It's the year 2019, thirty-one years have passed since the start of World War III. A top-secret child with amazing powers of the mind breaks free from custody and accidentally gets a motorcycle gang involved in the project. This incident triggers psychic powers within one of the gang members, Tetsuo, and he is taken by the army to be experimented on. His mind has been altered and is now on the path of war, seeking revenge on the society that once called him weak.
Note: The following review DOESN\'T contain spoilers.
Akira is a very controversial piece of art — but a piece of art regardless. It isn\'t easy to watch it, and it isn\'t easy to review it, either: Akira the movie is such an ambitious and influential project that grasping it in its entirety is far from being trivial.
Akira\'s story is among those where you need either high intuitive and perceptive abilities to understand everything that goes on, or to watch it several times. It doesn\'t really help that Katsuhiro Otomo stuffed almost 2000 pages of story into 2 hours of screen time, but at least the movie has considerably good re-watch potential, which might help to release part of the strain.
What we have is a post-WWIII Tokyo of not-too-distant future, led by greedy politicians and torn apart by terrorists trying to bring down the corrupt power and biker gangs that roam the streets. There is no usual hi-tech cyberpunk fantasies about living online, free information or global communication — just a demonstratively dystopic setting involving modern society abandoned to rot on its own. This is driven up further by the secret military experiments in attempts to magnify and control human psychic powers, which actually led to the WWIII in the first place. These social, political and semi-scientific, semi-mystical aspects mix and intertwine as a couple of teenagers get accidentally involved in all this mess.
Where Akira definitely wins is the art department, being a clear milestone in animation. It\'s been almost 20 years since its release, and I\'ve yet to see many movies, especially anime, drawn with this amount of detail. There are very few still shots, every movement is scrutinized and animated at 24 frames per second, creating a remarkably fluid image. Dialogues are all lip-synched and everything looks as natural as it was possible to do at the time.
Character design can be called dubious, but personally I like it, since it\'s considerably truthful to actual real-life images, where people actually tend to have noses instead of some weird pointy bumps, and eyes that don\'t take half the entire face. Most of the characters are pretty much ugly, and it helps them match the gloomy setting really well. The only weak spot in it is considerably small difference in facial design, which is why some characters (especially younger ones) look similar to each other.
Sound and music
Akira is actually rather silent most of the time. However, when the sound plays, it\'s almost always highly dynamic and spot-on. Most of the soundtrack is dominated by industrial beats, minimalistic ethnic motifs and chants, and is intended to set the certain ambience in the movie, so you\'ll likely fail to enjoy it too much outside of it. But for what it\'s worth, the sound work is really good in the movie, especially considering the time of its production.
I can\'t say there\'s too much to it when it comes to characters. The movie\'s limited length (compared to manga at least) didn\'t leave too much for character development, so you mostly see more-or-less clear manifestations of certain archetypes rather than complex emotional and psychological twists, even though not all of them are simple to read through. Some appear initially negative but proven to be decent later, while others appear good at first but eventually show themselves to be corrupt.
Pretty much the only characters who let you get some insights into their backstory are Kaneda and Tetsuo, especially the latter. Both are almost equally confused by the events engulfing them (kinda like the viewer, actually), and it\'s very interesting to track their relationships throughout the movie.
This is a very subjective matter, but personally, Akira is one of the most enjoyable movies I\'ve ever seen. It has a lot of shock value (assuming you\'re shocked by immense amounts of graphic violence), it has furious action, it has plot riddles, it has mystery, drama and horror elements, all presented in a coherent (but sometimes overly gruesome) manner. Some people regard Akira to be a gratuitous bloodbath, but there\'s much more to it than the amount of gore, it\'s just that those people are unable to look deeper than that. There is a lot of symbolism ingrained underneath the visual layer, and it takes some time and effort to find all the links to cultural and other contexts.
That being said, if you enjoyed watching it for the first time, chances are you will enjoy it the second time around, and probably even more at that. The final 20 minutes literally eat my head from inside every time I rewatch them, much like End of Evangelion or other similar movies. And for this alone I think it deserves its 10.
