Category Archives: television

My Thoughts On: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

I was over the moon to receive Batman: The Complete Animated Series as an early birthday present. I’ve wanted to add the series to my collection for years as it holds a very special place in my childhood (it’s one of the first cartoons I can remember watching on television). Batman: The Animated Series is rightly held to be one of the greatest animated series ever made. It is sometimes referred to as cartoon noir as it borrows many conventions from film noir (for example most of the cars and buildings evoke the 1940s). The series is also responsible for jump starting the DC Animated Universe (which included Superman: The Animated Series; Justice League; Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited to name a few).

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The show also featured an all star voice cast, including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) as the voice of the Joker. Even though I’ve seen video of Mark doing the Joker voice, it’s still hard for me to imagine that voice and Luke’s voice coming out of the same person (but then again that just shows how talented he really is as a voice actor). The series is also responsible for introducing Harley Quinn (voiced by the brilliant Arleen Sorkin) to the Batman canon. The besotted Harley was created exclusively for the show before eventually being written into the comic canon (one of the first times that’s ever happened for any character). There are also origins given for many of Batman’s most infamous enemies, including Two-Face (“Two Face” parts I and II), Clayface (“Feat of Clay” parts I and II) and Mr. Freeze (“Heart of Ice” which is widely considered to be the best episode of the series).

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I’ve been asked before which episode is my favorite and the honest truth is I can’t pick just one, because they’re all so good. However, I can pick a few to highlight:

  • “Heart of Ice” rewrites the origins of Mr. Freeze and turns him into what is probably the most sympathetic villain in the series.
  • “Harley and Ivy”: Having been kicked out of Joker’s gang, Harley Quinn goes into business for herself, eventually joining forces with Poison Ivy and the duo prove to be very skilled in the world of crime (to the growing consternation of the Joker).
  • “Lock-Up”: Lyle Bolton, head of security at Arkham Asylum, is dismissed from his job after it comes out that he’s brutalizing the prisoners. This is one episode where you feel complete sympathy for the villains as they literally quake in terror at Bolton’s mere presence (especially Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow, who practically begs Batman not to take him back).

I’m excited to continue watching this amazing series and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it (or perhaps hasn’t watched in a long time). Over 25 years after its debut, Batman: The Animated Series continues to impress.

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My Thoughts on: Assassination Classroom (2015-2016)

I have loved anime ever since I saw my first episodes of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in the 90s and I’m always on the hunt for (relatively speaking) new series to watch, which is easy to do as Hulu contains a wealth of anime. That’s how, last year, I stumbled across the magnificence that is Assassination Classroom.

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Based on the manga by Yūsei Matsui, Assassination Classroom follows the “end class” (full of academic and social misfits) of Kunugigaoka Junior High School who are given the task of killing their new teacher, a strange yellow octopus (with a smiley face for a head) before he explodes and wipes out the Earth the following March. To this end, the students are trained in various assassination techniques by Mr. Karasuma and Irina Jelavić (dubbed “Professor Bitch” by the class), all with the aim of taking their teacher, Koro Sensei, out.

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One of the best parts of the series is watching how the assassination plans evolve over time. This culminates (in my opinion), in an arc where the class attempts to assassinate Koro Sensei on a remote island during summer vacation. The plan is so intricate that it nearly succeeds…but it still falls short. In fact, none of the students plans work out, but that doesn’t hurt the series at all because every attempt brings with it a new lesson about life. While strange looking, Koro Sensei is a grade-A teacher who genuinely wants his students to succeed in life (as well as killing him). In fact, as I watched the series through the first time, it slowly dawned on me that many of Koro Sensei’s tips about assassination were actually skills and ideas you could apply in real life.

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There are some parts of the series that are really upsetting to me and I want to highlight a few of them. First of all, if bullying bothers you then several episodes will be difficult to watch. The rest of the school is trained to hate the End class on principle, with most events rigged to ensure that this class stays at the bottom. It’s really uncomfortable to watch but thankfully the series moves away from that aspect over time. Another episode that upsets me is one that introduces Mr. Takaoka, a (brief) replacement for Mr. Karasuma. Just the way this character is drawn is enough to set you on edge (I think they made his smile look fake on purpose) but what he does is even worse. It comes out that Takaoka employs sadistic training methods and rewards the smallest complaint with punches and slaps. However he does receive an epic comeuppance from Nagisa Shiota (a student who narrates most of the episodes), which partially makes up for what happened before.

