Tag Archives: tokyopop

Tokyopop Blog Discusses the FAQ of Manga on Hiatus

One of the questions publishers tend to hear the most (aside from, “when are you going to publish [insert name of manga here*]?”) is “when are you going to publish the next volume of [insert name of manga here**]?”

This tends to be one of the most aggravating for publishers to hear, actually. It’s not that publishers don’t WANT to answer it, it’s just that they’d prefer not to have to answer it 100+ times and have to disappoint fans over and over. (Not a very fun part of the job.) Sometimes there’s no answer to give people because the next volume just isn’t on the schedule yet. The typical vague and neutral statements issued in response satisfy no one because such questions are often asked in environments where a more detailed answer cannot be given.

But now, a Tokyopop blogger (presumably an employee, but I have no idea who it is, so it could be an intern) has taken to the time to give fans the lowdown on why series are put on hiatus and what you can do to pull them out of limbo.

The post is extremely thorough and well-written, answering not only why releases are put off, but how pubs get manga into bookstores, whether or not bookstores are bigger sellers than online retailers, why older titles are out-of-print, just why you SHOULD put your money where your mouth is and a lot of other insight into how book publishing works from a sales point-of-view.

Here’s a choice quote:

So sometimes we put a title on hiatus to see if fans manage to find what copies we have out there before we invest in producing more. How fast things come back from hiatus is heavily reliant on how existing stock performs, and whether we see an increased demand as people browse and pick up the early volumes and tell their friends about them, and then their friends go and pick them up. We’ve had some things reemerge from hiatus and perform well (Silver Diamond and Your & My Secret are good examples of this), and some things that in spite of their apparent popularity among the fans and buzz in the blogosphere, just don’t quite pick up enough steady business.

It’s worth checking out, which is why I’m posting about it. Bravo, TPHenshu, this is a great post.

*Quite possibly the name of something already published by another company. I’ve seen this happen.

**Quite possibly something that is already available for purchase, just had the next release date announced or is not even on hiatus.

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Life of A (Rookie) Editor: Success and Secrets

There’s been a lot of good happening in my professional career lately.

I’ve been pretty busy, so if you’ve noticed a drop in the number of posts, it’s mostly because it was what I like to call “copy-edit hell week”, which has stretched into 3 weeks now. Sooner or later (please, sooner, please!) that copy-edit hell will go away and break into a fresh new burst of busy!

But during all this hustle and bustle, I’ve gotten a raise from one client and been asked to work for another manga publisher. It’s amazing news and a huge relief to me. I was debating moving away from manga editing slightly by getting a part-time job. It’s not that this line-of-work is a deliberate money thing for me, but I just want to keep doing it AND pay my bills. Plus it’s great to re-affirm that I can do freelance manga editing as a career because it seems like such a crazy pipe dream at times.

On top of that, Hetalia Axis Powers vol. 2 has been on the New York Times bestselling manga list for a number of weeks now, bringing vol. 1 along for the ride and back into the top 10. That always makes me happy for the simple reason that it’s a title that I’ve worked on and the first manga I’ve worked on to make it to the list!

Speaking of Hetalia, I actually knew Tokyopop had licensed it before the rest of the general public did (even before TP’s not-so-subtle Twitter hints that they’d picked it up.) Of course, I found this out when I technically wasn’t working or interning for Tokyopop, but just happened to be visiting the office. When I put two and two together (there was a lot of Hetalia paraphernalia about), I was quickly and sternly warned not to mention it to anyone.

It was the first time I had known a publishing secret. It was a little scary, actually, because anyone who knew anything about popular manga knew that Hetalia was a huge phenomenon. I hadn’t gotten into the series yet because the only way to read it was obviously illegal, but I was pretty stoked that the company had snagged such a popular manga. It was big! It was exciting! Fangirls would scream! I couldn’t help but hope for it’s success considering that Tokyopop had drastically downsized the previous year. (This was in 2009.) It’s so cool to see it succeed like I hoped it would! A lot of people in the office were waiting with bated breath to see if Hetalia would be picked up by the American fandom.

