The use of Japanese narrative in NGE and NTE, including 3.0+1.0 (WIP)

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The use of Japanese narrative in NGE and NTE, including 3.0+1.0 (WIP)

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Postby UrsusArctos » Mon May 18, 2020 1:21 am

This is a work-in-progress and I'll be adding the parts that are more relevant to 3.0 + 1.0 as things go on. The first post will actually be more NGE-heavy than others, but this deals with narrative rather than with the specific plot details or deeper lore, so putting NGE and NTE side by side probably makes more sense than it would do otherwise. Without further ado, here goes.

Both NGE and NTE use the Japanese Jo-Ha-Kyu and Kishotenketsu narratives, but very differently. NTE apparently was meant to be a Jo-Ha-Kyu plus conclusion narrative structure, but with the reworking of Evangelion 3.0 and the removal of a number of plot points, it turned more into a Kishotenketsu structure. NGE actually uses both, but in a less apparent way.
Jo-Ha-Kyu roughly translates into “beginning, break, rapid”, with a slow-paced and gentle introduction, the introduction of conflict and an increased tempo in the ‘break’ section, and increased pathos in the third section, leading to a rapid conclusion at the end of the three sections.

Kishotenketsu is a four-part variation of Jo-Ha-Kyu. The opening act or “Ki” in a kabuki play is meant to be pleasant and draw the viewers in, depicting an ‘auspicious’ state of the world. The “Sho” or second part features an increased tempo, often characterized as “warriors and battles” even if it doesn’t feature actual warfare. The third part or “Ten” introduces the “turn” or dramatic twist in the tale, and is loaded with pathos and suffering. The fourth part is a “michiyuki” or journey, featuring mostly song and dance and helping cut down on the pathos of the previous section. The fifth part is a rapid conclusion that “returns the world to an auspicious state”.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to point out that NGE actually uses both in a way that’s not necessarily evident to the viewer. NGE uses the Jo-Ha-Kyu plus conclusion structure overall in eight-episode arcs, and roughly follows Kishotenketsu in 4-episode “blocks”. Episodes 8, 16 and 24 are the key transition episodes where one arc turns into another. Previous groupings of NGE episodes put them into the “introduction arc”, “action arc”, “descent arc” and “bitter end”, but I think the 8-episode grouping, like notes in an octave or elements in a periodic table, makes better narrative sense with Japanese narrative.

Episodes 1 to 8 are the opening, or “Jo” section of NGE, Episodes 9 to 16 are the “Ha” or “break” section, and Episodes 17-24 are the “Kyu” or “rapid” section, leaving 25 and 26 to a rapid and bitter conclusion. They’re all evenly spaced out in terms of episodes, which is why the beginning takes a while to get going, but the action picks up significantly afterwards, and the descent follows and stays crushingly on course for a while after that.

However, Anno and company appear to have played with the standard narrative in a very significant way. The opening of a Japanese play, no matter which of the two conventions you follow, is meant to have gentle themes, and an “auspicious” state of the world. From the very first episode, it’s obvious that things are not auspicious at all, and even when something isn’t obviously rotten in Tokyo-3 it doesn’t take much to see that there’s more going on than meets the eye. Actions have consequences, often unpleasant ones, and each Angel battle is fraught with danger and brings about some kind of a change in Shinji.

To build an increased tempo based on the established narrative would result in things going straight downhill. So rather than continuing in a straight line, the narrative twists and loops, so that introducing Asuka and Kaji brings on a lot more action while cutting the consequences. All the Angels, even the powerful Sahaquiel and sneaky Ireul, land up being monsters of the week and the pilots fight them with relatively little in the way of traumatic consequences or changes – even Gendo dodges retribution from Seele about Ireul’s intrusion. Everything needs to lighten up to continue narrative development without consequences- so that when those consequences come, in the form of Leliel swallowing Eva-01 into its “shadow” and speaking to Shinji directly, the third or “Kyu” portion of NGE kicks off right when the “Jo” portion left off.

