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Flayrah investigates: Are Pokémon starters too anthropomorphic?

Edited by Sonious, GreenReaper as of Thu 1 Dec 2022 - 05:46
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In a screenshot from Pokémon Violet, Penelope the Meowscarada has a picnic.

In the core Pokémon video game series, most main entries begin with the player making a choice between three Pokémon, one each Grass, Fire and Water type, which becomes their first Pokémon. These Pokémon, known as "starter", and also their third and final "evolutions", are given unique prominence in the minds of players, mostly for sentimental reasons, as everybody remembers their first, and partially because these Pokémon are slightly stronger than average, especially during early game. They are also rare, as the beginning of the game is usually the only time they are available, outside of trading with other players or breeding duplicates (which the game makes harder for starters by making them predominantly male, when offspring species is determined by the female in a breeding pair).

Due to this prominence, the character designs for the starters and their final evolution are heavily scrutinized. In more recent generations of Pokémon, a common complaint has been a rise in bipedalism and "human like" designs for the characters, a complaint that resurfaced with the evolution of quadripedal Grass Cat Sprigatito into bipedal Meowscarada (bipedal cats seem to especially stir strong reactions, if the earlier reaction to Incineroar is any indication). Now, partially, this is all aesthetic preferences, and it all comes down to personal choice, but there does seem to be a strong "no furries" aspect to the complaining from some quadrants. Furries definitely seem to prefer the bipedal look, with Meowscarada showing up over 550 times on e621, while Quaqaval the duck is a distant second with just over 60, which is still double third place Skeledirge the quadrupedal crocodile with not even 30 pieces as of this writing. And there is reason to doubt this is a "recent" trend among Pokémon starters, as well.


The first three starter Pokémon, and probably the most recognizable, were Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. Already, we see that two thirds of them begin bipedal, and the final form of Charmander, Charizard, and Squirtle, Blastoise, retain this bipedalism. Bulbasaur is the odd man out, both starting out as a quadruped and finishing as one as Venusaur, at least in key art, though some in game descriptions seem to imply it also may have been a biped, just weighed down by the plant on its back to four legs.


The second generation introduced Chikorita, Cyndaquil and Totodile who become Meganium, Typhlosion and Feraligatr, respectively. Once again, we see the Grass starter on all fours throughout, while the other two starters stick to two legs, though it should be noted the Cyndaquil line seems to act a bit like a bear, sometimes using two legs, sometimes four, in animations. Still, we're putting the running total at pure quadrupeds 2, pure bipeds 4.


The third generation starters include Treecko, Torchic and Mudkip, who eventually evolve into Sceptile, Blaziken and Swampert. Here, one trend begins while another ends. The beginning trend is one that puts the lie to the humanoid starter being a recent thing, as Blaziken becomes the first of three Fire starters to gain the second type of Fighting, which is the type of many of the most human Pokémon in the franchise, and definitely applies to Blaziken, who most people unfamiliar with it would probably have to told it was supposed to be a chicken. Meanwhile, the Treecko line becomes the first Grass line to feature bipedalism, but Mudkip line takes up the four leg mantle for the generation, so the count goes to pure quadrupeds 3, pure bipeds 6.


The fourth generation sees the introduction of Turtwig, Chimchar and Piplup who become Torterra, Infernape and Empoleon. This generation reverts back to the pattern of Fire and Water being bipeds while the Grass starter stays on four legs. On the issue of anthropomorphism rather than just bipedalism, the Chimchar line has the distinction of being one of only two starter lines who's Egg Group is Human-Like, meaning even the game recognizes its human nature. In any case, the count is now pure quadrupeds 4, pure bipeds 8.


For the fifth generation, the starters were Snivy, Tepig and Oshawott and anything resembling a pattern breaks down completely. Tepig, a quadruped, becomes Emboar the biped. Oshawott, a biped, becomes the quadruped Samurott. And then there's Snivy, a biped who becomes a ... snake, Serperior. So, the count is now pure quadruped 4, pure biped 8, biped to quadruped 1, quadruped to biped 1, is a snake 1.