To some, it might seem a little silly to keep a license announcement secret. After all, letting fans know sooner rather than later will only result in excited otaku and good press for the company, right? Wrong! It’d be one thing if it was a really minor leak, like when Deb Aoki recently spilled the beans on Kami no Shizuku being licensed by Vertical Inc. just before an episode of ANNCast was set to break the news. The result was pretty much only some grumbling and the release of that ANNCast a little earlier than expected because Vertical pretty much had the license set up already.

But a premature license announcement can have a lot of disastrous results. If the news got out too early, it could displease the Japanese rights holders and put negotiations on shaky ground. Or a publisher could be unprepared to release the information because publishing dates and technicalities aren’t set in stone. This has happened before, most recently when Vertical announced No Longer Human a little too early, had to retract the statement last October and couldn’t confirm the license again until last month. Obviously, no one but the folks at Vertical know what happened after their first, mistaken announcement, but I can’t imagine it was pleasant to deal with.

Lastly, retracting or losing a license due to an unintended, early announcement isn’t going to get any favorable reaction from fans. Over all, it looks terribly unprofessional for the company or whomever let the secret slip early. That’s really serious, since the loss of a reliable reputation can cost a publishing company future licenses they may want. For an individual worker, it means a not just loss of their reputation, but a potential blacklisting.

So there you go, manga publishing secrets are serious business. It’s always best to listen to official license announcements by the publishers themselves, since, as the manga blogging community has witnessed, sometimes a book popping up on Amazon doesn’t always mean a title is going to be release when the listing says.

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Going Digital: Three Things Every Manga Publisher Needs

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what goes into publishing manga, mostly because I would love to begin publishing books on my own, but mostly because I feel like the market has begun to totally change. E-readers are becoming more prevalent for serious fans and even a number of the less serious fans have iPhones, Droids or other smart phones that make viewing manga on the go a lot easier. Of course, the manga industry, and the comics industry in general, has been a bit slow to fully embrace digital. Whether their reasons be because companies still favor print (and so do their readers) or because rights holders are still hesitant to give digital rights, I honestly don’t think the industry can turn away from digital comics any more. Sooner or later, almost everyone is going to own an e-reader just like suddenly almost everyone owned an mp3 player.

Of course, the future is unknowable to us mortals and we can’t predict what will change the industry next, but here’s a few things I think manga publishers need to adopt now to be prepared for the onslaught of fans who no longer want print copies.

1. Offer dirt cheap manga for just about every platform imaginable:

This one should be pretty obvious. The music industry survived it’s piracy wars by letting songs go for 99 cents a pop, the same thing should be possible for the comics industry in theory. Of course, 99 cents is a little low, but prices should be as low as feasibly possible. Why? Because the pirates don’t value manga now, just like pirates didn’t value music then. There will still be piracy, of course, but by taking a big gulp and doing whatever is possible to make prices low for readers, it might be possible to begin attracting some of the casual pirates back.

This, unfortunately, is made difficult by the e-reader wars going on. The best strategy is to just offer the manga on any platform that’s humanly (and financially) possible. Sites like ComiXology are obviously a great go-to site for multiple digital platforms and manga publishers like Viz, TOKYOPOP, DMP and Dark Horse are already there. Plus, you can read on the web in case you don’t have an e-reader, which solves the problem for that side of the market who hasn’t been able to buy the expensive gadgets yet.

2. Regular Online Serialization:

Oh man, do I think this is a great idea. A bunch of SigIkki series and Rin-ne became instant favorites when I discovered I could get chapters online for free. It was a ton of fun to get Neko Ramen strips in my mail box each day. But other than the Viz titles, I can’t think of any publisher who is doing regular online serialization with a large number of series. It’d be great to have more pubs jump on to give those people who want to “preview” their manga before they buy what they want. Solving the problem of people just being able to read a series for free all the time, Viz just pulls the chapters once a book goes out, leaving nothing but the first chapters of every volume for those “preview” pirate types.

There are a number of publishers who serialize online, but I find the problem with them is that they do so too infrequently to hold the attention of readers who are devouring manga at the pace of scanlation readers normally do.

