Koyomi Araragi, a third-year high school student, manages to survive a vampire attack with the help of Meme Oshino, a strange man residing in an abandoned building. Though being saved from vampirism and now a human again, several side effects such as superhuman healing abilities and enhanced vision still remain. Regardless, Araragi tries to live the life of a normal student, with the help of his friend and the class president, Tsubasa Hanekawa.
When fellow classmate Hitagi Senjougahara falls down the stairs and is caught by Araragi, the boy realizes that the girl is unnaturally weightless. Despite Senjougahara's protests, Araragi insists he help her, deciding to enlist the aid of Oshino, the very man who had once helped him with his own predicament.
Through several tales involving demons and gods, Bakemonogatari follows Araragi as he attempts to help those who suffer from supernatural maladies.
"To be blunt, I just enjoy talking to you... so I want to talk with you more."
"If our opinions clash, let's talk it over." (Dialogue from episode 5)
'Bakemonogatari', cleverly translated as 'Ghostory' or 'Monstory', is about five not-so-normal girls that Araragi Koyomi, a vampire himself, encounters and attempt to save from oddities possessing them.
The main characters of 'Bakemonogatari' are among the most unique and complex I have yet to encounter.
Heroine Senjougahara Hitagi is a tsundere like half of all modern heroines in anime, but she is also 「ドS」, a sadist to an extreme degree, which is more common for side characters and rare for heroines. Our protagonist, as expected, is rather on the masochist side who takes constant verbal abuse from Senjougahara.
What makes the couple extraordinary, is that Senjougahara is often boke while Araragi is tsukkomi. Traditional Japanese stand-up comedy consists of a duo: One takes the "boke" role who says something stupid while the "tsukommi" role points out the flaws in boke's argument, often with a violent slap in the head.
Yes, that's right. Boke is masochist by nature and often not very intelligent, while tsukommi is sadist by nature and often more observant.
The leading couple in this series, on the other hand, take turns with the roles. It is particularly interesting when the sadist and intelligent Senjougahara purposefully take on the boke role and overwhelms tsukkomi. Such as making insulting statements that sound flawed, but when Araragi tries to make a comeback, he realizes what she said was true. Or Senjougahara makes a blatantly flawed statement just to hurt Araragi, and his comeback fall into deaf ears. And of course, plenty of intentional boke or tease spoken with so much authority that Araragi just gives up and let it slide.
The unlikely toggling of comedy roles were delivered extremely well, and this back and forth interaction between the leading couple is a key part of this show's appeal.
The remaining four main characters are not as complex as the leading couple, but they all have their own unique issues that drive the story,each with distinct personalities that made them memorable.
There are 6 main characters in this series, and total of only 5 side/peripheral characters (Meme, Shinobu, two sisters, and Senjougahara's father) in the whole series. The limited character headcount made thorough character development possible despite being an arc-based series.
Simply put, half the show is about the romantic relationship between the Senjougahara and Araragi.
The other half is about a constant argument between two values: The rational vs the idealistic, with Araragi as Mr. Nice Guy seeking happy end for everyone. Solution of supernatural oddities as the topic of the argument.
Hachikuji, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa's arcs developed the relationship of leading couple while offering new topics to the story.
The only flaw in the story in my opinion, is that Sengoku's arc was pretty much by itself, and contributed very little to the whole series other than loli and moe fan service.
Each arc is an incident focusing on a different girl, but all the arcs combine to show a whole picture of Araragi and Senjougahara closing their personal distances.
"Bakemonogatari" is essentially a verbal performance with visual support. Story is driven by back and forth debate on various issues.
With verbal performance playing such a big role in this show, voice acting is taken to a whole new level in this series.
Every characters' voices fit perfectly, and not only that, distinct tones and nuance of speech establish unique impressions for every single character. The characters speak so fast in this series with lots of tongue twisters, but the seiyuu cast had done a wonderful job in keeping up. I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe voice acting in this series as epic.
Music score in 'Bakemonogatari' has a generally consistent ambient feel to it with a nice flow. Other than intense music for action scenes, they don't particularly set the mood or enhance drama as what I usually consider to be strong BGM for anime, but the usually upbeat sounds in the background set the quick pace for dialogue, and make conversations all the more engaging.