The sixth generation calms down a bit with Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie, who become Chesnaught, Delphox and Greninja in the end. This time, it is a near shut out for bipedalism, with Fennekin the lone quadrupedal holdout before evolving. Running count is pure quadruped 4, pure biped 10, biped to quadruped 1, quadruped to biped 2, is a snake 1.


The seventh generation sees players choosing between Rowlet, Litten and Popplio. Rowlet becomes Decidueye, maintaining bipedalism the entire time, though this is one of the avian lines of starters, so bipedalism makes more sense, unless you're using Animal Farm logic and making the case wings count as legs in order to not discourage birds with your "two legs bad, four legs good" slogan. Litten evolves into Incineroar, and is a cat, so we've already covered this one. Meanwhile, Popplio into Primarina is another Serperior like case, this time with a seal rather than a snake. So, the score is pure quadruped 4, pure biped 11, biped to quadruped 1, quadruped to biped 2, is a snake 1, flippers 1.


Bipedalism rules supreme in the eighth generation, with all three starters, Grookey, Scorbunny and Sobble beginning life as bipeds and finishing up as Rillaboom, Cinderace and Inteleon, also all bipeds. This generation also contains the other Human-Like Egg Group starter line, perhaps surprisingly not the ape-based Grookey line, but the rabbit-based Scorbunny line. The count is now at pure quadruped 4, pure biped 14, biped to quadruped 1, quadruped to biped 2, is a snake 1, flippers 1.


This most recent generation, in addition to the Sprigatito to Meowscarada line, also features starters Fuecoco and Quaxly, who evolve into Skeledirge and Quaquavel, respectively. The Quaxly line is a pure biped bird line, while the Fuecoco line manages to be the second biped to quadruped starting line. So, the final score is pure quadruped 4, pure biped 15, biped to quadruped 2, quadruped to biped 3, is a snake 1, flippers 1.

So, what can we gather from this? Well, complaints about bipedalism in particular are odd, because while it has been more common than quadrupedalism in starter Pokémon, this is not a new thing. It's been this way since the beginning. Likewise, more "human" starters have been around since the third generation, while quadrupeds deciding to stand up in their second or third form have been around since the fifth. Now, if someone doesn't like the way the green cat looks when it evolves, that's perfectly acceptable; pick the blue duck instead. But blaming it on "anthropomorphism" just shows you haven't really been paying attention.


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As far as the new Pokemon game goes, I think when my sister and I were discussing it on Thanksgiving there the most interesting mechanical change is that Pokerus is no longer a thing. Suspecting that it is a casualty of COVID.

I will note though, as well, that the article linked seemed to complain that the pokemon are becoming more "humanoid" rather that bipedal. Kangaroos are bipedal but I wouldn't call them humanoid.

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I think one issue as some others pointed out is that some of the recent bipedal starters are more like 'characters', rather than a species type. Because some of these Pokemon has more of a limited specific personality, it's harder to feel free with imagination.

Charizard is on two legs, but he actually looks more like an species of their own. Incineroar looks like some cat alien character that worked out a lot and looks like he/she is already champion of some boxing tournament.

Another issue is that it feels like certain species that are naturally on fours, just for some reason weirdly becomes bipedal, every time! Like every time there is the recent 'furry' Pokemon, the Pokemon becomes bipedal. Never a chance at being "feral" shaped. It's like that if in gen 10 and there was a canine/feline/vulpine type, you could predict that will be bipedal and you would likely be right.

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Another issue is that it feels like certain species that are naturally on fours, just for some reason weirdly becomes bipedal, every time! Like every time there is the recent 'furry' Pokemon, the Pokemon becomes bipedal. Never a chance at being "feral" shaped. It's like that if in gen 10 and there was a canine/feline/vulpine type, you could predict that will be bipedal and you would likely be right.

