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The rights and wrongs of fanservice

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This may be a "heavy" topic considering the general consensus people have on it but I feel it's something that needs to be discussed given the recent discussions regarding camilla and the hot spring banner. As the title of the thread suggests,  what are the rights and wrongs of fanservice? I am under the belief that fan service in it of itself is not a bad thing. It all depends on its execution. So my question to you all is when can fanservice be done right/tastefully/appropriately? and when is it done wrong?

My personal stance on the matter is that so long as it does not hinder the overall story, game, or characters then its fine. Like for example, Beach DLCs/banners are fine because well they're harmless for the most part. If placed appropriately, then they can serve as sort of fun little distractions for both the characters and viewer/player. It doesn't detract from the overall story because it's just a little side story that has little to no bearing on the actual plot and if done right makes sense.

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My answer would simply be that fanservice is done right if it doesn't intrude on the story and character and that it doesn't work if it does intrude on things. 

Things that work:

Beach DLC is fine because its supposed to be a little bit of fun, a bit of exposed skin for those into that and its all generally quite harmless. It even adds to characters because you can experiance them having downtime. 

Dressing like a prostitute doesn't really have to be a problem either if it suits the character. Cia from Zelda is eternally horny for Link and so Cia running around with her...uh assets clearly visible fits. Same with Camilla. She's desperate for love and Corrin's attention in particular so its not particularly weird for her to make use of her assets. 

A little bit of exposed skin isn't all that bad either. I believe Celica's bare shoulders do a nice job of adding some extra appeal to her without going overboard with it and the same goes for a pair of big muscular arms on display. Its fine. 

Representation for popular characters is a very good thing. Its a treat for their fans and if there are a lot of them you'll be pleasing plenty of people. 

When it doesn't work:

One reason why fanservice often doesn't work is that it can affect a character to their detriment. Camilla dressing like a prostitute and lusting after Corrin isn't a problem. Its maybe a little awkward but Camilla's history provides some justification. Where Camilla stops working is that this aspect of her personality consumes all others. The conflict between the concubines is fairly obscure part of Camilla that's only mentioned in a few supports but there are lots of supports chains where Camilla spends her C to A support trying to find way for Corrin to notice her. That time could better be spend making Camilla a more interesting and nuanced character. That Corrin is supposed to represent the player also makes it a little shameless.

But the Hoshidan siblings are a better example of fanservice working out to the detriment of themselves, the story and the game as a whole. Being able to romance your hot older brother/sister, the prettyboy tsunder or the moe loli is fanservice for those very much into pairings but the plot just doesn't leave any room for it. If the premise of the game is choosing between your family by blood and the one that raised you than making your blood siblings turn out not to be related to you after all is the dumbest thing imaginable. Poor Ryoma is especially hurt by this because he gets quite nasty when he loudly declares the Nohrians can't possibly be Corrin's family despite knowing fully well he's not Corrin's family either. 

Over representation of certain characters also stops working because it does the opposite of serving fans. Instead it serves one part of the fans over all others which can cause drama and resentment in something that should be fun and harmless. If one character already has every favor in the world than every additional favor is an instance of other fans being denied some fanservice tossed their way, especially if the ignored character is also beloved in its own right. 

Edited by Etrurian emperor

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I agree with the OP. I'm fine with a bit of fanservice on the side. I have freaking Summer Freddy in my sig. lol I think he's so hot that I drooled over his abs. XD

But the problem is when it's overdone, shoved in your face, and hurts the story and characters. Camilla is the best example of this because IS chose to push her more as fanservice than as an actual interesting, developed character. Case in point: her design, and that awful Birthright cutscene. She could've still looked "sexy" without being forced to wear just panties and a bra or whatever. And we only get a few hints of her backstory when there was room for so much more elaboration on it and for her to develop as a character.

And honestly, other than her awful outfit, I actually don't mind Camila's design. Her hair is pretty and stuff.

