Persona 3 The Movie: No.2 Midsummer Knights Dream

Type: Oh, I get it, it’s like wordplay

Synopsis: Because “midsummer” refers to the movies setting, and “Knight” refers to the cover girl Aigis, whose is like a robot knight. I see what you did there Persona 3 The Movie: No.2. 

Pros: Like the title implies, this movie covers the second act of Persona 3 the video game. We’ve established our core characters, so now we have to introduced our auxiliary characters and out main antagonists. Just to keep score, and not counting minor characters, that jumps our cast number from 5 to 12. And while that is a lot of people to keep track of, the film mainly focuses on 2 subplots, namely Aigis’s introduction and Ken/Shinjiro’s relationship. I actually feel that the Ken/Shinjiro story is better off in this condensed version than in the game, which stretched it out between long gameplay segments. You get a better sense of Ken’s youthful admiration of Shinji, of Shinji’s past with the group, and the overall impact that the resolution of the his subplot has on everyone. Plot aside, this is also the movie with the beach scene, festival scene, and love hotel scene, reminding you that Persona is the most anime RPG out there.

Cons: By watching the second movie, I’m starting to notice a few of the most consistent flaw in the Persona 3 movie series. Namely, the disparity in animation quality in dialogue scenes vs. action scenes. This movie was released a year after Person 3: Spring of Birth, and Person 3: Falling Down was released within a year after this one. This quick turn around means that the films were most likely made simultaneously and on a tight schedule, so some shortcuts had to be used. For example, the film used a still image montage for the opening beach segment. And if you noticed, most dialogue scenes involved close ups and little movement. The only parts that seemed to be afforded time and attention were the fight scenes. A lot of the cast is also shunted or minimized in this part of the story, which is fine unless your a fan of them.

Watch it?: Better than the first, but unless you’ve played the game you can skip it.

MVP: Shinjiro

He’s suppose to be 17, but I always thought he was 34.

Best Moment: The opening love hotel scene (it’s funny and I’m basic)

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Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1 Spring of Birth

Type: The theme is Death. The character’s activate their powers by shooting themselves in the head. Do you get it!?

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Synopsis: A movie based on a game that’s based on a mixture of Role Playing Games and Life Simulators, because Japan. In this one, you get to see the life of a character who’s life you would have lived through in the game instead of experiencing your own life, because real life is dull, and the Persona games are, like, a 100 hours. It’s much easier to sit down and give up 90 minutes of your life instead. The crucial part remains: you still don’t have to go outside.

Pros: Fun aside, I actually do love the Persona series. Specifically Persona 3 and 4, when the games got good (you can argue, but you know it’s true). The movie does a great job at integrating the music and layout of the original game. It even uses the calender transitions from the game. Most gamers often bemoan the fact that their will never be a good video game movie, but Persona’s made like 4 movies and 3 anime series. This first movie predictably details the beginning of the game: the protagonist showing up, the main cast coming together, everyone getting their powers, etc. I really liked what they did with the protagonist, named “Makoto Yuki,” here. In the game, “Yuki,” is a nameless and characterless avatar for the player. The move translates this silent protagonist into an apathetic protagonist, which really fits his visual character design. Floppy hair, earphones, hands in his pockets, the kid’s a poster boy for emo teen nihilism. Even more impressive, the movie gives him a character arc involving the power of friendship, which sounds trite, but is actually a crucial gameplay component of the Persona Series (you basically have to go on several dating-sim esque side missions with various NPC’s to level up your character).

Cons: The movie’s biggest positive was it’s ability to turn a silent RPG protagonist into an actual character. But it’s not without it’s flaws. For one, the story flow is choppy. Events sort of jump from thing to another without a smooth transition. This is because the transition is suppose to be the original gameplay, which is obviously absent in the movie. For those not in the know, events in the game are actually about 30 in-game days apart from each other, giving certain revelations time to digest. So the movie ends up covering 2-3 months worth of story in 90 minutes. It’s an admirable attempt, but not quite successful. Certain shots and frames are also a but awkward, almost like the camera man was a 1-2 feet too close to the actors. Cast wise…look, the Persona 3 cast isn’t as charismatic as the Persona 4 cast, but they do grow on you, especially later on in the story. And finally, the big questions: Do you have to have played Persona 3 to enjoy this movie? My answer is Yes. It’s not a bad movie, but without my prior knowledge, I would have found it a bit thin, and a little confusing.

Watch it?: Persona fans would like it. Everyone else could easily live without it.

MVP: Makoto Yuki

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God, how many of us went to high school with this guy?

