Tag Archives: Slice of Life

Depiction of ordinary life, often without serious conflict.

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – and undefined

Japanese Title: Seijo no Maryoku wa Bannou Desu

 

Similar: Snow White with the Red Hair

Ascendance of a Bookworm

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Fantasy Slice of Life

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Easy going, comfortable atmosphere
  • Looks pleasant

Negatives:

  • Isekai aspect is pointless
  • Protagonist succeeds without effort
  • Shallow world building

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The isekai genre in anime is almost universally garbage, having run itself into the ground with the most low effort clones for a decade now. However, one isekai caught my eye in the spring 2021 line-up for not being an action series or featuring a teenaged protagonist.

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent features a twenty-something office lady summoned against her will to another world to be the “saint” that will fend off the growing evil from this strange kingdom. Except, she’s not the saint. The other woman summoned with her is. The mages aren’t sure why the summon called forth two people – perhaps the dire situation requires two saints? While the prince whisks off the other woman to fulfil her destiny, Sei is free to do as she pleases and receives all the comforts the kingdom can provide. Bored with her new situation in life free of TV and the internet, she wanders into the Research Institute of Medicinal Flora and soon starts brewing potions, which turn out to be more effective than the norm. Her cooking also makes soldiers stronger. Is she the saint after all?

My initial impression of Omnipotent is a positive one. I like the older protagonist (not being an isekai rapist for once is a plus as well) and the less action-orientated premise stands out. My interest quickly wanes, sadly, as Sei meekly goes along with everything far too easily and her magical power is a nebulous gift that makes her the best at everything. I didn’t expect the title to be literal.

She makes potions the same as anyone else (never mind that she just started) yet they’re 50% stronger simply because. When she visits the mages to learn to enchant gemstones for a gift to her beau, she executes a perfect enchantment stronger than anyone at the institute could do on her first try. She proceeds to enchant a box of gems at the head mage’s request within a casual afternoon.

What bothers me more than the instant omnipotence is how irrelevant the isekai device is. Apart from her mentioning she’s bored without TV a couple of times, the fact that she’s from another world is irrelevant. Screams of lazy writing. Why not have her incorporate modern medicine and knowledge into her potions to make them stronger, à la Outlander? A notable twist could be that she is indeed no saint but her modern capabilities make her better than a saint. Weirdly, she only makes real use of each type of magic once – outside of the potions – in the series. This is a “magic spell of the week” show. That’s a first.

Beyond her abilities, I have never seen someone acclimatise so quickly and forget all connection to the modern world. There is some consternation about what would happen if everyone found out that she was a saint, probably the saint, though no conflict comes to fruition. It feels as if this is an isekai because isekai is popular, therefore you must have that tag no matter how flimsy. Omnipotent would have worked better if Sei were a gifted mage discovered by a high scholar in some remote village.

I find it tough to overstate how little effort went into the premise and the world. Sei’s power is undefined. The present day connection is meaningless. The fantasy society has no sense of lore or world building beyond the visuals and a few copy-pasted video game elements for magic. The great evil is as ill-realised as the rest, seen towards the end with a bit of action against nameless, faceless enemies.

“What are they?”

“Evil.”

“Yes, but what kind of evil. Do you have a bestiary or something?”

“No. They evil.”

This is more of a slice of life anime though, and as such, this doesn’t turn my opinion negative. The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent is a relaxed comfort watch where everything looks lovely, where a romance with the commander matters more than the great evil. It’s a case where more effort could have made an anime I love instead of a watch, enjoy, and forget series.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For fantasy slice of life fans only. The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent is for those in need of a conflict-free, no-thought fantasy anime. For a little more oomph (woah, not too much though), I recommend Snow White with the Red Hair instead.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Shallow

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Sakura-sou no Pet na Kanojo

 

Similar: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend

Toradora

Princess Jellyfish

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Comedy Romance Slice of Life

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Nice colours

Negatives:

  • Sleazier fan service than usual
  • Deeper moments fall flat against this tone
  • Too many obnoxious characters

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When you’ve consumed enough anime with an analytical eye (or books or movies), judging the quality of series within one episode becomes easy. It may sound unfair – “You have to finish or it doesn’t count!” If a first episode is full of problems, then expect those same problems to echo throughout the series. Core elements don’t magically go from bad to great by the end. Not to suggest they can’t get better. You might get a 10% improvement by the end or an element that isn’t working falls away, elevating the rest in the process without much change. When a story has potential for greatness, the seeds are present from the start. What about judging the ending if you only watch one episode? You won’t be able to tell how good the ending will be (though a bad series ending is often predictable), but you can judge whether the journey is worth it. Remember, the end is a fraction of the overall experience.

