Tag Archives: Studio Pierrot

Area 88 (OVA) Review

In the late 1980s Viz Media released Area 88 in comic book form in the US. Offering readers cartoonish-looking characters struggling in war, and touching on their struggles to fit back into society. Due to poor sales, one thing the comic book shares with it OVA counterpart is leaving readers/viewers hanging. While talks about the comic book seemingly vanished the OVA is still fondly remembered for its story, and animation during its action sequences.

Being tricked into joining a foreign military by his best friend, Shin Kazama must either survive 3 years in the battlefields of Aslan, or earn money from missions to pay a debt of 1.5 million dollars in order to return home. Taking a grounded approach for its storytelling the OVA chooses to tackle the psychological effects war can have on a soldier. In doing so, it removes any fantastical elements present in other war stories in animes like fighting over ideologies, or having a singular advance piece of technology that puts the odd in a faction favors. Residing in a simple world where politics, and money drives the conflict around Shin Kazama being powerless against these forces.

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Our war drama is brought to you by our sponsor Coke-Cola

The OVA is wonky in its pacing. Within 3 episodes each averaging about an hour in length. Two of the three episodes portray Shin as someone out of his element. Not hiding how much he hates the sense of war, and what it’s doing to him. These moments where Shin is confronted about his feelings toward fighting is where the characterization shines best. Showing stages of when he’s a pacifist, and refusing to accept what he has become as the result of the war. Not only will you get a picture of who Shin Kazama is from himself, but also what other around Shin feel about him. Making the human drama the centerpiece of the OVA.

When you do eventually get to the famous ariel fights Area 88 is famous for they have more weight attach to them. Spending time developing a bit of the supporting cast, and the history behind the base the anime is named after. Delving into the supporting cast mindset to explore how the stench of war has changed them forever. Showing the strong bonds between the comrades of Area 88 through some humorous exchanges. Highlighting the team sense of comradery with each other despite their tormented souls, and views on morality.

This OVA does have a villain in Shin Kazama best friend Satoru Kanazaki who betrays Shin to get everything he desires. Sleazily presented as he might be the OVA offers moments where he shows some humanity. Showing some level of remorse for betraying Shin adding food for thought in a otherwise simple character. Rokyo Tsugumo who is the center of a unwanted love triangle is given other things to do in the story than just waiting for Shin. She tries to deal with things sensibly, and is given her own moral dilemma which is handle well in the OVA.

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Shin knows criticism is locked on, and ready to hit

The OVA biggest weakness is the weak romance. While watching the OVA I didn’t get a sense of a romantic connection between Shin Kazama, and his love interest Ryoko much. In a ironic turn, everything else revolving around that romance is actually handled better. One of those being a scene where Shin gets asked if he still believes Ryoko is waiting him. It’s a good scene since it gets across Shin affection for Ryoko. As individual characters Shin, and Ryoko are better than expected, but as a couple their romance storyline lacks any sparks, and chemistry to be on par with everything else the anime offers. 

The Japanese voice acting wins by a long shot. While the English dub isn’t bad in any significant sense the voice work is notably weaker. In the English dub you have Chris Patton who voices Shin Kazama easily being the best voice actor in the English dub. He’s able to masterfully hide the jarring shift in Shin Kazama character going from a fish out of water to a cold blooded killer within the span of a single episode. However, Kaneto Shizawa who also voices Shin Kazama provides much more of a punch. Coming across more distraught, and cold compare to Chris Patton who withhold himself a bit in the more emotional scenes.

My biggest problem with the English dub is the supporting aren’t emotive enough. Doesn’t help they mostly play one note characters. Hilary Haag for example who plays Ryoko just sounds helplessly shy in every scene she’s in. In contrast to Sakiko Tamagawa who provides the Japanese voice for Ryoko sounds more concerning than shy in her performance. While the English dub is technically more accurate in portraying the different ethnicities of its cast. English voices are generally subdue better fitting the overall tone the OVA is going for. Whereas the Japanese voices can be over the top in places. However, the Japanese voice acting captures the emotions the best in their portrayals because they aren’t holding back like in the English dub.

