Terror in Resonance Ep. 5: The more things change, the more they stay the same

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Nineteen years ago, members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo “released sarin on several lines of the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people….” When I saw our terrorists plant a bomb on a train in this week’s episode, I thus wondered, “Is the anime brave enough to go there?” Invoking 9/11 imagery in the show’s first episode is one thing, since the Japanese public have not actually had to live through such a tragedy. Well, not to that magnitude, anyway. Attacking the Tokyo subway, however, is different. 1995 is a long time ago, but for people my age in Japan, seeing an attack on the Tokyo subway might still be hitting it a little too close to home. So I suppose it should come to no surprise then that the tables have suddenly been turned. Instead of the authorities racing against the clock to defuse Nine and Twelve’s bombs, it is ironically Nine and Twelve who must race against the clock lest they stain their hands with the blood of innocent people. And instead of a Sarin gas attack killing thirteen people and injuring many more, Nine finds it necessary to throw down a gas canister in order to disperse the crowd and thus save their lives. Ironies upon ironies, Nine couldn’t defuse his own bomb in time. In fact, he could barely save a napping woman on a train.

But it’s strange, isn’t it? Our two intrepid terrorists are not — nor do they want to be — serial killers:

Twelve: “At this rate, in a little over an hour, we’ll be mass murderers.”
Nine: “If worst comes to worst, we’ll have to use this to deactivate it.”

This is why the riddles are so easy for Shibazaki to solve; again, the boys don’t actually want to take any innocent life. Still, what if their assumptions about Shibazaki had been incorrect? Nevermind the guy being too dumb to solve their riddles, ’cause we know he’s not. But what if Shibazaki had suddenly fallen ill that day? What if he had gotten into an accident? Hell, even assuming Shibazaki or someone else could solve the riddle, what if the bomb squad had screwed up and failed to defuse the bomb correctly? Sure, you could point to the fact that until Five intervened, Sphinx could’ve just deactivated the bomb remotely with their cellphones, but even then, there’s a small but nevertheless plausible chance that technology can malfunction as technology is often wont to do. If the boys don’t actually want to endanger anyone’s lives, then why even play with something as dangerous as bombs? Isn’t it a little too crazy to assume that — barring any outside influence from another super-intelligent individual much like themselves — everything would go according to plan? Or does this whole scenario nevertheless require a little suspension of disbelief from the audience? The answer perhaps lies somewhere in the middle. Honestly, you’d have to be a little crazy to become a terrorist.

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Still, it’s clear now that while Nine and Twelve have been trying to have some fun with the authorities — and humiliate them in the process by leaking the details of the investigation to the public — they are also looking for a special individual like Shibazaki at the same time. And now that they’ve found him, they’re hoping to point the wizened detective in a certain direction. After all, who would take a pair of runaway kids seriously? Even if Nine and Twelve had all the evidence in the world to implicate some very important people in the Japanese government, they know they need someone on their side that the rest of the country can take seriously. That someone is Shibazaki. In any case, the detective has connected the dots, linking the boys’ attacks to four individuals belonging to some organization known as the Rising Peace Academy. In fact, he’s the only person within the department who is willing to even consider the idea that the boys are trying to send a message. The topic of this episode’s riddle is hardly accidental either. Sphinx forces the investigators to dredge up a case where a school had overstepped its boundaries, thereby causing four kids to suffer from a heatstroke. The abuses of power, especially against Japanese youth, appear to be what Nine and Twelve want to bring to light. What they have failed to predict, however, is that while they are hesitant to take innocent lives, the powers that be are not.

The upper ranks told Shibazaki and the rest of the investigative team to stand down. The upper ranks also assured Shibazaki and the rest of the team that another team — a special assault team — would take care of the bomb. That didn’t happen. The bomb was allowed to go off, and if Nine hadn’t intervened, it would’ve killed a bunch of people. And y’know what? The upper ranks have devilishly realized that they can afford to allow such a tragedy to occur. In their mind, so what if the bomb goes off? The public would just blame Sphinx anyway. Sphinx have directly implicated themselves with all those online videos they’ve streamed to the public. People were content to laugh at the authorities so long as none of the attacks had taken any lives, but we came oh-so-close in this week’s episode to actual bloodshed. And had a tragedy actually occurred, it would’ve just rallied the public opinion against the two boys, thereby concealing the motives of the upper ranks even further. Whatever the two boys were hoping to accomplish — whatever message they were hoping to send — would’ve just been lost in the sea of anger and cries for vengeance. The truth is, Nine and Twelve’s stunt in last week’s episode may have gone too far. As a result, we finally meet Five, and the timing couldn’t have been any more apropos.