Overall, I\'m still of the opinion that Akira is a masterpiece and deserves watching, whether you like anime (or any form of animation, actually) or not, at least for its great cultural and historic value. There are many movies and cartoons that are far more enjoyable, and it\'s not like Akira is the absolute limit of anything and everything. But as more and more titles surpass it in various respects, Akira stays like the Colossus of Rhodes, being a great achievement on its own and one of the most influential landmarks in the history of anime for years to come.read more
So I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it, namely the English dub. What do I think about it? It was pretty good for an anime that came out in the 1980’s and it holds up pretty well to this day. I was very surprised that the show was actually directed by the writer of Akira as well. Not many people can write a manga and get to direct it as well when it comes to movie. This means that the show would have come out how he wanted to and not changed around as it went from hand to hand. Just how close is this to the manga? Well as of now, I have not read the manga so I can’t answer that.
Some things do bother me with the story and mostly with the characters though it is more based on my preference of character then anything else. I just think that the biker gangs felt a bit forced. I never been in one, never even been near a gang like that before so I can’t say for sure but I think they wouldn’t be so open with what they were doing for so long without already being caught by the cops. I may just be analyzing it a bit too much but it just got on my nerves. That also goes for Kaneda always trying to get into Kei’s pants.
The main story had a very deep underlining meaning both in psychology and in humanity itself. It’s hard not to spoil anything about this when most of it happens at the end but I do have to talk about this. There is a back and forth aspect that seems to happen of what science could learn but at what price. It’s there when they mess with Tetsuo’s brain and the results that happen after. Let me tell you, the results were not pretty. We are always striving for learning more about ourselves and to push ourselves to the max but at what price do we pay for such an idea? Are we even willing to push us to a point that we ourselves are not considered human anymore? And what would happen if such a power was placed in the hands of someone who didn’t fully understand how to use it? Something that Kiyoko says in the show rings pretty true no matter what you’re talking about. I went something like ‘when you are given this much power, you must chose how you use it.’ Sort of similar to Spiderman’s Uncle telling him ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ but the idea is still the same.
The animation was rather gory and bloody for the most part with a lot of dark depressing textures. The place they lived really did look like a back ally pig sty but I believe that was what they were going for. For the time this came out, the artwork is rather good and I was surprised by just how much detail they put into the background as well as some of the movements. They even placed the streaks from the tail lights of the bikes in. I don’t think I have seen that much detail put into a show that was hand drawn except for Studio Ghibi’s movies. While the design of the characters were pretty realistic as far as anime can go without not looking like anime, they were still rather simple and it is understandable when people have to draw them time and time again. Once in a while, the lighting and shading didn’t work all that well and I don’t remember much shading on the ‘children’ except for the wrinkles.
The voice acting was surprisingly well done for the time it was dubbed. I can understand why this movie was what got anime going in America because the voice acting was what I would of imagined the characters to sound like. Because of the somewhat realistic artwork and the constant yelling that characters did, the lip sink suffered slightly. I can only say slightly because what they did do; they did a damn good job in doing it. One person who stood out really well was Kiyoko’s voice actor (The female little child) Melora Harte. For those of you wondering, I did watch the 1988 release of the dubbing and not the new 2001 version; at least I believe it to be.
I can truly understand why this is called a cult classic, being as a symbol of ‘greatness’ in the anime world. As the years have not been all that kind to it, it may not hold that title for animation and voice acting but its story is still something that should be kept in the minds of those who watch it. If you haven’t watched it, you are missing out even if you don’t like this stuff.read more
Akira is a film adapted from the manga series of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo. The film was a huge success, even outside its native Japan, and is often heralded as one of the all-time greatest anime ever produced. I first saw this film in 2007, and I have no desire to see it again. I know "classic" anime and I tend to not mix very well, but I cannot understand why this film was and still is championed as a "great" example of anime. The only thing great about this film is how it teaches you what NOT to film in an action film.
It's the future in Tokyo, or Neo-Tokyo, and everything has gone to Hell. The streets are a warzone between gangs, the government, and everyone else. In between all of this are a number of children with psychic powers that enable them to do pretty much whatever they want. One of these children is a teenager from a biker gang named Tetsuo. He and his friend Kaneda get caught up in the government's attempt to . . .