Koro Sensei is by far the best part of the series; he has dozens of different quirks, facial expressions and quips that will leave you giggling more often than not. I love how his face changes to reflect his mood. He’s a character that grows on you very quickly.

I enjoy Assassination Classroom very much; I love the twists and turns the story takes and by the end of the series I was very much attached to the fates of each character. If you’d like to check out Assassination Classroom, the complete series is currently available on Hulu. If you’ve already watched the series, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 6 “Downfall of a Droid”

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“Trust in your friends, and they’ll have reason to trust in you”

Original air date: November 7th, 2008

The sixth episode of The Clone Wars finds Anakin Skywalker in another space battle against General Grievous and the Separatist forces. While Anakin leads Gold Squadron and attacks from the front, Captain Rex leads a squad of AT-TE’s for a surprise rear attack on an asteroid behind the Separatist fleet. Caught in a pincer attack, Grievous eventually abandons ship, prompting the brash Anakin to go after him (because he’s Anakin and that’s what he does). Inevitably, the chase goes sideways for Anakin when a piece of debris damages his ship sending it off course. It’s unclear what happens next, but the next thing we know, Anakin is waking up on the Republic cruiser, but R2 isn’t there. Apparently, when they rescued Skywalker, they weren’t able to get the droid as well.

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Anakin’s reaction to losing R2 is another example of the trouble Skywalker has with letting things go and moving on (though he does have a good reason for being upset this time). All the same, Obi-Wan’s response to Anakin puzzles me. Surely Obi-Wan, of all people, would know that his former padawan sees R2 as more than “just a droid”? It’s a moment that feels slightly out of character in my opinion. As it turns out though, there is actually a good reason to get R2 back…it seems Anakin was less than diligent in routinely wiping R2’s memory, which means the droid currently has a lot of Republic information stored inside, information that the Separatists would find very interesting so naturally the Republic needs to get R2 back in a hurry.

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But where is R2? Well…as you might expect the little droid is having problems. He’s been picked up by a Trandoshan freighter who wants to sell him to Grievous. Talk about trouble! But that’s not the only issue…until R2 is recovered, Anakin is assigned a replacement droid, R3-S6 (Ahsoka dubs him “Goldie” because of his black and gold coloring). From the start there’s something odd about Goldie. For one, every time he’s ordered to do something, he always ends up doing the wrong thing. For instance, he ‘accidentally’ activates a tracker that alerts General Grievous to the presence of Anakin’s ship; he ‘accidentally’ detaches the hyperdrive ring instead of turning off the engines; and the icing on the cake…he ‘accidentally’ activates a pair of assassin droids on the Trandoshan freighter when Anakin and Ahsoka are close to finding R2! I mean, any droid can make a mistake once (as Ahsoka points out) but when it happens this many times, I don’t think it’s an innocent mistake.

The episode ends with Anakin still on the hunt for R2, will he find the droid in time? Stay tuned….next time, everything comes to a head in “Duel of the Droids.”

What did you think of this episode? Are you equally suspicious of Goldie? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 5 “Rookies”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 4 “Destroy Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 5 “Rookies”

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“The best confidence builder is experience”

Original air date: October 24th, 2008

The fifth episode of The Clone Wars is the first to focus almost exclusively on the clone soldiers (Anakin and Obi-Wan have cameos at the end but otherwise play no part in the story) and their day-to-day lives. This story follows a squad of clones assigned to Rishi Station, an outpost on the Rishi moon used to monitor for any Separatist ships that might attack Kamino (where new clones continue to be trained).