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Shortly after Nine and Twelve had humiliated the authorities, the upper ranks immediately called upon another super-intelligent individual for help. The lady isn’t called Five because it’s a quirky, little name. She’s Five because she used to attend that mysterious institute with the two boys. The upper ranks aren’t dumb; I’m sure they’ve realized by now what they’re up against, and you gotta fight fire with fire. I mean, let’s take stock. Two super-intelligent boys had escaped from a mysterious institute and gone off the radar. Just a while ago, some plutonium was stolen from a nuclear processing facility. And now, incredibly well-thought-out and coordinated attacks are striking key locations in Tokyo and humiliating the authorities all at the same time. It has taken Shibazaki a few episodes to connect the dots, but that’s because he doesn’t have all the details; he knows nothing about a mysterious institute full of super-intelligent children. These upper ranks, however, do have all the details. And after the information “bomb” in last week’s episode, they must have realized by now that if they delay any further, more serious information will be leaked. As a result, they’re willing to risk the lives of the people on the subway today. Nine and Twelve have now entered a very dangerous game, because, unlike themselves, their opponents are willing to become murderers.

‘Cause forget the details of the current investigation. That’s just fun and games for Sphinx. Our two boys, however, are after something bigger. You don’t just point your fingers at several very important people in Japan if you don’t have something juicy to eventually reveal to the entire world. As a result, the upper ranks are done sweating bullets. The boys are now the ones who have to hide in this cat-and-mouse game. What’s interesting, however, is how things have stayed the same even after so many years. I’ve already mentioned how the sarin gas attack of 1995 is related to the gas “attack” in this week’s episode. The only difference is that some form of gas is now saving people’s lives rather than the other way around. There are, however, other interesting coincidences to consider. Once Nine realized who he was up against, we immediately see a flashback where a younger Five had seemingly terrorized him in a game of hide-and-seek. Fast forward to the present, Nine must continue to hide as Five looks for him and Twelve. As for Shibazaki, he already lost his job once investigating people he had been warned not to investigate. Thanks to the boys’ clues, however, he again finds himself in an all too familiar position: “To have to collect evidence against people from the police department again…”

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With all these coincidences, the fact that this week’s episode centers around an attack on the Tokyo subway is likely not an accident either. Life seemingly stays on-rails until something comes along and knocks us off our tracks. That being said, not everything has stayed the same for our characters. There’s one variable no one on either side of the fence has accounted for, and that’s Lisa. At the moment, it seems as though Lisa doesn’t really belong anywhere. She doesn’t belong in the real world, nor does she belong with the boys either. Hell, the authorities don’t even know she exists. Meanwhile, Nine and Twelve only keep her around because she has nowhere else to go. When the situation turned dire in this week’s episode, Lisa became invisible to them as well. At some point, however, Lisa’s story will have to tie into the bigger picture. At some point, she will need to become the catalyst that alters the path that these boys are currently on. I mean, just how much longer will she remain a weak, vulnerable character for them to pity? How much longer will she remain useless, cooking up burnt dishes and smoking out the entire apartment (this could’ve alerted outside attention to the boys’ hideout)? I suspect Lisa will derail the currently cyclical nature of the story; it just remains to be seen how she will do so.

Stray observations:

— Twelve can’t help but continue empathizing with the girl: “She ran away from home, wandered around, was caught by the police and then puked… It looks like she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She said she wanted to escape from this world. She said she doesn’t have a place to belong….” Like I’ve suggested in last week’s post, everything Twelve says about Lisa is probably ordeals he and Nine have had to go through. Nine, however, tries to remain practical. He re-iterates over and over that she isn’t one of them. Not only that, if Twelve truly cared for her, then it doesn’t make any sense to take her in: “…nothing but misfortune waiting for someone who gets involved with us.” Does that mean misfortune awaits them as well? Despite the boys’ many victories thus far, it seems as though they realize the authorities will catch up to them sooner or later.

