Outlaw Star

Type: Poor Man’s Cowboy Bebop

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Synopsis: Group of wayward travelers end up traveling together, trying to makes ends meets on space jobs. Along the way, they each try to help keep their ship up and not starve. This crew of misfits comprises of a red-haired lady’s man, a bio organism, an 11 year old, some sort of beast master, and a samurai.

Pros: As stated above, this does remind me a lot of Cowboy Bebop. Funny enough, this actually premiered a few months before Bebop, though Bebop’s original manga predates Outlaw Star’s manga by a year. So basically, I’m not sure who stole from who. But we all know who the clear winner is….the audience, cause we got two cool space westerns! I love the later 90’s/early 2000’s future setting, as the animation at the time made everything look lived-in and used. Today’s HD just can’t project that same level of grime, ya know? The crew of the Outlaw Star is fun, though they don’t officially form until halfway through the show. The show does a good job mixing serious story arcs with more stand alone light-hearted tales. Sometimes it doesn’t work, like the time Gene spirals into meloncholy after learning that an assassin is after him was followed with an episode about searching for Pirate Treasure. But overall, the universe the show builds of Pirate, Outlaws, and Military serves to create some very interesting and varied stories. I also liked the general focus on the crew doing odd jobs, as a space crew doing missions is always fun to watch.

Cons: The story pacing if a little off. Their are six main plots lines in the show: Why Melfina was created,  who killed Gene’s father, the fights with the MacDougall Brothers, the Anten Seven, and the quest for the Galactic Leyline. The Melfina and Galactine Layline was the best executed, because they intertwine and are introduced at the very beginning. Gene’s father is more of a subplot, and you honestly forget about it after a while. The MacDougall Brother’s are interesting antagonists, though trying to portray Harry MacDougall as anything other than a crazy stalker felt hollow. Seriously, stop trying to make Predators sympathetic. It doesn’t work. They also don’t who up that much until the later half of the show. Ditto with the Anten Seven, who are described as super bad asses, but don’t do anything significant until the last 2 episodes. Character wise, I felt that Gene and Melfina’s relationship felt artificial, sorta like it was just the thing to do, and Aisha could come off as annoying at times.

Watch it: Space Westerns are the best (4/5)

MVP: Gene Starwind

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They never did explain his star tatoo

Best Episode: Ep. 13 “Advance Guard from Another World” (future hijinks!)

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Boruto: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Confusing Title

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Synopsis: Mission 11- Milk the Franchise for all it’s worth!

Pros: Boruto: Naruto the Movie is…wait, before we start, can we all agree that “Boruto: Naruto the Movie” is a very dumb title. “Boruto: The Movie,” “Naruto Legacy: Boruto,” or even “Naruto the Movie: Boruto,” all these would have made more sense. Also, “Boruto?” as in “Bore-uto?” did no one make the connection? Anyway, Boruto is a sequel series to the Naruto franchise, following the life of Naruto’s son Boruto. Specifically, right after Naruto has become Hokage, but before Boruto takes his Chunin Exams. The plot of the film revolves around Boruto feeling neglected by his father, who’s very busy with his duties as Hokage. His growing resentment leads him to attempt to surpass his father, either by tutelage under Sasuke, or via a cheater Ninja device. Then the bad guy shows up and almost kills Naruto, making Boruto realize what a shmuck he really is. The world that Boruto shows is pretty interesting, as it has modernized quiet rapidly since the end of Naruto. Seeing the character’s kids in action was neat (though their similar ages makes me think the cast of Naruto coordinated their pregnancies). It’s a fair start to a new chapter, and I look forward to seeing more of it, and I applaud the franchise for daring to follow a new protagonist (unlike other series cough Dragon Ball cough). (P.s. However, personally, I would have liked the story to focus on Sarada Uchiha, because I find the story of an Uchiha who wants to be Hokage much more interesting).

Cons: So I think the big question in everyone’s mind upon hearing this was: Is Boruto any good as a character? Because he look’s just like his Naruto, and acts just like Naruto, but we just went through 12 years of Naruto. Is he redundant? The answer is yes and no. Boruto’s situation and motivation are different from Naruto, and that will determine whether or not you like him. Unlike Naruto, his son is every talented and popular, with a family that loves him. In fact, the reason he lashes out in the movie is that his father works too much (which is implied to be a recent thing). Which is different from Naruto, who lashed out more as a way to validate his existence. Or to put it another way, Naruto needed to prove that he mattered, while Boruto his just a brat. But the whole movie is Boruto having to realize this, so narratively, his behavior is justified. Personally, however…yeah, he’s annoying. More annoying than Naruto was? No, but Naruto had the orphan excuse. But his whole analysis does bring up the glaring fact that you can’t talk about Boruto without bringing up Naruto. And to it’s credit, the movie’s writing owes up to this, very much stating that “Yes, this is a continuation of the Naruto story” while also stating “but, this is a new story.”