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I don't mind fanservice at all. I haven't seen a case where it has made me uncomfortable and I haven't seen it detract from any story. 

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This might be better placed in the Debate board, but what do I know?

Well, focusing exclusively on just a few out of literally hundreds of beloved characters is a wrong, I'll tell you that much.  I enjoyed Fates enough, and I liked a number of the characters, but I despise the fact that they keep rehashing the Fates royals in all these seasonal banners.  It's starting to feel like they're forcing people to like them rather than appealing to those characters' fans, sort of like an abusive father force-feeding his kid some candy.  And again, I say this as someone who really likes some of the Fates characters and would be thrilled if Oboro got an alt for once (though I really do think they just need to take a break from alts).

 

The general philosophy of fanservice that I hate is when they "overstuff" their fans with that crap.  I don't care what it is, exposed breasts, dominatrix personalities, contrived resurrections, or over-repping a few popular characters.  Fanservice is okay in moderation, but too much and it becomes a vapid milk machine that you'd rather drown yourself in than drink from.  And ironically this just makes the developers seem more out-of-touch than if they simply didn't employ fanservice at all - like they just see numbers and are like "oh yeah, people want only this now".

 

If there are any "rights" to fanservice, it's when they actually listen to the fandom sometimes.  I don't mean them listening to Jerry who asked for a loli with pretty pink pigtails and cat ears, I mean them listening to waves of people telling them that this mechanic sucks or that mechanic was fun, and I mean them listening to actually constructive criticism as opposed to people saying "nuh, I no likey thing because it's bad :p".

 

Aside from these cases, fanservice for me is otherwise simply "okay".  Not a bane to my existence, though it doesn't have me watering in the mouth either.  I mean, I guess I'd be thrilled to see some service for Oboro that doesn't destroy her character, but in most cases I'm not served in the first place because I don't often like the characters that get a lot of it.  So in general I just don't care for it.

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Depends on how serious a game you are going for.

If you're trying to tell a serious story, it can be fairly jarring.

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Fanservice is fine in moderation for any game, even if its not for story or character development.

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I agree with those who are saying that the problem comes when it hurts the story and characters. I’d add that it also hurts when it seems out-of-place or doesn’t make any sense: for example, female caveliers, knights and flying units not wearing pants.

In my opinion, the best way to have fanservice in any game is to have it add to the story and characters. For a hypothetical example: in a cutscene, two guys spot an attractive female character that has some fanservice elements and the audience is shown the perspective of each guy. For the first guy, the camera emphasizes her more fanservice-y elements in a way that indicates the way the guy’s looking at her. For the second guy, who is established as only having eyes for his respective love interest, the camera just gives a normal view of the character. This juxtaposition provides fanservice while also illustrating important character traits of the other two characters in the scenario.

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7 minutes ago, Bhoop said:

Fanservice is fine in moderation for any game, even if its not for story or character development.

I agree with the modration part. Another thing is that fanservice is a lot better when it actually comes across as natural on the character.

I find Sonya to be a pretty good fanservice character. She's one of the bigger lookers in the game and she even has this mild dominatrix thing going in some of her quotes. She has the looks because the game portrays her as slightly vain or at least a bit fashion conscious and the dominatrix quotes are not entirely unfitting on someone who comes across as a proud character.

Meanwhile a character like Sophie goes into battle without pants because her designer wanted people to see her underwear. There is absolutely nothing in her character to suggest she would not wear pants and there is a lot of common sense that suggest she should wear pants. It also doesn't help that it kind of makes the design look less appealing, rather then more appealing.

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In general, I would say don't have it at all, but I understand that that's not a realistic expectation for every franchise. To answer the topic:

When It's Fine:

- Keep the more fanservicy characters in the minority of the games cast. It should be the exception rather than the rule.

- If possible, have it be optional. I understand this can't always the case, given how many resources are put into creating portraits and models, and they can't always make more in the time they are given. However, more egregious examples, like beach scenes, should remain DLC and the like.

