Tag Archives: Anime

Story Pile: Insomniacs After School

Introducing excellent things is hard. It’s hard for me because I naturally stray towards the understated or the contrary. You’ve probably heard me call something ‘boringly excellent,’ for example, and that means when I call something incredible or amazing, you might think that puts it on the same category as a really good sandwich or a really interesting academic concept, as opposed to here, where what I want to say is this romance anime is so good I find myself periodically nostalgic for the childhood it depicts that I never had even though it’s about kids with anxiety struggling to make a lot of friends.

This is an amazing story, it has lovely moments, it brings me joy, and I want to share that with you.

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to disclose some facts about the end of the series, and the nature of the kind of show it is, and what kind of show it’s not. Like, if you think ‘this series doesn’t include a mech battle’ is a spoiler, then yeah, you got me, it’s a spoiler, but I don’t plan on going deep on revelations about the eventual plot, okay?

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The Unhinged Performative Heteronormativity of Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie

Hey boy. Does your girl:

  • Change her gender presentation mid-volleyball match?
  • Demonstrate the kind of expertise in dire circumstances from a martial arts superhero story?
  • Deliberately change her gender presentation to become a perfect girl as represented in Shoujou Manga?
  • Take her rivals for your affection out on day dates where she gives her gifts and wins her prizes?
  • Flirt with your mom?

Then she’s not your girl. She’s Shikimori from Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie and I’ve just been stewing about how unhinged that series is.

Spoilers ahead!

A screencap from the anime Shikimori's not just a cutie. It shows Shikimori from the opening thinking about clothes
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Story Pile: Tomo-Chan Is A Girl!

This time last year I wrote about the at-the-time meme-of-a-show, Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie. That anime was ‘renowned’, because it had a really good trailer, and by really good I mean it made a bunch of lesbians sigh. Perhaps because it was first brought to my attention by a bunch of women saying ‘I want to be her’ or ‘I want to be hers’ I first approached that series wondering if this was going to be an ultimately unsatisfying experience for y’know, queer women. This meant I watched all thirteen episodes expecting or imagining something else was going to happen, attentive and focused for some possible insight into whatever this anime was doing that was a bit different, a bit cleverer, and in the process, I wound up really enjoying the series. I liked it, I liked the characters it showed me, I liked a lot of the jokes (even wound up sharing a few of them) and I thought it was a really good launching off point for some discussions. I still think that it’s one of the better articles I wrote last year, and part of why was because I took an anime about a subject I’m normally not interested in – romantic comedy – and gave it a fully focused, critical look.

the promo poster for Tomo-chan is a girl, showing Tomo and whats-his-name back to back. The tagline is "I may be tough but I still want to hear him say 'I love you.'"

That was the lens for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, and it encouraged me to try the next thing in the same genre that caught my eye, which is why I watched Tomo-Chan’s A Girl, another anime that promised to be about relationships to gender, relationships, and how difficult it can be for two completely compatible people to get over their own hang-ups and actually talk to one another about how much they want to kiss. This is a great follow-up to Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, though, because it means now I have a point of contrast for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie with a much, much dumber show.

Content Warning and Spoiler Warning! Tomo-Chan Is A Girl is a series that has some low-key gender feels (a woman wondering about how she can be legitimised as a woman) and some pretty lousy ways for people to talk about girls, and oh also, an incident of sexual assault in the second episode.  I’m going to spoil things in this series, as indicated by that mentioning of something from the second episode.

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Story Pile: Appare-Ranman!

When you’re an anime fan you have the beautiful luxury of being able to talk about ridiculous ideas that most people in your normal media sphere turned into something pretty pedestrian or never really expanded on, given a level of seriousness and gravitas that allows for a truly adult-level presentation that then usually also has some banging music and maybe a great combat scene or two. Such is the case of Appare-Ranman, which is an anime that can best be summarised as ‘Wacky Racers if it was a serious crime action drama,’ and you may think they did that, it was called The Great Race and it came out in 1965, to you I must say, why are you killing my buzz here. There’s only so much room to get excited about this speedrun of an anime and by providing that example of how my opening joke isn’t actually that good you’re forcing me to present a blunt metaphor for the way that Appare-Ranman! is an anime that’s about exactly as good as this opening paragraph.

Like it starts fun. There’s definitely something fun happening here.

But wew.

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Story Pile: Do It Yourself!!