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While the clones are all genetically identical, they do as much as they can to differentiate themselves, including different hairstyles, tattoos and their own names. Thus, Rishi Station is led by Sgt. O’Niner, who commands the rookie clones Hevy, Echo, Fives, Droidbait and Cutup (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Commander Cody and Captain Rex are en route for an inspection, but they’re not the only ones looking to arrive on the solitary moon. Under the cover of a meteor shower, several Separatist ships land to reveal…commando droids!! Thus far in the Clone Wars era we’ve seen B1 Battle Droids (introduced in The Phantom Menace) and B2 Super Battle Droids (introduced in Attack of the Clones on Geonosis). Those droids are easily disposable and not very smart. Commando droids are the complete opposite: their movements are human-like, they can plan strategy and they’re ruthlessly efficient. In fact, if the droid armies consisted of commando droids alone, the Separatists may have won the war, even with the Jedi fighting for the Republic.

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One other trick the commando droids have? They can modify their voices to sound like clone troopers. This comes in handy after the droids take over the station, as they’re (theoretically) capable of tricking the Republic into thinking everything is under control. However, while the droids can sound like clones, they can’t act like clones. This is proven when Cody and Rex announce their impending arrival, only to grow suspicious when the “trooper” they’re talking to tries to send them away, ending the transmission with “Roger, roger” which is something droids are known to say, not clones. Cody and Rex arrive and are barely alerted to the true situation in time by the surviving troopers (Hevy, Echo and Fives. Droidbait was killed when the commando droids slipped in and Cutup was seized by a Rishi eel after their initial escape). Working together with the commanders, the droids retake the station, but a lot of droid reinforcements are on the way, more than the clones can handle. The decision is made to destroy the station, as that will turn off the “all clear” signal being sent to the Republic and trigger an automatic response from the fleet to investigate. Everything is rigged to blow, but the remote detonator fails to work. Hevy (over the protests of his comrades) stays behind to manually detonate the explosives, leading to this final moment between him and the droids:

Droids: “Um, do we take prisoners?”

Hevy (reaching for trigger button): “I…don’t!”

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It’s a heart-wrenching moment but one that establishes the clones are 100% human, no matter how artificial their creation. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others, no droid is capable of that (well, except for maybe R2 or C-3PO, maybe….)

The surviving clones are rescued by Republic forces, and as a reward for how well they fought, Echo and Fives are inducted into the 501st Legion by Captain Rex. For now life is good for the clones that survived, but there will be more adventures to come.

I like this episode, Dee Bradley Baker does such a good job of breathing life into each clone, it’s easy to forget that they’re all voiced by the same person. Initially, Baker needed separate recording sessions for each voice, however by the end of the series, he’d gotten it down so well that he was able to switch between multiple characters in a single session.

Next time: R2-D2 goes missing in “Downfall of a Droid”

What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 4 “Destroy Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 4 “Destroy Malevolence”

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“A plan is only as good as those who see it through”

Original air date: October 17th, 2008

The third and final episode of the Malevolence arc follows the Republic fleet as it moves in on General Grievous, fleeing for Separatist space in his damaged battleship. It seems like a Republic victory is only a matter of time but Count Dooku has a trick up his sleeve. With the aid of his master Darth Sidious (who is also Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) a certain senator from Naboo has been tricked into flying directly into the path of the Malevolence, believing she’s on her way to a diplomatic negotiation. That’s right, out of nowhere, Senator Padme Amidala, Anakin’s secret wife, shows up in the middle of the battle (along with C-3PO). The plan is for Grievous to hold Padme hostage, figuring that the Jedi will not risk harming the senator.

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Padme’s unexpected arrival complicates everything: Anakin immediately orders the fleet to stop attacking, even though the senator demands the attack continue regardless of the danger to her own person. This is one part of the series that almost defies belief: how in the world does no one catch on to the relationship between Padme and Anakin?? There are hints throughout the series, yet no one seems to realize they’re married. Ah well…it does make for good drama so back to the story…

Anakin, Obi-Wan and R2-D2 launch a rescue mission in the Twilight. The Jedi split up to find Padme and C-3PO, with Anakin naturally locating his beloved wife (naturally there’s a brief romantic interlude when the pair find each other) and Obi-Wan going after the protocol droid. Our heroes don’t have much time, Padme overheard from some battle droids that the hyperdrive is actually close to being fully repaired, meaning the Malevolence will be able to jump to hyperspace (and safety) in minutes! Obi-Wan goes to destroy the hyperdrive while Anakin and Padme head to the bridge to sabotage the navicomputer. Of course General Grievous, once he learns there are intruders aboard, has foreseen this possibility and is waiting for Obi-Wan, leading to a duel between the pair.

