it yet and have read mixed reactions in various corners of the internet. It is allegedly about lesbians in some way.




Revue Starlight is a show directed by Tomohiro Furukawa who worked with Ikuhara on Penguindrum and Yurikuma Arashi. It follows Karen, a student in an all-female musical theater school, as she participates in a secret audition process administered by a giraffe, where she and her fellow classmates sing and fight for the honor of becoming the Top Star. In the process, they gain a new understanding of the role the stage has played in their lives. The themes the show deals with include unhealthy competition, codependent relationships and fear of change. It should be noted that, at its' core, this show is a commentary and critique of the Takarzuka Revue so some prior familiarity with it would greatly enhance your viewing experience. Recurring symbols: position zero, purple light and stars.

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AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Let me start off by asking someone informed to fill in the hole in the OP - does anyone have any non-spoilerific impressions to share about Yurikuma Arashi? Is it worth watching? It seems like it was less well received around here than Ikuhara's other works. Also, if someone could provide me with a fitting blurb for the OP, I would be very grateful.

Cao Ni Ma
May 25, 2010


Yurikuma is fine, most people that were disappointed by it in the original thread completely misjudged Ikuhara's intent with the show. Like when the judges pop up people immediately went "ITS PATRIARCHY AND THEY ARE BAD" when the actual text of the show never supported this idea.

The show mostly deals about a few things chief being Yuri(The closeted anime sort and proper lesbianism) and Kuuki. Yuri is self explanatory, kuuki is a term the japanese use to describe a part of their culture where people are compelled to follow very strict social norms. Dont rock the boat, the nail that stands out gets hammered down, etc. Kuuki literally translates to air or atmosphere, and like the name of the show a lot of air moving around creates a storm.

I dont think I can tell you what the end message was without spoiling the story though. Message being that you cant live happily in the closet all your life if you are gay, and shouldn't drag people that are out back in just so you dont disturb the kuuki. You gotta step out into the storm and endure it if you wanna be truly happy

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


I loved Utena, thought Penguindrum was pretty drat good, could not get past episode 2 of Yurikuma. I have to imagine he's at his best when the people around him can keep him in check, because Yurikuma felt more uncomfortable (in a bad way, not like Utena was) then entertaining.

StandardVC10
Feb 6, 2007

Dreams, Amelia - dreams and false alarms

Megamarm

Something kind of weird happened to me after I finally finished the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series. I went to watch the movie, and I guess I was kind of distracted that day, which didn't help, but I just had a much harder time following it. Maybe with the shorter format I couldn't digest the symbolism quickly enough? Good visuals though. I'll probably give it another try sometime later.

Cephas
May 11, 2009

Shape Shift With Me


don't forget Ikuhara's work on the Sailor Moon anime, including the awesome season 1 episode Loved and Chased! Luna's Worst Day Ever

Wark Say
Feb 22, 2013


Zofia Today
Alm: Human Disaster


Lipstick Apathy

Also please remember that Ikuhara's newest project starts airing next month!

Don't know if it'll be via Amazon Prime (since I don't think Amazon does Noitamina exclusively anymore), though.

Coolness Averted
Feb 20, 2007

oh don't worry, I can't smell asparagus piss, it's in my DNA

GO HOGG WILD!


StandardVC10 posted:

Something kind of weird happened to me after I finally finished the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series. I went to watch the movie, and I guess I was kind of distracted that day, which didn't help, but I just had a much harder time following it. Maybe with the shorter format I couldn't digest the symbolism quickly enough? Good visuals though. I'll probably give it another try sometime later.

it's weird and needs somewhat of a primer, since as I recall it also has elements based more on the manga version of some of the characters, or just replaces characters with others. Even if you paid perfect attention half of it would still be just as hard to follow. I'd say maybe watch it again, but the dvd release also had a pretty good commentary track/explanation iirc that might help. There's also quite a bit of stuff that's just plain goofy. Spoiler for a 20 year old movie just because it's really something that's outta left field, and worth being surprised if folks haven't seen it/don't know about it: Like the car thing. Ikuhara's explanation is "Oh, I had something in mind for what it symbolized, but then fans told me their interpretations and some of theirs were so much better. So I'm not going to say what my original goal was, except I was bored of final fight scenes, so only agreed to do this if they'd let me do something unique, and I'd never done a car chase before."