Best Moment: Makoto talking (holy moley, I thought he was mute!)

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Dance in the Vampire Bund

Type: “Bund” means embankment or causeway

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Synopsis: Vampires! Creatures of the Night! Children of Satan that will feed on you very blood! They exist! They set up a city off the shore of Tokyo! Their queen is a totally legal blond girl who is regularly naked!

Pros: Despite having a highly sexualized child character as it’s poster child (which we will get to later), the anime is actually a pretty good vampire show. It has the right mix of gore, sex, and style that should appeal to any fans of this sub-genre. The plot also does not mess around. The first episode sets up the vampire city, and the rest of the series deals with the aftermath. The show tries its best to depict the social impact that Vampires would have on society,  like True Blood. But not all vampires want to integrate, leading to conflict with the protagonists,  like True Blood. And there are werewolfs and other magical creatures…like True Blood. OK, so this is the closest you may get to anime True Blood, at least in spirit. You even have a “forbidden” love between a vampire and non-vampire. The vampire in question is Mina Tepes, Queen of the Vampires.  Her physical portrayal aside, I found her to be a fun character to watch. She is portrayed as prideful and regal, but also kind and childish, and at times even cutthroat. Her best moment is her reactions to a command she gives for the benefit of her people. While necessary, she didn’t like it, but never said she regretted it, even if it cost her what she personally wanted the most. She’s a good addition to that weird group of immortal loli characters. (P.s. The animation is helmed by SHAFT, giving the show a stylish look that compliments the vampire mystique).

Cons: OK, so the first episode does this interesting thing where it’s all set during a talk show that discusses the existence of vampires. The show proper doesn’t start until episode 2. It was an interesting approach, but maybe not for everyone. In terms on character, the show seems to reserve it’s interesting character designs to vampires. Most everyone else if fairly generic. There’s also the main character, Akira, who’s about as bland as a piece of bread. His only real interesting moment is when he disagrees with one of Mina’s decisions, which was legitimately great, but everything else he does is boring. The plot…is actually worth watching, with a few factors in the show explained, from the establishment of the Vampire Bund to Mina’s appearance. That’s right, the show actually has an interesting rationale for it’s pedophilia! Not everything is explain, however, as the show has a “read the manga” ending. But it does have 12 solid episodes.

Watch it?: Every episode is named after other vampire media (4/5)

MVP: Mina Tepes

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Heavy is the head that wears the crown

Best Episode: Ep5-7 “Shadow of Vampire,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and “Innocent Blood” (characters actually having a disagreement based on personal beliefs and actions, not misunderstanding!)

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Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge

Type: A lot less popular than it should be

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Synopsis: We  were in the arcade late one night when our eyes beheld an eerie sight, for some dudes began to rise and suddenly to our surprise they played Nightstalkers. It was a graveyard smash!

Pros: Poor references to 1960’s parody songs aside, this anime OVA series is based on the Nighstalkers’ video game franchise. That’s right, it’s another anime based on a fighting game review! I’m starting to think I should add a tag for this. Anyway, the anime has 4 episodes, 40 minutes each, with some slight plot elements. The anime follows three pairs: Morrigan and Demitri, Donovan and Anita, and H-Sein Ko and Mei-Ling. The story takes place in a world where the “Dark” has encroached on the Human World, meaning monsters and humans are living together. “Darkstalkers” refer to creatures of the dark. For once, the fighting in this anime based on a fighting game is pretty good, and some of the story elements are interesting. Anita’s story is predictably the most compelling. The anime did it’s job by getting me interested in the series, and making me wonder why this wasn’t more popular. Seriously, its a game were movie monsters fight each other. How was it not all over the 90s!?

Cons: Even at 40 minutes a piece, the story is all over the place. I think they made a mistake trying to build an overarching story across the 4 episodes. The anime worked best when it had spotlight segments, like the one with Bishimon, the haunted samurai armor ghost, or the one with Felicia, the cat girl. Putting so much emphasis on Donovan was a mistake, because he has as much personality as a block of wood. The world itself is interesting enough. You have humans who fight the dark. You have Darkstalkers who are presecuted by humans. And you have characters who a trying to take over the world. But as it stands, you’d be better off picking and choosing what to watch, or skipping it.

Watch it?: Like the game, it has potential, but can’t quite fulfill it (3/5)

MVP: Anita

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She’s eerie, but interesting

Best Episode: Ep1 “Return of the Darkstalkers” (has a zombie in it)

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Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea (film)

Type: A popular mess

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Synopsis: A girl, who’s kinda a downer to be honest, finds herself in a fantasy land where she happens to be a super special and important Goddess that all the boys have a crush on. To be fair, if she was a he, then he would be a super special and important Warrior that all the girls have a crush on. So no points for originality.