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Through the course of the series, Anakin and Grievous come close to meeting several times, but never do (with Skywalker wondering from time to time if he’s ever going to actually meet the cyborg). This is is because Revenge of the Sith establishes that Anakin and Grievous are meeting in person for the first time and since everything in The Clone Wars takes place before that film, it’s impossible for the two characters to meet.

While Obi-Wan is busy with Grievous, Anakin and Padme reach the bridge of the Malevolence where they destroy the battle droids and Anakin rigs the navicomputer to fly into a nearby moon the next time it’s used. Our heroes manage to get back to the Twilight and escape, but General Grievous is pursuing in his own fighter. It’s a good thing the cyborg decided to follow because back on the Malevolence, the droids are engaging the hyperdrive, only to realize too late that they’re headed straight for a moon! The cyborg can only watch in horror as his prize battleship is completely blown apart on impact. Dooku will not be pleased with this development, oh no he will not!

Thus concludes the Malevolence arc, a good story and the first of many to include General Grievous. Next time: clone troopers are under attack from droids in “Rookies.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

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“Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves”

Original air date: October 10th, 2008

The second episode in the Malevolence arc follows Anakin Skywalker and his Shadow Squadrom of Y-Wing fighters as they plan an attack on General Grievous to take out the Malevolence and its ion cannons. At the same time, Dooku has ordered the robot general to attack more Republic ships before ordering Grievous to go after the Kaliida Shoals Medical Center, a hospital in space used for treating wounded clones (and currently holding over 60,000 patients, many of whom are in no condition to move). This is a truly despicable move on Dooku’s part. It’s one thing to take out enemies in a pitched battle, but sending the Malevolence after an unarmed hospital station is just wrong (but neither Dooku or Grievous care about that).

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Anakin, being Anakin, has devised a daring attack to strike at Grievous’ ship before the attack fleet led by Obi-Wan and Admiral Yularen arrive. In order to strike more quickly, Anakin plans to use a “short-cut” through the Kaliida Nebula that will take them to the hospital station faster than going around. Once they’re through, the plan is to take the Malevolence head on and destroy the bridge, taking out Grievous at the same time. As Plo Koon points out, it’s a very aggressive plan, but Anakin will not change his mind. The plan almost immediately hits a snag when it turns out the Kaliida Nebula is also the nesting ground of Neebrays (picture giant sting rays/space whales with large pointy teeth that can fly through space), this is why sane pilots fly around the nebula (even Grievous goes around en route to attacking the station).

On a side note, if the Y-Wings look familiar that’s because they were originally featured in Episode IV during the attack on the Death Star. It’s not the exact design, but close enough that if you compare them you can see the resemblance.

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In another call back to the original films, when we see the ion cannon firing, there’s a shot of the energy stream building inside the ship that is modeled after the Death Star as it prepared to fire on Alderaan.

Once Shadow Squadron engages the Malevolence, Anakin’s aggressive tactics go about as well as you think, which is not very well. While the Jedi is able to dodge enemy fire with ease, as Ahsoka points out, most of his squadron is getting blown apart because they can’t keep up! What’s left of the squadron barely avoids a blast from the ion cannon and it’s clear a new plan is needed. While our heroes debate what to do, the Malevolence begins preparations to fire on the hospital station (which is still half full of patients). If the ion cannon hits the station, it will disable all the power and life support and kill tens of thousands of clones recuperating in bacta tanks. That’s when our heroes come up with a new plan: instead of taking out the bridge, they’ll fire on the ion cannon as it powers up. When Grievous gives the order to fire, the cannon backfires, causing severe damage to the ship (and disabling the hyperdrive in the process). Grievous is outraged at this failure but things are about to get far worse: the Republic fleet led by Obi-Wan has arrived! While Shadow Squadron limps to the hospital station, the Republic ships set off in pursuit of the Malevolence which is limping back to Separatist space. Anakin is upset after losing so many men, but he won’t be able to mourn for long, the battle is far from over!