And so, we come to The Pet Girl of Sakurasou. Let’s go through episode one for all the markers of how this series will be.

Opening scene, protagonist Sorata looking out of the classroom window at a bright but uneventful day, indicating his boring but easy life. He then tells us as much. Unnecessary showing plus telling. Not a big deal, but I expect to see this a lot, where they will show something (should stop there), but then have someone vocalise it as if the audience can’t infer on their own. Anime does this often. Problem repeats next moment when he wakes up (pointless dream opening scene is also a red flag) with a cat’s arse on his face – not a pleasant experience – and then has to tell us how it’s not a pleasant experience, a simile for his adolescent life.

Turns around to find his face now in a girl’s arse (camera about to perform a colonoscopy of course). Tells me the fan service will be non-stop and sleazy. She wakes up and her first line, yelled with extreme energy, is, “I want to be a bride when I grow up!” Atrocious introduction to an obnoxious character. She only gets worse as the scene continues.

Less than two minutes in and this tells me about 70% of what I need to know. There will be too much telling, sleazy fan service, and bad characters. All that remains is to see the narrative drive, which I expect within a few minutes, and I could give a recommendation.

Escapes into the hall where he runs into his teacher, whose priority one the first day of school is showing off her cleavage, as stated by her. She hands him a toolbox to fix the sign out front. This is Sakura Hall, a dorm notorious for housing the problem students of this art school. Sorata’s plot goal is to get out of this hellhole of a living situation. A funny premise, to be sure, but it hinges on having great characters in the dorm for comedy and all you’ve given me so far is sleaze and a colonoscopy.

There’s another minor instance of show and tell here. A couple of girls walk past and whisper about Sakura Hall’s reputation, which is all we need. Then Sorata tells us the same information again a second later.

Predictably, the panty girl from the start throws a window open and yells to him about how hot she is naked, reinforcing my judgment of obnoxious fan service and this character. A little over three minutes in and I’ve seen more than enough. Let’s keep going though.

Now we have the character bios. Panty girl is an animator, in comes a playboy guy (anime screenwriter and high school gigolo), the teacher we’ve met, and there is a NEET programmer no one has ever seen. Sorata is an average guy amongst a bunch of freaks. I’m not a fan of rapid-fire inductions like scrolling through game profiles, as they just info dump without engagement. At least it isn’t as bad as the one in Wave! Let’s Go Surfing! and they did intersplice character moments to give a bit of personality.

After classmate introductions and more talk of Sakura Hall’s infamy, we flashback to Sorata adopting a stray cat and being forced to move to Sakura Hall since regular dorms don’t allow pets. Bit of a forced scenario set up, but alright, works for comedy. He’s had stray cats come to him ever since. This is foreshadowing for later.

Side note: the bloom is too strong and ever-present.

The teacher introduces the foil in the story. Her cousin is coming from England (prediction: she will be nothing like a British girl) and will be staying in Sakura Hall. Sorata has to pick her up from the station. He finds the girl and the first thing she says is, “What colour do you want to be?” A feeble attempt at a philosophical conversation follows (purpose: on the nose metaphor of the theme). This tells me the story will try to cram a deeper meaning in somewhere (prediction: the ending, with sudden drama) that will utterly fail in the face of the sleaze and shallow characters. Her colour is white, like the stray cat. A bad introduction via writing from a film school student’s first indie movie.

We are a little past halfway in the first episode now and I have yet to find much positive to say. The colours are nice, though marred by the overbearing bloom. A couple of funny lines as well, yet far outweighed by the unfunny ones.

Next day, he has to wake her up for school, only to find her room in a disaster state as if the FBI had rifled all her clothes for secret intel. She’s a manga artist and sleeps under the desk. She comes out from blanket to stand before him naked. Nothing has changed from that first scene when he woke up. Turns out, she’s an absolute idiot for the sake of fan service, underage nudity, and comedy. The explanation is that this is normal because the culture in England is different? Yeah, I doubt the author has ever been to England. He has to get her ready like a child. This is the pet of the title and from all that foreshadowing. I get she is supposed to be like a stray cat to care for, like his many other stray cats, but did they have to make her mentally deficient just to fulfil his fetish?

And so ends the episode.