Pros: I chose to watch this movie because whenever older fans of anime (meaning people my age who’s family had money for cable) talk about 90’s anime, there’s always a few names that pop up. Someone will mention Cowboy Bebop, or Evangelion, or Sailor Moon, or DBZ, or this one weird anime called “Escaflowne.” So I decided to give it a shot. Though, in hindsight, I probably should have watched the 1996 anime instead of this 2000 movie (even though the English anime actually did premiere in 2000 in North America). The movie is very pretty to look at, in that 90’s animation kinda way. The themes of depression and escalation stay more or less consistent throughout the story. And the overall world looks fairly interesting. I was actually thinking that I wouldn’t mind following these characters for more than just a 90 minute movie. (P.S. I watched the English Dub, the Ocean Version I believe, and boy…was that something).

Cons: Condensing a full length anime series into a 90 minutes movie is never a wise idea. The movie treatment works better with story arcs that have a more consistent beginning, middle, and end. As such, I often found myself feeling rushed while watching this movie. No character is really allowed to breath. For example, the protagonist Hitomi’s character arc is that she’s suffering from depression, which is only alleviated after she visits a new world and gets a purpose (and also meets a cute boy that solves all her problems, but that’s a separate issue). But the movie didn’t really have enough time to explore this properly, so to me Hitomi was just an angsty teen who felt “alone,” despite not really having any external forces weighing her down and showing evidence being pretty sociable. Then there’s her relationship with Van, the would be Dragon King, which goes from indifference to eternal love in the span of a quick fight scene. Not to mention all the supporting characters that I’m struggling to remember because they don’t really do anything. What all this boils down to is the realization the film version was probably not the best way to experience the Escaflowne story.

Watch it?: Find the anime instead

MVP: Lord Folken

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Now his nihilism I could understand. Being passed over as King would suck.

Best Moment: The characters faces (they look so weird up close)

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The Irregular at Magic High School

Type: slooooooooooooow

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Synopsis: Tell me if you heard this one before. A high school full of super powered teenagers, mostly female, accepts a male student who is placed in the lower ranks due to a technicality. But the boy’s actually a secret bad ass that never does anything wrong, causing the female students to all quiver in unison. At least no one has pink hair in this one.

Pros: The Irregular at Magic High School has all the trappings of a generic light novel anime based on a magical battle school. Except for the main protagonist, Tatsuya. While Tatsuya does have all the circumstantial trappings of a magical battle school light novel hero, such as a harem of girls who love him, the uncanny ability to succeed in any situation, and secret powers, his main character trait is being stoic. That’s not be calling him bland. He literally does not feel emotions, having repressed them early in life. While more light novel action heroes are usually a little bumbling to give off an image of geniality, Tatsuya does not. He never laughs, rarely smiles, and most of his expressions are reserved for dry humor or affection for his sister. This calm demeanor almost justifies his level of skill and mary-sue like ability to solve any problem. Plus, his quiet but handsome attitude is kinda hot, so you can see why most of the girls naturally flock to him. Story wise, first arc is the strongest, since it sets up this whole social conflict between people with magic, people with weak magic, and people with not magic. These themes of inequality and discrimination make the anime seem like it’s going somewhere, even if it ultimately doesn’t.

Cons: It’s just so boring. The anime has three arcs: The School arc, the School-Tournament arc, and the War arc. The first arc is the most interesting and the most promising. It introduces a world were magic is real, and magicians are trained as soldiers from an early age. In the most elite of elite magic school, the student body has developed their own social cast system: Blooms and Weeds, based on test scores. This echoes the larger world issues between Magicians and Non-Magicians. Tatsuya, being a “weed” with great skills, throws a wrench into this system. That’s cool and all, and lasts about 7 episodes. The next arc is the tournament arc, which Tatsuya’s high school wins, even though the first anime opening had the audacity of framing one of the competitors as Tatsuya’s rival (false advertisement!). The last arc is a war arc against some terrorists or something, but honestly, I was checked out by then. The only real interesting thing about the last arc was the reveal that Tatsuya is secretly a soldier, but the show kinda reveals this in the firs episode. So story wise, I don’t recommend this anime. What about character wise? Nope on that either. There is no character development here. Like none at all. The only person who actually changes and evolves is a character in the first arc who joined a terrorist cell and later regrets it. But that’s it. And I don’t even want to mention that explicit incest between Tatsuya and his sister! I don’t want to be that guy, but their relationship is an abomination and will cursed them to the fiery depths of hell. (P.s. There’s also this weird hue over the show that makes it seem that everything is slightly glowing.