Effectively, both “Jo” and “Ha” meet together to form “Kyu”, rather like one train track branching off from the other before looping back to meet it and resume its previous course, or like Episodes 25 and 26 being concurrent with End of Evangelion for Shinji’s mental state, if you will. The battles with Bardiel, Zeruel, Arael and Armisael come with horrific consequences for the pilots, and our old buddy Kaworu Nagisa really kicks things off into the conclusion with Episode 24 being the transition. Episodes 25 and 26, then, are the conclusion to the Jo-Ha-Kyu narrative structure, bringing things to a swift return to…umm…well, whether you call it “auspicious” is debatable depending on whether you’re watching the end of Episode 26 or 26’, but poor Shinji seems to have gotten some good out of all that madness, even if it left him on a beach with Asuka and a disintegrating GNR...erm…whatever…

More subtle are the 4-episode kishotenketsu arcs, which I hadn’t realized for a while. Every four episodes of NGE form a “block” of sorts that sticks to that particular narrative pattern, if loosely so. The first four episodes – Block 1, if you will – introduces the world Shinji is in with Episode 01, shows the actual battle in Episode 02 with the subsequent increase in tension across the episode, shows the ugly consequences of the battle and the less-than-sunny aspects of Shinji’s pilot status in Episode 03 (Toji’s angry because of his sister, Shinji goes bananas against Shamshel) and Episode 04 shows Shinji running away, going on a journey of his own and finally, at the conclusion, establishing himself in Tokyo-3 for good.

The four-episode block pattern continues throughout NGE!

Episodes 05 and 06 deal with Rei and build up to Operation Yashima against Ramiel as well as introduce a caring side to Shinji, but Episode 07 introduces a twist in showing more of the world outside and Nerv’s shadiness while hinting at Eva-02’s arrival, while Episode 08 pays that off spectacularly with the naval battle against Gaghiel, Asuka’s arrival and the kickoff to the next big arc.

Episodes 09, 10, 11 and 12 are the ones that feature the most “monster-of-the-week” fighting, but the real tension in these episodes deals with “why fight the Angels and why pilot the Evas”, and it’s no coincidence that this question is put forward in Episode 11 and answered by Misato in 12 – in addition to the rather suspicious twist in events in 11 (sabotaging Nerv’s power) – the key question gets answered for Shinji at the conclusion of Episode 12. He wants to pilot the Eva and fight the Angels so his father can praise him, and Misato is fighting the Angels as revenge for her father’s death. (I’ll note off the bat that this arc is weak because the thematic change in Episode 11 isn’t nearly as pronounced as it could be, and Episode 10 is lacking in the sort of overly increased tempo that’d transition into a turn into Episode 11). The 4-episode block pattern also explains why Episodes 13 and 14 are placed where they are, they’re really meant as the dramatic setup for the revelations/development of Episodes 15 and 16 right afterwards.

The reveal of Yui within the Eva in 16 and the horrible gore of Leliel’s demise mark the end of both the block and the arc, and set up the “bloodbath block” that features the most gore and brutality. The quiet tension of Episode 17 sets up the horrific Bardiel battle of Episode 18, the shocking change in Eva-01 as it eats Zeruel in Episode 19, and having those consequences play out in Episode 20 round out all four elements. Episode 21, taking up after Shinji’s rebirth in Episode 20 with its birth theme in its title (“The birth of Nerv”) becomes the quiet setup episode of the four-episode “despair block” that it belongs to. Kaworu’s death in Episode 24 ends the block pattern and ushers in the apocalyptic end.

NGE: Intro block – Expansion block – Action block –Development block-Bloodbath block-Despair block-Apocalypse, each block being in a Kishotenketsu 4-episode structure.

NTE follows something like Jo-Ha-Kyu plus conclusion even within each individual episode, or more possibly Kishotenketsu.

Evangelion 1.0 features a largely unchanged Sachiel battle as part of its introduction, followed by a more violent battle against Shamshel and a more violent first battle against Ramiel. The “turn” part follows when it is evident that Lilith is underground, putting Rei in Eva-01 is risky, and Ramiel is significantly more powerful than previously shown. There might be a short “journey” portion where Shinji in Eva-01 gets down to all fours and crawls up the blackened and smoking Mt. Futago fort to pick up the positron rifle, it’s the moment that Shinji’s state goes from “You are alone” to “You are not alone”. Kaworu talking to Keel’s monolith on the moon appears to be a part of the same conclusion, but from the looks of 1.0 I’d say it’s actually part of a different, independent dramatic arc, one that continues in scattered bits throughout 2.0 and goes on into 3.0.

