Death Parade – 06

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Sometimes, when a show breaks from it’s normal tone and format, it can feel like the creators are wasting your time or unfocused or being lazy — and this week’s DP is bizarrely different from previous episodes.

But man was it a pleasant break from DP’s bleak, high drama routine. Dare I say it, this was a break it desperately needed!

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The details: Arita Mayu an over the top fan girl and Harada, a male idol from idol trio CHA, face off against Ginti this week. Also Ginti’s cat.

They play an ever increasingly difficult (read: absurd) game or Twist, that eventually puts them in a literal push-the-other-to-their-death-or-die scenario but it totally backfires on Ginti.

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Even though Harada is probably a bad dude, he doesn’t get to show it because Arata sacrifices herself. However, even though Arata is probably a good person, she’s doing it because Ginti hasn’t let her pee for hours and she can’t cope with urinating all over her idol anymore than she can imagine shoving him in.

This all results in Harada admitting that he only survives through the love and support of his fans, especially fans as strong as Arata and, because the death games are always fake-outs, Harada doesn’t ‘die again’ and they get to have drinks and sing together for the various workers of the tower.

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I’m not even sure if they get judged by the end of it.

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This deserves a 9: because it made fun of how melodramatic Death Parade can be, without breaking the way Death Parade works. If anything, Ginti is more brutal and his game more torturous than Decim’s but his players, who are both physically over the top and manically expressive, have fun all the way. Even their death-realizations are pretty mild.

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Arata herself wins the ‘best ver the top anime character’ award and is, by far, the most hilariously expressive creature I’ve seen in a long time. From her wind-flapping gums, to her back flip soap slip death, I ate up every gesture and facial expression the animators crammed into her.

Seriously, if you miss everything else Death Parade does, scrobble through and enjoy her animation!

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In a nutshell, it was warm and charming. Viginti (Ginti’s bar) itself is warmly colored and brightly light and has none of the heavy-handed gothyness of Decim’s. Heck, even when he tries to be evil, it just comes off as goofy. He has a cat familiar for goodness sakes!

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Rolling Girls – 06

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RG wraps up another arc with its zany blend of over-the-top, stylized action and painfully bland soft J-rock, and the titular Girls manage to go the extra mile for their latest warring factions, but like the Always Comima mission, for all its glitz, the show has simply lacked the same magic as that episode two battle between Maccha Green and Shigyo Kuniko.

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There are lots of reasons for this. Unlike Nozomi during Himeko’s dad’s hospital bed speech, I was never all that emotionally invested either in the father-daughter conflict or the Aichi-Mie one. The whole reason the two countries combined was flimsy, so it never made much sense why they had to find some kind of middle ground, especially considering how different their cultures were. While it’s kind of sad, why not live and let live? The show’s only answer is “because we said so.”

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When Nozomi decides simply taking the stone and moving on isn’t an option, they try to build their own shachihoko, which inspires Himeko to get back into it, during which time she remembers that despite the pressure to succeed or surpass her dad, she still loves simply doing it for its own sake.

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On the track, Dandy, who turns out to be a former racing legend, inspires Tomoki to get back into the race, whereupon he beats his vice-captain fair-and-square, who retaliates by blowing up Tomoki’s bike with missiles. But Tomoki gets that feeling back, the feeling he’d lost after all those easy wins.

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Rolling Girls exhibits its signature elaborate disregard for physics and load weights, and while the animation is appropriately fast and furious during the race, it simply didn’t get my blood pumping as much as Macha/Shigyo duel; though your mileage may vary.

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In the end, the shachihokos get to the top of Nagoya Castle in the most ridiculous way possible, pedaled up a disintegrating ramp on a disintegrating bicycle powered by Tomoki’s shonen will. Father and daughter make automotive and food-based mods to the shachihoko that mostly satisfy everyone, Aichi and Mie alike.

