RDG: Red Data Girl – 12 (End) and Series Review

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Since RDG never acted like a normal series I suppose it’s fitting that it didn’t end like one either.

Even in a medium full of non-ending endings, Red Data Girl’s felt like no ending at all.  “Go read the novels” is pretty much the message I expected to get at the end of this series, so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.  That doesn’t mitigate my frustration much, especially given that the novels aren’t translated into English.  But as much as I’m tempted to complain about what was obviously way too big a story crammed into 12 episodes, I suppose I ought to appreciate that the show was made at all.

It’s interesting to compare this adaptation to A-1’s take on another award-winning series of novels, Shin Sekai Yori.  There’s a lot in common between these series, starting with the source material being critically acclaimed and a quite unusual format for anime adaptation.  Of course there’s also the fact that neither of them will have sold even at mediocre levels, which can’t be a good sign in encouraging studios to fund similarly smart and ambitious unorthodox anime in future.  But while P.A. Works had one cour to work with RDG and adapted only the skeleton of the story, in its 25 episodes A-1 Pictures comprehensively brought SSY to life, including a very definitive ending that gave the story closure (albeit not the closure all the fans wanted).

In effect, what we had with RDG was a series that continued to expand the plot right up until the final episode – and that includes in the finale itself.  As I’ve said before it’s quite remarkable how the series never felt rushed or frenetic considering the vast amount of exposition and character development it introduced, but the payback for that is an enormous amount of unresolved plot.  The Souda triplets personal storyline got a modestly concrete resolution, and it could be argued that the main couple got at least the beginnings of one.  But as for the larger plot itself, that was pretty much a punt.  There’s an awful lot of interesting things I’d like to know more about that we’re unlikely never to learn anything more about.

In looking at the final episode itself then, I think it’s really possible only to view it quite literally as that, not as a true finale – it’s an episode that just happens to be the final one.  I’d hoped we could at least get closure to the arc that was ongoing, and that was where the ep’s modest goals were focused, plot-wise – to bring the Sengoku Festival arc to a close.  That means jumping right into the aftermath of last week’s cliffhanger with Izumiko just having gone into Goddess mode on Takayanagi’s ass, and the entire school in a state of panic over the effects.  All of the tech has stopped working – I suppose that a direct result of Izumiko’s anti-keitai powers leeching out all over – and she seems to have disappeared, along with Masumi (uh-oh).  As for Takayangi and his two henchpeople, they’ve been phased into another dimension, and for Takayanagi the humiliation deepens – Izumiko has turned him into a dog (an Akita – those are omnipresent here – that looks like it fell out of a Softbank commercial).

A surprise visitor to the chaos is Nonomura-san, who delivers a staff to Miyuki-kun and tells him that this is the day that Izumiko is fated to turn into the Himegami.  With this Miyuki is able to return Takayanagi and the rest of Team Rocket to our dimension, but he still needs Wamiya’s help to follow Izumiko, where a “strong enemy” awaits him.  I’m not quite clear on whether Izumiko brought herself into this new plane as a way of protecting the Earth from herself or whether Masumi brought her there himself, but what’s clear is that Masumi is there with her and sees this as a great opportunity.  Masumi’s role has been exceptionally well-developed – for all his cheery demeanor and his bond with Mayura and Manatsu, he’s always had a sense of great danger about him – and his possessive feelings towards Izumiko have been apparent for a while.  He tells her she’s just a normal human who has the ability to “speed up her wavelength” to where the spirits are, but it seems to me that he’s attracted to her power.  I’m not sure just to what extent any of the Souda siblings are aware of Masumi’s true nature, including Masumi himself – the feeling I get is that all three of them have known the truth on some level for a long time, but enjoyed living the lie so much they didn’t want to give it up.

The Souda storyline is probably the most “TV Size” in Red Data Girl, and thus it fit most comfortably into the TV narrative.  It really is a mess – both Mayura and Manatsu seem to want to die so that the other won’t have to be alone – a bit of a paradox there, but it’s a strange family.  It’s a betrayal for Masumi to abandon Mayura in the middle of her struggle to go after Izumiko, but whether he’s aware of it or not, Masumi’s way of being is very different from a human being’s.  He’s got Izumiko in a very vulnerable state – aghast at having revealed her nature, convinced she’s irretrievably turned into The Goddess, tempted to stay hidden in her pocket dimension forever.  That’d suit Masumi fine, and he puts the ghosts of the ladies of Hachijouji Castle to work in trying to lure her to a place from which she can never return, but fortunately Miyuki proves himself to be far more determined and stubborn than his father would ever give him credit for.

