People’s reactions to slice-of-life leave me in despair.

I was watching Bartender, a drama cum slice-of-life show, so to speak. As I went online to update my watch status (I have a poor memory), I noticed that people had written reviews about it. Being the naturally curious person I am, I went to read them.

I was not amused. Keep in mind I’m not the only person to have ever written about the definition of slice-of-life.Take these links as examples: http://www.lowonhitpoints.com/otaku/lucky.star.is.slice.of.life/

http://www.baka-raptor.com/2009/11/07/actually-lucky-star-is-a-comedy/

http://behind-the.nihonreview.com/20090630/attitudes-to-slice-of-life-comedy-anime/

Now, keep in mind that the following post is just my opinion. So don’t rage too much.

“There wasn’t enough character development or movement to the story.”
“The wasn’t even really a story…..plot that was there was choppy……interrupted with bits of random history……patience and low-key attitude.”

It appears that someone is missing the point. Now, I don’t declare myself as some kind of authority over what a show is or how it should be, but here’s my piece on it. I was moderately amused, but angry at the same time when I read that. Bartender is indeed, slice-of-life – hence no plot. I mean, it’s about the daily customers he meets. What kind of plot do you expect? Do you expect riveting characters and intricate plot?

But then, I figured Bartender wasn’t a good example to prove my point. After all, it is drama, and with drama some plot can be expected. So I switched over to the most common kind of slice-of-life : slice-of-life comedy.

Searching through the database, I load Azumanga Daioh’s review page and immediately look for low ratings.

Then again, this review , although slightly biased in reviewing the show (no plot= character driven story?) , I wanted an even better example to prove my point. Moving on to the best thing I could think of:

You could say this was the last nail in the coffin for me.

“If you like anime with plot and character development then get away from here, you will never like Lucky Star.”

Hmm. Surprising. Despite loving a healthy dose of plot and character development, I’m looking at Kagami talking to Konata , albeit figmatized,at this moment all the while sitting next to a cushion with (for some reason) all the 4 main LS girls sans Kagami. Yeah, I like Lucky Star. So why would this person say that we wouldn’t like it, if we do like anime with plot and character development.

The answer is in the last sentence.

“Not even all the reference [to] Haruhi could save it.”

It’s clear that this reviewer has watched Haruhi, or even likes the show. Hitting up his profile would indicate that he rated Haruhi a 10. And this kind of reviews aren’t rare, they’re in abundance (especially for LS). Reviews that go how show X sucks because it ‘lacks plot, character development, etc etc.”

Now, I’m not saying that you all should and would enjoy watching Lucky Star (even though I would like to say you should) , this kind of reviews come from this general group of people:

  1. People who have watched Haruhi, Clannad AS, or other high-scoring anime labelled as ‘slice of life’.
  2. People who watched a small amount of anime series, mostly more famous series like Death Note (crowd favourite)
  3. Trolls

Searching for slice-of-life on MAL, this would appear on the top-scorers page:

Look  and you’ll find, amongst others, series like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Welcome to the NHK!, Aria, Great Teacher Onizuka and BECK.  Most of the series above have mass popularity, and are widely accepted for their characterization and plot. As a result, many people have watched these series.

So here’s the logical link. If Welcome to the NHK! had plot, and Welcome to the NHK! is labelled slice-of-life, thus all slice-of-life anime should have strong plot. Similarly , this should apply for everything else, right?

Wrong. That above link is a poor assumption. To quote a particular favourite book of mine, “If all cats die, and Socrates died, that means Socrates is a cat.”

As such, the above link was a over-generalization. Now, now, before I go into that time-long argument about how the shows are ‘what they are’, I stop. Why? Because saying that would imply that slice-of-life literally means , a slice of someone’s life. That is yet another bad assumption.  If that were true, wouldn’t all anime be slice-of-life? After all ,you’re looking into a particular character’s life, and follow him or her through their daily adventures and whatnot, fighting dragons and flying around in Zero fighter planes. Does that constitute a slice-of-life show?

