February 02, 2011
Today's Mystery Meat is "Happy Seven".
It's an action comedy about (mostly) girls, and I thought I'd give it a try. And after one episode, I like what I see.
Lots of frame grabs below the fold.more...
January 26, 2011
Da nao tian gong means "havoc in heaven" or "uproar in heaven". It's an 80 minute animated feature (in the version I have) which was produced in Shanghai in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It was released in two halves, the first in 1961 and the second in 1964.
It's a very ambitious work, and the animation is smooth and the art is of very high quality. It seems as if the artists were trying to live up to the kind of standards Walt Disney had set with his 1940's feature-length cartoons, but of course using Chinese style art and characters and situations.
It's based on the early part of Journey to the West, and it may well be the earliest cartoon to tap into that mythos. It stars the Monkey King, Sun WuKong. His people live on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers, and one day he watches them practicing their martial arts. He decides to put on a show for them, dancing with his sword.
But the sword breaks, and he laments that there is no weapon there worthy of him. One of his advisors tells him that he can journey to the castle of the dragon king, where there are many worthy weapons. So he does.
But none of them are good enough. Even the one that weighs 1600 kilograms is too light, too flimsy. Then they show him Ruyi Jingu Bang, a magical staff which can change size at the will of the wielder. When Sun WuKong first sees it, it is huge, and it had been left there by the gods to quell the oceans and make them calm. The Dragon King tells Sun WuKong he may have the staff if only he can pick it up, but the offer is not genuine. The Dragon King thinks he'll fail, become discouraged, and leave.
Unfortunately for him, Sun WuKong does pick it up, and it responds to him by changing size as he wishes it to. He prepares to leave with it, and the Dragon king says wait, you can't take that. But you said I could, and so I will.
The Dragon King goes to the Jade Emperor, top of all the gods in heaven, and complains that Sun WuKong has stolen the staff. The Jade Emperor is ready to order an arrest for it, but one of his advisors, an old sycophant who apparently is Venus, instead suggests that they bring Sun WuKong into heaven and give him a low position there, so they can keep an eye on him.
And that is what they do. Sun WuKong is made head of the stables. But he's a troublemaker, and the first thing he does is to release all the horses so they can run free. For that the horses love him, but it gets him into trouble with the power structure.
The head of the imperial cavalry attacks him for it, and is defeated easily. Sun WuKong realizes he's been tricked, and goes back to the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers.
But the Jade Emperor has not forgotten about him, or given up. Two gods are sent to capture him, but Sun WuKong defeats them both. And the story proceeds from there.
It's an amazing film, and though I got really tired of the Beijing-Opera-style music, the animation is superb from beginning to end.
The Wikipedia article about the film is rather somber reading. The Shanghai animation scene had gotten going in earnest in the early 1950's, once things had settled down from WWII and the Chinese Civil War, and had gotten bigger, better, and more successful. This film was the last one made there, and it was a critical and commercial success, getting all kinds of awards.
Shortly after this film was released, the entire industry was shut down by the Cultural Revolution. It's one of the lesser crimes of that terrible event, but a crime nonetheless. The sheer mastery of the animation form in this film offers the promise of much that might have come after, but didn't... because it didn't fit within Mao's idea of how the nation should be.
Fortunately, they didn't outright destroy this film, or maybe copies of it survived overseas. Whichever it was, this masterpiece is available to us now, and I recommend it highly.
December 15, 2010
Today's Mystery Meat is Ichigeki Sacchu!! HoiHoi-san.
I think I recognize a pseudonym...
Some time in the future, cockroaches and other household pests have become immune to all known insecticides. Cockroaches are the consummate survivors; they existed before the dinosaurs and they're likely to outlive us, too. With chemical weapons useless, humanity turns to robotics.
Hoihoi-san is a combat meido android designed to hunt cockroaches and other insects. She's five inches tall and carries a couple of SMGs. If you have problems with cockroaches in your home, you buy a HoiHoi-san, and plug the charging unit into the wall. She will monitor the environment, and when she detects insects, she sorties and destroys them. Then she returns to her charging unit.
HoiHoi-san becomes very popular, so they design a second one called Combat-san. Combat-san is a heavy weapons frame... And there are lots of upgrades available, and it's like a warped version of "Angelic Layer". Very warped.