Evangelion 2.0 begins with “warriors and battles” from the get-go, since we get to see Mari battle the Third Angel and Asuka curb-stomp the Seventh in fairly rapid succession, but neither of these battles have any lasting repercussions for either character, and the shenanigans that follow make 2.0’s initial tone a lot lighter than 1.0 (jarringly so). That’s the introduction. The part with the increased tension, the second part, consists of the battle against the new Sahaquiel, which similarly ends with Shinji’s relationship with Gendo on the mend. Mari parachuting into Tokyo-3 consists of the “turn” portion, lampshaded within the movie when Shinji’s SDAT begins playing from Track 27 rather than 25-26. Then come the new Bardiel to send everything into a downward spiral, and the new juggernaut-from-hell Zeruel, and the “turn/break” portion concludes with Shinji’s mystical “journey” towards Rei on his hands and feet, which is the point where Shinji really goes from “you can advance” to “you cannot advance”.

Evangelion 3.0 plays with narrative structure and pretty much does what it wants with it. The big battles are shoved further up front to show off Eva-02, Eva-08 and the Wunder, while a great deal of the middle of the movie is more contemplative, tossing out the previously established and fairly consistent narrative pattern. Even Shinji’s “journey”, where he crawls up Lilith’s back using Eva-13 and marks the point where he goes from “you can redo” to “you cannot redo” is shifted forwards, to deliver the reveal that he’s just let loose another damned impact and played into Gendo’s hands once more. The pathos of Kaworu’s death is interlaced with both the impact and all the combat going on at the time, and when it ends, it sets up Shinji’s real journey with Asuka and Rei Q.

What can we assume from Thrice Upon A Time? Judging by 3.0, it’s clear that Anno may use the Jo-Ha-Kyu and Kishotenketsu narrative structures but he’s not bound to doing so and may freely change or move around elements as they suit his own desire for narrative progress. The segment where the Wunder journeys to Paris to pick up new parts for Mari’s Eva-08 apparently is the start of the movie, so we’re likely to see Shinji walking into the ruined countryside (Mari talking about puppy-boy is a straight giveaway). Since the poster shows Shinji walking through a train station that has plainly not been reduced to “core material” it’s possible that Shinji will land up finding a location where human survivors of the impacts are gathered. Whatever dramatic turn happens is likely to be towards the happy rather than the tragic, and during the final act Shinji gets a chance to say goodbye to Rei and Yui (even if he doesn’t actually get back into Eva-01).

More about possibilities for Thrice Upon a Time and the rest of NTE to come...
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Re: The use of Japanese narrative in NGE and NTE, including 3.0+1.0 (WIP)

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Postby UrsusArctos » Tue May 19, 2020 8:42 am

Part 2

Merging rails

Evangelion 1.0 and to a lesser extent, 2.0, led to unhappy fan suggestions that NTE was a nothing more than a convenient cash grab, attempting to cash in on the nostalgia surrounding NGE and Evangelion’s enormous fanbase. Such a cynical interpretation may be easy to endorse but it doesn’t hold up to the facts around Hideaki Anno’s personality and artistic motivations. Anno is a man who is deeply particular about all aspects of his work, a man who is intent on facing reality, a major critic of Japanese culture and society, a man who is fierce in stating what he wants to state. Gainax staff may animate the infamous “bounce” to their hearts’ delight, but that doesn’t stop Anno, his mentor Hayao Miyazaki, and his buddy Kunihiko Ikuhara from being ardent feminists. This is a man with high artistic and personal standards, and it shows in 3.0 more than anywhere else. With 3.0 in place, all the “cash grab” stories were put to bed once and for all, and it’s now evident beyond all reasonable doubt that NTE is a new continuity, something the use of the Katakana title “Wevangeliwon” as opposed to “Evangelion” was saying all the time for those who paid attention to it.