3. An open mind and a better website:

It’s no big secret that most manga publisher websites suck. If they aren’t too busy and overwhelming, they’re hard to navigate and it’s difficult to find the information you want. Minimal web design is popular now for a reason- the faster users can find what they want, the faster they get gratification. I’m not saying that manga publishers can’t add flourishes here and there, but unnecessary content, tabs and whatnot should be taken down. We don’t need manga companies to be our social network stand-ins anymore, but every company should run a blog that publishes a bit more than just PR copy. I particularly like some of Viz’s blogs for Rin-ne and SigIkki and TOKYOPOP has some fun cultural content every week in its newsletter. (I used to write articles for it as an intern. It was great fun.) But there should be a blog and it should be the publisher’s hub for getting information out to the masses. And, most importantly, it should not  be written like a press release.

Technically having a open mind should be a fourth thing on this list, but it’s something that really applies to it’s predecessors on this short list. Without an open mind, publishers are going to want to give up and just stick to print. But that’s not going to fly anymore. Publishers need to realize that experimentation is going to be necessary. If a digital publishing venture isn’t making money, it might be best to drop it and turn to a new idea. Internet culture changes so very quickly and there’s always some new device, technology or service out there and surviving will definitely go hand in hand with the ability to be nimble and able to adopt new things.

Is there anything else you feel that publishers should think of when working on digital publishing? I admit, it’s late at night and I might have missed something. Share what you think manga publishers should be doing to accommodate online readers.

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The 2010 Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide

A few days ago, as I was shopping at Borders, I heard my first Christmas music of the season. Now Christmas music usually makes me want to kill people, but instead of taking it out on the checkout clerk, I decided it would be a good time to start writing this gift guide instead.

Yes, I am a total scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but there are other holidays coming up and this gift guide will be useful for all of them. But before we get started, I would like to remind you that you can find out more about the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide here and also view other 2010 gift guides.

Now onto something that makes me much less grumpy…shoujo manga! (And some josei too, of course.)

The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things

You guessed it! I’m talking about Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Oh yes, this is 288 pages of hardcover, gold embossed shoujo from a classic master of shoujo manga. Even better, while supplies last, you can get your giftee a copy with a signed plate from Hagio herself when you order the book from Fantagraphics directly. Filled with short stories that span Hagio’s career, this book isn’t for children, but anyone from your mature older teen (if you feel comfortable with them reading about issues like abortion and suicide attempts) to adults who still love a good shoujo fix, classical manga or just something different from the norm. It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga.

For The Naughty Girl

So maybe you’re looking for a manga for that special someone who just happens to be heavily into hilarious smut. If that’s the case, look no further than Butterflies, Flowers. There are very few raunchy shoujo or josei titles that get published in English and this is one of the few that does it successfully without turning the heroine into a pawn of the men vying for her. The relationship between the heroine, Choko, and her romantic interest, Masayuki, is very give and take. Choko used to be the daughter of a very rich family where Masayuki was a servant. Now their roles are reversed as she is a poor, lowly secretary at a real estate company and Masayuki is a high-class executive who likes to sexually harass her openly. But Choko doesn’t let him get away with jack squat if he embarrasses her and Masayuki’s teases are beyond humiliating sometimes. It’s like watching that really cute couple that always makes half-joking, but pointed comments at each other in manga form.

For Someone Who Likes The Cute (or Yotsuba&!)

The obvious choice for this category would be Otomen, but if you know your giftee is already collecting that series, what do you do? They’re going to get themselves the next volume anyway and you’d like to gift something they haven’t read so you can get that “OMG I LOVE THIS MANGA! Thanks for giving it to me! Is there more?” feeling. That’s why I suggest Bunny Drop, an adorable story about a 30-something office worker who decides to spontaneously adopt his 4-year-old aunt when his grandfather dies. (That’s where the Yotsuba&! part came from, if you were wondering.) Bunny Drop is mostly about Daikichi learning the ins and outs of caring for a young, emotional child, he also takes time to connect with her and learn about her mysterious past. Rin, however, steals the show with her cuteness. And, in my opinion, Bunny Drop is the best josei to come out this year.