If your particular thing was anime about cute girls with a special interest where you could very easily interpret pretty typical social engagement as in fact, boilingly obvious non-heterosexual romantic attachment, then this time last year, you were probably one of the many people extremely into the extremely good anime Bocchi The Rock. Funny, energetic, vibrant and extremely focused on its own particular aesthetic representations of a hyper-real relationship between the modern capitalist landscape and why we are people who are not suited to exist in it when there are far more important things you can do, relating to one another, and how difficult it is to say what you really mean when what you are really trying to do is to reach out to another person, someone you may have never met before or someone you may know deep as your own family and tell them hey, I want to be loved, by you.

And that obviously arch and highly poetic description of Bocchi that I’m using in a way that definitely elides some of the details and decentralises some of its more obvious themes is nonetheless also a summary of Do It Yourself!! an anime from the same season, same time slot, but a different channel, meaning that at least in the time when we make anime fight for our attention in capitalist landscapes, meant that Do It Yourself!! got to lose to Bocchi’s immense stardom, a fact that I am sure would leave Bocchi herself so overwhelmed she would hide in a box like a Metal Gear protagonist.

A box that could be made exquisitely well by the crew that make up Do It Yourself!!

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Story Pile: Bocchi The Rock

Deep breath Delightful, charming, lovely anime, great, thought it was funny, songs are a banger, basic premise is really well iterated on, minimum of Anime Bullshit, characters are all well realised and have interesting dynamics that relate to one another and the story is satisfying as it covers a number of small distinct enjoyable story beats and yeah okay, good. Good! Great! I really liked Bocchi The Rock and I think that if you like anxious girls and music and anxious girls who make music, then you’ll probably find the series pretty enjoyable!

I want to get that out of the way first because I don’t think you’d be well-served in any interesting way to see me talk about what happens in Bocchi The Rock! or if you ‘should’ watch it because it is ‘good.’ Anyone can tell you that, and so far, we have yet to find a ‘good’ anime, in part because no anime is good, and in part because the idea of ‘good’ media is silly. Instead what I want to do is talk about the things that Bocchi The Rock made me think about as I watched it, and the ways it made me feel, and why.

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T-Shirt: Valid To Eat Fingers Jujutsu Kaisen Shirt

I like the anime Jujutsu Kaisen. I like odd memes that make sense mostly if you’ve boiled your brain in Tumblr long enough that the conversation has cooked away and left nothing but meaning-chunks behind. Together, that resulted in this design:

And here it is, on a shirt!

This design has enough permutations that I thought it best to make a whole collection of them. You can have them in solid black, solid white, transparent lines, black text and white background, and of course, the gradient version I favour. They’re also on masks if you’re particularly weird about people being near your mouth!

Story Pile: Jujutsu Kaisen (Spoiler Free)

Ya heard of this Jujutsu Kaisen thing?

It’s pretty good, I like it a lot.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers after this point. Not even for the first episode. Jujutsu Kaisen is a really approachable series, if you accept up front you’re going to watch a violent horror anime full of likable characters who you’re going to see suffer as the show climbs to the latest peak of the latest heap that is The Next Big Shonen Battle Anime.

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The Increasing Presence of Anime On This Blog

Around early April, late March, I made a chart to check the distribution of material I was covering in Story Pile, and then the stuff I had planned to watch. I made this chart because I realised that there were anime I was looking to cover, but I already had covered an anime in that month. And then I realised that my initial idea to keep the distribution of content varied, which was to write anime articles starting in november and work towards the current now, had kinda hit a wall, because I had already watched more than twelve anime this year.

The anime had caught up with containment.

The anime had breached.

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Story Pile: Call of The Night

This is the anime of a song. It doesn’t follow the plot of the song. It follows the vibe of a song, and that song inspired the manga, and then, the manga got made into an anime and that anime got to have the ending theme be the song that inspired it, and the same band made the opening theme, because they had already, in their music, defined this anime.

And damn if it don’t feel like a hell of a song.

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Hanamusa, Explained

There is a nonzero chance if you follow me on tumblr, you’ve seen the term ‘Hanamusa’ attached to something I shared. It’s probably also some super cute art of Delia Ketchum and Jessie Teamrocket, and you may wonder what is going on and also, why is there so much good art of this.

Hanamusa as a term derives from the Japanese names of the characters – Hanako and Musashi. If you’re into shipping name structures, Hana-Musa implies that Hanako is the seme and Musashi the uke, but I don’t think that holds for all use cases of the type of terminology. It’s a ship. It’s an AU ship, as in an ‘alternate universe’ ship, where the two characters are presented in a context outside of the normal context of the anime presentation of them.

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The Seemingly Sudden And Impressive Presence of Actually Queer Anime Circa Right Now

Hey, do you know what I mean by ‘this user can say it?’