I'm sorry, I'm giving this plot way too much credit. Do you want to know what I recall this movie being about? It's a series of one senseless act of violence after another. Sure, there are scenes of expository dialog, and an important flashback, but this is pretty much the entire movie right here: someone gets the crap beaten out of them. Someone else gets shot. Someone else gets exploded. Someone else gets the crap beaten out of them. Throw in nonsensical psychic powers, among even more people dying whether they deserve it or not, throw in one of the worst endings in cinematic history, roll credits. The film does not even bother to explain most of the things that happen. It's pretty much like all those mindless action flicks that plagued Hollywood in the 1980s, except animated. Then again, Akira was made in 1988, so I guess it was just following the leader in this regard. 3/10.
Akira is famous for its fluid animation. Indeed, it is the oldest anime I've seen that has motion as fluid as what you would expect from an American animated film. As gruesome as the violence is, it is well-crafted. So why then does this only get a 6? Two problems. One, the coloring. I know, this is a bit unfair, seeing as how Akira is a pre-digital anime, but the coloring is drab for the most part. At times, it is fitting of its dystopian setting, but other times, it's just, well, drab. And two, this film has some of the most bland character designs I have ever seen in a theatrical animated film. It's like the filmmakers weren't even trying in this aspect. This and the coloring bogs down my score, but at least there's no choppiness in the animation. 6/10.
The sound is alright. The soundtrack is eccentric, but works. The sound effects do their job. The ending credits song is lame retro 80s synth fluff, but it could've been worse.
I got to see parts of Akira in both Japanese and the English dub by Geneon. The Japanese dub is superb. Unlike most anime, Akira's Japanese dialog was recorded before the animation work was completed, much like an American animation. Unfortunately, because of this, foreign language dubs look off compared to the original. Now, dub purists are probably thinking, "But . . . but . . . Johnny Yong Bosch! Wendee Lee! Joshua Seth!" Yes, I love them too, but honestly, if for whatever morbid reason you do decide to watch Akira, you're better off seeing it in Japanese with the subtitles on. 7/10.
Characterization? What characterization? This, along with the threadbare plot, is what killed Akira for me. Who are these characters? Why are they doing the things they are doing? Why should I care for them? Only one character gets any such development, and that's Tetsuo. We learn his motivation and his desire to strike back at the world, and why he and Kaneda are conflicted with fighting each other at the end, but that is it. Seriously, that's all the characterization you get in this film. When a character dies, you don't care for them, because you know nothing about them. The characters whose names I even remember are Kaneda, Tetsuo, and Akira, and that's only because the first two keep shouting each other's name, and the last has his name in the title. Like, for example, who was that girl Kaneda kept hitting on? The one that, thanks to the lackluster character designs, looks like a boy? What was her purpose in all of this? What about all those government guys? The rival biker gang? The other children with psychic powers? And why does Akira do what he does in the ending? None of this is either elaborated, or done in a way to make me care as an audience member. 2/10.
Enjoyment: If all you want to see are brutal, pointless acts of violence, then you're in luck, because that's exactly what Akira delivers, in spades. If you want more than that, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I know this is a compressed adaptation of a manga, and the manga is supposedly better, (I don't know, I haven't read the manga version of Akira) but couldn't Otomo have made the anime at least stand on its own for those who haven't read the manga? As it is, it is a confusing mess, chock to the brim with sensationalized violence. Now, mind you, I don't mind seeing mature content in my entertainment. What I do mind is seeing "mature" content used only as a means to shock and awe the audience. That's all Akira does, and somehow, it managed to delude a large number of anime fans into thinking it was "deep" and "meaningful", when all it really is is a crappy 80s action flick that dissolves into nothing by the end. That's about as much sense as I can make out of the ending anyways. 3/10.
Now before any of you say "You just hate Akira because you didn't see it back when it first came out!", I want to point out that that is a moot point to make. My favorite film by Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky, predates Akira by two years, and is a much, much, MUCH more enjoyable film than this. And also, Katsuhiro Otomo would go on to make the film Steamboy, which, unlike Akira, actually has a proper plot, characters worth giving a damn about, really nice coloring, and slightly less bland character art. So really, there's no point in seeing Akira anymore, except to laugh at it, because as far as I'm concerned, the anime version of Akira is nothing more than a joke.read more
Akira is a 1988 Japanese Animated film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo based on Otomo’s manga of the same name.
