Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson, Mar 19th 2010

Just real quickly, I wanna thank anyone on the off chance they might be reading this (which is a long shot, I think) who dropped by my impromptu, kind of last-minute panel discussion at the "Mini-Con" right here in sunny Tucson, Arizona! It was pretty much just myself and a mic and a small crowd of folks, so hopefully I was at least marginally entertaining. Luckily the responses I've gotten sounded rather positive, so with that, I am going to swell my ego until it bursts from external pressure!


Hey Answerman! My question is regarding a rumor I encountered this week. I realize that rumors on the Internet are not to be taken seriously and I don't believe this one, but it got me thinking. The rumor is that a manga creator based a major character off someone they knew and disliked very much and then, after chapters of positive development, proceeded to stomp all over the character and rip them to shreds in revenge within the storyline.

So my question is what would happen if such a thing were found out? I know the Japanese culture is very different and I remember reading long ago that the Japanese are not very candid and don't discuss personal matters, which I believe would include hating someone. Would there by any repercussions against the manga creator for doing such a thing? Would the company discipline the creator? Or would nothing at all happen?

Well, first of all, let's get the obvious thing out of the way: Never believe anything you hear on the internet, especially if the word "rumor" is involved.

That said... yeah, I believe that sort of petty revenge fantasy is pretty common. Not just in manga, but in all forms of art. Christ, the last play I wrote had a character that was a composite of literally every crappy boyfriend that my friends have ever had. The repercussions I have faced because of this? Absolutely nothing.

The people who knew me well could spot exactly the specific people I was making fun of, which was then followed with a disappointed sigh and usually an "Oh, Brian..." to which I would shrug my shoulders with a knowing smile. But that's my own piddly little stupid life, and that's not at all analogous to manga. OR IS IT?!? No, no it's not. But I guess the point I'm trying to make, aside from none-too-subtly trying to cram in information about my personal life into a web column to make myself seem more interesting, is that my pithy attempts at catharsis at the expense of people I hate has had ZERO effect on said people I hate. They are still out there, probably still doing things that make me hate them.

And the nature of creative endeavors in general, especially in a medium where there's an ongoing fiction involving a cast of characters, means that the creator will draw upon their experiences with other people to help give their world a sense of honesty. That's just unavoidable. Even if they explicitly state that there's no "intended resemblance to persons living or dead," you simply cannot put words into characters' mouths that hasn't been something you've noticed or picked up from the people around you.

So, unless the person this unmentioned mangaka chose to destroy in their fantasy world is a powerful politician, and if it's a rather direct personal assault that suggests something horrendous and worthy of libel, like they rape baby animals or something, nobody really has any reason whatsoever to do anything about it. All they can do is look at the sad, sad creative-person destroying their fictionalized enemy and give them a disappointed sigh.

I mean, just look at Dave Sim.


I've head people talk about how Japanese anime and manga are more character-driven than their Western counterparts, but how do you think that effects plot? It seems like audiences in Japan are more ready to suspend disbelief and just “take the journey” with the creators. I'm thinking back to creative writing classes where we're constantly pressed in the US to not waste a word unless it advances plot, but Japanese entertainment (even drama and novels) tends to be comfortable taking time to enhance character development and worrying less about plot mechanics. You're a writer, what do you think?

See, I actually disagree with this. Anime and manga, specifically the popular, serialized shows, literally waste NO time with character development. Each character is introduced with usually one or two lines of expository dialogue that tells the audience who and what they are, and they are flung headfirst into the crazy machinations of the plot.

Where I think anime and manga excels, however, is in how well they are integrated into the plot. Look at any of Rumiko Takahashi's long-running projects, and notice how effortlessly she manages to create an entire supporting cast of likeable, interesting characters, and then notice how well those characters and their little quirks and nuances shape the plot of the story. (I mean, her actual "plots" are usually pretty bad and take forever to get anywhere before going nowhere, but just roll with me on this.)