Yeah, what the fuck are you talking about?

Canine bipeds; there were three new dog lines (Greavard/Houndstone, Maschiff/Mabosstiff and Fidough/Dachsbun) this generation that stayed on four legs. There were literally more dolphin Pokémon lines that gained bipedalism in Scarlet/Violet. Last generation introduced a vulpine line (Nickit/Thievul) that also never gained bipedalism. Felines ... okay, Meowscarada this generation and Perrserker last were both bipeds, but one was a new evolution of the first generation bipedal Meowth and the other was easily the best final form of the new starters by a good bit.

And, yeah, I thought Incineroar sucked, too, but because Incineroar sucked (how the fuck that one was chosen for SSB when Decidueye was right fucking there, I'll never get); like, there are over a thousand Pokémon and 27 final starter forms, they can't all be winners. And trying to predict "trends" in the next generation of Pokémon when we're all of a week and a half into the current one is kind of dumb.

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I was focusing on the starters. Haha

I personally don't hate Incineroar despite what I said, but either way I guess maybe he was included due to some fame thing and well, he looked like the stereotypical type that would fit in some 'fighting' game. You know, SSB, a buff character. LMAO! Also as I said, I was focused on the starters if I remembered correctly.

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Oh man, the hate crew is out for this one. I admit, I did try rating this story one star, just to see the front-page folding in action. Bad, I know, but I fixed it.

For me, fifth and sixth gen are where it's at, maybe third. Do I know the final evolutions offhand? Absolutely not, except for Serperior, and even then I didn't know the one in-between. But I also have plenty stuck in my brain from particular associations with fursonas or art, games and stories

This points to Pokémon's real problem: that they have way too many Pokémon, and everyone has their favourite, so they can't get rid of any of the generations from games without someone kicking up a fuss. And of course everyone wants something new from the next one.

There are only ~5,400 known mammals out there, many of which are more the equivalent of shiny or regional variants. Recognizable creatures outside that class are limited. Eventually there will be more 'mon than there are viable species for them to crib off of, unless we want to have, like, a bunch of big generations, or more machines and essentially animated rocks that nobody (except that guy) wants.

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If people want weird machines then there's Digimon.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Okay, let me tell y'all what I really think. Probably should have just done this to begin with, I didn't want to do a full review but wanted something so punted to this, but in hindsight reviewing each new Pokémon might have been an interesting thing to do, but whatever, on the plus side, now it's a comment and I can let it all hang out and say fuck and stuff! Cool!

Okay, Sprigatito/Floragato/Meowscarada, pretty good, actually maybe my second favorite Grass starter line (and I am usually a Grass starter guy) of all time after the Decidueye line, though maybe after the "new hotness" factor wears off the Torterra line might sneak back into the runner up position. One note is that Meowscarada also gets bonus points for actually using the "Paldean" setting well, as it's basically the fictional Iberian peninsula and Meowscarada is a lynx, of which there is an Iberian variety. Also, Floragato's yo-yo is cool. I don't know what that's about, but it's cool.

Fuecoco/Crocolor/Skeledirge, well, those first two evolutions are rough, though the final form is pretty good. Pretty brutal looking, too; probably the most "brutal" of any of the starter lines of any type. The two for one concept (as the crocodile basically gets a fire ghost bird buddy) is also unique. It has a Day of the Dead theme going on, which originated in Spain, but seems to be taking a bit more Latin American visual influences than actual Spanish. Same thing applies to the next Pokémon, as well.

Why is everybody up in arms about Meowscarada's "anthro" design when the Quaxly/Quaxwell/Quaquavel line is right there? Maybe the worst starter line, ever. It's bad.

And going the other way, we have Lechonk and the Oinkolognes, which is a very nice "animalistic" design, but not getting as much attention because it's a pig. Lechonk is one of the early indications of an actual design trend in this generation; there are a lot of ball shaped Pokémon. Prefer the female variation, personally.