Best Boruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Momoshiki

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Forgettable Villain V.2, #1

Best Moment: The Last Fight (Hokage Level Combat!)

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The Last: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Years in the Making

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Synopsis: Mission 10- Save the World, Fall in Love, Live Happily Ever After

Pros: Hmm….ah, excuse me. I have to wipe away these tears of joy I have here. This movie is so…cathartic. It’s the perfect emotional endpoint for the Naruto franchise. The Last focuses on the relationship between Naruto and Hinata, finally affirming their status as a couple. You see, in the actual manga, Naruto and Hinata’s romance is not a main plot. It’s not even a subplot. It’s a sup plot twice removed. It’s such a slow burn that you almost can’t believe it finally paid off. But it’s also something you can only pull off if your series has lasted consistently for this long. In the film, Naruto FINALLY realizes that Hinata loves him, and he realizes that he loves her. Because Hinata was the first person to ever believe in Naruto. He inspired her, which eventually evolved into love. The film was actually a good showcase of Hinata’s overall character arc, from being riddled with self-doubt to standing tall in the face of overwhelming danger. That’s one of the reason’s why Hinata is my favorite Naruto character (sorry Lee!), because her personal anxieties weigh on her the most. She struggles, she falls, but she keeps on trying and becomes a lot stronger as a result. She also rips a man’s eyes out of their sockets, which was pretty bad ass. Now, if you’re not as invested in the Naruto/Hinata story as I am (you monsters), the movie was also a pretty cool way to see the progression of the main characters. Every character was aged up to about 19-20 years old, so they all got really neat redesigns. And taking place after the series ended, you get to see Naruto be really popular and  fight at his strongest, throwing wind-rasengans left and right. Plus, you get to see Kakashi as Hokage, which was cool, and all this growth was fun to observe because Naruto has been around for soo long. In some ways, it’s like we’ve seen actors grow up before our eyes.

Cons: While I stand by my assertion that this was the best story to end the Naruto story on, the plot if pretty cookie cutter. One person has a crush on the other, they bond, something dramatic happens, the other tries to reciprocate but is “rejected,” the girl is “kidnapped” or somehow removed, the boy wallows in self pity for a little but is roused by his friends to save the girl, rescue occurs and romantic kiss ends it. This has literally happened at the end of so many romantic anime that I’ve lost count (it even happend in Ouran Host Club). To top it off, the villain is even that douche anime character that thinks the girl likes him just because he says so.  Yuck. And it took Naruto a magic memory pool to realize Hinata likes him, the knucklehead! While the plot can make the film a little too romantically generic at times, the movie as a whole does tie up two crucial loose ends. First, the Hinata-Naruto story, and second, the Other Sage of the Six Paths. In the Naruto story, the creator of the Ninja arts had a brother, but the manga never really says what happened to him. Turn out, he went off to live on he moon! Who knew? It was also cool to state that Hinata’s Byakugan is tied to the Sages, just like the Sharingan. (P.s. In the movie, the moon is falling, which leads to everyone deciding to destroy the moon because some crazy guy is trying to kill all Ninja. Stop trying to destroy the moon anime characters! That’s an incredibly bad idea on several levels!!)

Best Naruto Movie: YES

Villain: Toneri

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Forgettable Villain #10

Best Moment: The Post Credit Scene (Naruto and his Family…ah, here come those tears again:))

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Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Naruto of Two Worlds

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Synopsis: Mission 9- Return to Reality