— When Twelve tells Lisa about the various things on their work table, the music makes the scene sound almost whimsical, almost like we’re in a toymaker’s workshop. In a way, Lisa has slipped through the rabbit’s hole. I mean, she wanted so badly to escape from her own world of domestic troubles and schoolyard bullying that she is now standing in the middle of a terrorist’s den. From an overly-attached mother to two boys aiming to reveal Japan’s biggest conspiracy. It’s a bit of a surreal change in circumstances, isn’t it?

— There’s a neat moment where Nine walks forward from the light into the shadows.

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— I kind of wish our American FBI operative didn’t feel the need to dress herself in a sailor fuku. I mean, there’s nothing special about the way Nine and Twelve look, so why does Five have to be so… anime-ish in her appearance? Still, her presence in the story is interesting, especially considering the fact that she’s from the US. Is the Japanese government developing super-intelligent individuals just to sell them to other nations? Or is the conspiracy even crazier than we can possibly imagine?

— During another meeting, Kurahashi expresses the need for the team to  “increase our efforts to capture the culprits.” I have nothing meaningful to add. I just thought this was a strange thing to say. I mean, it kind of implies they haven’t been exerting 100% of their efforts in trying to capture Nine and Twelve.

— We get more glimpses into what life at the institute was like. According to Twelve, eating itself became just another mundane task. I suppose this isn’t all the surprising. After all, they’re willing to strip you of your name to destroy your identity. They just want you to be a compliant robot. Naturally, a robot doesn’t need to enjoy its food. Still, it makes me wonder if we’ll ever learn Nine and Twelve’s real name before the show comes to an end.

— When Twelve teasingly suggested that Nine was putting a lot of trust in Shibazaki, this almost seemed to offend Nine. Still, this may foreshadow a future partnership between Sphinx and the detective. They don’t see eye-to-eye, but I’m sure both sides have a bigger fish to fry now that the upper ranks have taken the situation seriously.

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20 thoughts on “Terror in Resonance Ep. 5: The more things change, the more they stay the same”

  1. Your last observation was something my sister thought of today. Seeing that Shibazaki has a “solo mind” -works on his own, such as when he instantly ran out of the room after watching Sphinx’s video, continuously answers or connects the dots when solving Sphinx’s riddles and even when he continued to investigate the case of the security whom died in the hotel, I don’t think he will willingly work with the police force wholeheartedly. He was upset that the bomb wasn’t stopped and the police force left it to a special group whom appeared to have done nothing -how would any of this make him trust or even want to work with the police force? I feel that he may do things on his own, as his desire is to stop the bombs, which again, was not done. And it would be incredibly interesting if Shibazaki, Nine and Twelve work together to reveal the conspiracy. Nine trusts Shibazaki and Twelve also seems satisfied when Shibazaki first solved their riddle and said “I will never forgive you,” meaning that Shibazaki will continue to investigate and eventually, reveal the conspiracy to the world; through Shibazaki, Nine and Twelve’s intention or message will be known. If the three work together directly or at least have the same motives, I wonder what Lisa’s role will be..? I don’t believe she will continue to be a potato. -I have faith in her, I hope her cooking will improve or she can at least help with any house chores. (I had a good laugh when she fainted again after learning that she could have activated a bomb the boys made.) I imagine that Lisa, Twelve and Nine could potentially have a home together. But on the greater scale, I feel that Lisa will be the bridge of some sort. And things will only escalate.

    I don’t know what Five’s intentions are. Maybe it’s too soon to pinpoint or estimate. It’s possible that she wants to take revenge on Nine, whom she believes left her in the institute. Who knows what kind of life she lived after that too… Is she also trying to stop the boys from revealing their message? Aside from her “reunion” with Nine and Twelve, what is she truly gaining by siding with the government?