I agree with this reasoning in the sense that Japanese pop-culture of the drawn and animated variety tends to liven itself up with a much more interesting and diverse supporting cast that are actually relevant to the plot at hand, instead of Western properties, which are more likely to have goofy sidekicks and throwaway love interests out of respect for an antiquated formula. But if you go back to even some of the older shows, like Gundam and Dragonball or whatever, shows that have literally set the template for what modern anime and manga strives to be, you'll notice that the characters are largely one-dimensional and facile, and don't have a terrible amount of depth. Still, though, they're more central to the plot of the story than is usually expected, and that's a good thing.

And then of course you'll get an odd duck like Evangelion, where just about EVERY character, no matter how minor or incidental, is brimming with depth and personality. This is all just one humble guy-on-the-internet's opinion, though.


Hello -

I have been asked to research famous Japanese manga artists with the intent to hire one to create a character and art for a launch campaign we are working on. Do you have any suggestions for contacting the following artists or getting information about other artists that may be able to help us?

Takashi Okazaki
Yukito Kishiro
CLAMP

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh wait. You're serious? Oh dear.

Well, kudos to your marketing department for doing their actual research and looking in to acquiring actual, top-level manga talent. You'll certainly find no better manga artist, in my opinion, than Yukito Kishiro. And Takashi Okazaki is a rising talent whom I expect many great things from, and of course no one speaks on behalf of manga as a whole better than CLAMP.

But, shockingly enough, these are very, very busy people, working like mad to make their print deadlines on behalf of their patient but expectant publishers. And to pry them away from their already hectic deadlines would take lots and lots of money. And I don't think I can quite emphasize how much of a lot the "lots and lots of money" is. Imagine a metric assload multiplied by a factor of Holy S***.

That said, these *are* commercial artists and many of them are no strangers to western collaboration - Okazaki did a small manga for the DVD release of Blade Trinity, and CLAMP has done plenty of character design stuff outside of their usual manga work, and Kishiro has no doubt been inoculated to the Western World of Business by association of James Cameron and the forever-in-development Battle Angel movie.

But unless you've got James Cameron resources to throw around, I wouldn't count on being able to raise the necessary capital to convince these guys to contribute to your "launch campaign." Unless you're from the world of business where it makes sense to spend more money to promote something than it will ever conceivably make, in which case go for it. Go for broke! (literally)




For the love of God, man! I answered your question! WHY DO YOU STILL PERSIST WITH THESE

Hey Answerman,

WiZ, the people who co-created Digimon, Tamagotchi and PhoneBraver 7 (aka Cellphone Investigation 7), have registered a Japanese trademark for something called OceanMonsters: http://www1.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/syutsugan/TM_DETAIL_A.cgi?0&1&0&1&1&1268788464

Since Digimon stands for Digital Monsters (official extended title), could Ocean Monsters be a spinoff of it WiZ is developing with Bandai?

REMEMBER THE VIDEO GAME DARKSTALKERS

I HEARD THAT THERE WAS A WESTERN ANIMATED ADAPTATION THAT SOME COMPANY SOMEWHERE STILL OWNS THE RIGHTS TO

WILL THERE BE A LIVE-ACTION MOVIE FROM SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT, AND WILL I GET CREDIT FOR BEING THE FIRST PERSON TO PREDICT IT IF IT COMES TRUE





Great Scott! Time for another round of fun with Hey, Answerfans! Here was last week's question:


Starting us off for the week, Marcelo has a four-point plan for success:

Hooh boy, is that is a fun question to answer. At first I was going to write this big article about the subject, but, instead, I'll list the elements that, combined, make for a good dub. From the basics:

