[Anime] Fate/Zero: Blade of the Demonic Spear (S1E4)


FateZero

We ended last week just as things were starting to get good – Lancer had revealed himself and issued a challenge to anyone in vicinity that he up for a bout or two. How long he intended to roam the streets of Fuyuki looking for a fight is an open question, as is the question of what Lancer’s plan was if multiple Servants showed up. Fortunately for him, Saber and Irisviel boldly answered his challenge despite being cognizant of the fact that they could be walking into the most obvious trap ever set. All things considered, it will be very surprisingly if Saber and Lancer’s fight proceeds as either side plans given how many variables in this fight are out of their respective controls. Neither combatant knows of the other’s identity and Noble Phantasm; and at any moment, the fight could run out of their control with the entry of new Servants into the fray. I, for one, am holding out for a no-holds barred melee between all the Servants, but seeing as that has never happened before, I won’t hold my breath; I’ll settle instead for some three or four-way shenanigans.

Is there a woman in this series Kiritsugu won’t creep on?

We open the episode, with an intense stare-of. Saber and Lancer are locking eyes, searching for the slightest weakness to pounce on, wondering who will emerge victorious from their dance with death. As Irisviel watches on, she can’t help but be drawn by Lancer’s eyes; his green, lush eyes and she suddenly remembers everything that marriage to Kiritsugu isn’t. “Charm magic”, Saber explains, but if her anti-magic defences are so strong, how did she even know it was there? Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Saber and Irisviel fight over Lancer and Lancer explains that it’s a curse he was born with, one that predictably, only affects women. What a happy coincidence that he’s up against two women. The strange thing is that Lancer says it is a curse, which would only make sense if it affected him negatively. A safe guess would be something that would keep him from killing women; while cliché it would allow him to inflict a thorough beat-down on Saber without her actually being in any real danger. Lancer seems genuinely glad that his first opponent isn’t a pushover though in his place, I’d be careful what I wished for. Thankfully, we’re done with the traditional pre-battle banter; it’s time for some good old fashioned brawling. Kiritsugu and Maiya are off a short distance away and trying to detect Lancer’s Master moving into position as well; Kiritsugu displays some tactical intelligence by not taking position in the most obvious vantage point but instead watching the watch-post. I’ve mentioned it in the past and I’ll do it again; the various Masters’ experience and competence makes this War feel like more of an even contest. We see it with Kiritsugu’s tactical sense, with Tokiomi’s machinations, with Rider’s grandstanding. Of course, not everyone has a plan – Waver is still mostly clueless, Kariya has been missing since the first episode and we haven’t heard a peep from Ryuunosuke and Caster.

Is anyone else amused that Assassin – super spy extraordinaire – went for the most obvious vantage point in the area?

The fight continues, with Irisviel and Saber providing running commentary. I’m glad that they include both characters’ thoughts and observations – it would be weird for the entire fight to occur in silence and it’s interesting to see Saber’s thought process in the middle of a fight. Irisviel, for all her worldly innocence, is fairly observant as well and emphasizes the salient aspects of the fight so we can better appreciate its subtleties. Lancer is able to push Saber on to the defensive but she’s able to land a (very) superficial cut. Unsurprisingly enough, Saber’s invisible sword is throwing Lancer’s estimations off and the lack of information, on both sides, of the others’ Noble Phantasm is making both fighters a little more cautious than they would normally be. Kiritsugu and Maiya are keeping an eye on things from a distance; Kiritsugu with his sniper rifle has found a better vantage point than Maiya has and in short order, locates Lancer’s Master – Kayneth Archibald!  Kayneth is watching the fight as well, undoubtedly believing Irisviel to be Saber’s Master, and also unaware of Kiritsugu having him clean in his sights. Kiritsugu is about to take the shot but something seems off – he looks around and is shocked to see Assassin (one of them, anyway) still alive. Considering that Assassin-class Servants are supposed to be the stealthiest, I find it terribly amusing that Kiritsugu and Maiya have both gone undetected for longer than this alleged Assassin. Aren’t Assassins supposed to be able to mask their presences? Was it just pure luck that Kiritsugu found Assassin sitting where she was? Also, what kind of terrible Assassin just sits there in plain and open sight? Had Kiritsugu not detected her, this would have been a great opportunity for Assassin; two Masters, each focused on the other, oblivious to the threat of an Assassin that they believe to be dead. Too bad Assassin is so bad at her job.