    I’ve read a comment where someone found it nonsensical that Nine survived the bomb. I suspect that Five –and perhaps her special team as well– altered the bomb or even changed it somehow. It would be a disaster if lives were lost! Would the police force continue working with the special team if casualties were the result of it?
    Five, like Nine, has confidence. By stopping telephone signals and hacking into Nine’s laptop, Nine would have no choice but to stop the bomb himself. She knows -and trusts- Nine and Twelve do not intend to murder, so this was a trap to lure Twelve and Nine out.

    1. I’ve read a comment where someone found it nonsensical that Nine survived the bomb. I suspect that Five –and perhaps her special team as well– altered the bomb or even changed it somehow.

      If they altered it, they didn’t alter it very much. It was still a very powerful blast — enough to kill anyone if Nine hadn’t done what he needed to do. Plus, Nine and Twelve are astute. If the blast is different from what they initially expected, I’m sure they’ll mention it in the next episode. Even so, I don’t believe the bomb had been altered, and I’d be disappointed in the direction of the story if it was. I think it would make the story a touch too ridiculous for my tastes. If it was true that Five had altered the bomb, then these characters just have way too much confidence that x will do exactly y in order to achieve the perfect result of z. In reality, there are thousands upon thousands of variables that could’ve prevented Nine from reaching the correct train in time. I don’t care how much of a genius you are — or how much confident you have — you can’t plan for everything. Not only that, from a storytelling standpoint, as these perfect little plans begin to mount, they will take me out of the story. I just can’t accept it that Five and her team had planned ahead to such an extent. I can only suspend my disbelief for so long.

      1. If you watch carefully, you see that nine was hit with the heat tapering off the explosion and was not actually enveloped in the explosion itself so his survival actually makes sense. I myself dont believe the bomb was altered or that would be a little too much for me to take myself if that was the case

  2. In fact, he’s the only person within the department who is willing to even consider the idea that the boys are trying to send a message.

    Eh, I have a hunch that that the head police chief has a decent idea what’s really going with a few other higher-ups but there’s simply too much red tape to do much atm,. Shibazaki is already est. as a loner in the police force and he’s more at leisure to investigate leads.

    Nine and Twelve have now entered a very dangerous game, because, unlike themselves, their opponents are willing to become murderers.

    I did find it…interesting that Nine and Twelve seemed to want to avoid any casualties despite all the effort in all the other cases. Five isn’t so much as willing to be murderers but she is focused on how the ends justify the means.

    Once Nine realized who he was up against, we immediately see a flashback where a younger Five had seemingly terrorized him in a game of hide-and-seek.

    For the longest time I thought the series was setting up Five to be one of their long-lost friends but now their actual relationship is more strained as seen from this flashback.

    When the situation turned dire in this week’s episode, Lisa became invisible to them as well. At some point, however, Lisa’s story will have to tie into the bigger picture.

    I can’t say if I’m having high hopes for Lisa from what I’ve seen so far. Her story/character feels extraneous and not really well-planned out =/ I know she is the only “normal” teen in this show but it’s hard to think of a reason for her to stick around.

    Despite the boys’ many victories thus far, it seems as though they realize the authorities will catch up to them sooner or later.

    Calling a last minute realization that the world isn’t such a ugly place after all and heroic sacrifice by Sphinx which will be covered up the police :>

    Still, her presence in the story is interesting, especially considering the fact that she’s from the US. Is the Japanese government developing super-intelligent individuals just to sell them to other nations?

    Eh, I’m not completely sure Five if is working for the US government for good. We just know that she arrived in Japan recently from outside the country with a body guard. I want to say that there is secret partnership b/t Japan and USA for the greater good. Five doesn’t seem to opposed to the secret organization compared to Nine and Twelve.

    1. Eh, I have a hunch that that the head police chief has a decent idea what’s really going with a few other higher-ups but there’s simply too much red tape to do much atm,

      There’s no red tape preventing one friend from discussing the matters of the case with another friend in private. If Kurahashi really did have a hunch, we’d see him bounce more ideas around with Shibazaki on a one-on-one basis. Instead, we’ll see him check-up with Shibazaki from time to time, but Kurahashi never really offers anything other than an ear. I think this sort of storytelling is rather straightforward, actually. Something as significant as Kurahashi having a hunch is something the anime would have no qualms about highlighting. So instead, I think he ultimately trusts Shibazaki’s instincts, but he isn’t really an outside-the-box kind of thinker. It hasn’t really crossed his mind.