1 - Good script adaptation. One thing is certain about cultural translation - it just can't be literal. Yeah, many purists will probably rip off my throat for saying this, but the best dubs are those who take some small (I said "small"!) liberties with it's source material. For example, if a joke in the Japanese version doesn't translate well, and you want to change it, feel free to do it (as long as the producers are fine with that, of course). By the same logic, if a line feels out of place and you want to reestructure it a little, be it for lip-synching or just general flow, you can do it too! The dialogue in the original version sounds natural for their audience, so it's only plausible that dialogue in a dub do the same. Of course this doesn't mean adding tons of dialogue in silent scenes, or unnecessary changes to dialogue, since those are usually spawners of plot holes and/or just annoying; the dialogue has to be there but, most importantly, the same feeling must be there. And for that, I'm sure the anime survives some little line changes here and there. FUNimation dubs are generally like that (except their gag dubs), and are generally really good because of that. And there is the other side of the coin - taking too many liberties makes for a usually bad dub. Being too literal can be both, depending on the translator's choices and the cast. Which takes me to the next topic...

2 - Good voice actors. You know, right now there are TONS of good voice actors, in both Japan, America and Canada (okay, maybe not so much Canada), and as far as America goes, there are good Californian ones, and good New Yorkian ones, and etc. A bad dub can be built by bad casting, which I'll talk about below, but sometimes the voice actor just... isn't... good. What is the difference? Well, as any actor, the acting. For example, I consider Yuri Lowenthal a good voice actor, despite the fact that I'm a little sick of seeing him being cast on every single darn anime dubbed in California. He has great voice control, and sounds very convincing - you can tell when his character is angry, or sad, or happy, or nervous. That makes him good. On the other side of the scale, we have, say, Rebecca Fordstadt, whose voice is this unemotional mix of child, adult and dying animal. You can't really tell what her character is feeling because she has a hard time transmitting those feelings, so any potential drama or comedy is lost. A good dub therefore gets points for having a cast full of good voice actors, or at least has those on the important parts and bad ones on the secondary cast. You know, so they can improve little by little.

3 - Good casting. Good voice actors are plenty, but they are of no use unless you cast them well. I've lost count on how many times have I heard people saying that, say, "Mela Lee is the awful voice of the blue-haired chick from Persona 3 therefore she's awful and god dammit she's so horribly untalented", when people never heard her voicing characters within her voice range, like Rin Tohsaka from Fate/stay night, or that Gothic Sailor Moon Cosplayer from BlazBlue. When a character doesn't fit in a part, it just doesn't fit - he/she can do his/her best performance ever, but if it isn't doing it naturally, then there is a 90% chance it will suck. And honestly, this goes for Japan too. For example, I ultimately despise Masako Nozawa's portrayal of men and kids in general, because... well... she's an old lady doing a man's voice - how on Earth does that even remotely fit? However, when she is cast to voice, god forbid, an actual old woman, she sounds - holy! - pleasant! It's simple as that. I should also note that, on an international dub, a voice shouldn't, by any circumstance, be chosen by judging its similarity to the original voice; it has to be chosen for how much it fits the character. Period. No, you shouldn't care if the dub voice actor of a character doesn't sound like Norio Wakamoto or someone, you just have to care if he matches the character. And if he acts well, and is well directed. Speaking of which...

4 - Good directing. In case you don't know, the vast majority of every single voice acting ever records voices individually. So you usually can't hear what the other member of the dialogue said to answer fittingly; you're completely blind there. It's only you, the line, and possibly the lines that came before (and by that alone you can't tell if the line is being serious, sarcastic, dry etc.). Little, isn't it? That's where the director enters - he dictates how you have to say the line. If the director is good, you can tell when the whole dialogue sounds genuine, like you can say "wow, these two characters really sound like they're talking to each other". When the dialogue feels more like two monologues, then that's bad directing for you. Not only the dialogue doesn't add up, but the emotion of the scene gets ruined - that's what happens when a sad character sounds more-or-less upbeat about the death of his/her mother. Ruins the whole thing. And therefore directing is just as important as the other three points.

Combinedly done well, they can result in a good, very good, or downright awesome dub. When one of them goes bad, the dub may go "okay". If all of them go bad, them it's a dictatorial torture, like the Fantastic Children dub. Think about that before bashing a dub like a moron (not directed towards anyone specifically). If you hate something, at least be fair about it.

