My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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My Hero Academia – 05

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There’s an exciting auspicious energy to the dawn before Midoriya’s first day at UA High (bolstered by the show’s sick epic hero rock soundtrack), and All Might reassures him that in time he’ll be able to control One for All, even thought it may not happen overnight.

He gets more emotional support from his proud-as-punch mom (who is the cutest mom), from Iida, a former naysayer he won over in the exam, and “nice girl” Ochako, who is also glad to be in class with the “plain-looking” Midoriya.

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But as is usually the case for Midoriya and shounen like him throughout anime history, what awaits him once he’s finally over the mountain…is another mountain. His homeroom teacher is Aizawa Shouta, a listless but no-nonsense hero who works in the shadows; pretty much the anti-All Might. He believes his students have no time for opening ceremonies or afterschool trips to McDonalds.

They’re here to be heroes, and that means finding their maximum as soon as possible so that they can determine what they can and can’t do. Midoriya is in the unenviable position of having just received his quirk, and so far only used it at either 0% or 100%. He has to get through eight physical tests (the same ones all Japanese students take, only use of quirks is permitted) and not end up last, lest he get expelled on the first day.

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Aizawa’s perspective is no harsher or unfairer than reality, in which a villain or disaster can strike at any time, and won’t wait for you to master your quirk. You’ve gotta be ready yesterday for what could happen today. Fortunately, being pushed into a corner, Midoriya remembers all the supportive words of his allies, and manages to get through the tests by minimizing the damage done by One For All, localizing its power in his finger while throwing a ball.

With that throw, which leaves Midoriya down a finger but otherwise in fine shape, he proves to Aizawa that he does have potential; and that UA High is the perfect venue to cultivate and realize that potential. We also learned that Bakugo still things something underhanded happened to get Deku enrolled, while we were introduced to the powers of some of Midoriya’s many classmates. All in all, a serviceable, if somewhat sparse, introduction to his hero academia.

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My Hero Academia – 04

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When the mock battle begins, an overwhelmed Izuku falls far behind immediately, covering ground already covered by other potential heroes, and getting even more discouraged when they hear them pop off their point totals. The one time he comes across a functioning one-point villain, another examinee takes it out and thanks him for being a diversion.

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But then the “true test” begins when the zero-point obstacle appears: a colossal robot that everyone starts to run away from except Izuku. He stays put, eyes full of tears, with almost no time left to score any points, and spots the nice girl who stopped him from falling, trapped under wreckage directly in the advancing zero-point’s path.

Izuku runs towards the danger and puts his life and limbs on the line to stop the juggernaut—and he does, when his All Might powers finally surface and he delivers a SMASH punch that not only cripples it, but three of his four limbs as well. Watching them flop about in the wind, I knew something wasn’t right.

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Izuku’s saved form falling to his death by the girl, who uses her antigrav abilities again to save him, but she can’t save him from the fact he has zero vilain points in the mock battle, which means failure…IF villain points were the only points being awarded. They are not.

Izuku ended up scoring sixty “rescue points”, because after all, being a hero is about more than just defeating villains. Izuku demonstrated the heroic instinct of self-sacrifice, and also inspired others to act in kind. In fact, the girl, one Uraraka Ochako, tried to transfer some of her points to Izuku for saving her, but such a transfer wasn’t necessary because Izuku already had more than enough points to pass.

So it wasn’t just a test of speed and strength, but of all the intangible qualities that make a hero a hero. The other things will come in time for Izuku (I like his symbol of a glass just barely containing its contents due to surface tension crackin under the stress). Izuku’s body may have bent, but it did not break. And now he has a genuine friend-int-the-making in Ochako.

His hero academia is off to an auspicious start, and as tough practical exam episodes go, this one felt nimble, quick, and satisfying, especially at the end when Izuku’s mom reacts to his grin of elation with the same soppy tears we usually see on his face, showing us where he got that tendency from.

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Oregairu 2 – 06

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Hikky, Yukino and Yui are again in a situation where they can sit in the same room together, stand each other, and even enjoy each other’s company somewhat without threatening to walk out or run for president. But the big question this week is: Now What? The Service Club may still exist…but why?

Shizuka originally paired Hikky and Yukino together to learn from one another, but have they finally reached an impasse? And has the club’s purpose of late only been to maintain the delicate balance of their love triangle with Yui?

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Yui never really feels like one of the “it crowd” despite their acceptance of her, so when Hikky stares at that crowd too long, Yui notices and points it out to him. Of course, after gaining perspective from Komachi, Hikky is a little more aware of how his methods repel others, and seems to be trying not to oppress others as much, even if he’s still quick to judge them in his head.

Walking to club together with Hikky makes Yui both excited and nervous, because it does upset that status quo she seems so intent on maintaining, even as the other two are wondering what comes next.