But even this moment of triumph feels a bit too neat and tidy, with time, space, and gravity being warped so much the participants in the story are lost in the chaos. Perhaps I’m just running out of gas with this particular show. There’s plenty to look at, most of it exceedingly pretty…but this week left me pretty cold.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 18

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A blue rose, which represents love because it’s a rose, but also either a miracle or impossibility because it’s blue (because it doesn’t occur in nature) is one of those symbols that’s instantly obvious once you hear of it. Another example is a golden violin: looks great but can’t play music.

Our two protagonists Count Troyard and Ensign Kaizuka are both holding blue roses, but aren’t yet sure whether they represent the love that will never be, or the love that will triumph against all odds. But the fact they have them motivates everything they do.

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For Inaho, it’s taking every measure, both inside and outside the UE chain of command, to secure his princess. He and Rayet let Mazuurek free for this purpose, something they don’t disclose to Inko. Inko’s not-so-subtle and unsuccessful probing of Rayet for info keeps her left out of the loop, something Rayet regrets but can’t do anything about.

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As for Slaine, he’s been challenged to a duel, and he’s going through with it, reporting to less hard-line counts his intention to lead the battle once the duel is over, and getting their support based on the unique perspective he has as a non-Vers-born. He can see how Verisan hubris and arrogance has blinded them. That their unswerving belief that a sustained Terran resistance is impossible is the very opening that allows it to be possible.

Of course, the duel is happening because Lemrina invited Marylcian to the base. Whether she expected that exact outcome is unclear, but now, as I said last week, she will see if Slaine can truly be the one she can depend on. She offers herself to Slaine, even if she’ll only ever be a substitute for her sister. I have to think she has to be invested in Slaine’s victory, since Marylcian probably wouldn’t be happy when he finds out she’s not really Asseylum.

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Down on Earth, the Deucalion faces off against a generic Count-of-the-Week with a highly-specialized kataphrakt whose primary weapon only fires in straight lines. That means a surface battleship can use the curvature of the earth to stay out of the Count’s range, while her cannons’ parabolic trajectories can reach the Count’s kat.

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While not overly complicated or important in its scope, this is a nice little battle that perfectly illustrates (once again) the very flaws in the Orbital Knights Slaine seeks to root out. While he wasn’t planning to duel with Marylcian, backing out would have been pointless and probably sealed his doom.

Instead, by defeating this relic of outmoded thinking that isn’t getting the job done on Earth, Slaine stands to gain more legitimacy among his peers, and offer unassailable proof that the flaws he speaks of are real and are crippling progress.

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But first, he has to actually defeat Marylcian, whose Herschel makes for a bad match-up, as he attacks from every direction with his cloud of Bits-like drone cannons, so great in number and complex in motion even Tharsis’ predictive abilities are taxed to the hilt. There’s a point when Slaine is in retreat and really getting knocked around that I momentarily entertained the possibility that his blue rose meant impossibility, rather than miracle.

There’s also a nice moment after the Count-of-the-Week battle where Inaho is simply looking up with his robo-eye, watching the duel from the dock as a confused Inko looks on. It’s a great way to connect the two protags in three-dimensional space, and the fact that the distance between them is quickly closing.

Slaine has been making all the big bold moves while Inaho continues to observe and wait patiently for his chance.

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Of course, there’s no way Marylcian beats Slaine. It’s been beaten into us at this point that he’s far to stodgy an Orbital Knight to survive a plucky Terran gambit. Slaine, like Inaho has done countless times before, equips his opponent’s pride and superiority as a weapon against him, retreating into one of the moon base’s supply shafts in an apparent act of desperation or even cowardice.

Marylcian unwisely follows him in, unwittingly greatly lessening the unpredictability of his weapon. From then on, it’s elementary, with Slaine popping the hatch off Marylcian’s cockpit and ejecting him into space, thus ending the duel. A witnessing Barouhcruz grudgingly accepts the result, and Slaine’s grand rise proceeds apace.

In fact, after the duel it rises higher and faster than I thought it would, with Lemrina-as-Asseylum proclaiming she is starting a new kingdom on Earth, independent from Vers, and will take Slaine as her husband. His win over Marylcian sealed the deal for her, leaving just one complication: her comatose sister.