Godzhila mercilessly attacks this question:

I would like to state my own opinion and ask people to drop the “relative comparison” for the English dubs, please. A good dub, in its own justice, only has to constitute how well the voice actors perform as the characters. Did he or she perform as the character's character should be? If so, then I would consider it good voice acting. In my opinion, if the whole, or most of the main English casts of this particular anime is living up to timely delivery of the lip sync, well enough projection of voice, matching the character's emotion in the story, performing as the character should be, then this is a good dub. Bad dub, of course, would be the opposite.

For a relative comparison to the Japanese Dub, it's like saying, this anime's Japanese Dub is super-ultra-exceptionally good, so there is no way an English Dub of this anime could be a good dub. However, it could be, very well, discredit this English dub of this anime for being good in its own right.

Will, tell me your take on this:

The first thing I want to stress is that all anime is dubbed, whether it be in Japanese or English. There is no reason why English dubs can't be very good. Good scripts and good acting aren't dependent on language or source material. An outstanding example of a successful English dub is Cowboy Bebop. The English script, the acting and, especially, the personalities that come out in the voices and are all wonderful - better, in fact, than the original. Even though Megumi Hayashibara is a fine seiyuu Wendee Lee absolutely nails Faye Valentine. Cowboy Bebop is unusual: the Japanese studios have more resources than their overseas licence holders so it is not suprising that the quality of their (Japanese) dubs tend to be higher.

To me, the most fantastic things in anime are, oddly enough, the animation and the background art. For sure, other aspects of anime are important: music (Yuki Kajiura!), the script (Koi Kaze!) and the voice acting (Kotono Mitsuishi!) to name three but they are not what makes anime uniquely anime.

Anything that detracts from the visuals spoils my enjoyment of an anime. I cannot understand Japanese so I must rely on subs or dubs. Subs are distracting. They spoil the viewing experience. My preference, therefore, is to watch anime with dubs and my definition of a bad dub is, with exceptions I will explain later, one where I end up watching the anime with subs, ie the dub is even more distracting than the sub.

An example of a bad dub is Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal. The voices are unpleasant, the acting is wooden and the pronunciations are excruciating (Tomoe pronounced Tohmoh! Heaven help us!). I never watch it with the English dub. By contrast, whereas the English dub of Paprika is not quite as good as the Japanese dub (particularly Paprika herself - the English actor takes the girlyness too far) I always watch it in English. There is too much happening on the screen to want to bother with subs. By my reckoning Paprika has a good dub.

There are exceptions to my rule. There are some Japanese seiyuu I love. I've already mentioned Kotono Mitsuishi. Even if Noir had a good English dub (and it doesn't - it sounds like inexperienced actors reading from the page) I suspect I would still prefer her voice.

Another exception is where I've come to love a film or series from a fansub and only later acquired an English dub. Having become accustomed to the Japanese voices it can be a bit of mind-stretch to accept the English voices. Ghost in the Shell is a good example of this. Even though the English actors are reasonable, Atsuko Tanaka will always be the Major to me.

Another bother with dubs is accents. As an Australian I find American accents as exotic as any other. Sometimes listening to Japanese characters speak with an American accent is extremely bizarre, something I suspect Americans don't always pick up. Clare Danes as San in Princess Mononoke is a dire example of this. Mind you, despite his accent, Billy Bob Thornton adds to a world-weary depth to Jigo.

Anyway, any dub should be judged on its merits. If I enjoy watching the anime with an English dub then it is a good dub. Simple as that, really.

Lucy is one of those crazy people:

I'm one of those people who don't completely want dubs wiped off the face of the planet just because I don't like having my eyes glued to a screen for twenty minutes straight reading subtitles. I would like to be able to, I don't know, take a drink or yawn without having to go back and see what I missed. So I give dubs a chance.

But, I do realize that some (most) dubs are absolutely terrible in comparison with the original. A couple of key things I look for in a good dub are really rather simple. Unless I'm particularly lazy the day I start an anime, I'll stick with these little indicators.