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When newly elected President Isshiki rolls in in a panic, it’s almost like the universe trying to throw the club a bone: Another job! Validation for existing! But Hikky doesn’t see her latest problem as something for the Service Club, and instead takes it on as a “personal” project. He’s taking responsibility for the situation he himself facilitated: Iroha is president even though she didn’t really want to be at first.

Hikky and Iroha’s conversation in the hall is very interesting, because this is something new for him: rather than two-on-one, he’s dealing with a single girl, who he’s starting to understand the more he interacts with her.

He notices the “sneaky” side of her, but it’s clear she’s being sneaky with herself as well: She gives the excuse that she didn’t go to her beloved Hayama with her problem because she didn’t want to bother him; but in reality, she doubts his competence, especially compared to Hikky, who has already proven himself capable of making things happen for her. Her agreement to work personally with him on this new problem is a ringing endorsement.

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Of course, by going it alone with Iroha, Hikky is further muddling or undermining the club’s reason for being…or maybe he’s clarifying it: the Service Club isn’t a “jack of all trades” operation, as he puts it: meaning he doesn’t want to include “regular student council consultation” in the clubs repertoire.

But the result of keeping these two things separate is that Yukino continues to maintain a “fine, whatever” attitude, even remarking that perhaps it’s better if the club doesn’t take on any more requests. She’s still dug into her “doing nothing” position, something her sister mocked her for. Is she content with this limbo of an outwardly-functioning but internally rotting club, even though on its present course it will surely die?

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Hikky is certainly invested enough in Iroha that he has a pretty wide berth in which to compartmentalize the existential issues of the club in favor of helping the prez on his own. And while Iroha strongly rejects him again without a hint of nuance, even in her rejection spiel she admits her heart “fluttered for a moment”. When Hikky is with Iroha, he’s focused on Iroha, and the larger problems in his social life fade away. They’re dancing a delicate dance.

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As for Iroha’s problem: partnering with another high school for a Christmas Event? It’s a vehicle for hilarious comedy, as the other school fancies themselves a corporate board, whose discussion sounds good and thoughtful on the surface, but is mostly…no, entirely meaningless double-talk, accompanied by overly zealous hand gestures. Never has so much been said without anything beind said! SO many absurd quotes. What’s scary is that this is how people actually talk in the corporate world.

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And yet, Hikky not only sticks with Iroha, but comes back for another round the next day. Each time, he takes the grocery bags Iroha is carrying; a classic gesture of easy chivalry that both he and Iroha acknowledge…and yet she still seems moved by it, and with Hikky’s devotion to her in general. He probably isn’t the guy she saw herself someday falling for, but she can’t argue that he’s coming through for her. He’s just as “sneaky” as she is to him.

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Hikky can’t help but be drawn in and try to play by their rules. He ends up impressing the other school officials with his word salad, but confusing both Iroha—and himself! Meanwhile, Iroha’s Veep and underlings seem to have a problem with Iroha, but it’s not being communicated, so the council’s rot festers as the other school fizzes and pops with vapid enthusiasm.

In an interesting move, his old crush Kaori just happens to have tagged along with the council as he did with Iroha, being a student at the school they’ve partnered with. Kaori’s interactions are always eye-opening and a little uncomfortable, but they’re also unique, like Hikky’s interactions with Iroha, Komachi, Haruno, and Yui. And unique is always good!

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It’s refreshing and not even that surprising that someone like Kaori let the unpleasantness of their last encounter slide off so easily and she’s back to interacting cordially with him like nothing happened, because nothing that did happen really affected her or her friend that much.

It’s also interesting that as teflon-y as Kaori is, she’s still perceptive enough to see what’s going on with Hikky and Iroha, even if they don’t quite see it yet: she assumed he’d moved on from Yukino or Yui and is now going after Iroha. And you know what? Maybe he has! And when he mentions he’s in the “Service Club”, Kaori LOLs at the wishy-washy absurdity of such an organization, even breaking out her first “seriously!” of the day.

Hikky understands Kaori’s reaction, and can’t blame her for it…but for him it’s no laughing matter—It’s his life.

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Oregairu 2 – 05

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This week, Hikky has a lot of work to do, much of it damage control he knows he’s been holding off too long. Last week’s bleak scene of two siblings in the dark turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Hikky to get the easy stuff out of the way: reconnecting with his little sister.

Komachi forgives him far more readily than anyone else will, because of her fifteen years of living with him, she’s learned, unlike Yukino, that there are things about people you can’t change, and in time they grow endearing. Love is acceptance of those things. Far more than wanting him to change his ways, Komachi just wants Hikky to talk to her about what’s troubling him.