OP song "Staple Stable" is one of the best anime opening theme song by a seiyuu, ever. Really memorable tune accompanied by great vocal and lyric by meg rock was simply amazing.
The other four OPs sang by seiyuu of each arc heroines were nowhere as impressive as "Staple Stable", but offers refreshment value to the OPs, and fits each character perfectly.
ED song's lyric made little sense at first, but its meaning was unveiled in a conversation between the leading couple in a certain episode, and it turned out to very suitable for the series. The two Senjougahara theme songs (OP1, ED) were masterpieces.
Animation in 'Bakemonogatari' mainly serve as a visual aid to the verbal performance, and it proved to be very effective.
Visuals for the anime got somewhat of an "art house film" treatment. There were many abstract and surreal scenes, unconventional cuts, and intriguing camera angles that made the viewing experience very pleasant. It's the perfected form of SHAFT's signature style.
Character designs were attractive, and main characters had visually shown a wide range of emotion that further portrays the character's state of mind.
The only complaint I have with the animation is the use of photographs/videos of real-life imagery. At the risk of sounding like a super-otaku, I would say 3D images do not belong in the world of 2D.
As a fansubber and having seen thousands of hours of fan/professionally translated works, I can tell you that at least 10% of the meaning is lost in translation, no matter how well translated. In conversation/narration driven series filled with wordplay and metaphors, at least 20% of the meaning, therefore enjoyability, will inevitably be lost to non-Japanese speakers.
Still, 'Bakemonogatari' is a true masterpiece with experimental production that actually worked. Attention was paid to the tiniest details, and a story well-told. Truly amazing direction by Shinbou Akiyuki left us with so many memorable scenes, and this will definitely be a series to be remembered.
The 8-month wait for the final three episodes were excruciating, but the ending was so satisfying that it almost made it worth the absurd wait. Given the commercial success 'Bakemonogatari' has achieved, I will be hoping for the remaining novels in the series to be animated. Possibly 'Kizumonogatari' OVA/film and 'Nisemonogatari' as a sequel season.
To be blunt, I just enjoyed listening to them... so I want to listen to them more. read more
If I had to choose a word to describe Bakemonogatari, it would probably be ‘faux-ironic’ – and I don’t mean that in a positive sense.
To describe Bakemonogatari’s plot simply: it’s a harem anime. The show features our ~mysteriously charismatic~ hero, Arararararagi-kun (sorry, my tongue slipped) as he somehow manages to charm a whole load of girls – whilst, at the same time, he battles with the supernatural to sort out their problems. Minus the ‘supernatural’ aspect (which seems kind of like a cheap gimmick, to spice up this ‘harem’ style story we’ve surely seen countless of times before), there is nothing special about Bakemonogatari.
The characters all fall into certain archetypes (harem lead / sporty lesbian girl / bratty loli / cool and aloof tsundere-type / intelligent and reserved student council president / moeblob), and none of them seem multi-faceted or particularly interesting. A lot of them are used as vehicles for jokes and ‘witty’ dialogue, but that’s about it. When their back stories are revealed, they’re brushed right over, and no time is spent on them at all – but a great, great deal of time is spent on meandering dialogue that tries to throw as many jokes at the audience as possible (using wordplay, repetition, common straight man / the clown routines, etc, etc), hoping at least some of them will be funny. The characters, also, are mainly constrained to their own scant few-episode long ‘arcs’, and don’t really do all that much outside of their own allotted time period – which makes it feel a little mechanic, like these girls are just being cycled through; right, we’ve finished the storyline with a loli-girl, now onto the lesbian…! Keep throwing pretty girls at the audience so they don’t get tired…! So, I didn’t think all that much to characters; they’re pretty standard – and although there were a few entertaining exchanges and jokes, these are lost amongst the deluge of random stuff that just keeps coming from everybody’s mouths.
So, what makes Bakemonogatari so ‘unique’ – if not the plot or the characters? Well, that would obviously have to be the art.
Bakemonogatari is animated in a very odd way, which is kind of expected of Shaft – but it seems to have been taken into extremes here. Odd camera angles are used, placing the characters far away in the screen; strange colours; real-life photography is inserted here and there; there are frequent split-second cuts to large walls of text that are impossible to read unless you pause; and there is very little actual ‘animation’ to be found – instead, the show keeps jumping around to numerous, static cuts (static save mouths flapping open), in a very indecisive way that sometimes gets irritating to look at.