If NGE’s Jo and Ha sections are effectively tracks that loop onto each other for the Kyu section, NTE seems to be taking a similar approach to the Evangelion franchise as a whole. Although the backstory and mythology behind NGE diverge wildly from NTE except in the broadest possible strokes, the entire point for the backstory and mythology to exist is to provide a railroad for Shinji, a boy who has essentially been “programmed” with destiny in NTE, and whose journey in NGE ended with a bizarre mix of hope and fantastical trauma. In a sense, NGE’s ending dangles – in Episodes 25 and 26 we get to see Shinji along with Rei, Asuka and Misato (who is essentially NGE’s second protagonist) going through instrumentality, and although the ending is Shinji’s (“Congratulations!”) the other characters are very much a part of the process. The same goes in EoE, although the ghastly ending of EoE would leave any viewer wondering if Shinji would survive on a destroyed earth. It effectively amounted to “torching the franchise” since there was nothing more that could be done with that ending, in many ways a bleak version of Ideon’s ending. It was an ending, all right, but was it the right ending for the characters, especially Shinji and lest we forget her, Misato? And things are quite a bit different in the Manga as well, which has its own, wholly different ending, one that accomplishes what Shinji was hoping to do in 3.0 by having Rei reset the world and making Shinji and everyone else forget everything that happened, albeit at the cost of keeping Shinji and Rei separate.

Arguably, none of those endings are really appropriate, since Evangelion needs conclude in a way that Shinji gets a clear-cut hopeful ending from where he can build a happy adult life in spite of all the trauma he’s endured. He needs an ending that doesn’t leave him on a big blue ball with everyone clapping and going “Congratulations”, one that doesn’t leave him strangling Asuka on a beach on a ruined Earth, one that doesn’t leave him in a world that has been conveniently reset into a comfortable banality with all memories wiped out. This is an attempt to end Shinji’s story the way it should have ended thematically in all the prior series, and the very tall order of doing so after the soul-crushing despair in Q held it back all this time. Ha-Kaworu says, “This time, only you[Shinji] will find happiness”, and Q-Kaworu, less forcefully, hopes to bring Shinji to a place of peace and rest, statements that apply across all Evangelion series, not just NTE.

Switching tracks, trains feature in Evangelion, and images of train tracks diverging and combining are seen in NTE, particularly in the trailer for Ha. Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is called “Shin Evangelion” using the old “Evangelion” Katakana rather than the somewhat ridiculous-sounding “Wevangeliwon”, features the musical notation for “End” in the title, prominently features Shinji in the distance with diverging/converging train tracks in the foreground, and even comes with the message “Goodbye, all of Evangelion.” It’s evident that the entire point of NTE was to complete what NGE, EoE and the Manga had left off, diverging so much from the old NGE was to bring the Evangelion story to the point where it could come to a proper conclusion.

And this is precisely what 3.0 + 1.0 is, the ending to all of Evangelion – NTE, End of Evangelion, the Manga, and NGE put together. This is the ending of Shinji’s story, the closure that neither Anno nor Sadamoto could give him that fit with the rest of his journey.
And Thrice Upon a Time, thus, refers either to the three different story endings that Evangelion had prior to NTE – the endings of Episodes 25 and 26 in NGE, End of Evangelion, and the Manga. Alternatively, it could refer to the three retellings of the Evangelion story, NGE(plus EoE), the Manga, and NTE. Since the original “Thrice Upon a Time” science fiction story included a thrice-repeated love story involving tripping over a kitten(thrice), the title could also refer to the three people Shinji has fallen in love with over the course of the different Evangelion continuities. He’s supposed to be in love with Asuka in NGE except possibly in Episode 24 with Kaworu, he’s in love with Rei in the Manga, and he and Rei are pretty obviously in love in Ha and he’s in love with Kaworu in Q. Or perhaps the title refers to some combination of all the three things. It’s fitting no matter how you slice it.