I know the development between Izumiko and Miyuki hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes, but after a rocky start I’ve grown very fond of them as a couple (for reasons I’ve been talking about in my episode posts).  The tests he faces in this alternate dimension – be it of Izumiko’s or Masumi’s design – are something of a metaphor for his journey in the series.  As the ghosts of Hachijouji’s dead assail him, his resolve and his commitment to the path he’s chosen are put to the test.  Simply put, he wants to be with Izumiko – but not as her manservant, or simply as her Yamabushi.  No, he wants to be by her side and protect her as a friend and lover – quite a normal ambition, but for these two the desire to be normal is a dream that’s perhaps out of reach.  I’m not sure what options were open to Masumi when Izumiko and Miyuki connected (again in a wonderful use of symbolism, via cellphone) but if nothing else he’s a sporting loser and knows when he’s beaten.  Surely, some of Manatsu and Mayura’s humanity has rubbed off on Masumi and changed him in ways subtler than his physical appearance.

Fittingly there’s no firm commitment between Miyuki and Izumiko in the end, but I think by this point her feelings on the matter are pretty much an open book.  It really boils down to circumstances, and on that front we’ll simply have to leave things as they lie and imagine what might happen in the future.  Izumiko does indeed become the World Heritage Candidate, it seems – no other outcome was every really possible, the knowledge of which really could have saved Takayanagi and Mayura a lot of trouble.  As Masumi tells her the ability she possesses to “tune” herself to reach the Spirit World is almost extinct among humans – pretty much exactly what Yukimasa said earlier in the series.  Does this make Izumiko the Himegami herself, or one of her descendants?  What’s the true reason behind Wamiya and Takayanagi having the same face?  Unless “read the novels” was the answer you were looking for, you’re going to be disappointed.

On balance, then, where does that leave Red Data Girl?  Probably about where I expected it to be when the season started – one of the very best shows on the schedule, but hampered by inadequate time to tell its story.  There’s no doubt in my mind that RDG improved more than any other series over the course of the season, though – the premiere was decent but comfortably the low point of the series, but the series grew steadily more engaging thereafter both in terms of plot and character.  I would be remiss in not mentioning again just how much I loved Itou Masumi’s ending theme “Yokan”, one of my favorite EDs of all-time – not just because it’s such a gorgeous composition, but because it fits so beautifully with the series itself and the way it’s themes are gently woven into the BGM itself.

And then there’s the animation.  P.A. Works comes closer than any studio to capturing the same feeling as Shinkai Makoto with their visuals – a sort of visual representation of mono no aware.  This show is, in a word, gorgeous – which is all the more reason why I worry that the strange decision to broadcast it on Niconico with its requisite mediocre quality a full two weeks before it airs on television has hurt the series’ popularity.  If any show this season needed to be seen in HD to be fully appreciated this is the one – I make a point of watching each episode as it’s released that way, and if I weren’t blogging it I probably wouldn’t be watching the web releases at all.  The stagger also resulted in an odd split among the already moderately-sized fanbase, which I think subtly but crucially robs it of some of its momentum in gathering an audience.  If this is an experiment, I plain and simply don’t like it – it seems like the worst of both worlds to me.

So in the end, we have another really good series that’s going to bomb commercially – whatever reasons you chalk that up to – and it’s a real shame.  I loved the way RDG used an unconventional narrative approach, a sort of continuous timeline that made it feel as if it was running all the time, and we saw a 22-minute chunk of its reality in any given week.  I loved the visuals, and the music, and the dynamics between the main couple and among the Souda siblings (human and Kami).  I especially loved the way it told a big and sprawling story with languid grace, and the way it embraced Shugendou and Shinto and made them come alive in a way few anime ever have.  We can only hope that studios continue to make series like this one in spite of the financial risks involved – with every one that fails commercially I worry whether we’ll ever see another.  But I don’t want to end on that note, so instead, I’ll tip my hat to P.A. Works for taking on the seemingly impossible task of adapting Red Data Girl and winding up with something quite special.