This apparently was a game. (UPDATE: no, it was a manga.) The video is only 10 minutes long and I think it's like the original Strike Witches OVA, created as a bonus to be included with the product (in this case, the game). There was, at one point, a rumor that they were going to turn it into a TV series, but that didn't pay off.
So you can't really tell a lot of story in 10 minutes, and they don't try. Most of the story takes place in the apartment of one geeky guy, who owns both units. He's been upgrading his Combat-san, but since he doesn't have a lot of money, he's been buying unofficial after-market parts, and the upshot is that Combat-san's programming has been altered. She thinks she's supposed to hunt HoiHoi-san rather than insects.
The other aspect of the story is a girl named Kimiko, who works at a drugstore. In addition to all the normal stuff you'd expect a drugstore to carry, they also sell HoiHoi-san and Combat-san plus upgrades, and it's a significant part of their business. When HoiHoi-san first came out, Kimiko thought it was cute, and bought one. Next morning she had a shock.
Since then she's completely soured on the entire concept, and dies a little inside every time she sells one. Her friend Mutsumi comes to visit her to show off her units, wearing itty bitty yukata. Kimiko starts musing about a doll she'd owned when she was a kid. Mutsumi interrupts her; the units are gone.
Then they hear the sound of combat from a trashcan. Seems that her HoiHoi-san and Combat-san detected bugs in it and activated. Kimiko dies inside again.
UPDATE: No, it was a manga. There was discussion of making a full TV series, but they didn't do it, and apparently there was also early interest in making a game out of it, but that didn't happen either.
December 06, 2010
I was reminded of Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventures by going through Ubu's review list, and since I don't really have a lot to blog about these days, I figured it would make a decent Mystery Meat post.
It's something of a standard mecha story, and in general I really don't like Mecha stories, so I figured I'd get one ep into it, give up, and then write a scathing put-down.
But you know what? It ain't half bad. I just finished ep 3, and I may even watch more of it.
It suffers from the same problem that the Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki series (from the same author) did, in that it can't really make up its mind whether it is comedy or not. The first ep is loaded with scenes which I could tell were supposed to make me chuckle, though none of them did.
What actually caught me by surprise was the extent to which it seems to be ripping off Evangelion. In fact, at this point I'm tempted to say that it's a deliberate parody. But it could also be thought of as "Evangelion done right."
It isn't pretentious, for one thing. That's one really huge thing. And unlike Shinji, Kazuki is sympathetic and likeable. So far, little or no angst. And considering the spots of comedy that keep being interspersed with the action, I assume it'll stay that way.
There was one huge logic error that came out in ep 2.
Anyway, other improvements: Gendo was repulsive, but Ken isn't. Rei was creepy, but D isn't, at least so far. Asuka was also repulsive, but Mitsuki isn't. In fact the only character we've seen so far who is even slightly repulsive is the UN inspector, and she's being played for laughs.
Kazuki's voice seemed familiar, so I looked it up. The same seiyuu did the voice of Kazuya in Hand Maid May. (He was also Arc in Petite Princess Yucie, and I never would have made that connection.)
The "bizarre loser of a guy who turns out to have an extraordinary skill with a mech that surprises everyone" trope is a common one: Vandread and Martian Successor Nadesico spring to mind. This is another. In this case they've taken it one step further: before Kazuki showed up, it was thought that only girls could run them. (That one is being recycled in an upcoming Winter series.)
The Ken character is being handled in an interesting way. The first Ken (which we only see in the first episode) is a mad scientist, a complete loonytune. The second Ken, in the alternate world, is still eccentric, but he's a lot more responsible, and even admirable. I think the reason the UN inspector is obnoxious is so that when Ken bedevils her (which he does a lot of) the audience is sympathetic to him, and likes him for it. It's certainly that way for me.
He's fun. He certainly isn't a flaming son-of-a-bitch like Gendo is. And in general, Dual leaves out all the horror which was the foundation of so much in Evangelion. For instance, D's background story isn't the nightmare that Rei's was.
The mechs look a lot like the mechs in Evangelion, though they don't drag around power cords. One is red, one is blue, and one is white, but they mixed some of the colors up. My memory of Eva is getting a bit dim, but it seems to me that Asuka was red, Shinji was blue, and Rei was white. In this one, Kazuki's got the white one and D is in the blue one.