I want to say it’s a cohost meme but the idea is that there are some words that get treated as cursed or slurs or dangerous magical words that are reclaimed slurs, in the mouths of people who can reclaim them. Simply put, if I, a bi dude, want to make a joke where I use the word faggot, fuck off telling me I shouldn’t. And this led to the joke that ‘This User Can Say It’ was a flag that signalled that whether or not an individual wanted to out themselves in any specific way, they had the rights to use particular terms.

But I’m not here to talk about slurs I’m here to talk about anime. It should be no surprise to anyone who pays attention to the trends on this blog (so, Tab, gotyaoi, me) that there’s a low key anxiety about doing too much on this blog about too many anime. It wasn’t intentional but I’ve just been watching more this year and that means more of this year has been talking about anime.

Here then is a list of anime that won’t show up in the Story Pile, but absolutely Can Say It.

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Shirt 23.05 — Haru-Ni ’06

Anime in my mind comes in strata. Different ages, different things that made significant changes to the landscape of anime. Things that feel contemporary weren’t, because I got to watch them at the same time. Things that were contemporary didn’t seem to be to me because I missed one. And in 2006, there were two different anime that shook my world launched – and I didn’t enjoy either of them until they were years old, unaware that the impact they had was nearly simultaneous.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a really great series that I should write about sometime, and Ouran High School Host Club, an equally excellent anime that made a lot of millenials grapple with being gay or girls or gay girls, both hit in April 2006. They were important in ways it was hard to explain, and even now they’re both handy touchstones where you can point to them to just open conversations about anime of that time. They, in a way, ruled the world.

And they both had main characters named Haruhi.

Here, then, I present stickers for you to show which you support in their quest to take over the world of anime as of 2006. If you’d like them, you can get them, with Haruhi Suzumiya as the Presidential runner, or with Haruhi Fujioka as the Presidential runner.

Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 5

Here we are, five years of watching into the story that is My Hero Academia, a story that took two seasons to get up to gear and then ran face-first into a pandemic making every part of its production slow and awkward and worse but don’t worry, they had a whole manga to build off. Which means that while the execution may suffer, there was at least a solid, robust spine of storytelling to build off.

Right?

Spoilers ahoy!

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 4

Alright, now we’ve hit our stride, we’ve done most of the set-up stuff required to have stories and character information all out there. The major characters are all laid out, we have a villain on the horizon waiting to happen to people, and we just had an introduction of some new boundary characters, so it’s time to immediately do something with all of those. This is a series that has got a handle on the basic ideas of what it’s going to do, and each season can be snapped apart into a few short story arcs you can consider on their own.

There’s something to the experience of enjoying My Hero Academia, season to season. It’s got all the joy of a catchy pop song, popcorn playful and full of classic shonen anime battle feelings, but this pop song also includes a few slurs? And probably says something condescending about women. Basically, I’m enjoying it but I’m sure as hell not going to defend it.

What we get in this season is some high drama with a big battle, one of those stories that focus on the characters in the setting dicking around with the infrastructure that exists to deal with the commonality of superpowers, and then an absolute top-tier banger of a story arc about excellent nearly-zero-stakes hero bullshit.

I’m going to talk more about it and that’s going to involve spoilers, so, below the fold!

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Story Pile: Summer Time Rendering

2022 was a kind of terrifying year for anime.

Terrifying in the scope, the variety and the general quality, mind you. It was still a year with a bunch of movies and continuations of things I don’t care about, and it was also a year in which the anime industry kept reeling after literal terrorism and the results of a pandemic slowdown. Still, the thing is, even when you take that into account and also the burnout and stress the anime producers are under, 2022 was a year with a selection of anime that would, in a less busy year, be considered the best anime released that year.

You doubt me? Well, consider that across 2022, we got heavy-hitter franchise installations Spy X Family, Demon Slayer, Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War, Bleach: The Thousand Year Blood War, Ascendance Of A Bookworm and the final season of Attack On Titan. There were also some pretty remarkable releases in the queer media space, with a mainline yuri production The Executioner And Her Way Of Life pushing into the isekai franchise space and The Witch From Mercury taking the lead of probably the venerable anime franchise machine that is Gundam. Looking at the lighter, shorter series, things that didn’t need a big backing from a big studio to get out the door, we got shows all over the genre space like Ya Boy Kongming, Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, My Dress Up Darling, Akiba Maid War, Fuuto PI, Cyberpunk Edgerunners, Lycoris Recoil, Call Of The Night, Bocchi The Rock, Do It Yourself, Urusei Yatsuara, and oh yeah, did I mention Chainsaw Man up top because yeah, Chainsaw Man also came out in 2022.