Cover stories only work if we use them, Kirei

Kirei, watching the battle through Assassin’s eyes, reports back to his master, Tokiomi. Tokiomi takes all the information in and there is a little bit of an info-dump as Tokiomi carefully explains the implications of an Einzbern homunculus’ presence on the battlefield. It is implied that both Kirei and Tokiomi believe that Irisviel is Saber’s Master and that Kiritsugu is playing the supporting role by assisting her in non-Master matters. Kirei’s conversation with Tokiomi also establishes that Assassin has not yet detected Kiritsugu, Maiya or Kayneth; all this tells me is that Assassin is spectacularly useless. Even without the status of Heroic Spirit, Kiritsugu has gathered a lot more information than Assassin (including Assassin’s own presence) and was also inches away from eliminating a Master. Back on the increasingly crowded battlefield, Kiritsugu reassesses the situation now that Assassin has been confirmed to be alive. Maiya offers to distract Assasin so that Kiritsugu can make his move but Kiritsugu, correctly, in my opinion, opines that they are not in a position to brawl with Servants, even one as weak as Assassin. Besides, Assassin could very well take Kayneth out and Kiritsugu wouldn’t need to risk exposing himself.

This is rich coming from the guy standing in safety, not risking his neck to Saber’s sword

All this while, the duel between Lancer and Saber has been going on, with Irisviel just awkwardly watching on. This is the one thing I’ve always disliked about FSN battles; it’s almost like a Pokemon fight in how passive the Masters tend to be. Both Saber and Lancer are each filled with warm fuzzy feelings and honour-boners because of how skilled and charming and polite and dreamy and all-around wonderful the other is but Kayneth, ever the kill-joy, tells Lancer to get on with it and stop pulling his punches. He gives Lancer permission to use his Noble Phantasm; Kayneth clearly means business. I can understand his need for urgency – he is standing in an exposed position and the longer the fight drags, the more likely it is that it will be interrupted and once too many new variables enter the field, he can (and will) very quickly lose control of the situation. Still, it seems early to unveil a Noble Phantasm (FSN Lancer used his in the first episode, see where that got him). For his part, Lancer is happy enough to go all out. He drops his shorter spear and (sort of) activates his longer one. The two combatants trash-talk a little and I can’t help but think that this fight is actually pretty slow paced. In the Unlimited Blade Works adaptation, the fights were longer and more continuous but this fight is constantly being interrupted as we move from the fight, to Kiritsugu, to Assassin and to everyone else before coming back to Saber and Lancer. The end result is that it feels like a lot of time has passed while, in truth, we have no real idea of how long Saber and Lancer have been at it. It also feels like the two of them have spent more time talking and walking around each other than actually exchanging blows, but maybe now that Lancer has been authorized to use his Noble Phantasm, that will change.

“And frankly,  calling yourself ‘Saber’ seems like false advertising”