After the horrors of Q and the ghastly sight of a post-Third Impact world, Shinji is broken and at his lowest. Under the standard Japanese narrative convention of Kishotenketsu that I mentioned above, the intense pathos of the third act is followed by a lighter fourth act which consists of a journey or michiyuki, which is typically more of song and dance than dialogue and plot. Thrice Upon a Time is unlikely to feature song and dance (it’d probably be as horrible as the Nadia musical episode) but it is likely to feature a gradual lightening of tone for Shinji as he, Asuka and Rei Q journey through the blasted landscape, with Shinji gradually finding out that he can move forwards and be happy in spite of all the horrible things he’s been a part of. Meeting with old friends from the past (Kaji and grown-up Toji, Kensuke and Hikari, if they’re still alive?) and perhaps finally getting to reconcile with Misato, Gendo and Yui are all on the cards.

For those of you who wonder why I mentioned the point about Anno being a big feminist and then not really following up on it, I’m pegging Misato Katsuragi to be one of the characters to get a proper ending for her arc. Misato in NGE was described by Anno as a co-protagonist, along with Shinji, as a young woman who was struggling with making contact with people, “living life so lightly as to avoid a human touch”. Misato’s instrumentality was put onscreen right alongside Asuka, Rei and Shinji. But Misato’s glorious but brutal end in EoE and her attempt to get Shinji to Eva-01 landed up being somewhat less than fitting for her character because we don’t see her returning to life at the end of EoE, a place where she should’ve been by rights (her cross is one of the things that makes Shinji realize he needs to come back). NTE, subtly, corrects for this.

Misato in 1.0 combines all the elements of Misato that we know and love – the ditzy party-girl façade that hides an emotionally vulnerable and lonely human being, the naïve outsider who doesn’t realize she’s part of something bigger, and the tough, determined soldier who is ready to lay her life down and push people to do what’s right. Of these three elements, Misato’s naiveté is significantly toned down in 1.0 and we get to see her being rather more responsible and stern when she’s at work. She grabs Shinji and shakes him when he runs away. She knows perfectly well about Lilith this time around and shows her to Shinji so he knows what the stakes are, and she’s decidedly more grim than her Episode 06 self when organizing Operation Yashima. In 2.0, her stern, tough side is toned down and her naïveté and goofiness played up, like when she’s caught out of place by Eva-02’s arrival, or drinking with Kaji and grumbling about the Dummy Plug. Compared to her 1.0 self, she’s been softened noticeably, but Misato’s softening in 2.0 is deliberate, because it sets up her hardening in 3.0.

In Q, Misato has turned into a female version of Captain Nemo from Nadia. She’s all but stated to be the head of Wille if not one of its leading officers, giving her more agency and authority than she ever had in Nerv. Like Nemo, she commands an advanced warship against vast enemy forces, and her enemies even are named the Nemesis Series (Nemesis Ra Algol was the real name of Gargoyle, Nemo’s archenemy in Nadia). Her group is Wille, representing the “will” if it were. Her actions pretty much kick off everything that happens in Q, and she poses a serious threat to Gendo’s plans. Misato is now an independent player and she has undergone an enormous amount of character development offscreen. Less evident is how Q is structured around her story, not Shinji’s. From Shinji’s point of view – and also the audience’s, everything that happens is a confusing mess. But there’s a clear narrative pattern woven around Misato’s actions. We are introduced to the Evas and Eva pilots through Misato’s actions, and it is through her that we’re introduced to Wille and the Wunder. The heavy action that follows and the increased tension it brings – especially with Shinji’s abduction- is from her point of view. We pick up again where she left off, with the discovery that Shinji is being used to activate another Eva and trigger another impact. She’s left fighting to protect her ship against the Mark.09. Her story ends with a strange situation that she accepts as a victory, for the time being. In the middle, Shinji’s own story arc moves from confusion and cold rejection, to acceptance by Kaworu, to despair – it has its own logic but it’s not key to the narrative any longer.

This makes me think that 3.0 + 1.0 is also going to give a proper ending to Evangelion’s second protagonist, a woman who has been subtly built up into a position of power and responsibility. Misato is no longer the woman who shrinks away from human contact but who is willing to gather surviving human forces to fight the horrors that came from Third Impact, to keep humanity alive no matter the cost. Rather than merely seeking revenge against the Angels for the loss of her father, she’s trying to keep humanity alive and stop Gendo and Seele from wrecking things to suit their own agendas. The Thrice Upon a Time preview showed Misato taking the Wunder to Paris to get more Eva spare parts, suggesting that Misato intends to scrape together whatever equipment and forces she still can and put them to use against Nerv, or restore enough sections of Red Earth so that humanity can return. I have no idea how Misato’s story will end, but if she hands over her cross to Shinji, this time he’ll be sure to carry that weight for the better rather than the worse.