If you do want to get literal about it, let’s go in further. Slice of life. What is life? Not a philosophical question, but one that questions the definition. Let’s get even more ridiculous about it. What is a slice-of-life? A slice of someone else’s life. Since these anime characters are real people in their respective fictional worlds, our laws apply to them. Meaning that their lives don’t have plot. Even if there is any plot, it’s likely to be episodic. After all, don’t we face new things everyday? Even if it’s the same activity, the makeup inside that activity is different. For instance, I go to school, and I find new ways to piss people off every day. It’s a limited, but ever-changing cycle.

So what would this mean?

  1. Slice-of-life involves a cast of characters …simply living through life.  But it’s their own life within their own respective universes.
  2. Slice-of-life need not have strong plot development, for not all slice-of-life shows have plot.
  3. Not all slice-of-life shows are comedy. Slice-of-life is not a genre in itself, the show can have other genres such as drama and comedy.
  4. The characters aren’t engineered to have you relate to them. If so, shows like Aria will never get off the ground.
  5. Character development or movement is hard to incorporate for all slice-of-life shows. Our lives are not determined by a puppet-master pulling the strings behind the scenes : we make our own choices. Apply that concept to slice-of-life shows.
  6. Not all slice-of-life shows are the same. They will all have their own distinct quirks and differences.
  7. Not all shows are slice-of-life. This stems from points 1-5. You probably already know this.

With that said, I’m back to watching Bartender, and I’m not one bit bored by ‘the [interruptions] of random history.’

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50 Responses to People’s reactions to slice-of-life leave me in despair.

  1. Lenneth says:

    haha any slice of life to recommend…feeling down these days due to POP =(

    • Valence says:

      That was fast. And random.

      Rewatch Lucky Star.

      Or join me in watching Bartender.

      • Lenneth says:

        i juz scanned through your post and read all the important points…tats how i always do well in chinese comprehension…anyway i will try bartender…lucky star i rewatched till episode 9 and got bored of it already…the first time was more amusing…

    • Valence says:

      Okay, I understand. I won’t force you to watch things.

      Speaking of which, I ought to rewatch LS sometime. I think I only watched it 1.5 times.

  2. I don’t think MAL is the best place that you can be looking for definitions. As far as I can tell, people who won’t bother to make the effort to get it will not get it. LS might not be the best example of what the genre has to offer though since I consider sketchbook, Hidamari Sketch, and ARIA to be far better in their execution. That’s just me though.

    • Valence says:

      I guess so, but I don’t lurk enough. I mean, I have no objections to what people like to watch. I feel that if you like other shows better, it’s fine with me.

      However, MAL seems to have a large user base. Within this large user base, a significant amount of people think this way. If you take that as a sample for the entire anime-watching population, the results look bad. It would thus appear that a lot of people think this way.

      Or maybe it’s just MAL being flooded with biased people.

  3. Persocom says:

    I don’t really use those reviews on MAL, since they’re always biased on personal opinion. I might read them from time to time but they never dictate how I feel about a show. I never really looked at some of those series as slice-of-life but oh well. Lucky Star was good enough for me to watch and rewatch and then watch the dub on top of that, but that’s me.

    • Valence says:

      Reviews are usually biased, sadly. I mean, yeah, they don’t ‘dictate’ how I feel about a show either. I just can’t help but feel sad or angry. It’s like someone innocent being charged in court.

      I’ve got to watch LS again some time. The first 4 episodes scared countless viewers away, but the rest was a-okay.

  4. Ryanime says:

    I’ve always liked the Slice of Life like Lucky Star. It doesn’t have an overarching plot, but the story does develop towards the end. Anyway, the point of LS is to relate to the characters in a way – those side conversations you have with your own friends in your own life.

    Haruhi and NHK don’t seem like Slice of Life to me. They’re too oriented, to preoccupied with ending and concluding. A slice of life has no definite ending.

    I think the strongest example of a true Slice of Life anime is Honey and Clover, where you journey through the days of life of people going to college. There is a plot, but it’s not the point. The point is watching life; watching grass grow – happens, but subtly and quietly.

    • Valence says:

      I have to watch Honey and Clover soon. I heard it’s really good for a slice-of-life show, so I need to go watch it.

      Anyway, same sentiments here. How do Haruhi and NHK get classified as slice-of-life anyway?

      And then it dawned on me that they probably have only a vague idea of what is ‘slice-of-life’ too. I’m in despair.