Just as I typed that, however, Lancer charges Saber and keeps her on the defensive. His activated spear is able to momentarily expose Excalibur, to Saber’s shock. Unsure of what to expect from the spear and unwilling to expose Excalibur for anyone looking on to see, Saber is forced to duck and dodge instead of taking to the offensive. She has a few close calls; Lancer isn’t messing around. Every deflection she is forced to make, to avoid be skewered, momentarily reveals Excalibur and it’s clear from Irisviel and Saber’s faces that they did not plan for this during their leisurely moonlight walks. Saber’s down but far from out, though. She intends to take advantage of an opening in Lancer’s attack to get a slash of her own in but when she tries to execute her simple strategy, Lancer’s spear, instead of glancing off her shiny armour, goes straight through it. It’s an interesting effect – the armour itself isn’t damaged, it’s almost as if the spear effectively ignored the armour’s existence. Combined with the Invisible Air dispelling, it seems like Lancer’s Noble Phantasm is an anti-magic spear. I’m just going to say that compared to what we’ve seen Servants do, an anti-magic spear is neither exciting nor intimidating. Of course, I’m assuming that’s all it can do but if so, it’s a pretty disappointing Noble Phantasm. Saber reaches the same conclusion as me and gets rid of her armour. After all, offence is the best defence; and all the more so when you have no defence. Lancer admires her courage but it seems he has a trick up his sleeve – his second spear, which he is able to use to disarm Saber and effectively negate her attack. Things are suddenly looking pretty bad for Saber; she dispelled her Invisible Air to give herself a speed boost as she charged Lancer and in doing so exposed Excalibur and got nothing but injury in return. The wound she received didn’t look too deep but it’s worrying that Lancer is able to so confidently hold his own.

TFW you realize your Servant is either crazy confident or crazy lazy

There is another set of onlookers that haven’t paid for the pay-per-view but are still enjoying the show – Rider and Waver, from their little nest on top of the Fuyuki Bridge. Well, Rider, at least, is looking on; Waver is still getting over his fear of heights. Waver is more than content to sit back and let Saber and Lancer hack each other to pieces but Rider wants the glory of actually defeating them. He says some Gilgamesh-esque things about how it would be easier for him to just defeating them at once than go through the trouble of snuffing them out one at a time. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of, with boasts like that. I just hope he isn’t one of those characters that talks smack but doesn’t show up on game day. It doesn’t seem like he is though; Rider’s an airbag but he’s no coward. In some sense, he’s a battle purist – he’s not really in this for the Grail, he’s here to fight strong opponent and see what the best of other Ages have to offer. While I do find Waver annoying, I do think that strategically speaking, he is being more prudent. Regardless of how strong Rider is, there is little to be gained from exposing themselves so early or trying to do the unthinkable and take on all the other Servants at once. He ends his little speech by flicking Waver’s complaints off and stating his vision of conquest: victory without destruction, defeating his enemies but not humiliating them – he is the kind of guy who you wouldn’t mind losing to because you know he will treat you well. Rider declares he is done watching from the side-lines and summons his very impressive ride; he is enroute to Saber and Lancer, to put an end to both their fight and their lives.

Seriously, get a room

Neither Saber nor Lancer are looking too great themselves though; Lancer has severed Saber’s tendon and her left hand now hangs limp and useless while Saber was able to land a deep gash in Lancer’s arm as well. The true damage of Lancer’s blow is revealed just as Kayneth restates his impatience; Saber’s wounds cannot be healed. We get the names of Lancer’s spears – Gae Dearg (the magic dispelling sword) and Gae Buidhe. Those names don’t tell me a whole lot except that this Lancer, like his Fate/Stay Night counterpart, is also Irish. Wasn’t there a rule somewhere that stated that a Servant has to state the name of a Noble Phantasm before using it? Or did Lancer not officially use his Noble Phantasms just yet? Either way, it seems that Saber has figured out who this Lancer is – he is Diarmuid of the Radiant Face, appropriately enough. It’s a name that means nothing to me but sounds harmless enough. I would have taken him a little more seriously if he had been named Diarmuid the Brutal or something. If history remembers you mainly for having a pretty face, I’m sorry, but I can’t help but be a little dismissive. The mole beneath his right eye is said to enchant women and I can’t for the life of me understand why he considers it a curse. I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, but still, talk about first world problems. Both Saber and Diarmuid have little fan-girl/fan-boy moments when they realize who they are facing and their little mutual appreciation society is exactly as palatable as that one couple in which neither side can decide who loves the other more.