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Seeing Grievous’ consternation over the ship being damaged is fun to watch, apparently he was convinced the ship was invincible. Something troubling however is Anakin’s recklessness in battle. He gets so super-focused on his objective that he doesn’t take into account what’s happening to his men until Ahsoka reminds him of it. This is a sign of things to come: the further Anakin slips towards the Dark Side, the more he focuses on what he wants, no matter the cost.

And those are my thoughts on “Shadow of Malevolence.” Next time, the Malevolence arc concludes with “Destroy Malevolence.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

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“Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction”

Original air date: October 3rd, 2008

“Rising Malevolence” is the first part of the Malevolence arc and the introduction of General Grievous to the series. It follows the Republic as it hunts a mysterious new Separatist weapon, confounded by the fact that every ship they’ve sent to find this thing has disappeared with no survivors. Enter Jedi Master Plo Koon and his ships as they locate the Separatist weapon located on a massive ship named the Malevolence in the Abregado system. He contacts Anakin and his padawan Ahsoka in order to relay their position but then their communications are jammed and the Malevolence attacks. It’s secret weapon is revealed to be a massive ion cannon that disables Plo Koon’s Republic cruisers, making them easy targets for the Separatist’s turbolasers which blast the ships apart. Plo Koon and many clones make it into the escape pods but the danger isn’t over yet. To ensure there are no witnesses, Count Dooku orders Grievous to send out hunter droids to destroy the escape pods. It’s a race against time to see if Plo Koon and the clones with him will be rescued…or killed.

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This is the first episode to feature Anakin and Ahsoka and we’re given a look into their contentious relationship as Master and Padawan. For instance, during a briefing where Anakin is instructed to take his fleet to a rendezvous instead of searching for Master Plo Koon, Ahsoka interrupts to tell everyone what she thinks (despite being warned by Anakin to not speak unless spoken to). Anakin scolds his padawan afterward (which feels really weird by the way, for Anakin Skywalker of all people to be harping on following the rules), but as it turns out, he had a plan all along. The problem with what Ahsoka said, according to Anakin, is not what she said but how she said it. Basically what Anakin is saying is one needs to be sneaky when implementing secret rescue missions. So while Anakin’s fleet heads on its way as ordered, Anakin takes his personal ship, the Twilight (with Ahsoka) and sets off for the Abregado system to see if they can find Plo Koon and any other survivors.

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Meanwhile, it’s not looking good for Plo Koon and the clones. While they’ve been able to restore power, the only other pod they’ve seen has been ripped open, letting them know someone is out there hunting for them. Inevitably, they’re spotted by the droids who charge in to destroy this pod as well (pretty sure the lead droid is humming the Imperial March as he closes in). This leads to a pretty cool scene…if you can suspend your disbelief that is. Plo Koon informs the close that he can withstand the vacuum of space “for a short time” and heads out to do battle with the droids. The clones that have armor follow (clone armor contains pressure suits so they act as space suits also) and there’s a fight in the vacuum of space. It looks really cool, but despite what Plo Koon said it looks really strange to see a character, no matter how alien, simply floating in space with no protection and doing alright.

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There are a few short moments spent with Grievous and Dooku onboard the Malevolence, but the bulk of the episode is split between Anakin/Ahsoka and Plo Koon and his men. This is a good episode that ends with Plo Koon and his men being rescued and our heroes escaping the ion cannon with a hyperspace jump at the last minute. Their escape guarantees that the Republic will learn about the Malevolence, which annoys Dooku to no end (he leaves with the ominous statement that he must contact his master (Darth Sidious)).

And those are my thoughts on “Rising Malevolence.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

Next time: The fight against the Malevolence continues with “Shadow of Malevolence”

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

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