    • teru says:

      Lucky Star isn’t really a slice of life. It has very little elements that make it so. It’d be more accurate to call it comedy with bits of life.

      • Valence says:

        But that’s the problem I’m talking about here. How do you judge whether something is slice-of-life? Everything, in essence , is slice-of-life. You’re watching a bunch of mecha pilot’s lives in mecha shows, some leader of a harem in ecchi shows and etc, but they’re all essentially slice-of-life,if you take their literal meaning.

        So what I’m proposing is that slice-of-life not be treated as an entire genre as itself, but instead with another genres which make up the show. So I would classify Lucky Star as ‘Slice-of-life’ and ‘Comedy’. Takes the mickey out of things.

        • teru says:

          This is how I always looked at it. Look at the RPG genre. How can you classify which games are RPG and which are not? I mean, you role play as someone in every game, do you not?

          In the past, RPG was more attuned with the definition of creating your own character to put yourself in a role of that specific character, a la Dungeions and Dragons. However, with the advent of games like Dragon Quest, it wasn’t just for those types of games anymore.

          Now all it takes for RPG to be RPG is to have system in which you can level up, equip, and manage your characters.

          Slice of life is very similar in that anything can be slice of life. However, one fundamental thing that makes a slice of life what it is, in my opinion, it focuses on the life aspect.

          The reason why I wouldn’t consider Lucky Star a Slice of Life it does not portray the life aspects very much.

          For example, I’m going to use Ichigo Mashimaro. The series is mostly comedy, however it almost always focuses on the life aspect. Kids growing up, arguing, and having fun. The difference between this and LS is that LS’ slice of life element is almost always tied to one person: Kagami. Every other character is just there as a gag prop, and the whole series is to tell jokes and nothing more.

          Of course this is just my opinion, and I do agree that it is hard to make accurate distinction between series.

      • Valence says:

        Rather sadly, it seems that most, if not all slice-of-life has become comedy series. I mean , look at Azumanga Daioh, or even Ichigo Mashimaro.

        Do they portray slice-of-life? Yes. But how much is enough? And in the end, don’t most of these shows which tag themselves as such end up developing a plot or becoming character-centric? LS is sort of character-centric, I admit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t slice-of-life. Similarly, how can a slice-of-life show focus on plot? Like your analogy of a RPG game, do RPG games have different plots for each character? No, everyone has the same plot.

        Classifying genres is hard. There isn’t any strict basis, but this is my opinion.

      • teru says:

        About the RPG analogy, I wasn’t specifically talking about the story but more so about the role of the character itself. Creating your own character’s looks and traits, as if you were putting yourself in the game itself is where “role playing” originated from.

        And I agree that slice of life has shifted towards being more comedy. In my opinion, slice of life and comedy mixes very well together, like peanut butter and jelly.

        From what I know, most slice of life have been character driven. Like I wrote in response to someone else below earlier today, it has to be character driven because there is rarely any plot.

        I’m interested in what you think of what I wrote before. It was difficult to read since it was written in a cramped fashion so I’ll copy and paste it here:

        “The reason why I wouldn’t consider Lucky Star a Slice of Life it does not portray the life aspects very much.

        For example, I’m going to use Ichigo Mashimaro. The series is mostly comedy, however it almost always focuses on the life aspect. Kids growing up, arguing, and having fun. The difference between this and LS is that LS’ slice of life element is almost always tied to one person: Kagami. Every other character is just there as a gag prop, and the whole series is to tell jokes and nothing more.”

        To reiterate, It’s hard for me to classify Lucky Star when there is so little focus on the “life” aspect. Character sitting around the classroom telling jokes for the audience(us) is almost too close to breaking the 4th wall. Not to mention, it completely destroys the wall during Lucky Channel. Ichigo Mashimaro’s is always on character interaction, and shows kids being kids. I don’t know about you, but it certainly takes me back to my childhood, similar to Yotsuba&!, though it has a more comedic approach. Away from my subjective point of view, the approach IM takes is more similar to life than LS.

        If you were to take away all comedic elements of IM, I’m almost 100% sure that it’ll be a slice of life. Kids fighting, playing sports, going to school, doing homework, etc. With Lucky Star, it’s hard to say. Characters LS are created to fit their moe archetype, and they have almost no personality other than the moe trait that they were assigned. Not to mention, settings almost never matters in LS because they act the same regardless of where they are. Because of these reasons, if you take away the comedic elements in LS, I want to say that 10-20% would be slice of life due to the way the series is set up with 90% being a manzai gag.