For The Romantic Who Wants to Be Swept Away

Stepping on Roses by Rinko Ueda is classic romance novel fodder. Poor girl needs money, poor girl meets rich man who just  happens to need a stand-in wife that he doesn’t want to love, money exchanges hands and they wind up falling in love reluctantly. I seem to be one of the few bloggers who actually likes this series, most others think Sumi is a total limp noodle. When I first read it, I too was hesitant because of what other people had said. I was surprised that Sumi wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Sure, she’s clueless about the lifestyle of her rich husband, illiterate and much more, but she sticks to her guns and takes the opportunity to learn and do her job. I felt like Sumi was an English major suddenly stuck into an advanced engineering class. She has the pep and the ability to learn, but feels lost compared to the other characters who grew up in that environment. The important part is she never really loses her resolve. Perhaps I just really like Rinko Ueda’s manga, but she creates an awesome Meiji era/Victorian romance with lots of drama, a cheery heroine and awesome (albeit historically inaccurate) fashion.

For Your Future Astronaut

Twin Spica is like a dramatic space-age shoujo manga. That’s saying a lot because Twin Spica actually ran in a seinen magazine. Still, it reminds me a lot of the shoujo classic To Terra…, without the dramatic racial politics and the super-advanced civilization, of course. With the cute school girl heroine and the competitive astronaut school drama, it’s something any shoujo manga or scifi fan can enjoy. At the same time, it’s a great gift for someone who isn’t a fan of all the normal shoujo cliches and wants something a little bit more mature and original. It’s a little bit heavy and sad at times, but if your giftee isn’t the Arina Tanemura manga type, then a couple volumes of Twin Spica will make an excellent gift.

For The Graphic Novel Purist

Got someone in your life who you want to share your passion for manga with, but they’re more about the graphic novels? Perhaps you should pair Fumi Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters with Natsume Ono’s Not Simple. Both are fantastic manga that focus more on the craft of storytelling than keeping the story going like many manga do. Any woman with a mother can relate to All My Darling Daughters and Not Simple’s tragic story is intriguing. They’re both great ways to show the reluctant reader that manga isn’t all just about ninjas and magical girls, but has a lot of titles to fit different tastes.

For The Fangirl

I know I shouldn’t do this because I worked on the series… I’ve been trying so hard not to, but…Hetalia: Axis Powers. There! I said it! If your giftee doesn’t already have it, then get it for them! If they didn’t like the anime, don’t take this as a bad sign. I’ve heard tons of people saying they liked the manga way more, but hated the anime and I can see why. The anime was fujoshi-fied in order to make more money, but the manga is a lot less overwhelmingly cutesy and more about the political/historical relationships. If all else fails, TOKYOPOP has a lot of charming shoujo manga in their catalog. But I shouldn’t say anymore! NRGH, THIS IS SO HARD!!!! Seriously, they’ve put out some great shoujo in the past few years. I just don’t feel right pimping more than one recent title.

For The Shoujo Fan Who’s Read Every Single Japanese Manga You Can Think Of

Have an extensive shoujo collector to shop for? Get her started on sunjeong manhwa! There’s plenty of cute titles out there like 10, 20, 30, X Diary and Please, Please Me from Netcomics. Yen Press has a pretty substantial sunjeong manhwa catalog and TOKYOPOP has a ton of out of print manhwa that were very under-appreciated, so you can probably find some in a bargain bin somewhere. (Sadly, but at least it’s cheap, right?)

For Your Shoujo Manga Fan/Foodie

There are actually a lot of manga that fit this category out there, but I love Mixed Vegetables the best. It’s about two kids in a culinary high school who have dreams to be a pasty chef and a sushi chef, but the one dreaming of being sushi chef is the daughter of a pastry chef and the one dreaming of being a pastry chef is a son of a sushi chef! Obviously, they team up to help each other achieve their dreams, but along the way there’s a lot of romance, drama and focus on delicious sushi and pastries! Nummers. It’s a typical shoujo manga in a lot of ways, but at the same time, a bit like a shounen manga where the protagonists are fighting to reach their dreams.