Watch it?: Maybe the first 7 episodes. (3/5)

MVP: Tatsuya Shiba

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I found his cold demeanor refreshing

Best Episode: Enrollment I-VII (the first arc)

 

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Golden Boy

Type: Very Educational

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Synopsis: In this show that’s kinda porn, but not really, but still really close–I mean, you probably wouldn’t watch this in the office. But you probably shouldn’t be watching any anime in the office. Get back to work!– a guy whose basically a Temp helps various women by being a pathetic perv who’s a quick study.

Pros: The anime’s biggest strength is it’s serialized format. Each story is a stand alone tale about Kintaro meeting a woman at work, driving them away with his sick fetishes, but secretly helping them in a way that makes each woman fall in love with him. Most of the humor is based on sex jokes, as Kintaro has a very active libido. I watched the English dub, and Kintaro’s actor plays him very over the top. Even after seeing Kintaro save the day with his mary-sue like ability to learn, he still comes off as a weird loser in the next story. But his desire to learn about the world is admirable, and his positive personality does grow on you. And while the show is very fan service heavy, it is not pornographic, per say. The closest is probably episode 4, involving a woman and her motorcycle, which puts it under the category of a soft sore skin flix more than anything.

Cons: Kintaro’s toilet fetish. I don’t get it. People poop there man. But I guess I shouldn’t judge people’s tastes, fictional or otherwise. Other than that, Kintaro can be a little too much to handle at times, and can come off a a creep. And this is a very sex-joke heavy show, with more of the women being drawn as such. And weirdly enough, 4 out of the 6 women that Kintaro helps are condescending women of higher authority or status that are “humbled” by Kintaro’s kindness. I’m not really sure what that says about the author’s thoughts on gender dynamics, given his love for Dominant Women,  but I do know that the later part of the Golder Boy manga gets really philosophical about sex and gender, so….yeah. (p.s. the opening is poor and doesn’t really set up the show).

Watch it: It’s can be fun, but know what your getting into (3/5)

MVP: Kintaro’s voice actor

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Doug Smith, you’ve done it again.

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Danger! The Virgin’s First Love” (the nicest and least sexual episode, which is ironic, considering that this is also the only episode with a sex scene in it)

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Magical Pretty Girl Sammy

Type: Spin-off!

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Synopsis: In the magical world of anime Japan, a pretty girl named Sasami is turned into a pretty magical girl named Sammy in the name of love, justice, and merchandising.

Pros: The Magical Pretty Girl Sammy franchise is a very interesting entry in the surprisingly wide Tenchi Muyo brand. The concept is based on a multiverse story from a CD Drama, which was later adapted into Tenchi Universe, and then into this OVA. The premise is fairly simple: Sasami and everyone in the Tenchi Muyo Universe cast is in a magical girl show. Now for me, I got a kick out of this, as it was yet another way to see the Tenchi English voice cast strut their stuff. And I do generally enjoy when an established anime experiments with other genres. The jokes are neither here nor there, though I did like the fierce rivalry between Ayeka and Ryoko (even if Ryoko is a lot more forward in this). The best character is probably Pixie Misa, Sasami’s delightfully evil rival. And while this show keeps it fairly light, the moments when Sasami gets serious is pretty cool.

Cons: The show is a 3 episode OVA what doesn’t really have an ending. Now, I looked it up, an apparently the Pretty Sammy brand has two other full length anime, Magical Project S, and the non-canotical Sasami: Magical Girl’s Club. So I would view this OVA as more of a backdoor pilot than anything else. The show is not amazing by any means. It’s got that traditional Tenchi Muyo jank in terms of animation and voice acting, but that’s kinda it’s charm (at least to me). My only real complain is against the show’s attempts to make the 10 year old, 4th grader Sasami “sexy,” or at least more sexual. I can always live without that.

Watch it: Maybe out of curiosity (3/5)

MVP: Pixie Misa

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She loves to double cross everyone!

Best Episode: OVA rules (a.k.a. you decide)

 

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Seitokai Yakuindomo (Second Season)

Type: OVA/Second Season/Dirty Joke Deliver Service

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Synopsis: A student council at a private school makes dirty jokes at one another while trying to uphold strict public morals. Like all people in powers, they’re obviously big fat hypocrites.