        This might be an unfair assessment, and I’m probably a bit biased since I’m not a fan of Lucky Star, but I honestly believe that Lucky Star is ~80% comedy with references more so than slice of life. It relies on moe, references, and manzai jokes too much more so than the “life” element.

        If you think about it, LS’ episode progression is straight out of how 4-koma jokes are told, with a clear punchline in the end of every segment. Take this for example: If The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-CHAN(the comedy one, not the actual series) was aired with small “life” element, such as Haruhi staring off into the sunset, between every 4 minute episode, would it be a slice of life?

        Now, if I were to compare Azumanga and LS, that’d make things a lot more difficult, as they are pretty similar.

        This long reply just serves as proof that “Classifying genres is hard”. Though I’m hoping that through discussion, we could somehow form a middle ground.

        • Valence says:

          No, no, I do watch IM, it must have come out the wrong way.

          What’s the point of a discussion if you immediately push back whatever others say? Doesn’t it completely defeat the purpose? So I refrain from doing that.

      • Valence says:

        Agreed. Classifying genres is impossible, and hard. Not to say I’m not a fan of IM too though 😀

      • teru says:

        Now, I wouldn’t say impossible, just difficult when it comes to niche genre such as slice of life.

        And I’m not surprised that you don’t care for IM, not many people do. In my opinion, it has the “K-On” syndrome where people dismiss it based on the superficial elements, and dismiss it as being an anime catered to lolicons.

        Just to clarify, I’m not a lolicon, and I “moe” isn’t my thing(though I don’t mind it). It was still entertaining for me because of the well developed character personalities.

        In any case, I was linked here from another blog where I was having a rather interesting discussion about the subject we’re on. It’s good to know that some people are willing to discuss rather than dismiss ideas that differs from theirs. Cheers.

  5. Anon says:

    K-ON is slice of life as well. Don’t see much plot with it.

    Taking that as an example and since a lot of people hate K-ON, from their expressed views, i come to the following conclusion

    The difference lies in the attitude of the watcher. If you’re the type to aim for going from point A to B, the lack of plot will probably irritate you. If you’re the type that feels the journey is as important as the destination, then you’ll probably find the lack of plot to be non critical.

    Sometimes though, its not that there is a lack of plot but the ability of the viewer to see the plot. This is sometimes deliberate and sometimes its the presentation. In Angel Beats, for example, Yuri has never wavered in her attempts to take over the world in the first half of the anime. Yet many miss this even though she comes right out and says it in episode one. If we keep in mind how a scientist goes about trying to understand something, we can see the seeming stupid stuff she does (making Kanade fail etc) are data gathering experiments. Internal monologue is supplied to let us know her conclusions, yet still viewers don’t get it.

    The conclusion is that there is no need to get worked up. People will be people with differences in all areas

    • Valence says:

      K-On is slice-of-life, no arguments here.

      I suppose you’re right. I mean, people also write about how K-On lacks plot or character development. I did so for a long period of time until I actually realized that that was a flawed argument and now I like the series. I won the war over myself.

      if the viewer fails to see the plot, then it could mean a few things. One being the show is complex and probably mind-blowing, the other being that the show has failed in its presentation. But in Angel Beats, the plot was so-called, solidfied at the end. I mean, her frantic screaming about becoming God was actually the end of her entire megalomanical thinking and the end of the plotline in that sense, so to speak.

    • teru says:

      There’s a difference between character development and having a well-developed character. Slice of life is mostly character driven, and because of this, it is almost required to have characters that are rich in personality for it to be entertaining.

      K-On’s season 1 had this, but K-On’s season 2 lacked a lot of what made the first season entertaining, at least for me.

      I agree that it is up to the viewers, however, with any storytelling medium, the responsibility is mostly lies on the writer. Look at Azumanga Daioh, for example. It was probably the first of its kind, yet it was highly successful despite the the lack of plot. What’s the difference between K-On and Azumanga, then? It’s something to think about. In my opinion, most people see K-On’s exterior qualities, such as the large amount of moe jokes because of the way they market and present the series, so most people dismiss the series as nothing more than moe fan service.