Some of the stuff brought up in commentary tracks/or that tied into the manga that I remember helped make a little more sense of it, or at least appreciate some aspects:

Shiori is a medium, as a reference to her name having shi/death in it. The weird sheets over furniture in rooms she's in is meant to be like funeral shrouds/the veil between worlds. Only she and Utena actually see/interact with Touga since he's a ghost.
Touga is meant to be more noble and tragic. In the anime he just pretends to be the prince who rescued Utena to get power over her. In the manga he actually has an experience similar to Utena's, where a girl survives but her parents drown. He tries to comfort her, but she's given up on life and lays with her parent's coffin until a prince whispers a secret to the girl, coaxing her back to the land of the living. He vows to become a prince too. -In the movie he actually did try rescuing the drowning girl, only to drown himself. I also vaguely recall "Oh yeah and Juri was the girl he drowned trying to rescue," but I also remember having no idea how you were supposed to glean that, and it may have just been one of the fansite theories/meant to explain why Juri also references Touga/loves him, also she might be dead too, which is even weirder.

Feel free to correct me if I'm misremembering stuff from late 90's websites with translated extra details, and the commentary track from the movie.
I really liked the series when I was a kid and it was released on vhs/I had only seen up to the black rose saga, then in college it all came out on DVD and was great to pick apart for symbolism and just absurd elements that couldn't be taken literally. It had a lot of depth for a children's cartoon while still having silly episodes about things like curry or boxing kangaroos. As opposed to other shows I cringe about having enjoyed our found deep when I was an angsty teen like Evangelion, I can still appreciate Utena.

Do the later series Ihuhara worked on have as much of a musical focus and neat soundtracks? Or was that unique to Utena? Like I just don't see Revue Starlight working without a huge musical emphasis.

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


At the end of the TV series, Juri mentions being saved from drowning as a kid, so that is probably where you got it from. It wouldn't really make any sense if it was Touga in that continuity, but that's probably where the concept came from in the movie.

a kitten
Aug 5, 2006



Neat! (And relevant)

https://twitter.com/NozomiEnt/statu...2866795520?s=19

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Coolness Averted posted:

Do the later series Ihuhara worked on have as much of a musical focus and neat soundtracks? Or was that unique to Utena? Like I just don't see Revue Starlight working without a huge musical emphasis.

Revue Starlight does have a big emphasis on music - much like the duels in Utenal, every audition has it's own unique insert song sung by the characters themselves, though these songs are much more mundane than the ones in Utena.

Penguindrum has an (imho) exceptionally good soundtrack, but much less songs with lyrics.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Momomo posted:

I loved Utena, thought Penguindrum was pretty drat good, could not get past episode 2 of Yurikuma. I have to imagine he's at his best when the people around him can keep him in check, because Yurikuma felt more uncomfortable (in a bad way, not like Utena was) then entertaining.

What about it felt uncomfortable to you? I ask because I can't really figure out whether I would want to watch it or not. How does it differ from Ikuhara's prior shows?

Coolness Averted
Feb 20, 2007

oh don't worry, I can't smell asparagus piss, it's in my DNA

GO HOGG WILD!


Momomo posted:

At the end of the TV series, Juri mentions being saved from drowning as a kid, so that is probably where you got it from. It wouldn't really make any sense if it was Touga in that continuity, but that's probably where the concept came from in the movie.

Yeah, while double-checking to make sure I hadn't forgotten stuff or muddled things I saw some reviews that commented on the movie really standing poorly on it's own, and I think I'd have to agree. It really was written too much for an audience already familiar with at least one of the other adaptations and uses a lot of shorthand. Like the scene with Miki and his sister doesn't forward the movie at all, and doesn't mean anything if you don't already know the characters.

The movie has a bunch of great visuals and takes on things but it's also a poor introduction to Utena, since it also flat out states a bunch of stuff the first two seasons tease out in the TV show. So if you show someone the movie first, you rob a few arcs of their impact and make even most of the main storyline feel like filler episodes. I'd say someone should at least see the blackrose saga/season 2 and its finale before seeing the movie. Though season 3/finishing the show is of course better.

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


As far as the stuff in Yurikuma, I remember the transformation sequence in particular feeling really uncomfortably sexual in a way that wasn't like something from Utena. The latter has a clear message of "these kids are too young for this", while Yurikuma's just felt like it had none of that. Couple that with the first magazine scans of the shows existence mentioning the girls' panty colors and I was just super turned off.

To be honest I thought the Utena movie was just alright. It looked really nice (though I hated what they did to Utena's and Juri's hair) but as far as what actually happened in it, it just felt like a worse version of what we already saw.

Then there's the manga, which is a much worse version of what we already saw.