The art in Bakemonogatari is certainly interesting – but at times, it seems clear certain methods were used to save money. The slideshow like effect, of jumping between static scenes frequently, looks pretty cheap – regardless of how ‘odd’ and ‘unconventional’ it is. In fact, it’s easy, when watching this show, to calculate how much each scene would have cost. If there’s actual movement on your screen, then probably, this was more expensive than most of the other scenes (this is a fun game you can play when watching it – ‘I wonder how much this cost…’) And the fact the characters are often placed at the side of the screen, very, very small, feels a little alienating.
Furthermore, although the backgrounds might be unusual in the anime, the character designs are all very, very standard for harem anime. The girls are all conventionally pretty and attractive; the main lead looks like an average guy. Unlike the anime of Satoshi Kon, or Masaaki Yusa, which often use somewhat odd imagery but also feature characters that are not conventionally attractive (some of them are very old, some of them have large chins, some of them are overweight, some of them look like gremlins), Bakemonogatari is actually playing it far, far safer than people seem to be giving it credit for. As a harem anime, the main draw to the audience is attractive girls – and, although Bakemonogatari does have slightly odd directing, the girls are all attractive (and often seen wearing swim suits / in the shower / their breasts pressing against the back of the main character / etc), and all meet ‘typical harem standards’. If Bakemonogatari really was as ‘daring’ and ‘edgy’ with its art as people seem to assume, surely they would have tried to give some variation the girls’ character designs? But, of course not – this is a harem anime, and pretty girls sell. So, even if the art does look unusual, I feel this is pretty superficial, because the most important aspect of the art – the character designs – is very, very typical.
The characters, too, often engage in conversations that break the fourth wall. Senjougahara, especially, often calls herself out on being a ‘tsundere’, and talks a lot about ‘moe characters’, ‘sporty characters,’ etc – at one point even saying ‘I have a fantastic voice actress’. Araragi, in turn, will retort ‘so we’re suddenly characters in an anime?!’ or some such thing – the joke being, of course, that they are, and we know it, but the characters don’t (or do they???) There is also humour surrounding the large amount of fanservice in the show; Araragi will sometimes joke about being a ‘lolicon’ around the resident loli character, or he will launch into a long debate with the sporty character about how odd it is she reads so much yaoi / is she wearing underwear under her shorts / why do you own a school swimsuit and a pair of bloomers anyway, isn’t that unusual?
A lot of people praise this kind of interaction as being amusing; using it as ‘proof’ that the show is ‘self-aware’ and mocking its own harem genre, by poking fun at the fact characters are often consigned certain roles, that their personalities are usual cookie-cutter, and that fanservice can come seemingly out of nowhere, without making much sense.
However, I would argue these aspects are exactly what makes Bakemonogatari ‘faux-ironic’ – and, ultimately, a rather soulless and empty show. ‘Irony’ is somewhat similar to sarcasm, and often used to assert something blatantly wrong as though it is true – in which case, humour arises. However, in the case of Bakemonogatari, this ‘irony’ is utilised not only to make the audience laugh, but also to protect itself from criticism. As lots of the humour arises from the characters being uncannily self aware they are one-dimensional archetypes acting out commonly done ‘tropes’ in the anime medium, it is actually – rather than being ‘clever humour’ – a lazy way for the authors to rely on one-dimensional archetypes and commonly done ‘tropes’, whilst, at the same time, poking fun at them. It’s a kind of laziness that suggests ‘You know this story / these characters have been done thousands of times before, and I know that this story / these characters have been done thousands of times before, so let’s laugh mockingly at how similar so much anime is nowadays whilst, at the same time, this show is the exact same as so much anime nowadays – but you can’t mock this show, because it’s self-aware!’ It seems incredibly lazy; as though the author wanted to rely on clichés, but didn’t want to be criticised for it, so decided to mock the very foundation of the story when putting it together.