Tarountula/Spidops ... oh, look, another ball! Spidops is an improvement, but Pokémon has never really just hit it out of the park with any of it's various spider mons. Like, it's a relief they just got the damn number of legs right for once.

Nymble/Lokix are a pretty decent early bug line, though they become so common you kind of get sick of Lokix especially later in the game.

The Pawmi/Pawmo/Pawmot line is trying so hard to be the breakout Pikachu mon of the generation, and it's just not happening. Pawmi especially is very ball-like.

Tandemaus/Maushold, the Heteronormative Pokémon! A pair of mouse that "evolve" when they have children, basically. Basically a parody of the older generation's Breeding system, they're the first Pokémon that can evolve without the player even knowing, as if they hit level 25 and aren't actually the active Pokémon, they'll suddenly have babies and the game doesn't inform you, letting you get surprised later on your own, kind of like the weird elderly Daycare couple who apparently never figured out where babies come from and are always shocked when your Pokémon, well, fuck. Maushold's Pokédex entry even continues this tradition, saying noone knows where the little mice came from. They came from the girl one's vagina, you guys. Mystery solved. Easily one of my favorites.

Fidough and Dachsbun are dogs made out of dough. Meh.

The Smolliv/Dolliv/Arboliva line are a pretty standard vaguely humanoid/vaguely feminine plant line that pops up once every other generation or so.

Squawkabilly is a parrot with a pompadour. If I had a dollar for Paldean bird lines with pompadors, I'd have two dollars, but it's weird that happened twice. Comes in four colors, which is annoying.

Looking like refugees from Minecraft, Nacli/Naclstack/Garganacl are at least not balls. I guess.

Internet all "rah, rah, cat too human, rah, rah" but are like, "wow Charcadet/Armarouge/Ceruledge, we love those!" despite they are literally just a dude in set of armor. Fucking hypocrites.

Tadbulb and Bellibolt are very ball shaped.

Wattrel and Kilowattrel are pretty standard bird Pokémon, though the choice of frigate bird is kind of cool. Still not sure if "Kilowattrel" is the best new name or worst new name.

Shroodle and Grafaiai are some of my favorites; like, aye-aye Pokémon, that's worth points right there. And it makes sense the shrew Pokémon would be both Poison (a few species of shrews are one of the few venoumous mammals) and evolve into a type of lemur (the extinct "tree shrews" were the first primates, while lemurs are the oldest extant primates). Also, Grafaiai's design is just wonderfully bizarre, even for an aye-aye.

Bramble and Bramblin are tumbleweed Pokémon, and as a guy from the American Southwest, I appreciate that.

Toedscool and Toedscruel were pretty apparently meant to be regional variants of Tentacool and Tentacruel, but then somebody realized that was a lame concept, and just made them new Pokémon, I guess.

Klawf is a giant enemy crab. You can order Klawf claws in some of the restaurants in the game. This pair of games is maybe the first that just went all in on the "people eat Pokémon, deal with it" aspect.

Capsakid is Grass Pokémon that evolves using a Fire Stone, turning into Scovillain, which is the pretty unique Grass/Fire type combo. It's a hot pepper, so it makes sense. Cool concept, design is hit or miss.

Rellor and Rabsca are dung beetles. The Pokédex goes out of it's way to assure you that is a ball of mud, just mud, thank you very much. Also, literal ball again.

Flittle is, I guess, supposed to be a newly hatched ostrich chick? It's just kind of this thing that hovers around until you accidentally run over it with your giant motorcycle Pokémon because you didn't see it, it's so small. Espathra is definitely an ostrich, and has, hands down, the hardest name of any of the new Pokémon for me to spell. I don't know why, either. Does not have a pompadour.

The Tinkatink/Tinkatuff/Tinkaton is a little pink fairy with a giant hammer. Really popular, from what I can tell, despite being basically just a person with a hammer, but, oh, no, we don't like humanoid Pokémon! Except when we do!