Pros: I loved this movie! Hands down the best Naruto movie I’ve seen thus far (I got 2 to go). The gimmick of the film is that Naruto and Sakura are transported into a parallel world. Everyone they know has opposite personalities or traits in some way. Hinata is brash, Choji is skinny, Tsunade is flat chested, etc. This aspect of the movie is rife with comedic moments and really makes up for the very serious Blood Prison. The other half of the movie, however, is a much more personal story. Because in the parallel world, both of Naruto’s parents are alive. Naruto’s emotional conflict over whether or not to embrace his alternate mother and father really reminds you that Naruto’s life is pretty tragic . He is, after all, a character that grew up an orphan and is only 16 at this point. The kid’s all by himself, which you sometimes forget given all the crazy ninja stuff that surrounds him (it also doesn’t help that the movie shows the death scene of Naruto’s parents, literally the saddest moment in the whole franchise and fiction in general). So it was nice to see how Naruto’s parents would treat him if they were still alive. The film’s a very intimate story, centering on the main cast dynamics and history, which are often the best Naruto stories. (On a side note, I also really loved the relationship shown between Naruto and Sakura. Not only because it’s a rare platonic male-female friendship in anime, but because, when you really think about it, Sakura is Naruto’s Best Friend. She’s stuck by him since the age of 12, and has literally saved his life on multiple occasions. Screw Sasuke, give Sakura a damn BFF bracelet!)

Cons: Not a lot of action. The film is surprisingly devoid of great fights scenes. I kept expecting for Naruto do preform some jutsu and everyone saying “hey wait a minute, Menma can’t do that!” Even the big battle between Naruto and the antagonist was resolved with one punch. In fact, the animation in this was unimpressive, and felt very much like it was made on a budget. The story was great, but this film was clearly made specifically for Naturo fans. The uninitiated may need to do some homework to enjoy it. And again, the antagonist was nothing special. If you don’t guess it early enough, he’s the “evil” version of Naruto. Why exactly he’s evil given the fact that his parents are alive, or why no one notices that he’s been missing, is never explained. And lastly, it does make me smirk that his all started because Naruto and Sakura were acting like sh#tty teens and complaining about parents and stuff. Again, it is sometimes easy to forget exactly how young they really are in the story.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Menma

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Forgettable Villain #9

Best Moment: The Hidden Leaf 11’s bath scene (I love it when all 11 get together. Plus, hijinks!)

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Naruto the Movie: Blood Prison [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Don’t Drop the Kunai!

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Synopsis: Mission 8- Destroy a Magic Box

Pros: Blood Prison is definitely the darkest Naruto movie. I feel that the writers took this opportunity to stick in a few Prison movie Easter Eggs (some uncomfortably so). The premise is that Naruto is accused of attempted assassination and is sent to a Ninja Prison. He spends most of the movie screaming that he’s innocent and trying to find a way to escape. He also has to stop the evil Grass Ninja from using the “Paradise Box” to take over the world. The idea of a Ninja Prison was interesting, and for once, the antagonist had an actual motivation for his actions. The final battle against the demon in the Paradise Box was pretty cool (we even get a Gamabunta appearance), though it does get very bloody. And the good guys don’t really “win,” more as got lucky. Again, the darkest Naruto movie by far.

Cons: There’s a lot of small movie conceits that annoyed me. In the beginning, we see the “Naruto” attack the Cloud Village. That’s why he’s sent to prison. But if any of the characters thought about it, they’d know it wasn’t Naruto. The attacker used a chain (not Naruto’s style) and he paused a minute to show his face (why would a secret assassin do?). Now I’m going to spoil something, because it’s really dumb: at the final battle it’s revealed that no one though Naruto was guilty, they actually sent him to Prison to find and destroy the Paradise Box. A box he was never told about. Why didn’t they just tell him!? Why have him believe that everyone abandoned him? Because it seems to me that a very powerful Ninja with no living family and a large history of neglect probably shouldn’t be given a chance to develop trust issues. I did like the villain in this, mostly because he was the first Naruto film bad guy who didn’t want to use the movie Mcguffin to take over the world. Also: this was my first exposure to the English dubbed Killer Bee. Man, that was….all I’ll say is that the rhyming speech sounded less lame in the manga.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Satori

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Forgettable Villain #8

Best Moment: When Naruto’s friends talk about Tricking Naruto at the End (they partially did it for the LoL’s)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Back to the Future

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Synopsis: Mission 7- Capture Rouge Puppet Ninja

Pros: The Lost Tower does a very good job at two key elements for an shoen-anime movie-it focuses on action and could be considered cannon-adjacent. In the Lost Tower, Naruto and pals are trying to catch a runaway Ninja when Naruto gets sent back in time. The run away Ninja is a puppet master, and this was a very cool Ninja style to focus on. It also works thematically, if predictably (he ends up controlling someone emotionally). The other gimmick of the film is the inclusion of Naruto’s father, the 4th Hokage. I’d say spoilers, but the two characters look so alike that assuming you didn’t make the connection would be insulting. While the Fourth and Naruto only spend superficial time together, the film does paint a very good picture of the Fourth’s personality. For instance, the Fourth easily discerns that Naruto is from the future, and he easily figures out that Naruto is probably his son. In only a few minutes, you understand why he would made the Hokage. The film only character, Queen Sara, is alright. Her arc from naive royal to leader is well done, and is central to the story.

