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Author Topic: This is going to sound really weird, but...
Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted February 15, 2006 23:22      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was once a regular church-goer, but not now. I haven't turned atheist or anything like that; I'm just not very religious any more. Still, it is part of my background, so I remember the basic ideas reasonably well. If somebody starts talking about original sin or the Rapture, I don't have to say, "Huh?"

So what has this to do with anime? Well, this is going to sound really weird, but...

Is the ton of Christian allegory in Go Nagai's Shin Cutey Honey deliberate? Yes, Cutey Honey: the busty android with the exploding clothes. The reason I want to talk about it is because I see so much Christian allegory in it that it’s hard to believe that it isn’t on purpose. Now, you wouldn’t think that a show about a shapely, transforming android would have this sort of thing, but it does.

Do any of you watch Smallville? You know how they are always putting Clark in crucifixion poses, and how a high percentage of buildings in that small Kansas town seem to have stained glass windows? Well, that’s what I see happening in Shin Cutey Honey. Some of the things which caught my attention are:

Honey died, but her father brought her back as an android, with an improved body that can transform. Or, to put it another way: she died and was resurrected in a glorified body. OK, so the same thing could be said about a lot of characters, and if it wasn’t for the other allegory, I probably wouldn’t have even thought of this.

An android is manufactured (born?) without sex being involved. Thus, Honey is the result of a virgin birth. Yes, this is even more tenuous than the resurrection thing, but again, with the other stuff, it adds up.

She hangs out with, and is often pictured standing between, Akakabu and Daiko Hayami: two thieves. I think she even gets stuck to a wall between them in episode three.

She didn’t know she was an android, or that she had powers, until she found herself in an emergency and prayed to God for guidance. God, not Buddha or Amateresu or anything like that. Then God unlocked the seal on her programming, and she realized who and what she is. Sounds like enlightenment to me.

Finally, and this is the one that started me along this line of thought: in episode three, there is a villain who can inject people with a drug that mutates them into a monster. The drug works by seeking out that little bit of evil that even the best of people have in them, and causing that inner beast to manifest physically. No matter how good a person you like to think that you are, you (or I) have a bit of evil in you (or me). Christians call this the "sin nature." Well, the drug doesn’t work on Honey, because she doesn’t have that. Now, God answers her prayer, so she has a soul, but she has no sin nature. Cutey Honey is an unfallen being.

Then there is the standard superhero thing about being capable of "miraculous" deeds, being prepared to sacrifice herself for the sake of others, and other things which, if it hadn’t been for that unfallen bit, I wouldn’t think of as allegory. But that “no sin nature” is a bit hard to dismiss, and when you add in the two thieves, etc. it’s cow-stunningly obvious that Honey is a Christ-figure. Just like Frodo or Aslan.

I’ve recently started to watch some of the original Cutey Honey eps from the 1970’s. In these, Honey herself seems a bit less saintly, but then again in those eps she does attend a Christian school, with lots of stained glass, Madonna and Child statues, and crosses in abundance. I didn’t notice much allegory in the live-action movie of a few years ago.

I'm far from being an expert on Go Nagai's work, or on the man himself. I know that Christianity is a minority religion in Japan, but that Japanese Christians do tend to take their faith seriously. About Go Nagai's religious background I have no idea.

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Men are strange beasts.
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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 07:23      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oy gevalt!

Cutey Honey is just a ridiculous, mildly amusing anime series... [Wink] [Razz]

That is a pretty fascinating spin on it, but I think that's really reading it way too deeply.

That said, Cutey Honey is definitely something of a heavenly body. [Wink]

Welcome to Geek Culture! [Smile]

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 08:23      Profile for Astronomer Jedi   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Welcome Sailor B [Smile]

I probably wouldn't worry too much about finding Christian symoblism in literature or entertainment. Many Christian values can be found in other religions and spiritualities, and are themselves not original, being based on Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman ideas.

Out of their biblical setting some themes also make good entertainment. Think of all the fictional heroes and heroines who seemingly give up their lives for their cause, only to be found alive at some later point (like Aslan). Or the redemption plots where characters fall and then redeem themselves through an act of atonement, often sacrificing their own lives in the process (like Anakin Skywalker). These are by no means solely Christian themes.