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In a creepy post-credits scene, she nearly shuts off all of Asseylum’s life-support systems before switching them back on, unable to outright kill her sister, but perfectly fine with replacing her in the world. She can float in that tube for the rest of her life while she rules her new kingdom. Here, Lemrina is starting to fall victim to the same Versian hubris that has claimed so many Orbital Knights: underestimating her enemy: in this case, her sister, who finally opens her eyes when Lemrina leaves the room.

Slaine’s big battles in orbit, Inaho’s smaller battles below, and Lemrina’s scheming and maneuvering continue to satisfy, all of it building to what should be one hell of a final confrontation. The main trio’s larger arcs have been nicely supplemented by smaller, more down-to-earth running stories of Inko, Rayet and Yuki. Finally activating the dormant Asseylum at this point is a welcome move I hope A/Z follows through on.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 06

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As plots and criss-crossing jobs are implemented, and the myriad enemies of the denizens of Ikebukuro amass, it’s the beginning of the end of “normalcy”, particularly for Celty. As she lies on the ground stunned by the other biker’s attack, she’s overcome by a desperate incredulity: things were so normal, and good…with her work, with her Shinra, with being able to be herself…this just can’t be happening, not now.

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A portion of the “abnormailty” slowly infecting all our friends’ lives is caused by one little girl, Akane, the granddaughter of Shiki’s CEO, whom Shiki hires Celty to find, while also keeping her eyes and ears opened for any information on Yadogiri Jinnai. This should have been a bad omen for Celty: this isn’t a normal transporting job, but she’s in a comfortable, safe place in her life and has Shinra’s blessing to keep working so she’s willing to take greater risks.

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Yadogiri, meanwhile, is after Akane too, and hires two elite foreign Assassins—Vorona and Sloan—to abduct her. The reason he needs the likes of them is that the girl will be protected by the Black Bike, whom Yadogiri believes is some kind of “magician” and thus human.

Would that Celty had Sloan’s intense superstition and penchant for getting stuck on very obscure thoughts like why men have nipples. Of course, Sloan is balanced out by the extremely knowledgeable and no-nonsense Vorona, who has straight, correct, and calming answers to all of Sloan’s bizarre questions.

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As Celty and Vorona begin their jobs, Akane is ironically at Shinra’s, the place Celty would be if she’d taken the night off. Brought there by Shizuo and Tom because they weren’t sure where else to take her, Akane runs a fever and Shinra puts her in bed to recover. Having her there puts Shinra at direct risk, especially if Shizuo leaves.

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Back in high school, Mikado takes Masaomi’s warning seriously and advises against going out at night for the weekend. He tells Aoba he has plans, but quickly backtracks when Aoba asks Anri out and it doesn’t look like Anri is going to turn him down.

It’s a rare but appreciated moment of Mikado asserting his fondness for Anri to the extent he’s not okay with some kohai going out alone with her. This, despite the fact neither quite know what they are to one another. Even with Masaomi gone, they haven’t grown that much. Then again, they’re still kids.

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As we know, Vorona finds Celty easily, sets a trap, beheads her without any trouble, and rides back to her and Sloan’s cool and cozy customized Mobile Assassin Base. It’s a great look into the lives of this peculiar new duo, but after Vorona explains why 13 is deemed unlucky by society, she comes up to sit in the cab with him and laments on how easy taking out Celty was (assuming she died when her head was removed)

She’s disappointed with how Ikebukuro has turned out so far. Doubtless she’d heard more impressive tales of the place…or possibly just watched the season one blu-ray and figured the town would put up more of a fight.

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But that’s the thing about Ikebukuro and the Dollars: Mikado never meant for them to be the kind of group that would pick fights with rival gangs or get swept up in supernatural battles. More than anything, it was meant to be a community of friends for Mikado. “Kanra”, i.e. Izaya, contacts Mikado (with Masaomi’s number) to essentially say it’s out of his hands, and an otherwise sleepy Saturday night turns more sinister.