In the year 1988 a mysterious explosion destroys Tokyo while supposedly also causing World War III. 31 years later, in the year 2019, a new city, entitled Neo-Tokyo, is built which is in a state of constant chaos due to constant skirmishes between rival biker gangs as well as barrages of anti-government attacks carried out by various revolutionary groups. This is the stetting of Akira.
Within this setting the plot focuses on two major characters. Shotaro Kaneda, the arrogant leader of a biker gang, and his childhood friend/rival, Tetsuo Shima, who throughout the film develops strange psychic powers that are frighteningly powerful and prove to cause much destruction.
The first thing that most people will probably notice is the animation of this film because it is of an extremely high quality. Japanese animation, or anime as most people call it, is sometimes criticized for having “limited animation”. Japanese animators generally don’t aim for the same fluidity of motion that, say, American animators usually do. Plus they are often guilty of cutting corners by doing things such as giving characters static faces while they are talking. To be fair though the art in a lot of anime is usually a bit more detailed than what is usually seen in American animation. With that said however none of these criticisms can be applied to Akira because every scene has extremely detailed and fluid animation that, in my opinion at least, rivals that of Disney. If someone asked me to show him or her the animation of Akira I would show a river because that is how fluid it is.
One reason why the animation is especially impressive is due to the fact that a majority of the film takes place at night. Now this might not seem like a significant point to some so let me explain. Similar to those who work on shooting live action films, animators, while working on scenes that take place at night, have to deal with lighting, or at least with presenting the illusion of lighting. This is something that can lead to animation becoming more complicated since, not only do animators have to worry about drawing shadows in realistic ways, they also have to use more colors in order to make everything fit in with the supposed lighting in scenes. It is for this reason that many animators try to avoid doing scenes that take place at night. But rather than taking the easy way out the animators working on Akira toughed it out and made sure that every scene at night was colored in a way that gave the illusion of realistic lighting and the results are truly astounding. It is for this reason that I have the upmost respect for those who worked on animating this beast.
In fact it is because of the animation that I recommend watching this film with the Japanese voices, even if you prefer to watch anime with English dubbing. This is not because the English dubbings available are bad per say, it is just that Akira is a very special case. For almost all anime the animation is finished before all the dialogue is recorded. What this means is that the animation for the mouths in anime aren’t done in a way that follows the delivery given by the voice actors. Instead the animation is usually edited after the voices are recorded so that the mouths move within the time in which voices are heard. This means that mouths will just open and close during certain intervals. Because of this it generally isn’t that jarring to watch an anime with an English dubbing since the Japanese voices wouldn’t really fit the animation for the mouths either. With Akira however the Japanese voices were recorded beforehand so the animators were able to animate the mouths so that they follow the delivery of the Japanese voice actors. For that reason alone I believe that everyone should watch this film with the Japanese audio since it not only will fit the visuals, but it will also allow viewers to really appreciate the extra bit of effort that the animators put into the mouths.
And while I’m on the topic of audio let me just say that the soundtrack by Shoji Yamashiro is pretty amazing. Many of the tracks have a unique combination of techno, traditional Asian instruments, and distorted singing/chanting. This ultimately culminates to create music that is intense enough to accentuate a lot of the chaos that ends up happening on screen while also sounding very unique. Although it should be noted that there are one or two somber tracks that do help calm down the mood on the rare occasion that the film decides to take a breather.
While Akira might stand out from its peers because of the technical quality of its animation, the animation is not the only reason why the film is well known among otaku. The other, and possibly more significant, reason why Akira stands out from its fellow animated brethren is due to its level of violence. In the years that I have been watching animated works there are few non-exploitation anime and films in general that approach the sheer amount of violence that Akira showcases. At times it seems like the film can’t go five minutes without having some violent act taking place, weather it be an explosion, a bout between rival biker gangs, governmental forces gunning down rebellious citizens, or Testuo using his powers to plaster the ground with someone else’s guts. But while the violence might seem a bit gratuitous to some, I actually think it is an ultimately positive aspect of the film. Neo-Tokyo is supposed to be a chaotic and brutal city and if people weren’t getting beaten and murdered left and right then the city would hardly seem as brutal as it does within the film. Plus it also does good job of making the audience never get too comfortable during the intense action scenes since you are always aware that death is never far away from anyone who lives in Neo-Tokyo.