This is part of the reason why I no longer go to church or read the bible. I can find tales with similar themes and morals elsewhere, be they modern or ancient works.

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Estne volumen in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?

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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 10:28      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I would certainly agree that Christianity has no monopoly on compassion, self-sacrifice, etc. Sailor Moon exemplefies compassion and self-sacrifice, AND she dies and comes back to life - several times! And yet I've never thought that Naoko Takeuchi was trying to present Sailor Moon as a Christ figure. Also, a story in which a dying girl's mind is transfered to a powerful android body gives you "virgin birth," "resurrection," and "glorified body" by default. This is pretty much Honey's origin story.

But the girl has no sin nature, and this is a plot point. And she has that possible "default imagery." And she hangs out with two thieves, and is often pictured between them. OK, granted, Lupin hangs out with thieves, but he's a thief himself. Honey is not. Lupin has never (AFAIK) been presented as an unfallen being. Even Smallville doesn't try to present Clark Kent as somebody without a sin nature, for all that they crucify him every chance that they get.

This stuff got a lot more blatant in Shin Cutey Honey. From what I've seen so far of the 1973 series, the whole "she goes to a Christian school" thing is just to show us that Honey is a "good girl" and to perhaps add a touch of the exotic. Honey isn't sneaking out of class in Shin, and there is no ugly lesbian teacher trying to put the make on her.

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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 10:57      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I haven't seen the anime in question, but it wouldn't surprise me if you're right. There's been some pretty obvious christian imagery in other anime I've seen, it seems to be a Japanese way of making their stuff 'accessible' to westerners.

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 10:57      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Welcome to the forums, Barsoom.

I also have noticed that several Anime shows play with Christian mythology. I believe they do it for a lot of the same reasons Hollywood does, which is because those themes resonate with the viewers. It really isn't hard to find a large number of movies that have, intentionally or otherwise, Christian themes and imagery. The Matrix movies come to mind, as well as Lord of the Rings (well, that goes back to the book, but the same general concept applies).

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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MandysRad
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Icon 1 posted February 16, 2006 19:59      Profile for MandysRad   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
All I can say is "Google it". [Smile]
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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted February 17, 2006 15:04      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well I did that! [Wink]
I've talked this over with some folks I know to be both anime fans and practising Christians, and they have pointed out the near-universality of compassion and self-sacrifice as virtues, as some of you have here. The thing thats makes them think there might be some deliberate allegory is the same thing that I consider the biggie: Honey's unfallen status. They have also given me more Christian perspective on this than I could have managed on my own. Problem is, absolutely none of them have seen Shin Cutey Honey. They avoid it because of the excessive fan service. So they basically have to go on their knowlege of anime in general, and on what I tell them. But of course I'm already coming from the point of view that the allegory is there.

Erg. I lost my VHS of this some time ago. I need to see it again, and be able to go over parts that I think might be especially significant. And I need to be able to watch Honey's henshin over and over and over because, well, datte nanda ka, datte datte nanda mon. I'm asking my GF to get the DVD for me for my birthday. Hey, I deseve it. You don't turn 40 every day (thank GOD!). [Beard of Peter Gabriel!]

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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 10 posted February 22, 2006 21:56      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was talking about this on another board, and one person posted back:
quote:
I get it: she's an Immaculate Contraption.


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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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Mochan
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Icon 1 posted April 04, 2006 16:26      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My first anime was probably Voltes V. Not really sure, it's been a while.
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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted April 20, 2006 08:23      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, it finally came in. With what they charged for shipping, they should have sent Go Nagai to hand it to me in person. So I have seen more than the two or three eps from the VHS I had some time ago.

I can now answer such questions as "does she [Honey Kisaragi] pray to God, or to god?" Ep 1 has her being told to pray for the strength to fight, to pray to know what to do. Exactly to whom she is praying is never made clear, though the prayer is answered. This is the same in both sub and dub.

I'd stated that in ep 3 she is stuck to a wall between two thieves. I was a little off on that. First off, it is ep 4, not ep 3. The two thieves are several feet from Honey, and she is not between them. I no longer think that there is anything to this scene.

Hardly matters, though, as in ep 2 she is hanging on a cross, just before letting herself be "entombed" for the sake of others, and then coming back in a flash of light. As has been noted, hanging the hero on a cross is nothing new to anime, and seldom has anything of Christianity to it (other than that it happens to good guys who don't deserve such mistreatment). But this was a bit much.