EDIT: To be continued...
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Re: The use of Japanese narrative in NGE and NTE, including 3.0+1.0 (WIP)

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Postby Sailor Star Dust » Tue May 19, 2020 7:22 pm

This is such an interesting read! I highly agree there's more than meets the eye to the New Movie Editions, that things aren't just some "cash grab", but of course it's difficult to convince people otherwise if they're already set in their opinions.

I really hope you're about Misato's thematic purpose in 3.0+1.0! From what Ogata and company (I'm not sure if Kotono Mitsuishi has said much but I don't think so) on Twitter, this final Eva film really does, well, feel like the finale for everything Eva. (I'm sure we'll still get plenty of spinoff video games/manga, though...)

You know my heart's eternally set for AsuShin getting proper resolution (with some sort of sibling! Rei + Shinji cemented, please!!) but I'm not "falling" for shipping debates :tongue: . The revival of FF7's infamous Love Triangle Debate thanks to its Remake already has my head spinning....despite me being an end game CloTi fan since '97.
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Re: The use of Japanese narrative in NGE and NTE, including 3.0+1.0 (WIP)

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Postby UrsusArctos » Sat May 23, 2020 9:13 am

View Original PostSailor Star Dust wrote:This is such an interesting read! I highly agree there's more than meets the eye to the New Movie Editions, that things aren't just some "cash grab", but of course it's difficult to convince people otherwise if they're already set in their opinions.


Thank you so much! ^_^ Yes, it's unfortunate. If there's one thing I've learnt lately, it's that most people tend to be so emotionally invested in their opinions that they cling to them even if the evidence goes the other way. If they're emotionally knocked out of a belief in something, they tend to lose interest altogether out of some sense of shame/annoyance rather than change their opinions. Human beings are so irksome. :irked:

I really hope you're about Misato's thematic purpose in 3.0+1.0! From what Ogata and company (I'm not sure if Kotono Mitsuishi has said much but I don't think so) on Twitter, this final Eva film really does, well, feel like the finale for everything Eva. (I'm sure we'll still get plenty of spinoff video games/manga, though...)


This sounds like confirmation that Anno does have an ending to wrap up Shinji's story once and for all. In the worst case scenario, I imagine things getting Harry Pottered - a timeskip with Shinji married and having kids, that sort of conservative cliche.

You know my heart's eternally set for AsuShin getting proper resolution (with some sort of sibling! Rei + Shinji cemented, please!!) but I'm not "falling" for shipping debates :tongue: . The revival of FF7's infamous Love Triangle Debate thanks to its Remake already has my head spinning....despite me being an end game CloTi fan since '97.


Heh, it looks like the FF7 crew couldn't resist bringing that up again, could they?

Had this been Asuka Soryu, I think a romantic resolution may have been possible with both of them being the same age and having a mutual attraction to one another, but timeskip Shikinami Asuka's more likely to take on Misato's role as Shinji's big sister or mentor. She has had 14 years more experience in the world, most of that pretty grueling, and she's still angry with Shinji and thinks of him as a "brat", so while it's likely that she may form some sort of maternal or caring relationship to him, something that her older self couldn't quite get around to doing. Soryu hated dolls and explicitly didn't want to be a mother, while Shiki plays with a doll (a doll often symbolizing a substitute child for children), so Shiki, while not becoming a mother while the curse of Eva lasts, may actually decide to take on a maternal role of some sort.

It seems almost like Shinji's set to fall in love with Kaworu again (yes, I know... :shinjismile: + :kaworusparkle: + :kaos_akuma: = :asuka_geh: ) and he does meet Kaworu again or at least another "body" of his as seen in the trailer.

The romance I'd go to seeing a proper, happy resolution for is... :kamirabu: How often do you see older adults resolving longstanding romances in anime, after all?
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