Evangelion was supposed to challenge us, involve us, make us think, make us feel. For a lot of people all it made them feel was, "Why am I wasting my time on this drek?", or "Why is this director so full of himself?"
Dual doesn't have such high aspirations. It's just trying to entertain, with the huge benefit of all the winks to people who had seen Evangelion and weren't impressed by it. And that's fine with me, because I'm one of them.
I may well watch more of it. Haven't really decided yet.
November 10, 2010
Well, you can't get more mysterious than naming something "X", can you? It's a horror title from CLAMP, the all-girl orchestra. Seems to be the sequel to, or culmination of, a TV series they did. Art and animation style looks like late 1990's.
The rip is awful. It's from an American DVD release, and it's letter-boxed, which means the theater-level graphics are reduced even more than usual. And whoever did the rip decided to store it in "ogm" format, using DIVX for the video codec. Between the minimal source and the compression, the result isn't very satisfying.
Not that it really affects things much. The animation isn't all that great even for TV, let alone for a theatrical release. Not impressive at all. Slow frame rates, lousy looking art, and everything is really dark.
I got 40 minutes into it, and decided I'd had enough of CLAMP's tricks. Dear CLAMP: making everything too dark to see doesn't equate to lots of atmosphere.
There's some sort of world-changing confrontation coming. 7 dragons of Earth will battle 7 dragons of Heaven, and the balance of power rests with a guy named Kamui. Whoever convinces him to join their side wins. Those dragons? Well, they're people, too, with special powers.
Kamui himself doesn't seem to want any part of this. His only interest is in protecting two childhood friends of his, a brother and sister.
At the beginning, one dragon from each side squares off in the middle of Tokyo. They toss energy blasts at each other, not very convincingly, and a building gets destroyed, and the dragon of Heaven is killed, leaving the balance 6-7.
For something so spectacular, you'd think CLAMP could keep my attention, wouldn't you? But I had the following two reactions: 1. Toriyama did this kind of story better. 2. Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny did it better, too.
It's a pretty poor show that can't even top Ikki Tousen in story telling, don't you think? But when the dragons show up and start fighting in the last ep of ITDD, they look better and the animation is more fluid, and in pretty much every way it's more interesting and fun. Even air-headed Hakufu is more interesting than CLAMP's pantheon here.
Heroic leads in the dark:
Supporting girl characters:
Which do you think is better looking? This is a visual medium -- you should make it so we can see things, even at night. (I wonder if CLAMP's manga was this difficult to see? I bet not.)
CLAMP virtually painted their "surprise" on the wall. All through the part I watched, it was blatantly obvious that the blue dragons, of Heaven, were supposed to be the good guys and the red dragons, of Earth, the bad guys. Which is why I figure it's better than even odds that the reverse is true.
But I figure it doesn't get resolved. That's my other bet. I figure it's better than even odds that the result of the final confrontation is "no game". It looks like it was supposed to end with a grand battle between Kamui and the male childhood friend, and I bet that in the end they stop fighting without either of them being hurt, let along killed. No decision is made, and the status quo continues.
What really got me fed up was that CLAMP was playing with the symbolism in pointless ways. It's spring, so cherry blossoms are de rigeur, right? Well, a few of them are floating around damned near everywhere we go, even in places where they make no sense. CLAMP thinks they mean something, presumably, but I sure don't know what -- and I don't care.
I just looked it up, and it seems that the movie came first, in 1996. The TV series is an "alternate retelling".
I didn't think CLAMP was this full of themselves as early as this. Later, yeah; Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles is one big demonstration of contempt for their audience. But back in 1996 I thought they were still trying to tell good stories.
August 20, 2010
I wanted to call Shukufuku no Campanella "the Bishie and the seven Babes". Or maybe "the seven Bimbos". But in fact I'm not really clear on just how many babes there are. It keeps changing, for one thing, and it depends on who you include. (And some of them aren't bimbos.)
Shelley, for example, is definitely a babe. But she's also Leicester's mother, him being the bishie. Or should Carina's mom be included? How about Nina, the servant? (Who is also the narrator?) Or Garnet, the dragon avatar?