Weirdo
Jul 22, 2004

I stay up late



Grimey Drawer


Neat, it works in Canada (that almost never happens).

Expect My Mom
Nov 18, 2013

by Smythe


short hair utena is cool and woke

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


Short haired Utena good, but they made long haired Utena super flowy in a way that just didn't look very good. Anime Juri has perfectly sculpted curls while movie Juri has straight hair going down to her thighs.

Coolness Averted
Feb 20, 2007

oh don't worry, I can't smell asparagus piss, it's in my DNA

GO HOGG WILD!


Momomo posted:

Then there's the manga, which is a much worse version of what we already saw.

Oh, can you go into that or have some highlights? I never read it, but just heard it wound up being radically different in the same way Sailor Moon was, and I think like most kids assumed it must've been different in a cool way.

Endorph
Jul 22, 2009

I may not be as cute as the other girls, but I'm the best at arm wrestling!


ikuhara should have just let morishima make yurikuma

Cephas
May 11, 2009

Shape Shift With Me


yurikuma is trashy but i still love it. the girls are cute, the bears are cute, and except for a little boy and three sexy men, every single person in the show is a lesbian. and "kuma shock" is great. i seem to recall the manga being better than the show in its case.


if anyone ever wondered what the deal is with Miki's stopwatch in Utena, I heard that in a play production of Utena his character actually explains that he uses it to keep track of how long he spends detesting the student council

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Momomo posted:

To be honest I thought the Utena movie was just alright. It looked really nice (though I hated what they did to Utena's and Juri's hair) but as far as what actually happened in it, it just felt like a worse version of what we already saw.

I don't feel this way at all. I think the movie is much more of a sequel to the show than a retelling, at least in terms of Utena and Anthy's character arcs. It doesn't make sense to judge it as a standalone work because it was never meant to be viewed in isolation.

The movie is primarily about Anthy's journey to shake off all of the issues her brother's manipulations left her with. Utena may be the vehicle (literally) for that journey, but Anthy herself is the driving force. All of the princes are dead from the start, the only thing left to do is realize that and get out of their shadows. This theme can only make sense after we've seen what those prince really are and the harm they bring in the main show.

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


Cephas posted:

yurikuma is trashy but i still love it. the girls are cute, the bears are cute, and except for a little boy and three sexy men, every single person in the show is a lesbian. and "kuma shock" is great. i seem to recall the manga being better than the show in its case.


if anyone ever wondered what the deal is with Miki's stopwatch in Utena, I heard that in a play production of Utena his character actually explains that he uses it to keep track of how long he spends detesting the student council



Actually I'm pretty sure he stops it whenever he has a gay thought.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


I am making my way through Yurikuma now (just finished episode 8) and...it doesn't seem to be as bad as I was bracing myself for? There is definitely something (actually, a lot of things) it lacks compared to Utena and Penguindrum, but it is very endearing. I don't pretend to understand most of what Ikuhara was getting at in this show yet, but I feel like I am getting the gist of what some of these characters are going through and find myself emotionally engaged in their ordeals.

Kuma Shock! is definitely the best part, though.

Expect My Mom
Nov 18, 2013

by Smythe


Momomo posted:

Actually I'm pretty sure he stops it whenever he has a gay thought.
miki x touga is the true rarepair

Cephas
May 11, 2009

Shape Shift With Me


AFancyQuestionMark posted:

I am making my way through Yurikuma now (just finished episode 8) and...it doesn't seem to be as bad as I was bracing myself for? There is definitely something (actually, a lot of things) it lacks compared to Utena and Penguindrum, but it is very endearing. I don't pretend to understand most of what Ikuhara was getting at in this show yet, but I feel like I am getting the gist of what some of these characters are going through and find myself emotionally engaged in their ordeals.

Kuma Shock! is definitely the best part, though.

Yurikuma Arashi made a lot more sense to me in retrospect after watching/reading some other stories about bullying ("arashi") in Japan. The "silent storm" that the show talks about is, I guess, literally "silent bullying" where you exclude someone from your classroom's social structure.

Momomo
Dec 25, 2009

Dont judge me, I design your manhole


Coolness Averted posted:

Oh, can you go into that or have some highlights? I never read it, but just heard it wound up being radically different in the same way Sailor Moon was, and I think like most kids assumed it must've been different in a cool way.

So as far as I'm aware the anime and manga were essentially made independent of each other. While I would like to think of them that way I can't really help but directly compare them since they share characters and the same basic story.