Wiglett and Wugtrio are Diglett and Dugtrio regional variants, except someone realized they already had regional variants, and not really cool enough to get two official variants, so, uh, brand new Pokémon! Yeah!

Bombirdier is a stork. Some people say it brings the little baby mice to Maushold, but I still maintain they come from the girl one's vagina.

The Finizen/Palafin line is interesting in concept, and Finizen is a pretty straightforward dolphin Pokémon, so I kinda like it. Palafin has a unique concept, in that it basically barely changes physical form (it basically gets a mark on it's chest) when it evolves, but if you switch it out of the active spot on your team, then switch it back in, it reveals it's superhero identity. Dolphin superhero Pokémon! Amazing on paper! Unfortunately, that superhero form is pretty godawful looking, honestly, and also evolving it requires you to interact with real life people, and like I play these games because I have social life, geez.

Varoom and Revavroom are car engines. Not cars. Car engines. The bad guys use them as engines for their cars, though.

Cyclizar is a lizard that is also a motorcycle. Okay.

Orthworm is a giant eathworm. Like, actually, kind of surprising it took us 9 generations to get there.

I have no idea what the fuck Glimmet and Glimmora are supposed to be.

Greavard and Houndstone are little ghost dogs. They're more like toy dogs than working dogs. The Ghost gym leader is a rapper (yeah, it's about that cringey), but a Greavard dances to the music in the background of that fight, and it shouldn't work but it's actually pretty adorable.

Flamigo is a pink flamingo, and definitely rendered to evoke the kitschy plastic lawn ornaments rather than the actual bird.

Cetoddle and Cetitan are apparently a cross between a whale and a snowball. Yep, more balls. Apparently, someone on the design team was a big fan of the first gen's Voltorb/Electrode line.

Veluza is a fish that fires fillets of itself at you. It's kind of weird.

Maschiff is a dog Pokémon that gives off slight hyena vibes to me, but it's evolution, Mabsstiff, is pure dog. Doesn't really look like a mastiff, though. Kind of in the face, but too much hair.

Dondozo and Tatsugiri are not a single line, but apparently have a symbiotic relationship. I've heard Dondozo described as basically Lord Jabu Jabu from The Legend of Zelda and I can't really do much better than that, so yeah, I'll just steal that and move on. It's like the Lenny to Tatsugiri's George, a little fish that looks like sushi and is actually a Dragon type Pokémon. It also inexplicably comes in multiple colors for no other reason than to annoy Pokédex completionists.

Gimmighoul is treasure chest Pokémon that evolves only after you've found 999 Gimmighoul coins, which is really annoying, though once you figure out where the other chests spawn, is not that difficult, but also the evolved form, Gholdengo, is kind of lame and not really worth it.

The actual big new Dragon line is sub-typed Ice, and is Frigibax/Arctibax/Baxcalibur, and it has a weird kind of fin on it's back. That's it's, uh, thing, I guess. It's the "new" Dragonite, but it's no, well, Dragonite.

Updates to old Pokémon include Dudunsparce, which is basically the lamest to the point where it almost become cool Pokémon in the series history gets a lame to the point it is almost cool update when it gets ... a little longer. Girafarig becomes Farigiraf when it's tail head eats it's normal head, somehow. Wooper gets a Paldean form, which evolves into a new Pokémon, Clodsire, which is literally two balls of mud stuck together and also apparently a fan favorite. Bisharp evolves into Kingambit, which, besides the cool chess reference, is also an incredibly blatant Game of Thrones reference. It literally sits on an Iron Throne. In order to evolve it, you have to KO three other Bisharps with Leader's Crests (or, basically, take out it's rivals to the throne) which would normally be one of those annoying evolutions but is kind of a fun reference, so I'll allow it (even though I don't even like Game of Thrones). Tauros also has a black Fighting Paldean version, with two super secret alternate versions of that alternate version. Kind of lame. Finally, Primeape gets a new Ghost type evolution, Annihilape, which is basically described in the Pokédex as what happens when Primeape gets so mad it basically dies of anger.