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Might be from the 80s, but this animation is awesome.

Area 88 is hand-drawn by Studio Pierrot whom painstakingly go out of their way to animate the most realistic ariel fights possible. Changing up the scenarios to keep things interesting be it flying through a very narrow canyon opening to avoid radar detection, or trying not to crash into a giant steel wall during an assault on a enemy base. Going all out in showing airplanes being pierce apart in combat, tanks getting blown up, and at times showing pilots getting shot inside the plane. Putting on display a variety of different aircrafts. Through masterfully done camerawork you can easily see no shortcuts were taken during the action sequences in the OVA. Character designs are a bit cartoonish with their hairstyle, and wide arrange of colors. Thankfully it’s not distracting enough to take away from the drama.

The soundtrack in Area 88 is both awesome, and datedly cheesy in some of its choices. During the aerial fights the music is able to add a bit of tension to the proceedings. Thankfully director Hisayuki Toriumi knows when to use music so the soundtrack doesn’t come off as intrusive. While in the dramatic scenes it music can sound very hokey. Biggest standout in the soundtrack are both the opening, and themes. In both the English dub, and English sub version you’ll still get the opening theme “How Far To Paradise” in English sung by Derek Jackson which is pretty awesome rock song. “Kanashimi no Destiny” by Mio is the opposite being a slow, piano piece with some emotional vocals from Mio.

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Hard to believe this was animated by Studio Pierrot

Another track, Sabaku no Illusion by Shima Kitahara is similar to “How Far To Paradise” in pumping you up to see the OVA, but lacks the same energy to match “How Far To Paradise”. “So Long My Love” also sung by Shima Kitahara is the second ending theme, and is a perfectly mellow tune to end the OVA on. Capturing the pleasant, and soft nature of the protagonist underscored by it sadden vocals.

Area 88 offers compelling characters, great aerial combat sequences, and theme exploration that’ll make you think about the various side effect of war long after its over. The ending will leave some conflicted, but it’s an appropriate end with everything wrapping up nicely, and the character arcs are completed. It’s an OVA I would highly recommend anyone checking out whether they want some good aerial fights, good drama, or both. Area 88 can deliver those things in stride in three episodes.

Rating: 8/10

Cringe Clover

Normally how I would prefer writing about any anime series I’ve completed is finishing it first, and spending who knows giving my general thoughts on it. This time I’m going to change it up because Black Clover has given me so much I want to express in just 10 episodes so far. This will obviously include spoilers so if you don’t want to be spoiled, even on minor stuff, I recommend you skip this post.

So yes I’m watching Black Clover. Yes I know it’s constantly bashed by the anime community. Yes I know how generic it is, and yet that didn’t deterred me from watching it. I was in the mood to watch a shonen, and given the fact I tend to be evenly split with agreeing with the general public on anime why not give Black Clover a shot. I guess to further add context I’ve also been told by one elitist on Discord that Black Clover is the worst shonen of all time. Going out of his way to tell me I would hate it more than My Hero Academia which I constantly claim to be the worst shonen I’ve ever seen.

So the ever alluring negativity around Black Clover made it inevitable I would get around to seeing it when it got an English dub. I typically watch my shonen anime with the English dubbed since it’s easier for me to get into. Okay, except for My Hero Academia since Deku voice actor was annoying, and Assassination Classroom dropped the ball on Kuro’s voice actor in the English dub. Well enough about that, time to get into Cringe Clover.

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Here be Nero, on the top of my wall of text.

To preface my actual thoughts, Black Clover is set in a world where magic is everything. Orphans Asta, and his rival/friend Yuno live in this world; Yuno is exception at using magic, and our protagonist Asta has no magic powers at all. Both dreaming to become the Wizard King, the world’s most powerful Wizard. So I’m going to ignore the fact that Black Clover does everything you would expect a fighting shonen to do. Not because it’s a detriment to the anime, but even without the shonen tropes there’s still the high fantasy aesthetics to the series. I don’t like high fantasy in general since too many of them feel the same in aesthetics so it already has that going against it.