Cons: Once again, we get the standard Naruto movie story: An authority figure betrays the film only protagonist, has a crazy plan that boils down to world domination, and Naruto has to do some special Rasengan variant to beat them up. As stated above, this is really Queen Sara’s story. Naruto is there to act more like emotional support than anything else. He keeps telling her “you gatta do what you gatta do,” and “you’re not a puppet.” Naruto’s basically a cheerleader in this (though he is a very good cheerleader). Also as stated above, the inclusion of the Fourth Hokage is more superficial than anything. And because this is a time travel story, the film as the audacity to use the “mind wipe” troupe to make sure that no one remembers anything that happened, and that nothing is affected in the real series plot. (There’s this one weird scene where the Queen’s festival turns out to be filled with a crowd of puppets to trick her into thinking there’s peace in her city, but then a puppet queen shows up to greet the people, which are also puppets, which begs the question as to why Mukade is trying to keep up the rouse at that point!?)

Best Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Mukade

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Forgettable Villain #7

Best Moment: The ending (time traveling thank yous)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Will of Fire [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: 10th Anniversary Edition

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Synopsis: Mission 6- Going Rouge

Pros: As this movie is a celebration of Naruto after 10 years, it does the really smart thing of focusing on the characters from the Hidden Leaf Village. Instead of adding some random film only character, the person that needs rescuing in this movie is Kakashi. Long story short: A former Leaf Ninja is kidnapping Ninja with Kekkei Genkai, or “Bloodline Techniques.” With the other nations blaming the Leaf, everyone decides to sacrifice Kakashi to stop the threat. Everyone except for Naruto, who predictably is not down with letting his teacher die. So what we get is a movie where Naruto is racing to stop Kakashi, while everyone else is racing to stop Naruto. The film uses the entire “Leaf 9,” or Naruto’s graduating class. This was also very smart because it uses characters that aren’t often showcased, and because the Naruto story is a Generational one, so having Naruto’s generation take center stage was smart. Each team gets a fight sequence, and we even get a pretty cool Naruto vs. Gaara rematch. The movie also throws in political issues and themes of friendship, making this an excellent primer for what the Naruto franchise had evolved into.

Cons: The backgrounds are boring. It’s mostly a bunch of rocks and spiky rocks. Kakashi’s plan was a little ill thought out, because he should have known how Naruto would behave as his teacher. And while I did like Naruto’s resolve to save Kakashi, his stubborness did make his annoying at times. We get a few random flashbacks here and there, but they do work in context. Interestingly, no Sasuke. I don’t like the guy, but even I feel he needed a mention for the 10th anniversary movie.

Best Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Hiruko

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Forgettable Villain #6

Best Moment: Naruto vs Gaara II (my favorite rivalry in the franchise)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Bonds [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Sasuke shirtless in 3,2,1….

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Synopsis: Mission 5-Protect Doctor and Apprentice during Battle

Pros: The theme is pretty easy to figure out. It’s all about “bonds,” specifically between master and apprentice….and also about Naruto borderline obsession with Sasuke. But hey! Sasuke makes his return to the Naruto films from the very first movie. I mean, we got a weird cameo in the second movie, but that doesn’t count. He also doesn’t really factor into this movie until the last battle, but whatever, he’s shirtless most of the time. That’s fan service we can all get behind. The premise of the film is good and straightforward: a Ninja village holds an old grudge against the Leaf Village and attacks them. Naruto stories work best when they revolve around Ninja vs Ninja political conflict. The opening attack is beautifully ominous, and you get a real sense of the magnitude of the attack. The pacing is well done, with cuts from the Leaf’s counter attack to Naruto’s medical escort mission. We get a good mix of action and character work without overdoing either. And the themes of war and bonds are actually a pretty nifty allusion to the later parts of the Naruto story.