First, the length has to be the same, or nearabouts, to the Japanese version. Otherwise, it is normally horrid. Shorter dubs are a sure bet that all the good stuff has been cut or changed. If the writers/directer/producers or whoever is in charge are willing to cut out a little blood or a scantily dressed woman, who knows how badly they butchered the script, and the feel of the anime overall. I understand that those "mini-shows" as I like to call them that pop up in the middle or at the end of an anime can be cut. You don't need them to get the full impact of the show.

Usually, I'll watch the first episode in dub and in sub. A bad dub always has voice actors that sound completely different than the original, and that just annoys me. Sometimes, I picture the sound to be a bit different than in Japanese but most of the time the Japanese are more accurate than what the English think. A small, young guy shouldn't sound like a middle-aged smoker unless there is a running joke on it or something.

Also, I love Johnny Young Bosch to death. Really, I do. He just can't play every male lead no matter how awesome he is! There needs to be a variety in voice actors. That's just me.I swear, the same five people do dubs over and over. A good dub can have all of them for all I care(those same five are good), but they need to sound different than usual. For some stupid reason, J-VAs can change their voices so much easier E-VAs in subtle (or not so subtle) ways. Try on an accent. They're in style these days.

So please, if anyone out there is in the industry or ever makes it there, remember my pleas. Don't mess with a good thing and get more VAs if you go into dubbing.

Jesse has a reasoned response, and really likes the tilde key:

I would say that there are three main factors which determine the quality of a dub. A good dub achieves all of these factor, a mediocre dub some of them, and a bad dub few or none.

~Voice appropriateness~

This is the one where most dubs fall down, the selection of the characters voice. A character needs to sound how they look, and suit the impression of them that the viewer has. This is why a dub most often sounds best if you haven't watched the sub before, because its the dub which is building your character impression.

There are also factors like the age of the character to consider, and this shows up a lot in dubs where characters are in late childhood. Its easy to miss in the subs if your not used to japanese voices and how people sound at the characters age, but with english its a lot harder to miss.

Another factor is how vocal trademarks are used. The best example i could give is probably the dub for Kanon, in which most of the girls have a trademark vocal tick. In the sub, "uguu" is a noise, while in the dub its a statement (which sounds really weird to be honest).

~Storytelling~

Its necessary for a dub to invoke the feel of the original and to stir the same emotions, as well as getting across all the necessary details. A good dub fills you in on the same elements of the tale as the sub, at the same general time (there have been a few dubs which have told the story better) while a bad dub will often omit details. Even a detail which is unimportant which is needlessly sacrificed lessens the value of the dub (fanfics tell us that people expand on these details).

In respect to the feel, there is a very fine line between an emotional scene, pointless melodrama and something flat as a board. A bad dub will stray into one of these two extremes, being either "what the heck am i watching this garbage for" or "Booooooring, hurry up and get the other [insert thing to get to here]". A good dub keeps it in the middle and retains interest in such scenes.

~Use of non-vocal sounds~

The use of appropriate music or sound effects in the appropriate place, be it a sub or a dub, is a factor to how well the performance goes down. Bad choices = bad dub.

This all said however, how good or bad a dub is is often in the eyes of the beholder. Your preference in respect to sub vs. dub, what your primary language is, your sensitivity to factors such as lipflap accuracy, even what country you live in, all of these things have an effect on how good you personally perceive a dub to be.

Karlo, you have "Tagalized" me today:

First off, allow me to point out two things that have to be taken into consideration. One: this is my first time responding to Answerfans, so do forgive me if I sound inexperienced. Two: I live in the Philippines, where the majority of Anime comes in the form of Televised Dub in Filipino. Consider this response, therefore, as one coming from a different perspective.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of Filipino Otaku (if that not be an oxymoron) think anything dubbed is crap. This, one can deconstruct, is probably due to the pervading colonial mentality in the nation, i.e, the xenophilia along with the hate for anything local. Only very few of us (I, included) actually give time in appreciating the craft of Filipino dubbing.