Even though Akira is a very unique and technically impressive film, is isn’t without some flaws. The film is a 2-hour adaptation of an over 2000-page manga and while the film does manage to condense the central plot into the allotted run time, this does seem to present a few issues. First of all, since the film has to cover a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time the pacing is really jacked up. I can really only think of two or three scenes in which the audience is really given a scene devoid of either really exciting action or plot exposition. Now while some might argue that this is a good thing since it means that the film never gets boring, it is also a factor that may serve to confuse some viewers.
Now while I am a firm believer that the majority of scenes in a film should serve to move the story along, at least when talking about plot-driven films, I do recognize the need for quiet time where not much is happening. While these scenes might seem boring and meaningless to some, I believe they can serve an important purpose within many films and stories. They give the audience a chance to take a breather so that they don’t get overwhelmed with plot details or action as well as giving them a chance to reflect on what has happened thus far. But in Akira it seems that almost every scene has characters either spouting plot exposition or participating in some really intense and really bloody violence. This means that the viewer can’t really take time to think about what they had just seen, since there aren’t any scenes that don’t serve to either put the characters in danger or move the plot along. This can be seen as an especially big problem for Akira since many may be tempted to step away from the plot to just admire the fluidity of the animation or the extremely beautiful and densely detailed backgrounds. This is probably one of the major reasons why I see a lot of people call the film confusing. It also doesn’t help that some of the dialogue is a bit more cryptic than it needs to be.
Also, the film doesn’t address some details with the amount of explanation that some may desire. For example, within the film there are a number of people who are fighting the government in a revolutionary movement. While the government of Neo-Tokyo is shown to be rather inept in a few scenes of the film, it is never really explained why people are so angry with the government. Many other details like this such as the affect that World War III on the world, the nature of Tetsuo’s powers, and where these angst-ridden teenagers go when they aren’t hanging out with each other go on unexplained. While I’m sure some won’t mind, I know I certainly didn’t when I watched this film for the first time, I recognize that some may get annoyed with the lack of explanation that the film gives pertaining to some details. While I would’ve hated it if this film were to be bogged down by too much exposition I feel that the film would have been improved if some of these topics were more thoroughly explored. At the very least it would have given the world of the film more depth. Plus it is not like Katsuhiro Otomo didn’t write this story without thinking a lot of this though. Having read it in its entirety, I can truthfully say that the manga did go more in depth with certain aspects of the plot, such as the anti-government movement that various characters are a part of. This leads me to believe that the reason why a lot of things in the film were left unexplained was more due to time constraints than lazy writing. Personally, even though I am usually a strong opponent of people splitting up stories into parts, I believe that the plot of Akira might have been better if it was split between two films. This would have allowed Otomo to provide the audience more calm and soothing scenes, while also providing time to add more depth to the world.
And for my last form of criticism I will just warn people that at a few moments during the third act of the film the dialogue devolves into characters just screaming each other’s names really loudly.
But while these things are certainly flaws, I can’t ignore that they somewhat serve as a double-edged sword. While the unrelenting pace and lack of explanation might serve to confuse and aggravate some viewers, I can’t deny that they also make the film seem even more chaotic. The most common tagline that I’ve seen in promotional material for Akira is “Neo-Tokyo is about to explode”. This tagline I feel perfectly encapsulates the feeling that the setting gives off. Saying that Neo-Tokyo is about to explode suggests that things are building up, that the city is practically bursting with problems and its soon gonna let it all out in a glorious explosion. In a sense the plot and pacing reflects this very chaotic feeling. Within the film the viewer is shown countless problems which are plaguing Neo-Tokyo. These include, but are not limited to, gang violence, poor education, trigger-happy government forces, trigger-happy revolutionary forces, as well as a government in which nothing ever gets done. While the scatterbrain way that the film decides to show the audience all these problems certainly do hurt the plot, at least in my opinion, I also feel they help the setting seem even more doomed. The kinetic pacing of the film as well as the sheer amount of the problems it shows suggests to the viewer that Neo-Tokyo is a city full of problems that no one really has time to solve. The fact that said problems aren’t really ever given full explanations ultimately hinders the audience’s ability to think up solutions to these problems thus they reach a sort of unsolvable status within the minds of viewers. This all ends up making Neo-Tokyo seem all the more ugly and all the more hopeless. In no way am I saying that these points make up for the ways that the flaws within the writing detract from the film’s quality. I’m just saying that it is flawed in a way that does help reinforce some ideas about the film’s setting. Neo-Tokyo was a city built to help Japanese citizens deal with the destruction of Tokyo. It is then is ironic that it seems to be a city constantly on the brink of destruction, at least as it exists within the year of 2019. But while it is a setting that is constantly in a state of turmoil, I am still able to find things to enjoy every time I visit.