There are a variety of new late game Pokémon, the Paradox Pokémon, that are either prehistoric versions of Pokémon (Scarlet) or the future versions (Violet). There are two versions of Donphan (Great Tusk and Iron Treads), and two versions of Volcarona (Slither Wing and Iron Moth). And, yes, their official names are all like that. Other past versions include Scream Tail (Jigglypuff), Brute Bonnet (Amoonguss), Flutter Mane (Misdreavous), Sandy Shocks (Magneton) and Roaring Moon (Salamence). All of the Violet future are Iron Whatevers, though only Iron Treads is actually Steel type. They include Iron Bundle (Delibird), Iron Hands (Hariyama), Iron Jugulis (Hydreigon), Iron Thorns (Tyranitar) and Iron Valiant (a robot combination of Gardevoir and Gallade). They're okay, but come so late you don't really have time to get attached, and don't have quite the WTF impact of the similar Ultra Beasts, a.k.a. the Pokémon from a very alternative alternative reality, of two generations ago.

Their are four Ruinous Legendary Pokémon, which are not too bad, with a stone moose (Ting-Lu), sabre-toothed weasel (Chien-Pao), wooden slug (Wo-Chien) and fiery goldfish (Chi-Yu). Design wise, I liked them, but they seem a bit divorced from the rest of the game, and the fact that they have Chinese names doesn't fit in with the supposed to be vaguely European setting doesn't help.

The box art Legendaries, Miraidon and Koraidon, are okay, and the game does go out of it's way to make you actually get to know them as, if not exactly characters, at least Pokémon. Major cues taken from How To Train Your Dragon's Toothless in the story and animated interactions. Basically are the Paradox versions of Cyclizar, so they really were confident they had something with that lizard/bicycle combo. Preferred Miraidon, the future Violet "mascot", if only for the L.E.D. eyes.

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Wow. Just looking through those names and it's like someone was grabbing handfuls of Scrabble tiles. I can finally relate with the adults in my life back when Pokemon was good released.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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There's too much anthropomorphism in some pokemon. It used to be all about eevee and vulpix (and they are still popular, especially eevee) but then there was a period where everyone became obsessed with lopunny and gardevoir. Kinda baffling.

Furries definitely seem to prefer the bipedal look, with Meowscarada showing up over 550 times on e621, while Quaqaval the duck is a distant second with just over 60, which is still double third place Skeledirge the quadrupedal crocodile with not even 30 pieces as of this writing.

That's not really the best comparison. According to recent numbers:
Meowscarada (855) vs quaquaval (97) vs skeledirge (46)
Sprigatito (1.9k) vs quaxly (234) vs fuecoco (244)
The starters are much more popular than their final evolution forms regardless of whether they are bipedal or quadrupedal and furs far prefer the quadrupedal sprigatito than its bipedal final stage.

But, with my previous complaints, gardevoir (14k) and lopunny (8.9k) are more popular than eevee (11k) and vulpix (3.5k). It's a bit more complicated and comes down to specific pokemon designs. There are very popular bipedal ones and very popular quadrupedal ones but there are also unpopular pokemon in both groups.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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You forget the bipedal gods.

Mewtwo and Lucario.

Though I can't look up the numbers because e621 is down

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Lucario is pretty cool, albeit with some weird design choices. The whole "lucario is wearing pants" thing is odd and that chest spike...

Mewtwo, not so cool. Mew is adorable though!

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 1 (1 vote)

Well, another thing to consider is that Sprigatito and the other first form starters were announced back in February, while Meowscarada and the final evolutions still don't even have official Ken Sugimori art yet. So, that Sprigatito lead could just be time (I'd agree, though, if Sprigatito and Meowscarada were announced at the same time, that Sprigatito would have a slight edge, but not quite as big a lead).

(Also, I used to play bass for Meowscarada and the Final Evolutions.)

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