And, this heavy use of self-aware humour has several downfalls. Not only can it not hide the fact Bakemonogatari is, itself, the exact kind of show it’s mocking (‘but you can’t mock us because we’re the ones pointing it out – we’re not exploiting it at all!’), but it also makes the whole show feel very empty. If the whole show is devoted to making fun of its own nature, then what does that make the show itself, exactly…? It makes it seem very disingenuous – and it’s hard to like anything in particular about the show, because it’s so cynical of itself, and seems to be regarding its audience as people who won’t realise it, itself, is relying on harem anime clichés to keep itself afloat – or maybe it doesn’t care if people realise, because its art and direction is so ‘artistic’ it can deflect any criticism…?
Regardless, I found Bakemonogatari a rather prickly and unpleasant show, that isn’t necessarily ‘trying hard to be clever’, but, by the use of its own jokes, constantly seems to undermine itself – often making me think ‘what’s the point in watching this, if even the show itself acknowledges it’s cliché, overdone and unoriginal?’ If you want to watch an ‘artistically interesting’ anime, then watch something like The Tatami Galaxy of Paranoia Agent – but not this. Although you might be fooled by the odd art direction and the long streams of dialogue, it’s really nothing new at all. read more
I'll start off my review by saying one of my usual comments when I talk about Bakemonogatari: this anime is not for everyone. It's definitely something worth trying out, but I cannot guarantee that it will be your cup of tea. It's an interestingly boring anime that tries hard (and succeeds) to be unique with its eccentric style of story telling and world building.
Bakemonogatari is an anime adaptation of the popular light novel series written by Nisio Isin. The anime revolves around Koyomi Araragi, a high school student who's also a half-vampire, and his relationships with different characters and their oddities, along with the usual SHAFT head tilting we've all come to know and love. It's an arc-based anime that focuses on a different character every arc, but these arcs come together as characters often overlap another character's arc.
Apart from the nice story telling Bakemonogatari features, I personally think that its cast are definitely deserving to be called great, if not, the best, in terms of design, personality and development. They all have a unique air to them and is very hard to properly describe without ruining the enjoyment you get from initially watching them on-screen.
"Koyomi Araragi ranked sixth in the Best Male Character in 2009, second in 2010, seventh in 2011, third in 2012, and sixth in 2013. Meanwhile, Hitagi Senjougahara ranked seventh in the Best Female Character in 2009, fourth in 2010, eighth in 2011, and seventh in 2012." [Source: Wikipedia]
Popularity ranking may mean nothing for some people, but I think it serves to be a concrete example that Bakemonogatari's characters are indeed very likable. On top of that, almost everyone has several layers to them, their development is tangible and coherent, and they are different enough from common archetypes so it doesn't feel like they're just some generic character you've seen at least a hundred times. Plus, it gives people loads of ideas and perspectives so there are a lot of things to debate on and talk about a character. So what's the icing on the cake? They give off a sense of depth without making you think really hard, and you dig up more bits of their character by paying close attention to details and certain dialogues.
The opening and ending songs are all really awesome. As I've said, this anime is an arc-based one, so the opening song changes every arc. The OPs usually have the same "feel" as the character they're focused on, as if they're describing them through a song. The ED might not look like its relevant to the story at first, but once you get to see the later episodes, the song will beg for your appreciation as it perfectly conveys the feelings and the message of the song to the watcher. As for the BGM in the lengthy conversations, they're okay. Not much to say about them, really. They're pretty average compared to the BGM used in the sequels. Worry not, since this flaw gets overshadowed by the quality of the voices, which was beautifully delivered by the voice actors.
One word to describe the art: amazing. I myself like to think that the quirky but beautiful art of Bakemonogatari is the result of telling a story through a character's point of view, which in this case, is Araragi. The whole anime is told through his perspective. Therefore, the things and the people that aren't connected with the story aren't shown, hence them being the only characters in the show. Why are the main cast's houses different? Because he pays special attention to them. Why is his bike the only different one in the anime? Because it's special to him, being his own possession. Why are the fight scenes so colorfully gory? Because the flashy colors convey how feels while the fight is happening, which in this case, is pain. Why were the stairs of the school back to normal at the middle of episode 1, rather than being huge and circular? Because the staircase never has been huge and circular. Senjougahara just tripped at the top of the staircase and "fell into his arms." They were all in Araragi's perspective. Not minding the fact that people call the anime pretentious, I honestly think that the art, in itself, is a good enough reason to actually call this anime deep.