      Five isn’t so much as willing to be murderers but she is focused on how the ends justify the means.

      I don’t know if I’d say this. We don’t know what her personality is like at all. All we know is that she was willing to put a lot of lives at risks.

      I can’t say if I’m having high hopes for Lisa from what I’ve seen so far.

      It wouldn’t make sense for her to do nothing but look lost, cook some terrible food, and get naked from time to time. The rest of the show seems too intricately plotted for Lisa to end up doing nothing.

      Five doesn’t seem to opposed to the secret organization compared to Nine and Twelve.

      Maybe she stayed with them longer, so she’s more “damaged.” The place seemingly tries to strip you of everything that makes us unique and human. Our names, our identity, even our ability to enjoy food. She doesn’t oppose the secret organization, but her thoughts may not be entirely hers.

  3. Why is Five so sexy/fanservicey? While she certainly has a sexy design, I wouldn’t call her looks fanservicing. They give us a valuable first look into her character. She seems obsessed with her appearance: leather-fringed wedges, silver earrings, a sailor fuku, periwinkle lipstick, purple eyeshadow, and pink nails.
    First observation: Painting of the nails. Five paints her nails throughout the episode, showing us the red-white-blue on one pinky. She finishes her nail and looks over her work as she comments on Nine. She started doing this throughout the episode, showing us that she knew what she was dealing with the whole time, and probably connected it to the facility right away. It was only after she saw how Nine dealt with the bomb that she confirmed her hunch.

    Second observation: Beauty obsession. Five seems to meticulously format her outfits. Perhaps this is because the facility emphasizes uniformity, emotionally and physically. All of the children look similar, eat the same food, dress in the same white robes. Five stood out with her white hair. However, we know that she was unable to escape (possibly betrayed) with the boys, and was with the facility. We might assume that the facility has washed her clean of most emotion, and she feels the need to make up for that by elaborately painting a facade. She still works with the government, but being a good and loyal dog, probably gets special privileges like dressing however she wants. She probably has a taste for luxury due to it being withheld from her, and tries to make up for her social deprivation with material objects, including herself.

    Third observation:The sailor fuku. A sailor fuku is a stereotypical anime school outfit, but assuming that Five chooses her own clothes, it takes on more meaning. A sailor fuku is meant to be worn by high school girls. It is a symbol of Japanese culture, and traditional values such as grace and innocence. ( I am referring to actual uniforms, non Ikkitosen-style miniskirts that panty flash at every turn. Think of the Sailor Moon school outfits. ) Five wore a uniform before, at the facility, and now she dons a new one. The role her white robe performed was to eliminate identity. The sailor fuku gives her the identity of a high school student. Whether Five genuinely likes wearing the sailor fuku because it makes her feel normal, or if the sees it as an ironic parody of what was denied to her, remains unseen. I think the latter is more plausible, given the revealing bust that would likely not be present on a standard school uniform. Five tries on different clothes as a way of “trying on” the identities of others, as she feels empty.

    Fourth Observation:Fanservice. I don’t think that Five is presented in a sexualized manner. The camerawork lacks the signature “male gaze” effect of most fanservice, and there are never any shots that specifically focus on her t&a. The camera is constantly kept in a sweeping, dramatic pan, revealing only parts of her appearance. The only bodypart specific shots are when she gets of the plane, and we only see glimpses of her hands and face in order to keep us in suspense. Therefore, I don’t believe that she is objectified or shown in a fanservicey manner. A sexy character is normally presented in a sexualized way, but Five is not.

      1. Agreed, not sure where anon got that idea. Looking back at Five’s outfit, I don’t exactly see how it’d be similar to a sailor uniform for HS girls? At best it looks semi-formal for her age and trendy esp. with her style of makeup. FWIW, it does make her look older than her age but nothing that I’d notice out of place in Tokyo or a major city (apart from her hair color).