The cold open thaws the atmosphere, and the scene with the siblings that follows is a masterclass in familial dialogue. It also serves to throw us, the audience yearning for something positive, a much appreciated bone.

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Hikky may not be able to put into words why he wants the Service Club preserved, but he doesn’t need to: Komachi wants it preserved too, which means he has a new mission, one that’s more important than Iroha’s, because it’s from his sister. Fulfilling it means preventing Yukino or Yui from winning.

His need for counsel coincides with the alignment of all his allies not involved in the current unpleasantness, starting with Zaimozuka, whose even greater isolation from normal school society is expressed by the fact he spends his lunch breaks in the library.

Komachi, appreciative of Hikky working hard, ends up assembling Kawasaki and Saika, and when the former is asked to come up with a list of good candidates for president, she makes sure to include him seriously, even though he has zero chance.

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The counsel helps Hikky decide what to do, which is to double down on his interpretation of Iroha’s true desire: to preserve her “brand image” by avoiding a “high-risk, low-return” commitment like StuCo president, along with her desire to get closer to Hayato.

With some Facebook-hacking help from Zaimozuka, he’s able to assure her the backers she needs to win the election, while assuring her she’ll not only be protected from the sting of failure because she’s only a first-year, but will also be able to avoid failure altogether by reaching out to Hayato for support, giving her the in she needs.

I’ll note that he doesn’t include Hayato or Miura Yumiko in on his plan, but they’re not his clients on this: Komachi and Iroha are. And Iroha agrees with the plan, after all but proving Hikky right about her persona by delivering a super-quick boilerplate rejection the moment she suspects he’s flirting with her (which he isn’t trying to do).

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While Iroha is convinced of his plan, the truth is even with the extra backers he’s not sure she can win. Getting her to go along with it was only the first step in his primary mission given to him by Komachi; a mission that means more to him as well: keeping the club together. Hikky uses the satisfaction of Iroha’s contract as a bluff to get Yukino and Yui to drop out of the race, assuring Iroha’s victory and the preservation of the club.

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It’s a gamble, but it works. Yui is elated Hikky worked so hard for her sake to protect the place she treasures the most, and because he worked in silence and secrecy, without exposing himself, she has cover to forgive him for his methods.

It’s not so much “I don’t want to know” or “out of sight out of mind” (though it’s partly both); it’s more that like Komachi, Yui is accepting of the way Hikky is and always will be. Or as Hikky puts it: “So long as a problem doesn’t cause problems, it can’t be called a problem.”

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The fruits of his hard work are seen almost immediately once Yui expresses her approval and accepts his apology. She affectionately fixes his scruffy hair against his protests, and moves her chair right next to him. I don’t want to pick sides, and all three friends are partly to blame for their predicament, but I’d wager Yui was suffering the most with the prospect of losing the club, and even she admits it would indeed be lost even if she won.

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So Iroha wins, and is already using the very willing Tabe as her personal assistant in setting up the office when Hikky congratulates her and asks her to make it a good school, what with Komachi attending next year. Iroha takes this as another attempt at hitting on her, which creeps her out.

I must say Iroha wasn’t what I expected this season: she’s better. I thought she’d be a new love interest and wedge between Hikky and the other two, but thanks to her cooperation he was able to save the club and make up with Yui without the kind of undue damage to himself the girls hate.

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So what about Yukino, the hardest nut to crack? Well, that remains to be seen. This wasn’t a total victory (it couldn’t be one, not even halfway in): the club is saved for now, but the smell of tea no the room. What worked for Komachi and Yui doesn’t quite work for Yukino. Her line as she agrees to bow out of the race and then leaves the clubroom is “You thought you understood, didn’t you?” I take this to mean Hikky thought she was running to fulfill the client’s request.

Then I thought back to the beginning of this episode, with Hikky and Komachi making up so easily because of their unique status as siblings, and I thought of Haruna rattling Yukino’s cage. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Yukino’s continued dissatisfaction is that even though Hikky got the job done without resorting tot he most distasteful tactics imaginable, he also kept her from meeting the challenge set by her big sister.

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That challenge was to leave the service club and take her rightful spot atop the school, where she can be of the most help to everyone in accordance with her noblesse oblige. A future with Yukino as president, Yui as Veep, and Hikky in some unspecified utility role without an official title, is also a possible future Hikky imagines while walking with the outgoing president, who would have liked to see such a future.

Rhetorically speaking, “strictly rhetorically,” Hikky wonders if life would have changed had he taken a different route with the election. Same people, same dynamics, only a different room, a different organization, and a Yukino who is more fulfilled as President, and who has answered Haruna’s challenge. But Hikky took a different route, which had its benefits and its consequences. We’ll see what the latter consist of.