Where to begin when it comes to episode one. Well, for two minutes the anime starts of okay showing Asta, and Yuno being dropped off at a church as babies. The only thing to comment on this scene is baby Asta is apparently strong enough to kick a grown man in the face, and make blood come out of his nose. I’m not even sure if that’s remotely possible, and frankly my dear, I ain’t going to ponder too much on it. After that it skips to fifteen years later.

By the time you get to the two minutes mark is where it takes a nose dive into, yep, cringe territory. It does just about everything in its power to ensure the viewer dislikes Asta from the beginning. A character who is constantly shouting at the top of his lungs, and don’t even get started on his “SISTER LILLY WILL YOU MARRY ME!” fatuation. For starter, Sister Lilly is a nun, and no matter how many times Asta get told she can’t married because she’s a woman of the church Asta keeps on doing it. The first minute you see Asta as a 15 year old teenager he shouts at a nun to marry him, and continues to shout for the rest of the episode.

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Hey look, the anime is my doing my job for me.

During the first five minutes, there’s a orphaned kid named Nash who just bluntly info dumps aspect of the world onto Asta. You know, a character who lived in this world for 15 years, and would know that everyone in the world has magic except for him. That was clumsy exposition delivery. Asta than quickly does crunches leading to more shouting. Unlike future episodes, episode 1 oddly has strange of zany character movements. Guessing they thought it would be hilarious to introduce the characters in this manner. Spoiler, it’s not.

After a bit of comedic banter the viewer gets told Yuno, and Asta use to get along well. One thing the episode is not good at is exposition. It feels too much like the characters are directly speaking to the audience watching the anime instead of to other characters. Episode 1 would also introduce the first of many royal wizards who hate commoners. In ten episodes you’ll get about 4 characters Asta encounter that simply hate commoners. Just in case you don’t get the point, the dialogue they spout is what you would expect from one dimensional baddies. So you can look forward to many “Filthy commoners! You should be happy I’m even acknowledging your wasteful existence” type of dialogue.

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This moment is both hilarious, and pathetic to witness 

Another thing the first episode shoves in the viewer face is Asta is the underdog, and Yuno is a prodigy. Given the notion the anime writing is far from subtle stuff like this become par for the course. It is worth complaining about, but every single time it happens not so much. There’s a scene where all the children whom reached 15 years of age go to a ceremony to get their Grimoire; basically a book whose length, and thickness is filled with various degrees of magic, and different capabilities. At Grimoire Tower, for somebody who has no magic ability of any kind Asta obviously doesn’t get his. It is absolutely laughable, and painful witnessing such a pathetic character saying he’ll be the wizard king when everything is against him. If the anime didn’t give me such a poor first impression of Asta I would probably would feel sorry for him.

After the ceremony is over, deep in the forest, Asta shouts (yay!) that he ain’t giving up. Then we Yuno getting picked on by two royal wizards who don’t like the fact they got overshadowed when Yuno got picked by the four leaf clover grimoire. A legendary grimoire that was bestowed on the first wizard king which basically means its very powerful, and is lucky. This leads to the episode’s villain attacking the teens, and attempting to take the four leaf clover grimoire from Yuno. This is where Asta gets the bright idea to help Yuno, and the two teens picking on him. Things obviously go disastrously, and through the philosophy of believe it Asta gets the Black Clover when on the verged of death. He gets beaten up by 3D chains, but that ain’t important. What is important is the first episode ends on a pointless cliffhanger since the episode villain is quickly beaten in episode 2.

Once I saw the credits roll for episode one I realize one thing, I fucked up, and yet I looked forward to this mess of anime. Everything about episode one was so questionable, so messy, so clueless, and all in the right ways I enjoy a trainwreck. It was incompetent in all fronts, and the people behind it are clearly trying to make something special. I doubt it’ll reach the likes of so bad it’s good anime like Brain Powerd, and Mad Bull 34, but I can tell 12 episodes in I have no qualms about continuing it.