The biggest most glaring problem is the characters. The manga has the same basic plot, but since it's more condensed, you don't really see a lot of the downtime, and this hurts Anthy's character a lot. She ends up feeling less like the main love interest and more like scenery that has some connection to the plot.

The student council was pretty much entirely terrible. Miki has a crush on Utena and all the stuff with her sister is mostly gone, Touga has a change of heart after Utena beats him and becomes her manservant (it's even less endearing then it sounds). Did you ever think to yourself "God, I wish Juri was essentially just Nanami but less developed"? Well good news for you, literal worst person in the world! Nanami gets a tiny cameo in the way of a single photo and Juri takes her spot as "the girl that likes/defends Touga" and it is easily the worst part of the entire manga. Saionji is more or less the same as the anime personality wise and takes on a few of Nanami's traits (getting Anthy the dress and having the curry powder), but without anything more.

Akio's made out to be more of a supervillain and at one point threatens to kill Utena by way of car crash. I think in general the manga just feels a lot more surface level than the anime did. I could go into more detail but it has been a while and I admit, I didn't think too hard about what the manga portrayed as opposed to the anime. After seeing Nanami Juri though, I didn't really care. She does get development after the ending (maybe?) but it's a chapter about Ruka and I didn't bother reading it.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



AFancyQuestionMark posted:

I don't feel this way at all. I think the movie is much more of a sequel to the show than a retelling, at least in terms of Utena and Anthy's character arcs. It doesn't make sense to judge it as a standalone work because it was never meant to be viewed in isolation.

The movie is primarily about Anthy's journey to shake off all of the issues her brother's manipulations left her with. Utena may be the vehicle (literally) for that journey, but Anthy herself is the driving force. All of the princes are dead from the start, the only thing left to do is realize that and get out of their shadows. This theme can only make sense after we've seen what those prince really are and the harm they bring in the main show.

I got into Utena though the movie (it was pretty, and also the only thing available) and recently did a rewatch after going through the series with some friends. Oof, it really suffers by comparison.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



New preview for Sarazanmai is out along with the announcement of an April 11 debut.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Just finished watching Yurikuma Arashi. I actually liked it a lot. Despite all of the misgivings I had going in and the bad taste the first three episodes left me with, it turned out to be a sweet, heartwarming tale in the end. It's not nearly as good as Utena or even Penguindrum, but I would readily recommend it to any Ikuhara fans out there.

10/10 would never back down on love again.

Thuryl
Mar 14, 2007

My postillion has been struck by lightning.


The difficulty I've always had with recommending YKA is that so much of what happens in the show exists to set up the last couple of episodes that if the ending doesn't land for you, you're gonna feel like you wasted your time. The payoff was worth it for me in the end, but I spent large stretches of the middle of the series going "okay, I can't even tell if this is good or bad until I see what it's building up to", and that's a weird mental space to be in for that long.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



Thuryl posted:

The difficulty I've always had with recommending YKA is that so much of what happens in the show exists to set up the last couple of episodes that if the ending doesn't land for you, you're gonna feel like you wasted your time. The payoff was worth it for me in the end, but I spent large stretches of the middle of the series going "okay, I can't even tell if this is good or bad until I see what it's building up to", and that's a weird mental space to be in for that long.

I think you're onto something here. To me, the ending felt like warmed over Utena, and I was pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the sexual stuff, so my overall impression of the show is "meh."

AlternateNu
May 5, 2005


I just finished Starlight Revue. Pretty good, though I've never been good at analyzing works with heavy metaphorical/allegorical structures.

Considering the parallels the story supposedly has with the Takarazuka Revue, I was expecting a more direct confrontation with the Giraffe. I was going through it viewing him as representing the patriarchal structure surrounding the Revue. But, I guess if he was more supposed to represent the audience, I guess it makes a little more sense they never confront him. That fourth wall break near the end made me eye roll, though.

And the way they dropped Banana's storyline kind of made me mad. I guess I'm just a sucker for time loop dramas (Steins;Gate is one of my favorite stories, ever), but they could've done a whole season just on her. Instead, we get an awesome scene of her being secret strongest girl, show the effects of her wish coming true, and then the next episode shifts to Hikari, and Nana loses almost unceremoniously just because, woops! Hikari and Karen are the mains. Not very bananice. I understand why that happened on a logical level. It is obvious her wish was untenable and one of the major themes was moving forward, but it seemed so hamfisted.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Maera Sior posted:

I think you're onto something here. To me, the ending felt like warmed over Utena, and I was pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the sexual stuff, so my overall impression of the show is "meh."