JOHN CENA

AND HIS NAME IS…

The two are about to continue their fight, but just then, Rider pops up. He instructs them to sheathe their weapons and bow; they are in the presence of not just a king, but the King of Conquerors, the most famous general of the ancient world, Iskander the Great. Waver cannot believe his Servant just casually introduced himself for the world to see, but both if Saber and Lancer knew each other, they most definitely recognize the Persian/Indian name of Alexander the Great. Rider’s entry into this battle brings the total Servant count present here up to four – Assassin, skulking in the Shadows, Saber, Lancer and Rider himself. The episode ends with everyone except Rider dumbstruck by his sudden entry and uncertain of how to react. I guess Rider can have that effect on people.

I don’t have much else to say about this episode. The fight scenes were as gorgeous as I’ve come to expect from Ufotable though there are times with the artwork seemed less than – clear? Almost as though it was lower resolution or like the finer details of the characters faces hadn’t been fully drawn. It was pretty noticeable in several spots, and there were moments when Lancer had strange looking expression on his face and others where his face just looked blank and devoid of features. I don’t normally pay much attention to artistic details, but some of these really stood out. I also realized that the totality of Irisviel’s contributions to this episode were standing around, healing Saber (once), and looking shocked/confused/worried as appropriate the rest of the time. You’d think that she’d learn but nope,

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24 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Zero: Blade of the Demonic Spear (S1E4)

  1. Oh boy, so many things I’d want to say that would border on spoiling…

    Well, let’s see what’s safe. First, about Lancer’s curse. Without going into the specifics of his legend (which I guess is fair game to check out, now), it’s actually quite easy to see why he’s not too crazy about it. I mean, could you imagine if any woman you’d meet would fall hopelessly in love with you, no matter what you want? It’s even worse when you consider he’s from medieval times, where mariage (among the higher society) is a careful business lacking any romanticism, and then suddenly there’s this jackass throwing everything into disarray. Yeah, let’s just say this thing had not given Lancer a happy life.

    Now, why he simply did not chose to cover that mole with something is anyone’s guess.

    On his value as a Servant, I tend to cateogrize him as good, but lacking in the sheer ‘oomph’ that other heavy hitters can bring to the table. His luck here is that his two noble phantasm are really well suited to fight someone who would engage in good old-fashioned melee, exactly like Saber. Had any other servant responded, he might have been in a lot of trouble. And as you noted, such an open challenge can easily go completely wrong, and it seems that ‘plan’ is already beginning to unravel.

    About Assassin… yeah, they seem rather bad at their jobs, don’t they? When all is said and done, I think we will have a lot to say about the way Tokiomi and Kirei chose their strategies.

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    • I’ll keep an eye on Lancer, but he doesn’t feel noteworthy in any way. As for Assassin, I alternate between being annoyed and amused by them.

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  2. “I, for one, am holding out for a no-holds barred melee between all the Servants…”

    Fate/Apocrypha. Too bad only half of it’s been translated.

    Anyway, yeah Assassin’s choice of vantage point was… questionable… to say the least. You know a Servant is useless when he makes True Assassin seem more competent. So much for Rank A+ Presence Concealment.

    And there is nothing wrong with Diarmuid as a Servant per say, but unfortunately for him, the shoes he has to fill are Cu Chulainn’s. I remember being completely underwhelmed by his presence when I first watched this episode despite the fact that he was giving Saber such a hard time with his two fancy spears. I find it hilarious that Cu vs Saber left a greater impact on me compared to this despite the fact that he used his Noble Phantasm and failed. I don’t know if it was the mole or how neither of them could shut up about the other or what.

    All in all, fun to read as per usual. The next one should be interesting.

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    • True Assassin from HF is incompetent? We’re talking about the guy who used the Shadow along with his own strength to defeat Caster, Lancer, Saber, and Berserker.