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Asta is determined to impurify Sister Lilly.

Sadly episode 2 is basically filler. All it does is needlessly expand on a plot point quickly establish in the first episode regarding Asta, and Yuno’s past. If the anime was going to have episode 2 set in the past it would be better to just switch the order of the episodes, and slightly edit them to play out better in the long run. Instead Studio Pierrot thought it was better to do this for some unknown reason. Also, even when beaten up Asta still asks Sister Lilly to marry him.

One noteworthy thing about episode 2 is a grown man tries to take the necklace of a young Yuno so he can buy beer. Once Asta goes out searching for Yuno, and sees someone took his necklace Asta tries to retrieve it. A young Asta gets beaten by the grown man, and the grown eventually gives the necklace back because Asta won’t give up. Upon seeing this I was baffled this grown man beating up on a kid for minutes just gave up so easily after pummeling Asta for minutes. It’s not like Asta hurt the grown man in any way. Oh yeah, episode 2 also forgets to show the well being of the two royal wizards picking on Yuno in episode 1 that episode 3 had to fix that.flawlessinsecurebrant-small

So Asta obviously beats the first major foe in the series, and finally gets his grimoire. You would think this is when the story is finally going to kick off, but episode 3 ends with Asta, and Yuno making it to the capital to take their Magic Knight Entrance Exams. In hindsight, the anime taking it time to flesh out the characters is fine. Seeing Asta trying to achieve his goal to become the wizard king, and prove to a orphan he shouldn’t stop dreaming because of his status is worth cheering for. However, it feels like a drag when Black Clover bound the mold of fighting shonens, and does exactly those things without deviating from it. Becoming a double edge sword to commit to what it wants to be shamelessly. 

While editing this, I completely forgot about the scene where Nash tells Asta to stop dreaming because their orphans. In this moment when Nash is down, Asta decides to go up him, his right hand on Nash shoulder, and yell in his ears that he can dream. So your earbuds ain’t the only ones that’s getting destroyed.

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The first among many awkward looking faces.

Episode 4 has Asta, and Yuno entering the capital, and spending the entire episode on taking exams. For someone who has no magic power Asta obviously fails them. Some of the supporting cast are introduced here like the captains of the different guild of the Magic Knights, but aren’t important for now. This episode is noteworthy because it’s the introduction of currently my favorite character know as Nero, the anti bird. The anti-birds are basically birds that flock to people who have little to no mana ability. Since Asta uses Black Clover which negates magic, anti-birds are attracted to Asta naturally. Nero simply stays around on Asta head seeming unimpress with his adventures. His stoic impression is worthy enough to have captured my attention.

From this point onward I now finally generalize my issues with Black Clover. For starter, a majority of the royal wizards are written to be one dimensional villains. In episode 4 you get two examples of this; the obvious being being Sekke, a wizard Asta befriends while taking the exam. For the final exam, all wizards have to pair up with a partner, and do battle with them. Sekke pairs up with Asta since he has no magic ability, and shows his true character by boasting how much he simply chose to partner up with Asta for a easy victory. Obviously that doesn’t happen, and Asta win in one hit! The other example is when Noelle Silva (first seen, but not properly introduced) get told by her brother that her existence is unnecessary. Twelve episodes in, and Black Clover been proven so far to be incapable of writing a villain who’s motivation isn’t to simply pick on commoners!

The series attempts in humor tends to be cringey for a lack of a better term. You’ll wince at Black Clover attempts at comedy either missing the mark because of the punchline, or questionable to the point you’ll have no choice but to laugh. Like in episode 5, when Yami (Captain of the Black Bull Magic Knight) asks Asta how long it takes for him to take a shit, and Asta attempts to give him a precise calculation of how long his turd is.

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The magic that is Black Clover.

Moving on, episode 4 introduces Clover Clip which are basically shorts at the end of an episode animated in a chibi style. These Clover Clip tend to better in telling jokes, and are there to be silly. In episode 5 you just basically get the results of the exams, and Yuno gets accepted no problem. In fact, all five captains raise their hands when he get called up since he proved himself a very capable wizard. Also, it helped in the same episode Yuno fights a royal who despises, and thinks poorly on commoners. Of course given past events this means the heroes will come out on top.