That’s… one year. Any of those 21 series would be an all-star excellent show to be ‘the one great one’ of the year. For comparison, in 1993, when I think I can say I started really paying attention to anime (we called it Japanimation), there were twenty four anime series made at all.

And I bring this list to your attention, the scope, and the weight of that scope and hopefully also the number of highlighted links showing that hey, yeah, these aren’t just critically praised or noteworthy shows but shows I like, where I want to tell you about the anime that gets to be 22 on that list, and may, in my opinion, be the best one.

Summer Time Rendering is a 2022 anime based on the Shonen Jump+ Digital Manga series written and illustrated by Yasuki Tanaka who at least according to wikipedia has done nothing else. The TV adaptation is by OLM, long-standing anime industry juggernauts responsible for, amongst everything else, Inazuma Eleven, Yo-Kai Watch, Beyblade, Cardfight Vanguard, and, of course, the entire run of the Pokemon anime, amongst other less kid-oriented fare like Komi Can’t Communicate and Life With An Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated Into A Total Fantasy Knockout so we can mention an isekai genderswap anime as well, for the full bingo. As to what Summer Time Rendering is at its heart, is a mystery story, which makes it kind of challenging to talk about in a way that can both illuminate its virtues without dispelling some of the tension that people like to discover themselves, especially since one major component of the story is a time loop,

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Story Pile: Lycoris Recoil

Lycoris Recoil is a 2022 action thriller anime about a pair of girls working to prevent terror attacks in Tokyo, while they get to know one another and become GOOD FRIENDS, while a plot happens around them. You know the type, right?

I am going to talk about things all through the series, I am going to spoil major twists, I am going to Talk About This Show. This serves as a spoiler warning, but also a content warning; this is a show that features guns, lots of guns, police shootings, medical tension, terrorism, bad dads, and dead probably-gays. It’s an action thriller anime set in a terrorism-wracked Japan, don’t imagine you’re getting something else just because there are girls on the posters.

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 2

You can tell the quality of a shounen series by how quickly it turns to a tournament arc in order to fill out its episodes. Tournament arcs are a break-in-case-of-emergency story beat for any game in the fighting shonen battle franchise, because while on the one hand, they give you structure, motivation, and a clearly defined sense of progression, they are also, ultimately, just a series of disconnected fights where you have to show characters being cool and explaining what they’re doing for mulitple episodes. I understand entirely why an anime might need to do a tournament arc; the manga industry is a machine that eats artists and shits manga, and when you’re doing a shounen battle series, having this kind of chained sequence of fights gives you an opportunity to fill out the audiences’ perspective and demonstrate a bunch of things like you’re filling out a guidebook. They are practical arcs, they are serviceable arcs.

You can also elevate a tournament arc! There are stories that weave (say) intrigue around a tournament arc, or where the rules of the tournament create a different demand on the characters, or if you follow only one character learning about the world through the arc — there’s a lot you can do with them… but they are also predictable and require you to set them up well with an interesting source of tension.

The first half of My Hero Academia season 2 is a single big tournament arc, and it’s shockingly mediocre.

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Ukyou And Tarou

Ranma 1/2, as may be expected of a gag sex comedy manga that ran for a decade, has a huge cast of characters. There are a host of characters who show up for exactly one story, such as some of my favourites, Herb, Shinnosuke and Ryuu Kumon, even if their appearance stretches across multiple issues. I guess I should mention Rakkyosai at this point because hey, remember Rakkyosai? No? Just me? Anyway. Technically, the near-final arc of the story, the Phoenix Mountain Arc, features a bunch of one-hit-wonder characters too like Kiima and Saffron, and oh, hey Pink and Link are in that basket too. If you haven’t read the manga, you must trust me this is a kind of impressive, like I’m doing some strange kind of wheelie on a type of vehicle you don’t understand.

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Story Pile: Shikimori’s not Just A Cutie

2022 was a year for extensive arguing about different varieties of Best Girl, what with Yor Forger, Marin Kitagawa, Bridget and probably some more I’m not remembering right now. One of the dark horse entries, based almost entirely in my friendscape’s reaction to the thirteen seconds in a trailer where she pulls a mean face, is Shikimori-san from Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie.

People make fun of light novel anime titles having huge explanations for the entirety of the story you’re buying into but you know, I think that Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie is basically the same thing. It’s a romance anime from mostly the perspective of a tragically failure-prone boy dojikko (dojibro) who at the start of the series is dating Shikimori. She is a cutie, and also there’s a bit more to her.

Just a bit.