- Use it as a way of hinting at what a character will be like OR use the characters personality to explain why they dress like that. Sonia is an example of the former, as her more revealing clothing is used to contrast with the more heroic characters outfits and hints that she's more anti-heroic even before you can recruit her, while Panne could be an example of the latter, as not understanding some human customs is a small running gag with her, and it's not hard to imagine that modesty falls into that list.

- Still keep the designs subdued and grounded.

When It Goes Too Far:

- When it's the most notable thing about a character (even after supports add more layers to them).

- When the fanservice comes at the cost of character development and/or story.

- When the player is forced to go through the fanservicy moments, or otherwise makes it difficult to ignore.

- When the outfit quite blatantly and jarringly does not mesh well with the established characters personality.

- When it's clear it's going the low road of attracting players to the game rather than doing something more substantial with it.

When it could go either way:

- A character is wearing little clothing, and appears to be there for fanservice. Then the battle starts, and they end up a bloody mess, painfully showing why you shouldn't show skin in combat with sharp weaponry. This is more of a gameplay thing than a fanservice one, though. Sometimes it's a way to encourage the use of armor and show how important it is in real life, and other times it's just an excuse to show off the blood and gore effects. Because these aren't mutually exclusive, both can be at play at the same time.

- When the fanservicy moment or costume is put in as a joke. This one really depends on how it's handled. Sometimes, it's extremely funny and gives the cliche a good bashing. Other times, the "joke" is just an incredibly obvious excuse to add fanservice. Even if the moment is funny, it can raise the question of whether or not the scene was even needed in the first place, and if something better could have been done with that time/character.

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2 hours ago, Anacybele said:

And honestly, other than her awful outfit, I actually don't mind Camila's design. Her hair is pretty and stuff.

I am of the party that prefers Camilla's hair to her being rather scantily clad.

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Fanservice in itself isn't bad, but I do think it becomes a problem when the presence of fanservice makes it hard to immerse yourself in the world and the story they are telling, or if fanservice actively hurts the world and story.

To take Fates as just one example, I think the fanservice in that game does hurt the world and the story because at times they contradict each other. The game's theme is about family, choosing between those that raised you and those you were born to and taken from. Being able to marry the Hoshidan (and Nohrian) siblings is a form of fanservice. And when you can marry the siblings (and when certain sibling marriage pairs are super popular amongst the fanbase), this hurts the game's theme a lot. You cannot say that these are your siblings and marry them, blood related or not. If you thought of them as your siblings, then those familial feelings do not suddenly turn romantic once you find out that you're related. And if you thought they were your blood relatives to begin with and still had romantic feelings for them ... well, then something is not right with you or went wrong somewhere.

Major shifts in narrative tone is also an issue when it comes to fanservice. Fates had this in a way wth My Castle. You can literally lose Kaze or watching Flora immolate herself, and then in the My Castle sequence immediately following it, you can have Saizo in a hot tub or Felicia getting a face rub or doing something ditzy in the kitchen, acting like their twin didn't just die horrifically. As far as I recall, Saizo never reacts to Kaze dying in any way, shape, or form. That is pretty immersion breaking. Likewise, you could be fighting and killing Hoshidans left and right in Conquest, and Corrin's being upset about Takumi throwing himself off a wall or Ryoma committing sudoku ... and then you're suddenly in My Castle rubbing Leo's face? It's things like that which just make a story feel weaker and disconnected from reality.

Also, there's another thing about fanservice that bothers me -- when companies repeat the same thing over and over again. I don't think avatars will realistically ever be gone, but I would really like it if they could make some new games without an avatar. Maybe just every other game. I am already bored of them. Likewise, I don't want a big breasted and scantily clad female character obsessed with the avatar throwing herself at him in every game from now on. Having that character type in some games is fine. But not every game. That's boring. I'm just really annoyed because it seems like once IS started going heavy on fanservice, they're so afraid of not making as much money as they did before that they refuse to branch out and be innovative anymore. And that also hurts an individual game and the series as a whole.