When Asta gets called up none of the captains raise their hands. It’s only after Asta make the bold proclamation that he’s going to be the wizard king that Yami, captain of the Black Bull, shows Asta his huge mana powers. Once Asta refuses to back down he officially joins the worst of the Magic Knights. Where is Yuno you might ask? He’s with the Golden Dawn whom he believes will be the surest way to achieve his goal. Episode 5 finally ends when Asta gets a rude first impression of the Black Bulls by getting a fireball to the face. Not forget in the background our fellow Nero, the anti-bird, isn’t far behind from making his classic stoic impression.

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Nero facial expression is a accurate representation of my own while watching Black Clover.

Episode 6 basically introduces Asta, and the viewer to the member of the Black Bulls. Consisting of Yami Sukehiro the laid back captain who shows his subordinates tough love by giving them tough missions. Magna Swing who is the (not actually) cool dude with the glasses who’s just as hyperactive as Asta, comes from small village like Asta, and his grimoire allows him to throw fireballs. Hence, his last name being Swing expect his baseball gimmick to be more balant later on…I’m predicting that’ll be the case at least. Vanessa Enoteca who is a pink hair wizard who so far mostly appears in her lingerie (not I’m going to complain with everything else in Black Clover pick on) who is relaxed, an alcoholic, caring, lazy, and doesn’t mind flirting around with the other squad members.

Gauche Adlai who’s only defining trait is that he is a siscon, and yes his nose bleeds thinking about his younger sister (because casually imply incest is exactly what I need in my anime). Gordon Agrippa who speaks so quietly you can’t hear him, or read his subtitles. Can’t forget he’s a pale man who dresses like a depress clown version of a Gestapo. Luck Voltia who hasn’t done anything yet 10 episodes in, Grey who is just a monstrosity for now, Charmy Pappitson who loves stuffing her face with sweets, and Finral Roulacase who just teleport.  

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Also introduce in episode 4, Asta’s third hand.

Now that you’re introduced to the group of outcast the rest of the episode is simply Asta proving his worth to the other Magic Knights, and passing a test to get accepted. He passes, and becomes an official member of the Black Bulls. After that is episode 7 where Asta meets the other new member of the Black Bull; Noelle Silva earlier seen all the way back in episode 4, and in the opening animation. Before that though, I have a issue with Funimation using the word dank in the English dub. It feels completely out of place, and upon hearing that word I paused the episode, and did something else for a bit because of how irksome it was. Seriously, don’t ever use the word dank in your English dub! It’ll sound dated years from now.

Episode 7 is basically Noelle overcoming her “I’m royalty. Don’t look at me peasants” snobbishness (sorta), and accepts she’s officially one of the Black Bulls. Her backstory of being mocked for not being able to use her magic ability correctly is a good one. However, the presentation of it is over the top that it comes across as a petty issue. Noelle over reacts when Asta discover her not being able to use her magic she nearly gets herself killed. Best part of all no one in the Black Bulls cares because that’s the whole of being a Magic Knight. Learning to use your magic.

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Not even Nero cares if Noelle could use her magic correctly.

Okay, now I generalize my issues again. The cast of characters aren’t sympathetic at this point in the series. They are just wacky, and tend to overreact to every situation. Black Clover is an expert in making sure the first impressions you get on its characters be negative. Another is making nearly every high class, or royal character be out to be one dimensional ass holes. Just in case the point that royalty look down on commoner wasn’t clearly gotten across it’ll do it until it gets tire of it.

Another thing I’m going to comment on is the animation is cheap looking. In movement there’s nothing much to complain about, but when it comes to the characters faces there numerous instances where Asta face is just off. It either be Asta design is that terrible he doesn’t look good in many angles, or Studio Pierrot rushed this production. Either, the animation side doesn’t impress so far. Especially the action which lacks choreography in favor of flashy looking battles which don’t have any flare to them. Cringe Clover Still 23Cringe Clover Still 22

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Black Clover is obviously bad with faces.