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  1. i

    'That means jumping right into the aftermath of last week's cliffhanger with Izumiko just having gone into Goddess mode on Takayanagi's ass, and the entire school in a state of panic over the effects. All of the tech has stopped working – I suppose that a direct result of Izumiko's anti-keitai powers leeching out all over – and she seems to have disappeared, along with Masumi (uh-oh). As for Takayangi and his two henchpeople, they've been phased into another dimension, and for Takayanagi the humiliation deepens – Izumiko has turned him into a dog'

    That paragraph sized quote explains why I didn't connect with RDG, it sounds like worthier than anything in anime of the term WTF. Great visuals alone is not a good reason to me to keep watching a show I find boring with characters I find uninspired.

    Shin Sekai Yori was the best possible adaptation of novel material in anime and a blueprint on how to do it. I feel RDG was the opposite, that much of what SSY translated from page to screen RDG did not and ultimately fails for.

    At my anime circle SSY is like the new Death Note, something brilliant and different but hardly anyone batted an eye at RDG. SSY flopped because the anime community finds AKB48 more important their government but RDG flops because its not all that interesting, in my opinion.

    Also GE if you're living in Japan, I'm guessing here, shouldn't you be able to read Japanese to some extent? Or is it because the novel is full of Kanji? I hate Kanji – how on earth do Japanese people remember any of them, I can barely recall all my Hiragana and Katakana.

  2. There are 2000 kanji in everday use, and in order to be able to read a novel like the RDG series (this is not a light novel, mind you) you'd need to know most of them. How long do you think it takes to learn 2000 kanji when you're trying to learn an entire spoken vocabulary and grammar, plus the 256 different ways to conjugate every verb based on relative social status?

  3. i

    I heard 2000 is what Japanese Highschool students have to learn before graduating. I tried once to learn Kanji after finally memorizing all the Hiragana and Katakana and just gave up. I feel my spoken Japanese is very good but writing stuff down takes an age and a half. But isn't it difficult to live there without knowing? I remember a scene from Beck the Mongolian Chop Squad where the girl from America didn't know which bathroom was which because they had Kanji, not signs.

  4. There are many Japanese adults who struggle with Kanji who've lived here all their lives. It's hard.

    Is it difficult to live in Japan without knowing Kanji? It would be easier, certainly, if you did. But if you had no interest in reading Japanese literature or newspapers, it certainly isn't all that hard to live in Tokyo without much Kanji. Most public signs are in English, many shop signs are too and those that aren't sometimes have Katakana. It's inconvenient to not know, but if you didn't strive to read, manga, novels or newspapers it wouldn't be a deal-breaker. Tokyo has something close to half a million foreign permanent residents, and very few of them know more than a couple hundred kanji.

  5. i

    I do read, mostly shounen, manga in Japanese since there's very little Kanji and often my own translation meets the ones that are done by proper scantalators but try reading Chihayafuru in full Karuta mode with just that. It's impossible, which is a big regret as its one of two series I am desperate to read.

  6. s

    I wouldnt say that RDG was uninteresting; it just needed more eps to tell its story; SSY had 25 to tell is great story while RDG had less than half compared to SSY so comparing the two is a bit unfair. While i am disatisfied that RDG didnt get the care and attention it deserved (im assuming it was already risky enough to try to adapt this series let alone give it 25 eps to do so), it still turned out to be something quite heartwarming and special.

    I wonder if anime companies would take more risks developing stories like these if anime was prominent in the west like it was before. If the anime doesn't sell well in Japan, maybe it could sell better in the west or something and make up for that. I would like to see more great shows like Moribito or Serial Experiments Lain (my all-time favorite anime) be produced without fear of being completely dismissed since most anime companies rely on the Japanese market for success.

  7. i

    They tried that before but since anime is considered cartoons here its an even bigger geek stamp than in Japan. And they once tried bringing anime to the West in the 90s and early 00s but they don't do it anymore besides the big shounen or shoujo that might air on CN or Animax.