The focus of the series is The Oasis, which is the HQ for what amounts to an adventurer's guild. The guild master is Carina, who also happens to be the daughter of the Duke of the city this all happens in. She's head-over-heels for Leicester, and she's not the only one.
There's the comic-relief twin girls who live across the street and work for what seems to be a rival guild called "Tortilla company". One of them is named Salsa Tortilla, and you can tell just how serious this all is from that name. Both of them are hung up on him, too, but at the same time they're constantly trying (and failing) to compete with the Oasis.
This is the town square. (I think we need to work on that name, don't you?) It's where we first meet Agnes, who is a street performer and puppeteer. She gets invited to stay at the Oasis, and eventually becomes a (temporary?) member of the guild. That description of her (puppeteer) is deceptive. She is a top master at creating "automatons", magically-powered devices which can move and operate on their own and can even think and speak. It is, in a sense, a kind of magic and Agnes, while not being very powerful, is very skilled at it.
Her best creation is a cat named Tango but she has several others. They star in her puppet show when she needs money. When they run out of power, automatons have to "sleep", which is to say they deactivate and recharge. From where they recharge hasn't really been discussed. But it's possible that Agnes' automaton recharge from Agnes herself; I offer that suspicion because Agnes seems to eat quite a lot more than you'd think a girl like her would.
And there's Minette, the greatest creation of the master that Agnes studied under, name of Mize Altowirz. Minette has been sleeping inside the spire at the local cathedral since a long time.
Once every 7 years there's a spectacular meteor shower. They call it that, but they aren't really meteors. Instead, they're balls of "ale", which in another setting might be referred to as "mana". It's the stuff of magic.
It's quite a show, and the town has a tradition of holding a festival on that day, and everyone going out at night to watch it happen.
Our folks, being well connected, get permission to watch it from the top of the cathedral, the highest point in the city. One huge ball of ale flies past them and strikes the spire, which then shows a residual glow.
Leicester runs down-and-up to get to the spire and finds that the glow is behind a large pair of doors he didn't know about. Opening them, he finds a girl laying in a bed. She wakes as he walks up to her and calls him "Papa" and glomps him.
That's Minette, and it turns out she's an automaton. And it seems that the older generation of the Oasis guild knew she was there. They are friends of Mize Altowirz. They weren't sure when or how Minette would awaken, but now that she has, she's going to be cared for by the Oasis guild. (Shelley, Leicester's mother, seems to have expected it to happen that night, or at least she wasn't in the slightest surprised when it did.)
And, it turns out, Minette is going to accompany Leicester whenever he joins an adventuring party, which happens for the first time in the second episode. Minette isn't just an extraordinary automaton, she also contains the Anima Pearl, a creation of the Dragon race, and it gives her exceptional power to control and tame ale (aka mana).
Agnes, Leicester, Chelsea, Minette, Carina
Carina-sama, guildmaster and Duke's daughter, also happens to be a top sorceress. Her position in the guild isn't only due to nepotism. And in as much as Agnes is a top expert in automata and best student of Mize Altowirz, she gets invited to stay with them while they figure out Minette.
I've skipped a few characters (frankly, they're a bit hard to keep straight) but the whole show seems light-hearted and really something of a trifle. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns dark at the end but I also won't be surprised if it doesn't. For the time being it's mostly (mild) fan service, special effects, and lots of girls competing for Leicester's attention.
The Tortilla twins, Agnes, Minette, Chelsea, and I don't remember who the one on the right is. And that's not even all of them.
His presence in the guild is mainly because his parents are both respected members. Whether he'd qualify absent that is less clear. Seems his ability is in creating machines of various kinds. We hear about an automatic dish washer, and we see him use some sort of gun he created. And as of now, he is master of Minette, whose abilities likely will turn out to be a major asset to the guild. But it would be nice if he turned out to have something to offer besides good looks, a kind disposition, the occasional gimcrack, and a powerful pet.
This show isn't very weighty, but at least through the second episode it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour.
August 12, 2010
Today's Mystery Meat is Master of Martial Hearts:
Cute shapely girls? Check.
High kicks with flouncy skirts revealing white panties? Yup.
The Most Common Special Attack? You betcha.
Nipples? Yes, we have nipples.
I think we've got classic here. Or not, as the case may be.
NSFW below the fold.more...