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Anri, who was in the chat room along with Mikado and the twins, all noted that “Setton” (Celty) was missing. This unsettled Anri more than anything. Both Mikado and Anri’s rooms are so dark and foreboding looking, and lonely, that even the modest chat group cannot brighten them up. Those who are absent cast a far darker shadow.

That shadow rings Anri’s doorbell, and when she cracks the door, a pair of shears snap the chain. Is she “other job” Vorona mentioned? Whatever the case, things aren’t going to be normal from here on out.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 18

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First, I must give kudos to Garo (Kuros?) for sticking to its guns with Lara’s death. As much as I wanted her to wake up and start coughing in Leon’s arms, she’s dead dead, and not coming back. Leon’s only comfort was that she stayed alive long enough for him be the last thing she saw. Now he’s in the very unenviable position of having another excuse to go all apeshit on the world again.

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Prince Alfie lends him a sword and returns to the capital, but regrets leaving Leon alone and seeks Herman’s advice. J/Ximena hasn’t seen him, but when she goes back inside, there he is, but only to pay her for his stay and be off. Ximena doesn’t let him leave so easily, and Herman gives her what she wants: a kiss. Leon may have been content to live with Lara forever, but as much as he cares for Ximena, Herman’s latent transience, and his Makai duties preclude him from such a future, as nice as that would be.

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Umm…you might want to dig that hole a little deeper, kid.

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Ridiculous shallowness of the grave aside, carrying Lara to the field, digging it, and placing her in is hard to watch, suffused as it is with loss and grief. Throughout the process, a voice within urges Leon to embrace the flames once again—the flames within him that have never truly left ever since he was born in them. Hatred and revenge; the shade says this is his nature.

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But this time, Leon resists. When he thinks of the light and the flowers and all the beauty in the world Lara will never see again, he doesn’t let the flames get the better of him. He seeks out Alfonso, in the same place where a raw, angry Alfie himself trained, and asks him to give the Golden Armor back to him.

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Alfie agrees, but only if he proves himself worthy, leading to an intense, frenetic duel between the two, accented by setting of the ruins at dusk. Throughout the fight, Alfie is just waiting for Leon’s flames to burst out again—whereupon Leon has instructed him to cut him down—but it doesn’t happen. Leon has matured. Even if he lost Lara, he still has something to protect: her memory.

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After night falls, Herman leaves the site of his lovemaking with Ximena and slips out, as his his tomcat wont, leaving a flower as a goodbye. Still, the way he looks back at that inn (and man, that is a pretty city), he may not be back.

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I figured he was off to deal with Leon one way or another, but Alfie already did that. All that remains is for Leon to prove he has the strength to bear the Golden Armor again. A spriggan-style horror terrorizes a couple of kids, he does the legwork so Alfie (in his Gaia armor) can land the finishing blow. Teamwork!

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Once the horror is gone, Leon looks back at the elation and gratitude in the girl’s face, and can’t help but see Lara’s smile, causing him to shed a tear while still wearing his armor. No one said this would be an easier path than going on another rampage, but it is the right path. Garo is back.

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Zaruba judges that Leon has once again become worthy of him, which pleases German, who was watching from the shadows. Then he drops a big duhn-duhn-duuuuhn on his son and nephew, telling them he’s off to help out Mendoza, just as Garm ordered him too.

His explanations to them and me are hardly adequate, but I’m going to give Garo the benefit of the doubt on this for now. ‘Dozer’s return explains why we got his torment-filled backstory after his apparent demise, but it will still take some doing to make me feel anything but contempt for the bastard going forward.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 17

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To Uso’s credit, Kaori’s suggestion of suicide isn’t laughed away with a sudden comedic stab. She was only really half-joking, because as she puts it, straight and honest, “it doesn’t look good” for her. In that hospital bed, her armor is all sheared away. We see the same insecurity and fear she exhibited when Kousei was waffling about accompanying her for the first time.

Only this time it’s more raw and profound, because this isn’t about a competition or concert; it’s her life, and she feels awful to be putting Kousei through this, going so far as to suggest maybe it would have been better for him if they’d never met. Which…just…c’mahn, Kaori!