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Keitaro Urashima

The conversation around representation is often a thing that involves talking about the very real ways in which the people who see themselves unrepresented in media, or only ever represented in a negative way, can have negative consequences, even to the extent of them inducing PTSD experiences in particularly long-exposure. The way that trans people, people of colour (and we’re going to go in on that when it comes to anime some day), ace people, and – you know, everyone outside of the rudimentary accepted dominant hierarchy get to be represented. But there’s another element of representation where the stories you absorb can often give you a symbiotic relationship to an image of who you are and who you can be, and this can show up in the way that a lot of guys, particularly guys in my general category of unremarkable basic dudes who like anime and felt lonely in their teenage years, thought that being a creepy drip was, y’know, understandable.

And there’s no patient zero here, this is all fluid exchanges of the gas that is culture, I’m not trying to pretend that this is one person’s fault, but there was definitely a person who I think I can point to as a very reasonable exemplar of a trend that kicked off and is still showing up in anime culture to this very day.

I refer to the crappy mediocre dude that is Keitaro Urashima.

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 1

Nothing quite like striking after the iron’s gone.

This is the last year in which My Hero Academia will not be an anime that ‘has run for ten years.’ Seems a fine time to get into this superhero comic book anime for tweens. Behold, beyond the fold, I will be talking about the first season of the anime and that means some spoilering.

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Story Pile: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated

There’s this genre, called isekai, about a person winding up in a magical world after some major event. Then there’s this other genre based on that, called reverse isekai, where a character from a magical world winds up in a normal world after some major event. And while we can absolutely argue about whether or not Ranma 1/2 is a reverse Isekai (it is), I’d like to talk about a really fun example, with a minimal expansive plot that’s basically just a fun, half-size sitcom about a character who is so much like one of my friends I kinda am concerned she’s not getting royalties.

You can argue amongst yourselves about whom I mean.

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Story Pile: Demon Slayer

Up front Spoiler Policy is that I’m not really going to spoil things in this series I’m just going to tell you broadly about the tone.

There’s this phenomenon in the conversation around pop music where all the best-selling artists of all time were born after like, 1985, a fact that makes a lot of boomer music fans kinda bummed out, because it’s a sign that the musical culture is no longer a sign of how they are the ones who dictate what is and isn’t popular. It’s okay, it’s just how time advances, but it’s also a function of how the technology for making music has just kept getting better. It’s easier to get the best version of any given performer’s art, it’s easier to distribute it faster and it’s easier to express a wider variety of ideas in a lot of different ways. Simply put, it’s possible to make things better these days.

Demon Slayer is a genre perfected.

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Story Pile: Oddtaxi

I have a concern about what I can only describe as ‘That Guy’ Media. I don’t have a precise list, but there are some kinds of media that slot into a particular space where someone, usually a white millenial guy, will exhort you that oh man you gotta check this out. And then they’ll hesitate almost performatively, like we I mean they’ve practiced this in the bathroom thinking about how we’re going to explain it to a stranger or a friend or some other captive audience, and it’ll be something like ‘… I can’t tell you much without spoilers,’ that eventually degenerates into ‘look, Just Watch It’ or something like that.

When I talked about Knives Out, in an effort to give a view on the movie that was interesting if you hadn’t seen it and interesting if you had, I did so thinking about something that was missed in the swirl of commentary about this movie. These articles aren’t being written for no reason, they’re written because I want to talk to you about something, and I want to talk about it in the context of something that I’ve watched or read or listened to. It’s when I engage with something and words about it want to get out of me.

And Oddtaxi is boy howdy the kind of series that makes me full of words. A frustratingly large number of them are “Have you watched Oddtaxi? Oh, okay.”

But talking about Oddtaxi runs the risk, at least in my mind, of making it into That Guy Media. It’s not even as pure as the Gay Effusing you get when an anime has two hot girls who like each other where a commentator just foams “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. You should watch it. It’s so good.” for ten minutes. It’s the smug cousin of that, which lacks the purity of “Oh My God I’m Finally Seeing Media I Like,” and is instead the same voice that asks “Oh, Have you seen the Raid?” or “Do you know the twist in Fight Club?

If you’re just here for an as-brief-as-possible, why-should-I-watch-this summary, I’m going to say that I like Oddtaxi, an anime I watched in its entirety in one day and which reminds me of Durarara!! and Paranoia Agent, but less bleak or apocalyptic. Lots of competing narratives, clear use of imagery, clearly neurodivergent protagonist, great music.

Okay, so what am I going to talk about beyond the fold?

What could I talk about, if I’m not going to effuse about the text, about its ideas, or its concepts?

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