      Slice of life, like with every genre, some series are better than others, and some are popular despite being mediocre.

  6. w.t says:

    Haha, It’s amazing

  7. Baka-Raptor says:

    Bartender kicks ass.

    I’ve given up trying to define slice of life. For now I’m sticking to an “I know it when I see it” definition. And if I can comfortably stick it in another genre, I won’t bother calling it slice of life. There’s no need, and it’s probably not.

    • Valence says:

      Perhaps so. I was using the same definition, but if everyone uses the same definiton someone’s gotta make a stand sometime or another.

      But perhaps it would be easier to completely just categorize the show into other genres if possible. Slice-of-life is too vague. Websites list it as ‘a cast of characters going through life.’ But everything in anime is part of their lives, now isn’t it?

  8. hiroy_raind says:

    I’m wondering…

    does Devil May Cry (anime) counts as a slice of life

  9. Ming Xuan says:

    Wait….
    Since I am 1,2 and 3,
    shouldn’t i hate lucky star?

    • Valence says:

      What I mean was that those who are 1,2,3 have a higher frequency in writing such results. You don’t necessarily have to hate LS, or any other slice-of-life show for that matter.

      And besides, I think I’m 1 and 3. And I still like LS.

  10. flyzice says:

    To be honest, I’m not sure why there’s this huge negativity directed towards slice-of-life anime. I’ve read quite a number of articles whereby people just trash them. I enjoy slice-of-life anime. When I’m watching anime of this genre, I wouldn’t expect any grand drama or development. Just some light stuff. It’s actually pretty good and relaxing.

    • Valence says:

      Same!

      Especially those shows by KyoAni, they get the most publicity yet the harshest reviews.

      I mean, I’m not looking for Death Note or something when I watch Lucky Star. Seriously, why do people do that?

    • teru says:

      I believe that’s because Slice of Life has become more popular in the recent years. Slice of Life has always been more of a niche genre. It also has to do with how it became popular, but one is for another post.

  11. CT says:

    hey im just a random reader. i usually just read and never post but after seeing this i decided i had to post cos i know exactly how you feel. well maybe not exactly.. but i also find those reviews annoying. i dunno about you but for me i loved watching lucky start BECAUSE it was plotless, although i also enjoy a good plot. depends on my mood. anyways, the bad reviews pointing out lack of plot as a weakness really irked me cos they were hating on the anime for the same reason that i liked it.

    P.S. nice blog 😀

    • Valence says:

      Hey, thanks for reading 😀

      I feel the same. These reviews take up a huge chunk of cyberspace, and many people get their opinion from these reviewers. I liked the daily happenings these characters go through, and I don’t expect any riveting plot to clock up their screentime. All the reviews that criticize slice-of-life shows, or at least, most of them, point out this apparent lack of plot. That irks me.

      Good to find a comrade in this part of the internet 😀

  12. Nopy says:

    I’ve always been a bit confused with the slice of life definition. As you said, anything could be considered slice of life because everything is a slice of someone’s life.

    In my opinion, there should be a new term for plotless anime with no or little comedy, drama, and action. That way it’d be harder for people to complain about an anime having no plot since it’d be like complaining about there being too many explosions in an action film.

    • Valence says:

      But then again, not all slice-of-life shows completely lack any semblance of plot, and I don’t know any slice-of-life shows with no or little comedy, drama or action. By having a new term to categorize such anime, it will only lead to a more biased and more confusing new genre.

  13. Azure Hoshizora says:

    Yea there has been lots of discussions on the genre “slice of life” recently.

    I was under the impression that “Slice of life” means that I watch the anime and at times I’m supposed to go “Ah… this have actually happened in my sad miserable boring and pointless life”

    I have never understood how anime are classified into genres and I don’t think I ever will understand what exactly slice of life means, but I suppose it doesn’t affect me enjoying the anime so I dont really care~

  14. doriinatrix says:

    Yeah, reviews like that are kind of missing the point. It’s kind of difficult for me to sit through Lucky Star and K-On, but I guess that’s because they hit way too close to home. I could probably watch Bartender though.