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Oregairu 2 – 04

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Wow, so much to unpack here. Where to begin? Well, for starters, by episode’s end, the club has set itself on the path to total destruction, though perhaps it was on that path all along, with Hikky’s false confession to Ebina just the latest but possibly last straw.

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Both in exchange for helping out with Ebina (thus keeping his circle of friends close) and because he thinks Hikky is too harsh on himself, Hayato sets up a rehabilitation project for him, the true intentions of which Hikky fails to discern throughout most of their double date with the girl who likes Hayato and Kaori. Mostly, he just scowl-grins and bears it as Kaori laughs at everything Hikky says and does.

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Whether due to coincidence or the fact Hayato public invited Hikky in the classroom, all their other classmates seem to have gravitated to the same mall. Bumping into Iroha probably wasn’t any more intentional than bumping into Yumiko and Ebina, but it serves Hayato’s desire purpose to show Hikky in a different light to their unenlightened dates.

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Iroha approaches Hikky like a normal friend, not some weirdo like Kaori thinks he is, but Hikky genuinely senses Iroha is annoyed he’s out playing around rather than working on her problem. I’m glad the show doesn’t always put what Hikky thinks characters are really saying to him in subtitles, but in this case, it could serve as a useful mirror to Hikky: Not everyone can interpret Iroha like this, which means they can’t interpret him either.

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What they see is what they believe, and how they judge. Not that’s it’s right, it’s just the way some people are. Hikky is more enduring than enjoying this double date, so it surprises him when Hayato suddenly calls out Kaori and the other girl on their surface judgement-based selfish comments. They can think what they want about Hikky, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hear about it.

Then Hayato takes his heroic project to the next stage, bringing Yukino and Yui into the mix under false pretenses. Hayato called on them to serve as props to prove to the other girls there’s a lot more to Hikky than they’re getting.

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But the very reason Yukino and Yui work as props is because Kaori makes a surface judgement based on their fabulous good looks and Hayato’s praise. He also makes sacrifices of Kaori and the other girl; whether they’re sorry or not, this more a demonstration for Hikky than for them.

Once the dates bail, Haruno enters the mix, pushing all of Yukino’s buttons as only an older sister can: it’s a harsh, biting exchange, in which I wasn’t certain if Haruno was expressing genuine resentment or simply rattling Yukino’s cage. Knowing this show, all of the above. Did she plan this whole thing with Hayato?

When Yukino and Yui take off, Haruno turns to Hikky, pointing out his “cute” tendency to always assume everyone has evil intentions. To be sure, Haruno seems to get off putting people in situations they can’t handle and watching what happens.

Then Haruno leaves, and it’s just the two guys again. Hayato will surely get backlash for his dressing down of their dates, something both Hikky knows could be a problem and Hayato is pissed about. But at the same time, he makes it clear to Hikky: he did what he wanted. He isn’t going to stand around and let people undervalue Hikky, even if Hikky has no intention of defending himself.

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The next morning, Hikky has to learn from Shizuka, and then Yui from Hikky, that Yukino has indeed challenged her sister’s words by deciding to run for president. Or was that something she always considered doing, and Haruno only gave her the nudge she needed? Either way, if she’s in it to win it, and wins, the club will suffer and possibly end altogether. Whether that’s okay with Yukino or not, the fact is, things can go on the way they are. She won’t let Hikky sacrifice himself to the whole school. Even if she hates the way he does things, better for her to do them than him.

Yui desperately catches up to Hikky to walk home with him, for probably the first time in a while. There, she delcares she’s running for president too. If she wins, she won’t take it as seriously as Yukino, and the club will survive. And she needs the club to survive, because an imperfect, even painful situation is better than a void. So she’ll beat Yukinon.

Hikky calls that a selfish decision, which is tiramisu-rich coming from someone who thinks the rest of the world cares about him enough to hate his guts. All three are being selfish, trying to pull this election in a direction that serves their needs, all looking for the same answer, but being put off by their methods.

As for Yui’s confession that she likes this club…that she…likes…it…is another attempt to get her feelings to reach Hikky, and her tearful close-up and darting eyes sell the hell out of it, even if Hikky’s reaction is predictably blah. I am officially on Team Yui! Screw those other guys for making her so sad.

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Speaking of voids, the second bookend of the episode with Komachi is almost a grim portent. These two siblings are so distant now, they can’t even exist in the same room with the lights on, let alone speak. It’s a void of Hikky’s making, utterly shutting her out of his life when she’s so keen to help. Komachi is no Haruno, but Hikky is now a feral self-consciousness monster lurking in his dank lair, and Komachi is treating him as such, staying away lest he lash out.

But who will he endorse? Or will he run himself? Heck, let’s through Hayato and Ebina in there, too! As we know, any problem a high schooler faces can be solved by running for StuCo President.

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