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Fanservice is okay. But for a game like Fire Emblem, it can be downright silly the way it's handled in Fates.

People complain the fanservice in Awakening, but it... really isn't bad. It isn't forced in your face. Just how many people actually took notice of Tharja's outfit? Her portrait has her with a book over her chest and her arms crossed over it. She's dark and moody, but nothing about her says how she's dressed. Until you see her model, you wouldn't notice. But even then, it's not forced into your face. Olivia's outfit shows it more, but she is a dancer, so that's normal, but even her portrait has her showing a reserved nature. 

Fates, however, they really shoved it in your face, especially with Camilla. But even the models in the game has several occasions of characters being in skimpy outfits. Axe fighters and cavaliers showing off their ass. This game pushed the fanservice to the extreme. 

Fire Emblem is a game that, while it can have some touch of fanservice, it needs to not detract away from the characters, plot, or other things. 

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1 hour ago, Hawkwing said:

and other times it's just an excuse to show off the blood and gore effects. 

No thanks, please

41 minutes ago, Sunwoo said:

To take Fates as just one example, I think the fanservice in that game does hurt the world and the story because at times they contradict each other. The game's theme is about family, choosing between those that raised you and those you were born to and taken from. Being able to marry the Hoshidan (and Nohrian) siblings is a form of fanservice. And when you can marry the siblings (and when certain sibling marriage pairs are super popular amongst the fanbase), this hurts the game's theme a lot. You cannot say that these are your siblings and marry them, blood related or not. If you thought of them as your siblings, then those familial feelings do not suddenly turn romantic once you find out that you're related. And if you thought they were your blood relatives to begin with and still had romantic feelings for them ... well, then something is not right with you or went wrong somewhere.

Major shifts in narrative tone is also an issue when it comes to fanservice.... , you can have Saizo in a hot tub or Felicia getting a face rub or doing something ditzy in the kitchen, acting like their twin didn't just die horrifically. As far as I recall, Saizo never reacts to Kaze dying in any way, shape, or form. That is pretty immersion breaking.

Reading this, I feel Fates could have been better if there were more examples of the theme and if it was more prevalent in the story. Or perhaps a game with more impactful decisions and choices that matter.

Hmm. Maybe if something similar returns, IS should have characters comment on current events in the story. 

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28 minutes ago, Sunwoo said:

Major shifts in narrative tone is also an issue when it comes to fanservice. Fates had this in a way wth My Castle. You can literally lose Kaze or watching Flora immolate herself, and then in the My Castle sequence immediately following it, you can have Saizo in a hot tub or Felicia getting a face rub or doing something ditzy in the kitchen, acting like their twin didn't just die horrifically. As far as I recall, Saizo never reacts to Kaze dying in any way, shape, or form. That is pretty immersion breaking. Likewise, you could be fighting and killing Hoshidans left and right in Conquest, and Corrin's being upset about Takumi throwing himself off a wall or Ryoma committing sudoku ... and then you're suddenly in My Castle rubbing Leo's face? It's things like that which just make a story feel weaker and disconnected from reality.

Then every RPG that ever existed has a massive problem. You can play a silly fishing minigame or silly cooking minigame right after someone died in the majority of JRPGs, and in CRPGs You can often do much worse due to how open they are.

This is one of the cases when fanservice is a scapegoat for different problems. Fates handle character devolopment entirely on supports and those doesn't change if something important happen to the character.  The fact that iirc you can go to the Golden Saucer right after a certain FF7 event does not detract from the game because every character involved will react to the event in cutscenes. The face rubbing detract from Fates because there are no Base Conversations like in Tellius and Felicia supports doesn't change after she see her sister being sigurded. But the problem is the lazy writing, not the optional minigame. Or they could just change a few phrases and facial expressions to make the face rubbing look like Corrin comforting a mourning Felicia.