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      • Well, being incredibly weak to the point he can only serve as a distraction can really be called his “strength” in those fights, so i can’t fault you there.
        In any other situation, however, Assassin will be as good as a human in any 1v1 Servant fight. It’s really amusing how in the only fight where True Assassin could finally show his abilities as the “Master Killer” he was paired against his worst match up in both wars.

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      • To be fair, any of the Servants could’ve beaten the rest if they had the Shadow hax. True Assassin on his own, especially after the entry he had, failed to impress. Dunno about Caster but all the other battles he would’ve lost if the Shadow didn’t get the jump on the Servants. Throwing dirks at other Servants which they easily dodge fails to leave much of an impression aside from that of incompetence. Which I suppose is unfair considering we never actually saw him play to the strengths of his class, but I don’t remember the narrative doing him any favours.

        Probably the worst written character of F/SN but that’s a different discussion.

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        • He’s supposed to be and is the weakest Servant in the 5th war. He’s not even supposed to fight Servants, but Masters, but he does so anyway head on and uses the Shadow to make up for his weakness and defeats the stronger Servants.For the weakest to defeat the strongest is pretty impressive, regardless of how it is done especially considering he is Assassin. Yeah the others could have used the Shadow to win battles like Assassin did, but they didn’t because they relied on their own power to win, which Assassin can not do against Servants.

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          • Did I not admit that already though? That we never saw Assassin play to the strengths of his class. But thing is, he might be really good at what he’s supposed to do but if there is nothing in the narrative that supports this claim, then it’s all assumption on our part. He could be bad too and we still wouldn’t know. And I’m sorry but I’ll disagree and say that his contribution to defeating the other Servants was secondary. His role in the battles was to distract the Servants until the Shadow did it’s thing, and if it is something that anyone could’ve done, it’s not anything especially noteworthy. He failed to leave his own mark as a character. I like Nasu as much as the next guy, but TA as an antagonist was severely lacking. Neither did he have a feat that his was own, nor was his story/arc a particularly compelling one. We never saw him shine as a character basically and that’s my problem with TA in a nutshell. That despite an introduction that made me wary of him, the more time he spent on screen, the more all over the place he seemed.

            Feel free to correct me on any point as it has been a while.

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    • Does Fate/Apocrypha come after Fate/HA? I think Cu worked better because we first saw him through the eyes of Shirou (and Rin) and their perspective conveyed how dangerous and menacing Cu could be. Here, with Saber to defend Irisviel, any threat Diarmuid poses is instantly muted.

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      • Apoc goes parallel. It’s a different universe where 3rd Grail War went wronger than usual and today there’s two teams of 7 servants gearing up to fight in Europe. It’s questionably good and not completely translated. Also fanfictiony as hell, but that might be a plus in some books.

        Diarmuid gets a very milquetoast intro that evokes no emotion whatsoever, no wonder, no tension, no amusement. Compare this to Alexander conquering the library or Gilles’ shenanigans. Saber doesn’t get anything like that either but she’s coming in from FSN and we’re already invested in her.
        Diarmuid is screwed right off the bat by an ungood intro and he looks like a lame palette swap. Whatever plot does, things aren’t looking up for the dude.

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      • It’s an alternate universe where the aforementioned (in Zero) bit of Risei overseeing the third grail war plays some importance, though it and the other AU takes are probably best seen after Hollow and Zero yeah-for instance there’s an Apo character who has significant ties to a Zero character, alongside the Risei thing.

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      • Like others have mentioned, F/A is an alternate timeline which diverges from the main one during the 3rd HGW when the greater grail is stolen (not a spoiler). It takes place pretty much around the same time FSN would’ve happened. 2 out of 5 novels have been translated so far if you’re interested but it’s recommended to read HA beforehand and familiarize yourself with the main timeline before branching out to the AUs like this and Kaleid.

        FA features a war between 2 different factions so you have 2 sets of 7 Servants pitted against each other which is fun. It’s more action driven than character driven though, what with that gigantic cast of characters and all.

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    • Subzero and Scorpion are cool but all those other rainbow ninjas are lame because they’re just trying to ride the coattails of their betters. Diarmuid looks like he belongs in that same boat.