    The biggest problem is controlling the illegal streaming/downloading anime (which we are all culprits of). Getting like a Crunchyroll account would help because a show like Game of Thrones has such a huge audience that even if half that audience watches it illegally they still rake in tens of millions. Anime is not so lucky with its audience and thus if almost everyone out here is watching it for free there is no market for them to make animes like SSY for. Thus they make shit like Date a Live for pandering Otaku pervs.

  8. k

    For what it's worth, RDG is not a light novel but it's basically YA lit, and it's not a difficult read at all. It may be just the edition I have, but it's chock-full of furigana, and even aside of those, the style is very smooth and easy to follow.

    I just started reading it, but my impression is that it's actually pretty adaptation-friendly, definitely a LOT more that Shinsekai yori. It shouldn't have been an "impossible" task adapting it into an anime – they would've just needed more episodes. Rather than SSY, RDG reminds me of Juuousei, which tried to cram five volumes of manga into 11 episodes, and ended up much the same way as RDG. It looked and sounded beautiful, too, the soundtrack is still one of my favorites.

    (By the way, just so there are no misunderstandings, the SSY anime ended essentially the same way as the novel, just adapted to visual format/time constraints, and without some details that they apparently decided to cut from the story altogether. So it's not like the writer for the anime made up an original ending.)

  9. .

    Hi kuromitsu, once you have finished reading would you be able to post any spoilers re vol 6 on the Animesuki RDG novel discussion thread?

    Specifically, what the Himegami really is and if Yukimasa ever had evil intentions towards Izumiko.
    I know minuetto from myanimelist put up a summary, although it doesn't give much detail re. the questions I phrased.

  10. k


    Sure, if you don't mind waiting… ^^;;

  11. It shouldn't have been an "impossible" task adapting it into an anime – they would've just needed more episodes.

    That's like saying the 40's were a terrific decade apart from that whole holocaust and largest war in human history thing. Why do you think I said they faced an impossible task?

  12. k

    I wasn't blaming the writers, I blame whoever decided to give this series only 12 episodes. Even if there's not enough story in the novels for two whole cours, even one more episode would've been enough to bring the anime to a more satisfying closure.

  13. I understand, but be that as it may 12 was what they had to work with. You've read the novels and I haven't so I'll defer to your greater knowledge, but I'm surprised to hear you say there's not enough material for 25 episodes. I was under the impression there were several novels, easily enough for two cours?

  14. k

    I haven't read the novels, as I said above I've just started reading the first one… What I meant is that perhaps there's not enough "action" to fill two full cours without feeling draggy. The story/character interaction is interesting enough that I wouldn't mind more slice-of-life elements or longer dialogues (and I certainly wouldn't have minded a less superficial treatment of the main couple), but I suppose most viewers would, so if that's the reason behind the decision to give this adaptation one cour only, I can sort of understand that. But even so, there are six novels altogether, even if they adapt only five they really could've given it a full cour instead of only 12 episodes.

  15. .

    There's a user called minuetto who's posted a summary of events from RDG vol 5 and 6 on myanimelist.

    Kazu-kun from the Animesuki forums was kind enough to repost his summary on their RDG novel thread, post #3.

    From what I've heard, vol 6 is more of a slightly extended epilogue, although I hope minuetto can elaborate more on vol 6's events.

  16. k

    I think Izumiko = Himegami was made clear… but then they didn't do anything with the revelation. All we got is that she's now the world heritage candidate, which is the worst possible point to end the story, after what the himegami said about the second future. What's different about this world and this Izumiko that she (presumably) has a chance of avoiding the same fate? We'll never know – not from the anime, anyway.

    I enjoyed RDG, despite all my problems with it, but ultimately it was a disappointment. Too bad, because on the whole it was an interesting story (except for the Miyuki x Izumiko angle that I never warmed up to), and I found the Souda drama pretty intriguing, especially with Masumi being who he is. And I'm extra disappointed that they didn't do anything interesting with Masumi and Izumiko in this episode, even though the situation was just begging for it, and just proceeded straight to clichés. :/ All in all, I hope the novel will be a better experience.

  17. K

    Enzo, how would one go about learning to read Japanese?
    I don't have the money for a tutor… how did you go about it?

  18. i

    Not kidding here but after watching a couple of hundred animes with subtitles I realized I no longer needed to watch anime with subs, I knew what they were saying. When I took a Japanese course I aced it because I knew so many words (though my grammar needed fixing) and learnt Hiragana and Katakana to shore up my writing skills. That's one way.