It might also be pointed out that Shin Cutey Honey is sort of a Second Coming, though that might not have been Nagai's intention. Honey has been out of action for something like eighty years, but now she's back. Danbei has lived a lot longer than normal, waiting for her return. It may or may not be significant that Honey is not reincarnated, but has been living a normal life all that time, her true nature sealed away in her programming.

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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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Mochan
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Icon 1 posted April 20, 2006 15:00      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
No, I don't think Cutey Honey has any Christian allegory in it. It's just coincidence. If Japanese wanted to put Christian allegory into an anime, they'd put in actual weird and oblique references to it like Dead Sea Scrolls, Lance of Longinus, you know all that crap.

quote:

Also, a story in which a dying girl's mind is transfered to a powerful android body gives you "virgin birth," "resurrection," and "glorified body" by default. This is pretty much Honey's origin story.

Ah, but she had no virgin mother, the death and resurrection happen before the 1st episode even begins, she is made of silicon and plastic, not flesh and blood, and hey she's a woman not a man. And it wasn't Christmas when she was reborn. And how do you know Honey didn't do all sorts of bad things as a girl? You can't say she has no sin nature. And Jesus doesn't hang out with thieves, he hangs out with fishermen and tax collectors. He just got hung with thieves.

No, the story is far from the Christian story.

Going to a Christian school doesn't make you a good girl. It just makes you straight-laced in front of authority. In Japanese anime, all girl Christian schools are steaming pits of yuri behind the scenes.

How about Nuku Nuku? A cat died and was reborn into a glorified android body. Do you want to tell me that's a Christian allegory as well?


quote:

It might also be pointed out that Shin Cutey Honey is sort of a Second Coming, though that might not have been Nagai's intention.

Obviously not the intention, because what would re: Cutey Honey be then? The 5th Coming? And Go Nagai had nothing to do with Shin Cutey Honey.
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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted April 20, 2006 15:36      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mochan:
Lance of Longinus,

Who?

quote:
And Jesus doesn't hang out with thieves, he hangs out with fishermen and tax collectors. He just got hung with thieves.
~John 12:4-6, NIV~
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Not that I have any knowledge of Japanese anime, but just thought I'd interject what I know of Jesus' disciples. [Wink]

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Mochan
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Icon 1 posted April 20, 2006 22:30      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh, Judas was a thief? I thought he was one of those pesky tax collectors. [Smile] No wait... tax collectors are thieves! Only legalized with the blessings of the state. [Razz]

You're right, I stand corrected, Jesus was in the company of thieves!

Longinus is not a name you will see in the bible, it's in the mythos as the name of the soldier who poked Jesus' side on the cross. The story goes that water spurted out of his side and got into Longinus' blind eye, and suddenly he could see again.

Most Christian-type references in anime are based on less-known sources like this rather than the bible. In fact, some of them aren't Christian references at all but closer to Jewish Mysticism and other related sources.

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted April 21, 2006 01:12      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Mochan, Matthew (Levi) was the tax collector. So was Zaccheus. Judas was the shady accountant... kinda like Andrew Fastow. [Razz]

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Change the way you SEE, not the way you LOOK!

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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted April 23, 2006 16:58      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Ah, but she had no virgin mother, the death and resurrection happen before the 1st episode even begins, she is made of silicon and plastic, not flesh and blood, and hey she's a woman not a man.
She was born out of a laboratory, which is about as "virgin" as it gets. There was no sex involved. Death and resurrection happen "before" in the Gospel of John. Yes, plastic and female (though she does bleed), not flesh and male. I said she was a Christ figure, not that she was Christ.
quote:
And it wasn't Christmas when she was reborn.
I'm tempted to ask if it was Easter, but it probably wasn't.
quote:
Going to a Christian school doesn't make you a good girl. It just makes you straight-laced in front of authority. In Japanese anime, all girl Christian schools are steaming pits of yuri behind the scenes.
And this is no exception. The 1973 series makes it overwhelmingly obvious that the ugly teacher wants to do Honey. And really, I see little allegory in the 1973 series. Lots of Christian imagery, but the only allegorical things are those "default" bits, like virgin birth (applies to almost any robot/android). All the stained glass and Madonna & Child paintings and such seem to be for "atmosphere" or "exotica."
quote:
How about Nuku Nuku? A cat died and was reborn into a glorified android body. Do you want to tell me that's a Christian allegory as well?
I'm not familiar enough with Nuku Nuku to have an informed opinion. If that's all there is, then it would seem to be more "default allegory," which is a weird term, I'll admit.
quote:
And Go Nagai had nothing to do with Shin Cutey Honey.
Could you elaborate on that? It's certainly labeled as "Go Nagai's New Cutey Honey Collection One and Two." But if Nagai was less involved with this than with the others... Not sure if that strengthens or weakens my case.