    • Valence says:

      Hit way too close to home? Doesn’t happen to me that much. Lucky Star was like, the first anime I ever watched (on purpose) (undubbed) so I couldn’t get a single reference to any other anime or games whatsoever. I should get around to rewatching it soon, perhaps I’ll remember some things.

      Bartender is nice, okay 😀

      • doriinatrix says:

        Hehe, I actually haven’t been able to watch past episode 2, but like, the whole deal with Konata procrastinating and doing geeky stuff instead and copying off her overachiever friend’s homework– that was just too relatable! It’s like watching my own life, and that makes me uncomfortable ^^;;

        And I imagine, I really liked the little I read of the manga.

  15. Ex14 says:

    I think teh reviews while missing the point are not wrong too. like for lucky star some of us can ignore the nonsense and lack of story or whatever and still like it, some of us don’t =/ thats it, it’s life (or rather the different people we meet) brought to the internet

    in essence what i’m trying to hit is that one man’s meat is another’s poison, so to say their POV is wrong is not quite right. Rather it’s ur POV that doesn’t conenct with them hence leading you to D< /rage against them/their opinions lol

    If you ask me, i'll just /ignore this kind of stuff makes life much more pleasant XDD

    • Valence says:

      No-one said that everyone will like the show, what I’m angry about is that most of these reviews shoot things down for having no plot, while it’s perfectly expectable. Now, now, I’m okay with people disliking the stuff I like. Most of these reviews which don’t comment on the ‘lack of plot’ , I can fully understand. For instance, the whole coronet thing in episode 1? Boring. I think I almost dropped the show there and then, but I’m glad I finished it.

      Of course my POV doesn’t connect with them, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this argument to begin with D:

      And yeah, ignore it I guess. Ignorance is bliss~

  16. alucard13mm says:

    lol after reading some comments im kinda scared to post but XD..

    to me.. k-on, azumanga daioh, and lucky stars is almost the same show but different basis. thats just my own opinion.

    • Valence says:

      Sorry for scaring you (if I did) D: I get like that some times.

      Maybe you’re right, they’re all about a group of schoolgirls going about their daily activities. However,I think the most random one was Azumanga Daioh.

  17. TheBigN says:

    It’s mad hard to define a show as “slice of life” or not. What bugs me though is whenever people use the term as a means of criticizing the show by using phrases like “nothing happens” and such, which I take to mean that they equate “slice of life” with “nothing happens”, “cute girls doing cute things” and the like.

    • Valence says:

      That’s what ticks me off too. They get this view from shows like Azumanga Daioh and LS, the two most commonly quoted shows in defining the slice-of-life genre. Any argument about slice-of-life seems to involve using these two shows as examples.

      Of course, it’s impossible to define a genre. I don’t claim to be any authority on deciding what goes and what doesn’t, but this crossed the line for me.

      They come to slice-of-life seeking something to happen, but become solely disappointed when it doesn’t live up to their ‘expectations’. They expect the wrong things from the wrong shows. It’s like looking for horror in Azumanga Daioh, then crying when you can’t find any.

  18. alucard13mm says:

    hmm yes, if they dont like it, dont watch it =3..

    i dont really mind watching these “slice of life” series lol. i just find similarities that they all or most of them share. the funny thing is these shows are almost always very popular.

    i suppose it nudges at one’s interest by presenting events or actions that also occur in real life, but no one really put in much thought to it. when you see an odd scene.. then you would be like “WOW! That happened to me but I never thought about it!” lol i did contemplate before watching lucky star.. which end of a chocolate cone is the head @_@..

    • Valence says:

      I always firmly believed that the widest part was the head. Kind of like a ice-cream cone. Besides, the coronets I eat don’t ooze chocolate from both ends.

      Slice-of-life shows are not necessarily very popular. Some just fade into oblivion quickly, while others are criticized and shunned. Slice-of-life gets viewers through , amongst several ways, relating the viewer to the character. This way the viewer appreciates the show.

  19. teru says:

    Interesting read. I’ve often thought about this subject myself, but stopped about half a year ago. Still trying to remember my take on this.

    • Valence says:

      Haha, thanks 😀

      All in all, slice-of-life is too vague. What makes that anyway? Can you truly relate to characters in these slice-of-life shows? Or do you really see a ‘slice-of-life’ ? Who knows, but the best I can do is argue about it.

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