August 10, 2010
Today's Mystery Meat is Makai Senki Disgaea. I downloaded it because Etna looks like Agito in Nanoha SlayerS and I wanted to know if the characters were at all alike. (They're not.)
This series is loosely based on a video game, and I gather it tries to tell about the same story. I don't know what kind of tone the game sets, but the anime is pretty much purely a comedy.
Here are our main characters. On the left is Laharl, son of the king of Netherworld. (It's makai, "kingdom of demons", but everyone seems to translate it as "Netherworld" and that's fine with me.)
On the right is Etna, another demon. She was a servant of the king, and now serves Laharl. She isn't totally trustworthy.
And in the middle, there's Flonne. She's an angel. She wears a powerful amulet that allows her to stay in Netherworld and operate normally.
The series begins with Flonne. She's been sent to Netherworld to find the king and kill him. She finally locates a large crypt, or something like that, and inside she accidentally falls through the floor and ends up in a garbage pit, where there is also a coffin which bears the king's sigil on the front.
Thinking that the king is sealed inside, she uses various attacks (including a 4-barrel rocket launcher that she conjures up somehow) and eventually manages to break a hole in the case.
It doesn't contain the king. Laharl is inside it. He started taking a nap about two years previously and someone sealed him inside that coffin. How it ended up in the garbage isn't explained.
Once Flonne finds out who he is, she apologizes for attacking him, because he isn't the one she's after.
They both manage to get back up to ground level. As Laharl tries to exit, two statues of ogres by the door come to life and attack him. He tries to fight, but his body doesn't move the way he's used to and his power isn't fully there. (Eventually they learn that he's been poisoned. Flonne cures him, and then he can fight the way he's supposed to, but that's a bit later.)
Things are looking bad, and then a spaceship (!) crashes through the roof of the place, and some clown named "Captain Gordon" (presumably a take on Flash) comes out, accompanied by a gorgeous babe named Jennifer and a Robbie-the-Robot clone named Thursday.
And then it starts to get silly. (Ahem.)
Flonne tries to talk to Laharl about kindness and love and caring and he says those things have no place in the life of a demon. They discover that the king has been dead since shortly after Laharl began his nap.
But the king didn't die gloriously. He wasn't assassinated. Turns out he choked to death on a meat bun.
So since Laharl wasn't around, then a whole swarm of folks have tried to proclaim themselves as the new king. Laharl sets off on a quest to defeat them all and to become king himself.
And he tries to be heartless and uncaring, but somehow a hint of goodness begins to peek through. Flonne spends a couple of turns alternating between protecting him from others and trying to kill him herself, all the while dying because she'd lost the amulet. Via circuitous routes the amulet makes its way back to her, but is nearly destroyed except for Laharl saving it. He then gives it back to her.
So she becomes his servant and traveling companion.
Etna shows up at one point and declares herself to be his servant, as she was for the king before him. But she's actually plotting to become king (queen?) herself and has plots and plans to get him killed.
And then we spend several episodes running around fighting against various people trying to kill Laharl for a 10 million Hell (a unit of money) reward that's been placed on his head, and various people who have declared themselves king or hope to do so.
I watched through ep 5 (of 12) and was decreasingly entertained by it as it went along. The first episode is brilliant, but it started to get in a rut by ep 5. And after I stopped watching it, suddenly I had a flash and figured out the story. Maybe.
Or at least, that's what I expect it to be. I think I'm going to watch the last episode to find out, but I doubt I'll watch any of the rest of it. In the end it's a two-joke pony, and I gather its main reason for being was to pimp the game.
Recommended? Mixed. It's not crap. But it's far from being the best thing out there. The biggest recommendation for the series is that Laharl has the same seiyuu as Yuuno Scrya, and I love her voice. This role gives her more opportunity to stretch.
But the story itself is a meh.
UPDATE: I was completely wrong about how it was going to end. Very strange.
I still don't quite recommend the series, though.
July 23, 2010
A while back I downloaded the first 8 episodes of Marie & Gali but never got around to watching them until tonight.
It reminds me a bit of Fractured Fairy Tales. It has something of the same surreal feel, though of course it's not telling the same kind of story. And at 5 minutes per ep, they're about the same length.