We get to episode 8 where all that happens is Yami, and Magna loose at a poker game. They loose their clothes, and have to do a favor for an old friend of Magna. Seyhe is an old man who basically helps Magna indirectly become the man he is currently. This backstory is actually done well, and fleshes out Magna decently. It’s surprising given how badly it can handle character development that Manga backstory turns out to be decent. As you would expect, they go to a village to kill wild boars disturbing the peace in Sosshi Village (Magna home village), and face greater trouble than they expected. While I’m on episode 8, there’s no way I’m buying the thing below is a broom.

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What Black Clover considers to be a broom. It even got sunglasses!

Episode 8 – 10 is Asta, and Noelle first mission, and takes place in Sosshi Village. As you might guess the village get taken over by a group of wizards looking for a stone, and yes, they hate those damn filthy commoners! Again, Black Clover the “We hate filthy commons” archetype again. I would stop caring, but at the same time it’s infuriating it keeps using this! One thing I would like to comment on is in Episode 9; towards the end of the episode Noelle monologues how much she doesn’t want to die in a backwater hick village. However, mere seconds later a little begs for her help, and just like that turns around to help protect the village. This happens in the matter of seconds making Noelle look pretty bad.

After a magical fight between the evil wizards they end up killing themselves before offering up any answers. Oh yeah, Seyhe is dead, and Magna says his final words to him at his tombstone. Can’t forget Nero finds a stone, and the ladies thinks he’s cute. Can’t blame them if Asta, and the other male members of the Black Bulls is what they got to look at every day. With that, I’m going to conclude my expected long run impression on Black Clover so far. Still, this turned out even longer than I expected.

Despite my many issues with Black Clover from the questionable world building, messy character writing, and repetitive villain motivations it doesn’t stray off much from what I would expect from a shonen. It’s uninspired for sure, but unlike other shonens I’ve seen, it simply accepts that fact, and revels in it all the way. For me, that alone wouldn’t make it the worst shonen I’ve seen because it understands what it is, and does just that. So to that person who thought I was going to hate Black Clover more than My Hero Academia on Discord, you gotta do better than that seriously. If this is the worst shonen you’ve seen I envy you!

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An artistic recreation of me picking on Black Clover.

So what would I give Black Clover so far? I guess a 6 out of 10. I complained nonstop about it sure, but it’s easy to watch, doesn’t give me a headache with it bad writing like many bad shonen anime, embraces openly what it is, attempts to flesh out characters even through its bad pacing, and I find enjoyment in it, even in the none ironic ways at points. It’s a typical shonen with the aesthetics of a typical high fantasy. I expected a lot worst, and didn’t get that. I don’t like much of what I see, but I ca say for certain I don’t mind watching it. Even if it’s writing is grating at points.

My predictions for future episodes.

  • Asta gets a harem. There’s already Noelle, a tsundere who likes him for being nice to her, and a grown woman who teases him. Of course he would get one because Japan for some reason loves putting harems in anything with a high-fantasy setting recently.
  • Asta is going to fight more royal wizards, or magic knights that despise commoners.
  • Because it has a high fantasy setting there will either be a prophecy of a great evil returning to cause chaos in the land, or Asta, and company will have to collect a specific amount of a certain object (typically 3 pieces), and ensures they don’t get in the wrong hand.
  • Just like in Assassination Classroom, the group with the worst reputation starts showing up every other group in a number of challenges.
  • Asta will shout “SISTER LILLY WILL YOU MARRY ME”.
  • Asta will shout.
  • Hey since it’s being compared to the Naruto series. I predict Asta, and Yuno will not be bumping ugly anytime soon leaving its fujoshi fanbase disappointed.

I’m not sure if I’ll make another installment of Cringe Clover since who knows if the rest of the series will inspired me to write even more posts on it. If I do, I’ll call the next installment Cringe Clover 2: Electric Boogaloo. Sayonara until the next post.

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