        Eh, it’s hard to say about Nine & Twelve because male fashion tends to be limited from my exp. and Five doesn’t have to exactly put in as much effort to blend into society ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. She’s got some cleavage showing, long, sheer stockings, and a short sailor fuku. Japanese school outfits vary from the classic white and blue to a double-breasted jacket. E Minor, you commented that she looked very “anime-ish”, and wished that she didn’t. You compared her to Nine and Twelve, observing that she looked very different. I was just trying to explain why she dressed the way she did, and perhaps what it reveals about her psychology.

  4. Nine survived the bomb in typical action sequence style why would the bomb need to be altered, I have seen way worse explosion survivals in movies. Man who made this series this anyways it is just good stuff not even just as a anime it is like a episodic movie. At this point I am just going to sit back and enjoy the show can’t predict what will happen next hell there is no guarantee the protags will win, the numbers are clearly there for a reason and 5 is a lot higher than 9.Oh wait that is what Lisa is for I just don’t see how a normal girl can help in this situation especially some one of her well intelligence she seems pretty dumb to me.

    1. can’t predict what will happen next

      I just don’t see how a normal girl can help in this situation especially some one of her well intelligence she seems pretty dumb to me.

  5. I sincerely hope that Lisa doesn’t become their damsel in distress or the cliched last glimpse of hope that makes them good in the end. She’s the only thing I dislike about the show honestly. Her intro made it seem as if she was going to be pulled in there world and possibly come to understand their cause. But now she’s just a bumbling fool that’s just dragging the show down for me. I feel like the show is going in 1 of 3 directions. 1. Lisa get kidnapped and the whole show is going to be them chasing after her. Which would destroy the entire show. 2. Lisa convinces the to reach out to the detective directly and team up. Which wouldn’t be bad. 3. Lisa is killed by Five ad her people or the Police. Which gives them the resolve to “Pull the trigger on the world”. Which would be best (not saying that I want her to die. but it’s rare characters deaths have any true impact or meaning in anime)

    1. Ehh, it’s going to be incredibly awkward series if Lisa dies :|

      I can safely guess one of the main cast members aren’t going to survive but I don’t think it’ll be Lisa because of all the characters she seems to have the least influence atm. I wished we got a better idea of her personality other than someone who doesn’t want to be here.

  6. Wow, I rather like the way you’ve been analysing this thing so far. Glad to see someone else hasn’t given up on Lisa. If the show is doing what I hope it’s doing – setting her up as a relatively weak character in order to subvert itself later on – I suppose this whole thing is kind of daring, in a way, especially dragging it out until most of the audience has given up hope on her ever doing something interesting.

    IRL it does take a certain amount of mental strength for an abused kid to run away from home, especially if they have the kind of low self-worth Lisa seems to have. There’s definitely SOMETHING to her, just not a lot by anime standards.

    Regarding five’s design, it sort of reminds me of the obviously CG angels in Rebuild of Evangelion, that thing where you use a different design or animation style to make something stand out or seem off, alien etc., though a bit more subtle. It would also make sense for someone who’s been raised as a non-individual to go quite far in the other direction once given the opportunity. Or to give an artificial, over-polished look to a character who is, in some sense, just that. I guess. It’s a bit early to tell.

    But yeah, still very anime, like now that Lisa and the boys aren’t going to school anymore someone else has to bear the burden of the Uniform.

    1. Or to give an artificial, over-polished look to a character who is, in some sense, just that. I guess. It’s a bit early to tell.

      The only point I was trying to make was that everyone gets to look normal and well-grounded in a decidedly grounded anime — as grounded as a terrorism plot can be — but when a girl with special abilities show up, she has to look like a Ragyou-worshipper. It’s not necessarily criticism on my part. It’s just my subjective reaction: “That’s a little odd…”

  7. On the topic of the perfect little plans, I’d say that Nine and Twelve’s backup plan of deactivating the bomb with their phones if things go south is strong enough to stand on its own. Omnipresent and visible modern technology has been a constant theme since the first episode and it’s telling that things have only gone wrong when an outside force puts in the effort to make that happen (the power outage in Ep. 1, the EM interference here). I can see where you’re coming from in questioning the lack of real redundancy in their fail-safes, but I think it certainly reflects one of the already fuller themes of the show and also an attitude that quite a lot of people in the real world subscribe to: that technology will account for everything.

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