For The One Who Still Stumps You

I’ll always recommend this as long as I live: gift cards. If you truly have no clue, there is nothing better than a good chunk of money (at least $25) on a bookstore gift card. Or a local comic book store gift card (assuming they have a substantial manga section) or a Right Stuf gift card. That way, your giftee will get the money to spend on whatever manga they want and you will know they will be satisfied with that next volume or two of their favorite series.

In case you didn’t find what you were looking for with this list, you can also check out my Shoujo Manga Gift Guide from last year. Happy shopping!

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Is There Adequate Manga Marketing for the Everyday Fan?

Last weekend, I went to visit my alma mater and hang out with some good friends. At brunch with two friends from my old anime club, we wound up talking about manga in depth. One friend was just a casual fan, picking up stuff that interested him here and there. He has a full-time job and the disposable income to pick up whatever he wanted regularly. The other friend was a scanlation reader largely by necessity as she doesn’t have a job and is a full-time student.

But as we discussed the manga industry in the local Barnes & Noble and I suggested manga they’d both like left and right, it became really clear to me that neither of them knew much about what the industry was offering. Neither of them had heard of SigIkki, Viz’s fantastic online serialization site for more mature titles. Neither of them knew about many great titles out in English, other digital offerings or even about the existence some of the smaller manga publishers. They were casual manga fans to a T.

It struck me, mostly because I think I’ve been living in an intense manga industry-focused bubble for the past year and a half or so, but also because it seems like such a spectacular failure on the industry’s part. Why the hell aren’t we doing more to tell these kinds of readers know what’s going on?

Some could argue that the industry is already doing all that it can. They’re reaching out to fans on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. There are in-book ads, company newsletters, even TV shows dedicated to reaching out to the fans. The only problem? I think they’re reaching out to only the hardcore fans, the otaku.

To be a hardcore fan of manga and anime means that you’re probably more than a little obsessed with the stuff. While these kinds of fans may know a lot about manga, there is certainly a focus on extremely popular manga and scanlations because both are easily accessible. There are lots of sites dedicated to both, lots of marketing put out (at least on the legal side of things) that’s devoted to Naruto (or Bleach or Vampire Knight, etc.) and almost no energy allotted for telling fans about the countless number of less popular manga out there. No wonder most fans don’t know they exist! (And sales are low.) Where’s the tweet reminding everyone that the next Butterflies, Flowers or Maid Sama is on sale? I really can’t recall much promotional information on such titles during the time I’ve been focusing on the manga industry. In fact, I think smaller pubs like DMP and Vertical Inc. are the only ones who really bother trying to give attention to each and every new volume of manga that comes out. But sometimes, for publishers like Vertical, the fans don’t even know they exist either because no one’s passed them an ANN article or because bookstore distribution for those publishers isn’t as heavy as it is for Viz, Yen Press or Tokyopop. I certainly knew nothing about tiny pubs like Fanfare/Ponent Mon before 2009, so it doesn’t surprise me almost no one else does either.

So how do we get back to the casual fan? Heavy distribution in large chain bookstores is a start. Certainly, the big American publishers take up most of the room, leaving the smaller pubs to fight for space or take their merchandise elsewhere. The problem with this is that I think a ton of casual manga readers find what they buy here in these Borders and Barnes & Nobles. So that leaves the responsibility of marketing to whatever is on the shelves. One thing that I always thought Viz did right is the in-book ads printed on the inside of the front cover listing the newest releases and when they’d hit the streets. They may have only done this with the Shojo Beat line, but hot damn it was effective when I wasn’t hyper-connected to manga news. What’s this? New volumes of Sand Chronicles, Love*Com, SA and Otomen are out? I WANT THEM ALL! Oh, and what’s this new series they have listed? I’ll see if they have it here and flip through it. A great, REALLY SIMPLE way to keep someone interested in buying your manga. It might be slightly more expensive because of where it’s printed, but at least the information has reached the fans right away.