The ending didn't really feel like Utena's ending at all for me. Kureha turning into a bear to be with Ginko doesn't really resemble what happened with Utena and Anthy. They are two very different endings to two very different shows.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



AlternateNu posted:

That fourth wall break near the end made me eye roll, though.

That didn't land for me either. I have to assume it was meant for a different audience and that I'm not part of it.

quote:

I understand why that happened on a logical level. It is obvious her wish was untenable and one of the major themes was moving forward, but it seemed so hamfisted.

I think Review Starlight would have greatly benefited from a second season to give the characters enough time to breathe. I really enjoyed it, but the character work felt very perfunctory.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



AFancyQuestionMark posted:

The ending didn't really feel like Utena's ending at all for me. Kureha turning into a bear to be with Ginko doesn't really resemble what happened with Utena and Anthy. They are two very different endings to two very different shows.

It still hit the "they ascend and leave others behind" button for me, and along with the "they've met before" bingo spot, I felt like there wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. The last few episodes felt predictable, which is not a word I associate with Ikuhara.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


AlternateNu posted:

I just finished Starlight Revue. Pretty good, though I've never been good at analyzing works with heavy metaphorical/allegorical structures.

Considering the parallels the story supposedly has with the Takarazuka Revue, I was expecting a more direct confrontation with the Giraffe. I was going through it viewing him as representing the patriarchal structure surrounding the Revue. But, I guess if he was more supposed to represent the audience, I guess it makes a little more sense they never confront him. That fourth wall break near the end made me eye roll, though.


That fourth wall break was never about the anime audience, I think. The giraffe represents the audience of the Takarazuka Revue. Many of the more destructive aspects of the system depicted in the show are the results of the Takarazuka appealing to audience desires - the obsession over a single headlining "top star" in the troupe and every other performer just being there to support the top star's performance. The show is basically laying the blame for the most negative aspects of that system at that audience's feet, which is why the giraffe is the one that oversees the auditions.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


Maera Sior posted:

It still hit the "they ascend and leave others behind" button for me, and along with the "they've met before" bingo spot, I felt like there wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. The last few episodes felt predictable, which is not a word I associate with Ikuhara.

Have you seen Penguindrum? If so, you know that both of those bingo spots apply to it as well, but that show still has very different tone, characters and themes when compared to Utena. IMO, the same is true for Yurikuma.

Maera Sior
Jan 5, 2012



AFancyQuestionMark posted:

Have you seen Penguindrum? If so, you know that both of those bingo spots apply to it as well, but that show still has very different tone, characters and themes when compared to Utena. IMO, the same is true for Yurikuma.

I actually don't think either of those apply to the main relationships of Penguindrum. To me it reads much more about the sins of the parents and the way their actions weigh on the children, as well as the meaning of family.

AFancyQuestionMark
Feb 19, 2017


That's true, but Kanba and Shouma's sacrifice definitely has a heavy "they ascend and leave others behind" vibe to it, and a whole lot of the cast is related in different ways than initially presented, which fulfills that second bingo spot in spirit.

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AlternateNu
May 5, 2005


Maera Sior posted:

That didn't land for me either. I have to assume it was meant for a different audience and that I'm not part of it.


I think Review Starlight would have greatly benefited from a second season to give the characters enough time to breathe. I really enjoyed it, but the character work felt very perfunctory.

AFancyQuestionMark posted:

That fourth wall break was never about the anime audience, I think. The giraffe represents the audience of the Takarazuka Revue. Many of the more destructive aspects of the system depicted in the show are the results of the Takarazuka appealing to audience desires - the obsession over a single headlining "top star" in the troupe and every other performer just being there to support the top star's performance. The show is basically laying the blame for the most negative aspects of that system at that audience's feet, which is why the giraffe is the one that oversees the auditions.

I don't know. If the fourth wall break wasn't meant for the anime audience, there's no point in doing it at all. He could have easily referenced the Revue audience without specifically calling out "you". Overall, its a minor nitpick, though.

Random Note re: Penguindrum. It actually had a big roll in my Masters program. I just finished watching it right around the time I had to decide the topic for my capstone thesis, and I ended up deciding to write an analysis of Aum Shinrikyo and Asahara Shoko. The entire series of events that led to the sarin gas attack still blows my mind. And it is a good reminder that similar to Al Qaeda and ISIS, the most dangerous terrorists aren't poor uneducated religious folks but radicalized middle class specialists who have a chip on their shoulder.

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