But while we appreciate, we also criticize. And this criticism has of late given birth to certain standards. Excluding the basic necessities (like timing), here are my own versions of these standards.

A Filipino Dub is good if:

1.) the voices of the voice actors live up to how their characters look like: We don't want our Sakura Kinomotos to sound like mountain-girls or our Lelouches to sound like drunkards. if the character is hot, the voice should be equally hot. The voice actors may:

a.) Attempt to give a Filipino speaking version of the original Seiyuu, or
b.) Be creative in developing a voice that matches the look.

2.) the translation is true to the original: jokes that could be translated should be translated, even if they have cultural idiosyncrasies. Anime, after all, is a major source of exposure to the Japanese culture.

3.) the translation is creative: this often stands in contrast to number 2, but it is a good sign of the production company's thoughtfulness. If there are jokes whose humour just couldn't be translated, for example, alternative jokes should be used. And it should be bold: one dub of Naruto had the eponymous character say "-in your face" along with the Filipino lines. We anime fans appreciate that.

5.) The dialogue is delivered naturally, viz, the acting is good: we can tell if a voice actor (or any actor for that matter) is comfortable with his/her role. And when we notice this, we cannot help but admire that voice actor. That's why we love Johnny Depp!

On the other hand, a Filipino Dub is crap if:

1.) The musical interludes are sung by the Filipino voice actors in Filipino: Unless you can produce music way better than the original, attempting to translate a song is a great way of embarrassing yourself. Just air the song in Japanese and provide subtitles.

2.) The original Japanese is unnecessarily retained: almost every Otaku I know went bonkers when the Filipino dub of Tsubasa Chronicles made Sakura use "Onichan" when Filipino has the word "Kuya" for it. If you can, translate.

3.) A voice actor is playing many roles but is being obvious: We recognize versatility if it is there, but we scorn anything that attempts it but fails. If a voice actor is to voice many roles, he/she must make sure to it that each one of those roles sounds completely different from one another.

4.) the pronunciation is wrong if the basis was the original Japanese: "Sasuke" should be pronounced without the "u". The stress in "naruto" is in the first syllable. "C.C" is pronounced "C2" and it's /ləlu:ʃ/ not /lelu:ʃ/.

So there you have it! A Filipino Otaku's take on the dubbing industry. I am quite certain that most of my brethren in the anime-worshiping faith who get to read this would agree.

Trivia: In the Philippines, if a title is dubbed, it is said to be "Tagalized." This term is derived from the word "Tagalog," the Filipino language's original name.

Tyler doesn't mind, sometimes:

For me, a good dub is one that, obviously, syncs with the animation. I don't like staring at my computer, hurting my eyes, so if there's a dub I'll watch one, and if it's a little off, I won't mind. But then if I were to one day be in the mood for MAR, you know I'll just go to the subbed version. Also, I like it when the dub contains the original message of the anime. Quite a few dubs have converted some parts to a more americanized version, oftentimes making it more kiddish and deteriorating it. I also like it when the dubs for characters have voices that go along with what their voice should be. More importantly, when I'm reading the manga, I want it to be a voice that I can remember. I had quite a few headaches trying to remember Tohru's voice when reading Fruits Basket. Finally, what I don't go out of my way to look for, but get irritated when I don't see it, and has nothing to do with the voice. It's subtitles. I really like it when I can get a joke that has to do with japanese text without having to go and watch the sub and find the exact moment where the text shows up, or write a post asking what it said in the comments, where I'll probably just end up doing the first instead of having to wait until I already forgot about it for a response. As for what constitutes a bad dub, well I don't really think I have to go into that, really, because a bad dub would probably be the opposite of what constitutes a good dub for me.

Lastly but certainly not leastly, Mary sums it up about right:

Good example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEotGgkai-o

Bad example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAtC1SzWSXg

What do I got for next week's question? I got this for next week's question:


Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.


Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

As per usual, I always need more questions and things, so send them along to answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com! And keep sending me those wacky cake recipes - I'm planning on doing something with those. Honest. See you next time!


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