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  3. One thing I’ve always disliked about Fate/Zero is how it failed (for me at least) to really make the Servants feel “superhuman” in a majority of the fights. Sure they kick up great clouds of dust and dirt but that’s about it. In F/SN I definitely got more of a feel that they were these beings “out of this world”, so to speak.

    I love how Rider reveals his true identity to the enemy servants without a care in the world, I remember my jaw dropping at the brazen recklessness of it back when. You can’t not like the guy, to be expected though, that’s what “Charisma: A” does i guess.

    I don’t understand how Kiritsugu noticed Assassin in the first place, whatever happened to presence concealment? I don’t know, it’s just one of those things that has always bugged me.

    Looking forward to reading your review of the next episode!

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    • “One thing I’ve always disliked about Fate/Zero is how it failed (for me at least) to really make the Servants feel “superhuman” in a majority of the fights. Sure they kick up great clouds of dust and dirt but that’s about it. In F/SN I definitely got more of a feel that they were these beings “out of this world”, so to speak.”

      Man, I personally loved that. In Fate/Zero they feel like peak humans that seem believable as heroes. It’s still clear why humans wouldn’t be able to fight them since they still physically and skillfully outclass any of the masters in the war. It doesn’t line up with how Fate/Stay Night describes servants but I don’t think that alone is a bad thing, especially since some of the fights where Shirou is fighting a servant would feel a lot less dumb if he didn’t have to be moving at literal supersonic speeds and have the strength to lift tons just to keep up with the servants.

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      • I am pretty sure that the spell that Kotomine uses to see through Assassin’s eyes requires him to not be in spirit form. As for why he chose the most obvious vantage point? That’s clearly an issue of stupidity and wanting to let Kirei see everything that happens and believing that no one would be watching out for Assassin any more after his apparent death.

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  4. True to FSN, FZ tends to save its greater confrontations for the later half while leaving you hanging in the first battles-so i’ll just say not to expect conclusive fights at this point in time.

    Assassins reasoning is as follows;

    He could have remained in spiritual form and obtain information from a much closer distance. But while he is in spiritual form, his senses would have turned into spiritual detection; and the job that his Master gave him tonight was to ‘observe with your eyes.’

    Not the strongest reasoning or a real excuse for placing himself in an obvious vantage point where a human could easily spot him, but hey.

    Noble Phantasms names are called when invoking their abilities,so to speak-passive abilities don’t require it. Some NPs are purely passive, some both, and some have no passive abilities.

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    • I honestly feel that Assassin’s choice of vantage point was done more for the aesthetic reason (from the series’ POV) of having this dark mysterious figure perched over a battlefield. Just for the cool factor, pretty much.

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  5. Honestly, one of the weakest characters and points in Fate/Zero is the usage of Assassin. You haven’t even seen the worst of it yet. They are just laughably incompetent in Zero for some strange reason. Although I suspect the reason Assassin didn’t go into spirit form here was because Kirei has to see the battle through his eyes and it probably wouldn’t work the same if Assassin was in spirit form. Still doesn’t explain why the hell Assassin chose the most visible point on the map, but it makes sense why he didn’t go into spirit form.

    “This is the one thing I’ve always disliked about FSN battles; it’s almost like a Pokemon fight in how passive the Masters tend to be.”

    I don’t think that happens much in Zero, fortunately. It makes sense why Irisviel is just sitting around here because her job is to act as a decoy, and to heal Saber. And Kayneth probably doesn’t want to reveal his magic here since EVERYONE will be watching. But in later battles all of the masters take up the initiative.

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  6. Overall again things will make more sense as you go through F/Z. Lancer’s character being the main one, though compared to the other servants he still came up short for overall, I got his character and his reasons. They just weren’t all that interesting overall. Plus Cu is hard to replace in the lancer role due to his personality and interactions with Rin and Shirou in Unlimited blade works along with his actions as well in that route.

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