Unfortunately, Viz doesn’t do this for some of the titles that probably need the most help selling– it’s Signature and SigIkki lines. Out of all the ones in my collection that I looked at, only one or two titles had these little inside front cover ads. More titles had ads in the very last pages. Many more had no ads at all, especially the SigIkki titles. The biggest shame is that the only places you could find the SigIkki URL were the places you were LEAST likely to look for pme, like underneath a barcode. Who looks there? Seriously?! Knowing Tokyopop’s process through my freelance work for them, I can tell you that the number of in-book ads depends on how many pages you have left over (page numbers go by increments of 16 unless you want to pay serious cash to do otherwise.)

If there are in-book ads, a lot of space is dedicated to showing off the shiniest new series that the publisher has with the shiniest art they can find that looks good in black and white and lots and lots of copy. As far as I can tell, pretty much every manga publisher is guilty of this. What I think would be more effective, an overall look at the new releases of the line or the company listed on one page with effective information like dates and websites, never actually happens. What the readers see is only what the publisher feels like pushing at the time. Again, energy is focused on the popular titles instead of showing off titles that readers might not even know about. No wonder there’s so much unloved manga out there. There’s not even any real marketing done for the shiny new digital venues that pubs are beginning to put out left and right. At least, not any that reaches all the fans!

I’m pretty sure I’ve only rambled on about part of the manga marketing process and so much more could be done. But for the sake of the length of this post and a fast-approaching bedtime, I’ll stop here with a few questions.

Imagine, if you will, that you don’t read up on the manga industry on a regular basis, that you don’t read any manga-related blogs and that you’re not following Viz or whomever on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. You get your news from your friends, maybe some livejournal communities and, most importantly, what you see in stores. What would be the most effective way of letting you know about other titles you’d be interested in? Do you even read the in-book ads at the end of manga you buy? Do you notice the websites and other information listed in odd places throughout the book? What, if anything, informs you about what else is out there? What do you think could be done to better impart that kind of information to you?

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Discussion: Why aren’t manga fans more open to OEL manga?

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. Things are crazy busy here with my job. Good news is that Hetalia volume 3 is going to be AWESOME. If you want an idea of what it’s like to edit the Hetalia books, you can check out my recent Twitter posts or check out the #Hetalia tag.

To make the wait easier, I’d like to share this article by Tim Beedle, a former manga editor himself, about why manga-inspired art and comics do not sell and, because of this, no longer get published.

This is a topic I don’t think has been discussed much on this blog before, so what are your opinions on OEL manga? Do you love them or think they’re cheap imitations? What are some of the titles you’ve picked up in the past? What would you like to see from OEL manga artists? What would you like to see from publishers on the OEL front?

These days there are few pubs that even bother. Viz hasn’t taken any new steps with its original submissions program in over a year, TOKYOPOP’s long since canned anything that doesn’t make them money, as have a lot of other publishers. Still, there are places like Yen Press and others that hire manga-inspired creators and allow them to do their thing and Scott Pilgrim is a ridiculously huge success.

What is it that makes an OEL manga or a manga-inspired comic work for people who buy manga and other forms of comics?

Your thoughts, my readers…

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Tokyopop puts two new BLU titles on eManga

A spot of manga news for you folks tonight.

Digital Manga Publishing’s eManga site is now hosting a dozen different BL/yaoi titles from TOKYOPOP’s BLU imprint. Of the titles included in the release, I can confirm (because I work for them and I can look up the system that tells me when their street date is) that Secretary’s Love by Tohko Akiba and Stray Cat by Halco are being released ahead of their print street date. Secretary’s Love won’t be out until December and Stray Cat won’t hit until early November, so the wait won’t kill you if you want to hold out for a print copy.

Each title can be purchased for about $6 in points from the eManga site, but they can only be bought to “keep” instead of being “rented”, which is an option with DMP’s own titles.

Not a bad deal if you’re looking for a cheap way to get your BL fix (some of these titles sell for $14.99 in print)! Personally, and I have nothing to do with the decision to put them on eManga although I have edited some of the titles there, I’m really happy to see TOKYOPOP doing this. It’s an especially smart move considering DMP has a good platform for digital viewing and an audience that reads BL. Definitely a smart move on the company’s part.

You can see all the manga from TOKYOPOP/BLU here and enjoy a night or two of steamy, cheap, pixelated man-love.

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