While the screenplay might be badly written in terms of plot, it does a surprisingly good job with creating sympathy for the protagonists of the film. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t too fond on a lot of the characters when I was first watching this film a few years ago. Kaneda, Testuo, and friends seemed like completely unlikeable violent and arrogant teenaged boys who liked to spend all their time hitting rival bikers with steel pipes. But as the film goes on and you learn more about these character’s pasts and their environment, you begin to feel bad for them. While you may be repulsed by their violent tendencies, you realize that these are kids who had to deal with living in the horrible dump that is Neo-Tokyo. Thus they had to deal with all the problems and oppression of the city has while growing up. Because of this, I at least, gained a strange understanding for the anti-authoritative attitude as well as a strange sort of sympathy for the characters. There are also a fair amount of scenes within the film that really show that these characters have a sense of camaraderie and that they actually do care about each other. This in turn makes it easier for the audience to care about them since most of the characters all seem to put at least some significance on each other’s lives. It is also easy to feel bad for these characters since they end up getting involved in a lot of conflicts that they don’t personally want to being in and then just end up suffering because of it. Kaneda gets involved with an anti-government group not because he actually believes in their cause. Rather he just joining them because the government has taken Tetsuo away from him and he believes that following the group will allow him to protect his friend. Similarly, Testuo never really chose to get psychic powers, he just sort of got them and because of that scientists take possession of him so that they can study him. Inevitably these powers end up causing harm to his mental state, his physical state, and the lives of those around him and in that sense his character is extremely tragic. By the last third of the film, despite the fact that I found both characters to be unlikeable at first, I had quite a bit of sympathy for both Kaneda and Testuo and was really rooting for both of them to reach a happy conclusion. This in the end makes it all the more sad when the tragic and self-destructive aspects of their friendship become more apparent. I must also admit that part of the reason that I was able to feel sympathetic towards these teenagers was partially due to the character design. There is just something about the art, probably the more roundish heads, which make the characters seem more juvenile and thus easier to feel sympathy towards, since you think, well they probably don’t know any better. While Akira’s violence might make it seem like it doesn’t value human life all that much, it’s characters do ultimately give the film a sad emotional core.
Now before I begin to wrap this review up I cannot forget to mention the significance of his film. Akira was the film that introduced a lot of Americans to Japanese anime and it is likely that if the film was never made and was never release on home video in America, the international anime fan community would never be as big as it is today. Plus, while Akira was certainly a landmark in terms of Japanese animation, one can see its influence on many American films such as Chronicle and The Matrix. Akira might not be quite great enough to be considered a masterpiece but it has certainly left an impression on culture, or at least the nerdy side of culture, which can still be felt today. Also I must say that the film has what might be the most epic and craziest climaxes that I have ever seen. In fact, I would say that the climax alone makes watching the film a worthwhile endeavor, at least if you aren’t particularly squeamish.
Akira is a film about a lot of things but above all it is a film about destruction. Within the film one can witness the destruction of many human lives, of body parts, of friendships, of cities, of governments, and of societies. Heck, some might even argue that while watching, you can see the film’s plot get destroyed before your very eyes. Yet it is ironic how a film about so much destruction was able to lead to the production of so much beautiful animation, to the creation of some very real and sympathetic characters, as well as, arguably, an entire international community of fans. Perhaps like the phoenix, Akira is a film that proves that new life and thoughts can be born out of death and destruction. Akira is not a perfect film. It’s writing is too flawed for me to give it that high of praise. What Akira really is though is a thrilling, destructive, bloody, and melancholic roller coaster ride and while it may be a ride that is held together by duck tape and staples, it is one that I thoroughly enjoy every time I experience it. read more
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