Pros: The “second season” of Seitokai Yakiundomo, or the OVA series if you’d like, is one of a seemingly increasing list of sequel seasons that I have gotten to extraordinarily late. To be fair, I didn’t actually know it had a second season. When I saw the number of episodes for this season in my research in the past, I thought it was still in progress. I wasn’t aware of the OVA system at the time. But I did go and eventually read the manga. All in all, the show still holds up. The skits are still funny. I still like the franchise. It has remained a steady show.

Cons: Another word for steady could be stagnant. After having read the manga, I have become aware of the repetitive nature of Seitokai Yakiundomo. The punch line for every joke is a something sexual. You fell in a puddle? Ha! I looks like you ejaculated! The joke does wear thin. I don’t know if I would have felt like this if I had watched this season right after the first one, but people with higher standards than mine will probably get tired of it. The show does hint that some romance between the main characters, but they’re only hints. The show has a formula and it sticks to it, but it made me smile more than feel bored.

Watch it?: A lot more of the same. Take that as you will. (4/5)

MVP: Suzu

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I’ve actually grown fond of her height complex

Best Episode: Not an episode, but the “Dried Squid” side story was hilarious (it was the squid!)

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The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Type: Typical Light Novel

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Synopsis: An art prep school, which I’m sure is sure hard to get into and requires a lot of effort, has a special dorm designated for trouble making students…for some reason. And by “trouble making” I of course mean weirdos. Even by art student standards. One of them has cats. FREAK. That same cat dude, Sorata, has given up on his dreams because he doesn’t really feel good enough to try, but that all changes when a beautiful art genius moves in and becomes the subject of his awe and resentment because she’s a natural born art genius. She also clearly lives with Savant Syndrome, given her explicitly stated inability to take care of herself, but the show glosses this over and calls her “eccentric.” Because hey! Anime!

Pros: The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a melodramatic slice of life story with comedic elements. The comedy comes from a group of eccentrics all living under one roof. You have the energetic one, the playboy, the computer snob, the lazy dorm teacher, the emotionless genius, and the straight man in Sorata and Nanami. One of the trade make gags of the show are the skits between Sorata and one of the other characters, usually involving quick quips between Sorata and one of his dorm mates over an embarrassing or frustrating situation. Like trying to teach the art genius Shina how to cook. Or trying to convince Nanami that it isn’t what it looks like. These are great, and I highly encourage you to look for these short scenes on online even if you don’t watch the show. The melodrama comes from Sorata and Nanami, the two characters how have a dream and must deal with the trials and tribulations that comes with following a dream. The show does a really great job at depicting the emotional struggles one faces with trying to achieve a dream or goal, especially in the arts. Particularly when faced with multiple failures and false starts even after working yourself to your physical, mental, and emotional limit. This is especially true with Sorata, who is introduced as someone who would rather not even try due to fear of failure. The character of Shina is particularly interesting in this respect, as she’s often the subject of resentment and jealousy due to her natural ability and easy successes. She is used to represent the darker and often unwarranted feelings one gets towards other people’s professional or personal success, even though your often not angry at a particular person, but at yourself and the situation. The rest of the show just involves love triangles and the power of friendship of whatever.

Cons: The show’s story beats are very predictable. After the first two episodes, you can pretty much tell how the rest of the episodes are going to go. For those wondering, it goes: silly, sad, angry/resentful, sad again, uplifting, and finally happy. If this doesn’t happen within one episode, it will happen over two or three episodes. But the show doesn’t really break this cycle. It makes a lot of episodes easy to skip or gloss over. And ironically, much like the other characters of the show, my feelings towards Shina are mixed. One the one hand, I liked her emotional growth (even if it was because of “love”), and she was a good comedic foil for Sorata. On the other hand, her inability to do even the most basic personal tasks does not really balance out her Mary Sue like abilities. I get that her not being able to take care of herself is suppose to make her endearing, but it really just made her kinda annoying to watch. Even I found it hard to sympathize with given her amazing art skills. I think that if the show had played her condition as more serious than comedic, it would have been easier to like her. I also found myself not really caring for Misaki and Jin’s love story. They were alright characters, but their plots don’t really impact the plot in any significant way. Maybe it works better in the books? And lastly, I felt that the whole “chasing your dreams is hard” would have worked better with a slightly older cast, like between 18-21. My biggest dream in high school was beating Kingdom Hearts 2 to get the secret ending, not preparing myself for career setbacks.

Watch it?: Good, and maybe even great to some people. (4/5)

MVP: Sorata

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One of the realist depictions of emotional in all of anime.

Best Episode: Ep.5-6 “The Serious Girl of Sakura Dormitory” and “The Blue After the Rain” (funny, sad, dramatically over the top, love triangle, a good showcase of the show in general)

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