Marika is a middle school girl who wears GothLoli fashions. She made a stuffed animal for herself that she calls "Pet". She's an OK student, but just looking at a science text book makes her zone out. One time when that happens, she awakens on a rather odd trolly, and is amazed to see that Pet has somehow come alive.
She's met by a strange man, one Galileo Galilee, whom she ends up calling Gali. In the second ep she gets a room at a rooming house run by Marie Curie. We also variously meet Heinrich Hertz, Leonardo Da Vinci, Archimedes, Newton, and other heroes of science. What she wants, though, is to go home. Eventually she finds out that she can only do that if she learns to love science.
Marika, Galileo, Marie Curie
That was ep 8, which is all that I have. I'm going to download more of it, though.
The art style is amazing. The frame rate isn't high, but the images are gorgeous, if highly stylized, and they have a lot of fun with camera angles.
There are in-jokes, too. Marie Curie's seiyuu is Nozawa Masako, who is more famous as the voice of Son Goku in DBZ. In the 8th episode of Marie & Gali she does a variant Kamehameha which launches a radioactive pickle at Galileo.
There isn't any fan service; it's not that kind of show. But there is comedic violence. Marika and Marie both tend to beat up Galileo, and some of the other characters have at him at certain times, too.
I'm not sure that the Gods of Science will forgive them for what they did to Isaac Newton, though. (Newton was a lot of things, but he wasn't bishounen!) Leaving that aside, it's all quite fun, and visually amazing.
July 17, 2010
I think I downloaded Battle Programmer Shirase because the name was wonderful. But it's been sitting on my server unwatched for several months now. And having nothing else to write about now, I decided it was time for another installment of Mystery Meat.
Shirase is the uber-nerd. He's so laid back he's nearly comatose. He's living in a tiny apartment behind the house where his... niece... lives. She's actually older than he is, by quite a lot. He seems to be in his 20's. His niece has a daughter who is in high school. Her name is Misao, and she calls him Onii-chan. She's got a key to his apartment, and she shows up a lot and cooks for him.
Shirase is legendary in certain circles as being the best hacker alive. He's known as BPS, Battle Programmer Shirase.
At the beginning of the show, someone hacks the delivery system for BHL (a take on DHL) and gets a supercomputer going through SeaTac delivered to his home in Portland OR. (I didn't do it! You can't prove anything!)
The computer belonged to an electronics company in Japan who had, at one point, made a certain model of PC but cancelled it. Our bad guy (who is fat and obviously has never had a girl friend) sends a rather incoherent blackmail letter demanding that they begin to make that PC again.
A nervous salaryman seeks out Shirase, asking for his help to stop the bad guy. Shirase eventually agrees. They're in a cab heading towards the company HQ, when there are a couple of huge explosions on the building.
So Shirase borrows the salaryman's cell phone and takes the bastard on, by remotely controlling the server in his own apartment. Then we get cuts between Shirase and the bad guy as the battle goes into full gear, with an occasional flash to the salaryman showing that he doesn't at all understand what's happening.
There's nothing serious about this show; it's a 5-ep OVA and it's all comedy and satire. But whoever did it clearly has known real programmers. These three pictures, of Shirase's apartment, are more than enough to prove it:
And here's the nerd and his great-niece:
Anyway, that apartment is instantly recognizable: cardboard boxes, girly magazines, anime posters, more computer equipment than any normal person would ever own, and Jolt Cola. Homo Nerdus in his natural habitat.
I really enjoyed this, in part because it's about me and people I've known. My place doesn't look like that any more, but in the past I've lived like that. I'm looking forward to watching the rest of it.
UPDATE: Well... I've lived like that except for the cute girl coming around to cook for me. (sob)
UPDATE: That's interesting. ANN says it was 15 12-minute episodes. What I've got is 5 30-minute episodes, and no indication of a break in the middle.
UPDATE: Mystery solved. There was a 5-ep version of it.
UPDATE: I'm watching ep 2, and I was wrong. The great niece is in grade school.
Only it isn't. It feels like the introduction to a longer story. In fact, it feels like a prequel. The other series, the 15 12-minute episodes that ANN described, I wonder if they pick up from here?
The first episode was all broad humor, but it gets more serious, and they start laying out back story.
I did enjoy it and I'm glad I watched, though there was one running joke I could have done without. There was a different running joke that I didn't understand, probably a cultural reference I don't know about:
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