I should add that I don't think that Nagai (or anybody else) made this in order to "lead lost souls to Jesus."

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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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Mochan
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Icon 1 posted April 23, 2006 18:15      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Barsoom
She was born out of a laboratory, which is about as "virgin" as it gets. There was no sex involved. Death and resurrection happen "before" in the Gospel of John. Yes, plastic and female (though she does bleed), not flesh and male. I said she was a Christ figure, not that she was Christ.

You're overlooking one very crucial point here:

The virgin is Jesus' mother, not Jesus himself. If anything, this point would make her a Mary figure, not a Christ figure.


quote:
Could you elaborate on that? It's certainly labeled as "Go Nagai's New Cutey Honey Collection One and Two." But if Nagai was less involved with this than with the others... Not sure if that strengthens or weakens my case.
Nah forget I brought up this point, it's irrelevant to the actual allegory.
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Sailor Barsoom
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Icon 1 posted April 23, 2006 20:01      Profile for Sailor Barsoom   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
ACK! ACK! [Eek!]

I'm doing a poor job with the whole "virgin" thing. What I'm saying is that:

Jesus was manufactured in a way that did not involve sex.

Honey was manufactured in a way that did not involve sex.

Mary was manufactured through the time-tested method of sexual intercourse (whether or not God performed a sin-ectomy on her at the moment of conception is something that Catholics and Protestants argue about).

Mary was herself a virgin, but was not a product of virgin birth. Jesus and Honey were. Then again, so was Artoo Deetoo. So again, if that's all there was...

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Men are strange beasts.
- John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

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Danapoppa
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Icon 1 posted May 04, 2006 03:21      Profile for Danapoppa     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If I may respond to the original question (without going into detail re: who was a thief and who was a virgin):

Yes, you will quite often find examples of Christian imagery in Japanese anime. I can't speak for Shin Cutey Honey, not having seen it, but I suspect it is possible to identify many examples of such imagery, often far more blatant than those referenced by Sailor Barsoom, scattered throughout the genre.

I think it would be going a bit too far, however, to refer to the use of Christian symbolism in Japanime as "Christian allegory." Such language implies that the author is trying to say something about the Christian religion, and in most cases nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, there may be a few Japanese anime artists who are Christian to some degree or another, but I would guess that they would be rare (since only about one percent of Japan's population is Christian).

So why would non-Christian anime artists use Christian imagery? I don't think this is done to appeal to Western audiences, as the Druid has suggested. Japan's pop culture industries have a long history of failing to consider that they might have viable markets in the West; generally speaking all decisions about content and marketing have been based entirely on how well something will sell in Japan. This has only recently begun to change, Miyazaki's big deal with Disney being the obvious turning point.

(Previously the Japanese video game industry was the only one to avoid this sort of insularity, and even there you'll have to admit that Japanese companies didn't go out of their way to accommodate their non-Japanese audiences. "All your base are belong to us," after all!)

No, the answer is much much simpler: Christian imagery appeals to the Japanese anime artist because it is exotic. If you look at Japanese anime you will also find many examples of imagery, motifs, themes, and archetypes from Western mysticism and ceremonial magic, neopaganism, the Cthulhu mythos, et cetera ad infinitum, in many instances mixed up with each other and even with the Christian stuff. All these things appeal to Japanese artists because they represent something other than the traditional Japanese motifs that have been done over and over for many decades (or indeed for many centuries).

In other words: if there is Christian content in Shin Cutey Honey, it's most likely there for the same reason that there's Japanese imagery (such as samurai and ninja) in American comic books: Because it's cool.

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