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Depends on the fanservice you are talking about. 

Starting with fanservice as servicing the fans, I believe that it is ok in moderation but games need to stand on their own. For crossovers such as Heroes and Warriors, it is expected that there will be lots of love for countless characters, settings and eras of Fire Emblem. For main series, not so much. Echoes and Binding Blade are minor offenders of this. Echoes' chapter 6 did help improve Awakening's lore, but it also prevented the game from fully standing on its own (barring the excused SD characters as Gaiden was a midquel). Binding Blade stands on its own mostly, but rides the coattails of the Akaneian saga a bit too much.

Awakening is a complicated subject here.  Awakening is full of references and they mostly work, but some (such as setting the game in Akaneia) defy pre-established canon and only serve to just say "hey, member FE..." This is mostly excused as it was intended as a final installment.

Fates rides a bit too heavily on fanservice with the Awakening trios. It was excusesable in Echoes/Gaiden as that was set in the same timeline as FE1. In here, it frankly feels forced just because of the popularity of the trios in Awakening, and (for me at least) it prevented Fates from truly standing on its own.

 

As for the other type of fanservice, again it depends. It makes sense for a dancer to dress skimpy. Zettai Ryouki has been a staple of Pegasus Knights from the beginning, exposed legs are common among warriors, hell I'll even accept dark mages wearing skimpy clothes due to the conditions of the desert.

The first area fanservice becomes problamatic is where it doesn't belong? Thong Knights? Thong Cavaliers? Why... that is completely impractical and not remotely attractive on the low res 3ds models. A bizzare choice all around.

Then there are characters such as Camilla and Charlotte where they put too much focus on the fanservice. Some in this thread have said that Camilla is wearing this to seduce Corrin but they are Camilla's adopted siblings! Raised from birth! A really odd choice all around that I would argue harms a potentially compelling character. For all of Tharja's faults they seemed to focus a bit less on the fanservice aspect of her (at least at first).

Finally, there are those that step over the line entirely in my eyes. Nowi, Bride Sanaki, Hot Springs Elise, Hot Springs Sakura, etc... It is too much and still makes me uncomfortable, even with Treehouses attempted fixes.

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First I want to define what I think fanservice is because according to some people it's just putting pretty girls/boys in a game. Fanservice is way broader, It's putting something in your movie, book, comic, serie, videogame or whatever with the intention of pleasing your fans. If I for example was the creator of a movie franchise and I knew that a certain minor character was very popular in my previous movie and I would make that character a major character in the next movie then that would be fanservice. However if I would write a story with a lot of nudity but that nudity had a certain thematic role in the story and wasn't meant to appeal to my audience then it wouldn't be fanservice (it could still have the effect of fanservice but there wasn't the authorial intent that people associate with fanservice). Of course the line between what is fanservice and what isn't isn't always clear. 

In my opinion fanservice is at it's best meaningless/harmless (think Gloïn having a necklace with a portrait of Gimli on it in the Hobbit). This is only the case if the fanservice part is ignorable. If it isn't, then I have a problem. Because often when I see fanservice I think to myself 'How desperate. Are they so unsure about there product that they feel the need to go out of there way to please the audience?'. The worst cases of fanservice I've seen are the new Star Wars movies. While they certainly aren't bad movies and no where near as bad as the prequels they often feel cynical and desperate with how much fanservice they have. Special mention to the scene with Darth Maul in Solo, a Star Wars Story. Ohh, and I guess fe12, fe13 and fe14 are also kinda bad at it (but not as bad imo).

Edited by LJwalhout

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I don't play a huge variety of games, but it would be just as much of a problem in any other game and not just Fates if they're bad at keeping a consistent mood when something serious happens.