  19. Read, specifically – or speak? Depending on where you live there may be group classes, either at a community college or private company or Buddhist group. For me, classes were far more effective than books, CDs and websites.

    Reading boils down to learning the symbols, assuming you have some knowledge of the language. The first thing you need to do is learn hiragana and katakana, which is really pretty easy. There's a book called "Kana de Manga" which teaches them in manga form.

  20. H

    The way I'm trying to learn is the method advocated by All Japanese All the Time (ajatt.com). The basic method is consume as much spoken japanese as possible, learn the meanings of the Kanji (before either kana syllabary, actually, and it works fine) and move on to other memorization and mnemonic techniques. I'm in this last (and forever) part which consists mainly of studying flash card sets of sentences.

  21. n

    now i just want to read the novel which are not translated. This stinks. -.-

  22. p

    Nobody should be surprised that RDG ended up being yet another anime that basically tells viewers to "go read the original" material.

    If you look at anime adaptations today, most of them adapt the work of novels, light novels or manga comics that are nowhere near completion. Do I even have to come up with a list of the overwhelming amount of anime adaptations that do this? I could come up with dozens of them from the past 12 months alone.

    To use an example of an ongoing show that is adapting materials from a work that is far, far, far from completion, consider the case of Shingeki no Kyojin. No, I'm not going to spoil anything, but everyone watching SnK should realize a couple of elementary facts:

    1. The manga is so far at chapter 46.
    2. The anime adaptation will be 25 episodes plus an OVA
    3. The anime adaptation is at episode 10
    4. The manga material that has been covered so far is also, roughly, at chapter 10
    5. The anime more or less covers a chapter an episode

    Now get this: even though the original manga material is 46 episodes in, most of the mysteries raised so far haven't even been answered! Hell, I could say without spoiling anything that even MORE mysteries have been raised! As such, nobody should expect any sense of closure in the anime adaptation of SnK. The show is nothing more but a glorified ad for the manga.

    So that's what most anime adaptations are today: glorified advertisements, a clever method for cross-platform promotions to make money. As a result of all of this, the quality of anime suffers.

    Allow me to use one last example to help illustrate my point: Sankarea. It's another case of an anime adapted from a manga that was (and remains) far from completion. Because of this, along with the fact that the studio only had 12 episodes to make a show, they had to alter a lot of material, and put in so much pointless filler to pad things out so that they could fit an entire season. They only covered like the first arc of the manga. In any properly-adapted show that properly followed the pacing of the original material, the first arc would have been no more than 5-6 episodes. But because the studio didn't want to risk covering material beyond the first arc of the manga by following the manga's pacing, they had to add in so much filler so that what should have been 5-6 episodes ended up being 12 episodes.

  23. R

    It's probably because I didn't expect the finale to give answers to most threads but show us hints to what comes next, I am happy with what it is. It's not as top notch as SSY in my view — and I still see it as the best amongst all 2013 shows so far — but a very special one that I wish to see more series like this. I enjoyed watching RDG from the start and found myself engaged in the story and connected with the characters throughout. The visuals are beautiful, and the BGM is nicely used throughout the show. I love the ED…I can listen to it over and over again. I also like how in each episode there is always something happening that the characters need to stretch themselves and struggle with — and through those struggles, you can see them grow and evolve.

    Above all, I love the characters and the chemistry between Izumiko and Miyuki. I love that there is no dumping down or idolizing treatment to the characters — completely appreciate the respect it has for the characters and to its viewers. The bond shared amongst the Souda siblings is nice, but I like Izumiko and her relationship with Miyuki the most — it simply evolves and deepens through time. The way how Izumiko and Miyuki found a common goal which — while fighting together to make their lives normal — grew into trust and dependance, then affection and yearning for one another is as captivating as everything else going on in the story. It's nice to see how they came so much closer to each other at the end — they even called each other's first name…

    Enzo, I thought about what you said in your last review and simply couldn't agree more. A relationship that is built on mutual dependance and trust — which is so rare in anime — is so much deeper, engaging and endearing than ones resulted from physical attraction or one-side idolization. I am happy that I stayed with the show. It's not perfect, but it's special and I enjoyed every moment of it.