Cons: There are too many antagonists in this movie. The Sky Ninja was enough. They had ties to the Naruto cannon thanks to the Second Shinobi war, they attacked first, and their flying machines where made to look like a serious threat to the Leaf Village. Did we really need the inclusion of a “Zero Tailed” beast and a crazy old man? Speaking of crazy old man, or Shinno, we get yet another Naruto movie where the new Film only character is betrayed by an authority figure. To be fair, this twist wasn’t as telegraphed as the others in the franchise. But his plan is pretty dumb and convoluted. Shinno basically goes from kind doctor to insane dictator without any real explanations of his motives. The film lost a really good chance to tie the loose ends of the Sky Ninja story by exploring how war affects a community. But no, Shinno’s just crazy because LOL.  Amaru’s romance subplot was also a bit icky, mostly because the whole teenage girl loving the over 50 old man/father figure/mentor is icky,  but I wouldn’t have minded adding Amaru to the regular cast. The Sasuke stuff, though, does feel forced. Maybe if he had been shown more during the movie, his inclusion would have felt more organic. And, on a personal note, I forgot how much of an assh#le Sasuke is during this part of the story. Just a pretty, pretty ash#le.

Best Naruto movie?: Yes

Villain: Shinnō

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Forgettable villain #5

Best Moments: The Sky Ninja attack (I think it ripped off Pearl Harbor)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Everyone’s hit puberty!

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Synopsis: Mission 4- Bodyguard a Priestess

Pros: Obviously, the big thing about this movie is that it’s the first that takes place in Part 2, or the Shippuden saga of Naruto. Fun fact, I think Shippuden means Hurricane Chronicles (I think). Anyway, my favorite part of the film has always been the beginning, which shows Naruto’s funeral after a failed mission. While we all know Naruto isn’t going to die, its a nice reminder of what he means to the other characters. By this point, Naruto is no longer the loud loner, he’s a friend to many. The movie follows Naruto, Sakura, Neji, and everyone’s favorite, Rock Lee. Lee has the best fight in the movie, though he and Neji’s roles aren’t all that important in the end. Neither is Sakura’s. The new movie character in this is a teenage Priestess named Shion, Shion’s alright, a but snooby, but alright. Her relationship with Naruto was a bit interesting, implying that he may be what would consider “cute.” More research is needed.

Cons: I mean, the prophesied death of Naruto is a fake out. Everyone outside of Naruto is just there to fill out a team. The bad guy isn’t memorable, proven by the fact that I can’t actually recall his name of motivation. The story felt a bit rushed, but in fairness, the whole plot was about getting Shion to her destination as fast as possible. I also found it weird that at the end, Shion wasn’t really needed to defeat the big bad at then end, despite that being her primary role and reason for existence. But I guess even she is not match of Naruto the all powerful protagonist.

Top 5 Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Moryo

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Forgettable Villain #4

Best Moment: Shion blushing a Naruto’s glistening hair (Honorable mention at the end where Shion asks Naruto to father her children)

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Naruto the Movie: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Annoying kid character in 3,2,1….

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Synopsis: Mission 3- Escort a Prince and his son on vacation

Pros: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom is the last Naruto Part 1 movie. So that’s a plus!

Cons: A. Lot. Of. Stuff. The movie is slowwwwww. It spends way too much time trying to establish Hikaru. In all honesty, it felt more like a filler arc than film. The premise is that Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee (f#ck yeah!) and Kakashi are escorting the Prince of the Moon Kingdom and his son back home. Prince Michiru and his son Hikaru’s story arc is that they are very materialistic, and they have to learn that whole “can’t buy my love” thing. This all rang a little hollow, and the film doesn’t do a good job making the viewer dislike the two, at least not in the way it intended. Michiru was played as more comedic, so his materialism was more funny than annoying, and Hikaru came off more as an lonely kid than spoiled. In fact, the other characters, particularly Naruto and Hikaru’s mother, came off as waaaay more judgemental and jerky. At one point, Naruto chastises the 8 year old Hikaru for crying, which was right after the DEATH of his grandfather and KIDNAPPING of his father. Give the kid a break, not all of us were raised by militant ninjas Naruto! Maybe combining Hikaru and Michiru into one character would have fixed this, I don’t know. And as usual, we get a cast of very forgettable villains who don’t even show up until halfway. The standard Evil Authority figure and his 3 ninja henchmen.

Best Naruto Movie?: No

Villain: Shabadaba

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Forgettable Villain #3

Best Moment: The Ninja summer wear (short sleeves are in!)

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