Also, lazy writing is an issue, and it  could go in hand with fanservice if the reason for lazy writing is that the developers don't want to think too hard about how to properly react to thing so they can get on with the juicy fanservice instead.

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1 minute ago, DeoGame said:

Awakening is a complicated subject here.  Awakening is full of references and they mostly work, but some (such as setting the game in Akaneia) defy pre-established canon and only serve to just say "hey, member FE..." This is mostly excused as it was intended as a final installment.

 

I dunno. In regards to the case of being on the same continent as Archanea, it still works because there's been a 2000 year gap. In that gap, may things could have happened and changed. The only fanservice in Awakening that DOESN'T work from its reference are the taguel, because there's nothing about it that makes sense in that world. 

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3 minutes ago, omegaxis1 said:

I dunno. In regards to the case of being on the same continent as Archanea, it still works because there's been a 2000 year gap. In that gap, may things could have happened and changed. The only fanservice in Awakening that DOESN'T work from its reference are the taguel, because there's nothing about it that makes sense in that world. 

Fair, but still, things such as the functionality of the emblem and Tiki being the last of the Divine Dragons have been heavily retconned.

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2 minutes ago, DeoGame said:

Fair, but still, things such as the functionality of the emblem and Tiki being the last of the Divine Dragons have been heavily retconned.

To be fair, the latter wasn't even a retcon. 

Tiki was never the last of the Divine Dragon as FE3 had Gotoh and Xane be Divine Dragons. FE11/12 had Nagi, who is heavily implied to be Naga reincarnated. It can very well be established that the Naga of Awakening is Nagi after regaining all her memories and power. 

The Fire Emblem having a different function also can't really be called a retcon either, as there being no Earth Dragons gives a lot of implications to what happened to them. The Dragon's Alter being renamed the Dragon's Table and a place that Grima dines on others gives implications that Grima devoured the Earth Dragons. The Fire Emblem would, therefore, be useless then. But it is changed to restore Falchion's might could be a case of how it can be adapted to allow it to still play a major role in the story. 

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2 minutes ago, omegaxis1 said:

To be fair, the latter wasn't even a retcon. 

Tiki was never the last of the Divine Dragon as FE3 had Gotoh and Xane be Divine Dragons. FE11/12 had Nagi, who is heavily implied to be Naga reincarnated. It can very well be established that the Naga of Awakening is Nagi after regaining all her memories and power. 

The Fire Emblem having a different function also can't really be called a retcon either, as there being no Earth Dragons gives a lot of implications to what happened to them. The Dragon's Alter being renamed the Dragon's Table and a place that Grima dines on others gives implications that Grima devoured the Earth Dragons. The Fire Emblem would, therefore, be useless then. But it is changed to restore Falchion's might could be a case of how it can be adapted to allow it to still play a major role in the story. 

Fair enough. Never quite thought of it that way 

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6 minutes ago, Flere210 said:

Then every RPG that ever existed has a massive problem. You can play a silly fishing minigame or silly cooking minigame right after someone died in the majority of JRPGs, and in CRPGs You can often do much worse due to how open they are.

It is quite often a problem. A huge-ass meteor appears and will end all life on the planet? Time to breed the bestest possible Chocobos. The Cthulu Space Whale is floating in the sky? Let's go to the Thunder Plains and dance through the eternal thunderstorm before spending hours and hours playing underwater rugby. Our underclassman is trapped in a cognitive world and will die if he tells the personification of his Id that "YOU ARE NOT ME"? Eh, surely he won't confront his shadow unless it is foggy IRL. Imma try to strengthen the precious cinnamon bun's self confidence before saving him!

It takes away from the feeling of urgency or drama in those examples (and there are surely a million more) and it also makes it more difficult to be invested into the more serious arcs of the Fates games.

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9 minutes ago, DeoGame said:

Fair enough. Never quite thought of it that way 

The only fanservice thing that really can't be defended well are the taguel. They are a reference to the laguz, but they just don't work. 

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