  24. K

    Read the novels you say? Kay.

    2,000 page dictionary, you're in need again.

    No but really, I had no clue what was happening even though I know I loved the series. Even just one more cour would have done wonders; I'm not at all liking this new 'one cour' trend in the industry; there's very rarely a series that can use that time completely effectively without needing a subsequent sequel season.

  25. H

    I really liked the series (just finished today, I always waited for the TV airing), and even without any sort of background in the lore of the show, I really didn't think it was that difficult to keep up with. Sure, there are still all sorts of open questions, but I definitely wasn't lost throughout. And as said, the story made a ton of progress every week.

    I actually thought it was a good ending spot for the show. I doubt there will ever be that second series, but it could pick up from there and keep going. But while it left a lot of questions up in the air, it didn't just leave things hanging, just more of a 'what will happen in the future after all this stuff happened?' style of question.

  26. m

    i get the feeling i cannot fully appreciate the series because of the mythology and whatnot… but i do agree that the series picks up momentum in every episode. for me, it's a show that is nicer on the second watch, even though i like the mystery in it, it's more confusing than suspenseful.
    i love itou masumi since jinrui, but i feel yokan is better 😀 since it fits so well with RDG

  27. Yes, I love the Jinrui ED, but this one is indeed even better. One of the very best OP/ED in years, IMHO.

  28. d

    i love this anime, RDG is amazing!! i finished on mid-2013 and now I watch it again <3

  29. M

    While this comment is obviously behind the times, I just finished re-watching the series and thought I’d look around to see what the commentariat had to say about it.

    Of the comments above, I find myself most aligned with Highway’s. I think the show’s creators did a wonderful job of using the twelve episodes to get a great story out in a coherent form. They did this by not wasting any of those twelve episodes. I won’t say that every single frame is meaningful but as many or more than any show I can think of. As an aside, I think I rated ten of the twelve episodes on MAL as I watched them and all of them scored at least a 4. Very few shows warrant that.

    All of those open questions are fine remaining open. Alas, they will probably never be animated but that doesn’t detract from what was animated. The show’s focus on delivering the story it could made a difference. Personally, I can do without most backstory or sub-plots. I enjoyed reading the Silmarillion but I didn’t need to read it in order to enjoy the LOTR.

    I find that many one-cour shows spend about ten of their episodes having fun while introducing characters and meandering around aimlessly and miring themselves in flashbacks before shifting into panic mode for the grande finale. I never know but sometimes I wonder if many show’s creators were secretly hoping for a second cour and didn’t get a definitive answer until half-way through the season and then had to scramble to end the show. Some example of this would include Sora no Woto (with its horrific episode 8), Seiken no Blacksmith, or in a weird twist, the already two-cour Fate Zero which squandered two episodes on Kiritsugu's island adventure and then came up short when things went nuclear with the mostly off-stage fight between Sabre and du Lac.

    Something that I’ve found interesting is that two other shows that I like a lot, Haruhi and Bakemonogatari, both had an unusual number of episodes (14, 15) with which to tell their story. In its initial broadcast, Haruhi had a five-episode monster run to finish up and Bakemonogatari pushed everything aside to hit a big home run with its twelfth episode, taking advantage of the three post-climax episodes to complete the show’s vision.

    From this recently ended season, I would contrast shows such as Aldnoah.Zero which used every frame it had to tell the story it needed to, versus a show such as Tokyo Ghoul which wasted hours demonstrating how pitiful the protagonist was when he’d already successfully made that impression within the first couple of episodes and then presented a peculiar, aborted ending which without a second season, might qualify as the worst ending of any show I’ve seen.

    Back to RDG… as with many here, I consider the ED to be one of the finest I’ve heard and one that feels very appropriate for the show. What I found really great was the alternate versions in episodes 3 and 8, where Izumiko (Hayami Saori) provided the vocals. Someone also mentioned that they felt that the show improves with additional viewings. I enjoyed this, my third, more than either the first or second.

    My one actual regret isn’t about the show’s story which probably ranks in my top ten of all time but that it’s not available to buy in blu-ray (at least not where I am). This spring, a DVD set was released, at a good price even ($45 retail) but I can’t bring myself to buy DVDs for new shows as the subtitles torture my eyes. Hopefully BRDs will come out some time soon.

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