With all of that, the enjoyment levels of this anime is great. It left me in a one-person standing ovation after watching it the first time, which is a huge feat considering that it was 4AM in the morning and I had classes in 3 hours. The re-watch-ability of this anime is top-notch too, as watching the whole series again makes you notice things that you didn't catch the first time you watched, like dialogues that revealed more about the character, or scenes that will make you think about what it's trying to say.
Summing up everything above, Bakemonogatari is something that I could call a masterpiece, being something boring, yet interesting; minimally animated, yet visually appealing; and complex, yet understandable. This anime is my current favorite and it probably will be for a long, long, time.
Try it out sometime and see where it takes you. Honestly, I think watching it for Rararagi's crazy antics is a good enough reason.
For every medium, there are few masterpieces that transcend the genre and become something special. Since I consider anime, as a genre, to be just as legitimate an art form (despite the bad rep it often gets), I will also review Bakemonogatari as a work of art, and it is irrefutably one of the special few anime series that fully capitalize on the strengths of the anime medium.
People have complained that the story is too episodic, too disjointed. However, the virtue of Bakemonogatari's storyline is that it is so minimal. In all senses, this anime is a character-based experimental, and an elaborate storyline would actually detract from that experience. There are plenty of anime out there that thrive on plot twists and progression that keep the viewer on their seats, but Bakemonogatari isn't one. The episodic storyline is a brilliant framing device for character development and nothing more, which works out perfectly for this particular anime.
As usual Studio SHAFT splurged on art. This is definitely a series to be enjoyed in high-definition, preferably with the room lights turned off. Anime, by definition, is a genre segregated from realism. The beauty of anime as a medium is that every cut is animated, so that the blemishes, imperfections, and limitations of reality can be omitted in favor of stylized, beautified perfection. Anime art style that attempts to be too realistic are bound to lose that edge and, naturally, pale in comparison to live-action works featuring comparable visuals. Anime that go all in on stylizing can often seem distracting and too detached from reality. With all of that in consideration, Bakemonogatari is one of the few shining masterpieces of the anime genre that hits the sweet spot. Everything in this anime is crisp and beautiful, from the characters to the slightest scenery detail. What would have seemed tacky when drawn are boldly stylized and symbolized, rather than allowed to compromise the atmosphere. For example, people have complained about the cuts to photographs and abstract diagrams that pop up frequently. But imagine if all of those were actually animated; it would have been clunky and distracting from the dialog. For example, Senjougahara's mother isn't a character in this anime, therefore having an designed, animated character to her credit would distract from the very small and tight cast. I don't know how much budget went into this production, but they sure splurged where it was needed (characters, scenery-porn sequences, pivotal action sequences) and were decisive in radically minimizing what would have been superfluous.
There is quite a rave about Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari and Staple Stable, and they are indeed catchy and appropriate opening/ending. Much more underrated are the mundane, ambient sound design of this anime. Just as Bakemonogatari should ideally be viewed in high-quality settings, so it should be heard with at least "nice" audio. Perhaps I had the fortune/misfortune of being an impeccable audiophile and watched the series with headphones that cost me half a fortune, but everyone should at least watch Bakemonogatari with real speakers or decent headphones. This is a series that can only be fully appreciated when the viewer is immersed in it, and laptop speakers simply won't do.
Having said all of that, the non-intrusive BGM and ambient sounds do a perfect job of accentuating the dialog/situation without, again, distracting from what is really important. Perhaps the best example is in the TV finale, where the BGM swells and fades without the viewers really noticing because they are so perfectly integrated with the ebb and flow of verbal/situational push and pull between the two leads.
The voice acting, without even the need to elaborate, are top-mark. The seiyuu for Koyomi is appropriately serious, jocular, and reflective. I especially enjoyed the sequences and inserts in which Koyomi is thinking selfish/perverted/silly thoughts. Excellent sound designing makes it sound like Koyomi's voice is really ringing inside my head, adding to the effect and how identifiable his character is. Voice acting for Senjougahara seemed a bit too fragile and breathy at first, but it was revealed to be not the fault of the seiyuu, but part of character development, but more on that will border on spoiling. Let me just add that voice acting for both leads hit the sweet spot at least by the TV finale.
All of the other elements, story, art, and sound, up to now were accompaniments to the brilliant characters of Bakemonogatari. If those elements had their virtue in garnishing the backgrounds of this anime, the characters' virtue lie in their shocking assertiveness and charisma.