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After Kaori’s suicide line, you can see Kousei’s legs being kicked out from under him, and almost the precise moment his heart breaks in two. Denial is his first thought, and why not? He’s already been through this. For it to happen again is, like I said last week, just the universe kicking a man when he’s down.

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At school, Kousei puts his head down and recedes. Tsubaki is secretly relieved. She’s studying to get into a top high school near Kousei’s, because “he can’t take care of himself.” That may be true, but it’s also that Tsubaki doesn’t want to take care of anyone else.

Tsubaki’s gotten on my nerves of late, but I liked this little basketball shooting scene with Kashiwagi (Her?). She’s finally taking steps to get what she wants, even if she feels “terrible” for doing it. Nothing worth gaining is acquired without hardship.

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It’s Lil’ Nagi of all people who is able to cheer Kousei up somewhat, sent out into the night by Hiroko for that exact purpose, and doing so by putting on her ruthless pragmatist girl act. Speaking from recent experience, Kousei points out the importance of playing for someone, since once one can do so, they’ve become a good musician. Right on cue, she dismisses his words as cliche, and they kinda are, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

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Back at school Ryouta confronts Kousei about not seeing Kaori, and things get the most heated they’ve ever been between these two. Yet again, Ryouta shows why he’s one of the best male sidekick characters in a long time. Sure, he’s been all-but-betrothed to Kaori for most of the show’s run, but he’s known (as I have) for some time now that he’s not the one for Kaori, and not only graciously steps aside, but nudges Kousei into going to visit her again, which is what he thinks she wants the most.

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Kousei’s visit actually surprises Kaori, who maybe thought she’d caused enough heartache and grief to scare him away for good, for what she deems to be his own sake. She keeps lobbing self-deprecating slogans at him until he gets fed up and munches all the caneles he brought for her, telling her they’d be wasted on a “cranky whiner.” He storms out, but gives Kaori a good laugh, but also shows her he’s not going away quietly.

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Still, Kousei is crushed with guilt at not being able to do anything for Kaori in her time of need when she did so much for him in his. Then it dawns on the yutz: he can play music for her. He can make her proud, and glad she pushed him so hard. So he asks Nagi if he can perform at her middle school festival, even though he knows she’ll probably refuse and possibly hit him for even asking.

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But she doesn’t. Nagi zooms past her romantic and social assets at school like Mario with time running out, and races to her lessons with Kousei, in preparation for her—now their—school festival performance. She likes how bold her enemy has suddenly become, and is game for an ivory brawl at her home field.

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But as the festival nears, the buzz about her performance—both positive, negative, and tentative—swells exponentially. Let’s not forget while Nagi is immensely talented, she’s also thirteen frikkin’ years old, and this stuff gets to adults. It’s perfectly reasonable for her to become so overwhelmed by the expectations that she ends up slumped over Hiroko’s toilet.

But Hiroko won’t let Nagi melt down like Kousei did. All that fear and apprehension Nagi has? It’s natural, and she’s no less of a musician for feeling it. Hirko tosses a few cliches of her own at the kid, and in her present emotional state, they’re actually a comfort.

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The day arrives, and the crowd at the festival not only includes Kousei’s friends (sans Kaori), but Nagi’s brother Takeshi as well; the one she’s trying to reach. For his part, Takeshi, who’s only been in the background this whole time, is relieved Nagi may have gotten over her big brother complex. Little does he know she’s playing for him…and maybe a little bit for her “enemy” Kousei as well.

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And thanks to Ryouta (who, awesome bastard that he is, agrees to do it for Kousei, before he even hears what “it” is), Kaori will be able to listen to Kousei and Nagi’s performance. Kousei will have to prove that taking on a student didn’t impede his own progress, and that it may have even improved it.

But he also has to prove to Kaori that he would never, in a million years, consider trading the times and indelible memories, happy and sad, he had with her, in exchange for a lighter heart. That a violinist who can’t hold a bow isn’t pointless; not to him. That is truly what he can do for her, and he’s the only one who can do it.

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