Koyomi - Of all anime leads I've seen, he is one of the few truly-believable leads that are likeable. He is objectively decent-looking and decently dressed, not, as are many a blue-haired shounen characters, outrageously flamboyant. He is not an outspoken paragon of bravery and power. He is even a bit of a sociopath. However, the subtle inner stability he shows makes him stronger than Goku or Lelouch in my opinion. He isn't a social butterfly, but he would never seriously harm another person. Though he is a bit of a pervert, just like the rest of us, the viewers can't picture him ever being disloyal to his romantic partner. Koyomi's inner strength and stability are what keeps this series from becoming a typical harem anime, and such qualities of his character are what makes the viewer so strongly and ineffably identify with him.
Senjougahara - First of all, her name is awesome, just phonetically. I read that it means something like "battlefield" in Japanese, but it sounds so feminine and appropriate to her character. With that aside, if Koyomi is the steady, dependable drummer keeping beat to the Bakemonogatari band, Senjougahara is the lead vocalist that captures and enthralls the viewer. Anime is, more than anything, a visual art, so it is of course important that her every frame is perfected and beautified with adoration. Not only is she one of the most flawlessly beautiful female characters in anime, the way she poses and moves is also idealized. Imagine a girl who never does anything unsightly: never makes an unflattering face, is never without makeup (or always looks perfect without one), never goes to the bathroom, you get the idea, and that would be Senjougahara. Again, the creators of Bakemonogatari really cashed in on this aspect of anime to create a visually flawless female lead. Utter perfection, however, isn't always likeable, as none of us are perfect. Senjougahara, therefore, needs some profound flaw in order to offset her physical perfection, and that's when her character development comes into play. I won't say much more on that for fear of spoiling, but she exists not as a perfect, standalone being, but someone who absolutely depends on Koyomi to complete her. That's why their interactions work, even though they should logically have zero reason to even know each other. Senjougahara is the modern Yamato Nadeshiko, though the usage of that term to describe her may be controversial. The numerous attempts to categorize her as a tsundere/kuudere/yandere/whaeverdere have all failed because her character is grounded not on a trope, but a real-life ideal of feminine beauty. She is the culmination, or rather, an amalgamation, of decades of anime heroines that captured the viewers, male and female alike. Senjougahara and Koyomi have such subtle and inexplicable chemistry because they are both subtle, ultimately mysterious characters.
This is the one category where I admit that the 10/10 is highly subjective. Objectively, Bakemonogatari is a top-quality art form, and I firmly believe that high-profile artists, filmmakers, etc. would appreciate that Bakemonogatari is the epitome of modern anime counterculture (Suzumiya Haruhi being the mainstream crystallization of modern anime). However, you have to be looking for the right thing to enjoy this anime. If the anime you typically enjoy are Naruto, TTGL, etc. (not that they aren't fantastic either), Bakemonogatari is perhaps not for you. This series is really for people who have watched a lot of anime, perhaps even an otaku, and were drawn to the more sophisticated, post-modern aspect of the genre as a whole. It is, in a way, analogous to how Mozart is universally loved (for a good reason!), while composers like Hindemith appeal strongly to those who have developed a taste in classical music. I personally pick this series as the number one anime of all time (along with NGE) because it had all I was looking for: deep, subtle characters, platonic romance, somewhat surreal atmosphere, idealization only possible in anime, wit, and that pinch of sociopathy shown in each character, as are present in every human being. There isn't one thing about this anime that is the "hook" (though, if I had to pick one, I'd go with SENJOUGAHARA FASCINATION). Rather, every aspect of it plays its role perfectly to create a gestalt whole. Oh, and by the way, if you're like me and are desperately looking for non-moe, non-loli (getting harder and harder to find) anime made in 21st century, welcome to Bakemonogatari. This series is for mature viewers looking for a subtle, yet decisively anime experience.
Overall, if you think yourself the discriminating, intellectual beta-component of modern society (who also happens to watch anime), you will love this series. It's a love or hate type of anime, in my opinion, and if you are the type of person this show caters to, you will come to thoroughly appreciate every aspect of the show, besides just Senjougahara. If you're not, that doesn't mean you're not as cultured or some nonsense; just need to find your anime masterpiece, as I found Bakemonogatari. read more
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