Let’s summarise. The characters are obnoxious, the love interest is imbecilic, the humour repeated itself several times within a single episode, the “serious” dialogue is laughably bad, showing plus telling, and fan service takes priority over all else. A thick blanket of anime clichés wraps this up.

One episode was too much to know The Pet Girl of Sakurasou isn’t an anime worth watching. Yes, there are many far worse than this, but also a thousand high school anime that you could watch first. Toradora is a much better version of this anime type.

For the sake of thoroughness and this review, I watched the series in full and nothing changes about the quality of this series. The characters are still weak stereotypes, the fan service is still sleazy, and the few good jokes are buried under the mountain of same tired lines in every high school anime. The feeble deeper messages die under the tonal nonsense of the sleaze. My only off prediction was the dramatic ending. It wasn’t as dramatic as expected, instead mirroring the first episode with nostalgia. The end was a typical graduation moment filled with crying people (understandable). It’s clear the main couple has barely evolved.

I could apply the above analysis to the first episode of any series, whether good or bad, and highlight the markers that predict overall quality. Maybe I should do it in future with some excellent series. Sounds like a good idea.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou isn’t worth your time in a sea of high school anime.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

K-On! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: K-On!

 

Similar: Sound! Euphonium

Lucky Star

Bang Dream

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Music Slice of Life

Length: 39 episodes (2 seasons), 2 specials, 1 movie

 

Positives:

  • Visually dynamic for a slice of life anime
  • Characters aren’t just moe
  • Fair number of laughs

Negatives:

  • The music is a little weak for a music show

(Request an anime for review here.)

It is no secret that I’m not a fan of moe anime. Apart from usually looking hideous, they bank everything – character, plot, personality, effort – on the moe. The characters are insufferable, one-note, and what passes for humour is non-stop screeching. Oh god, the voices. They’re torture. So, what does a seemingly stereotypical moe anime with good characters, restraint on the screeching, and real humour look like? Meet K-On.

This anime revolves around the daily school life antics of a girls’ music club. They claim it’s a music club, but they spend more time drinking tea, eating cakes, and doing odd activities to promote the club. K-On is more a slice of life than a music anime. We have Yui the protagonist on the guitar, Mio on bass, Mugi on keyboard, and Ritsu banging the drums. A fifth joins the club later. Each girl fits one of the main archetypes of the typical “cute girls doing cute things” cast. Yui, for instance, is a clumsy airhead, which sounds clichéd. Another girl is the shy, self-conscious type yet popular with the boys. Also sounds clichéd. Their teacher is more of a child than half of her students. Sound familiar?

In fact, if I were to detail K-On in full on paper from its characters to the episodic scenarios, it would be normal for you to dismiss it as more of the same clichéd moe fare. To own a truth, though this had been on my list to watch since before my first review, I always suspected it as more of same that a hardcore fanbase overhyped to outsiders. Probably why I took so long to get to it. I was right, in a sense. K-On is more of the same, technically. However, it takes that sameness and executes it so much better than the competition that it makes me think even less of those other anime. Yes, K-On had many imitators in the years that followed, but it wasn’t an original idea either. I look at this anime and can’t pick out anything I would call different or innovative for the genre, apart from caring about more than the moe. Here we have a great example of the importance of execution over idea. I talk of this plenty in isekai reviews, where all they have going for them is that one change from other isekai, as if that alone will make for a great story. You could change nothing at the core but execute in a great way and now sentiment won’t be, “Oh, it’s just a rip-off of [other anime here].” Instead, viewers will say, “It’s like [other anime] but actually good.”

These characters are fun and the scenarios are fun, especially in season two when the series hits its stride. The humour works and has more than “it’s funny because she’s cute” as the joke. K-On is, in simple terms, fun. Who knew that having good characters with depth would make for an enjoyable experience, aye?

Huge praise must go to Kyoto Animation for applying their considerable artistic talents to the series. Nothing about K-On visually feels template. When the girls have those expected moe and anime reactions, we aren’t getting stock animation you see copied and pasted across the seasonal clones. These characters have such life and energy, such expression thanks to caring artists. Very giffable too, as I’m sure you’ve seen around the net.

One problem tangential to K-On is the ease in which it is to imitate. Imitating well is a different matter, but to create a clone (similar to how easy it is to clone Sword Art Online) takes little effort and had caused a flood on the market. If you have seen its imitators already, I can imagine them lessening your experience with K-On, for while this is better, you could feel as if you know everything about K-On before you even start. That said, should you have an inclination for the genre as an outsider, I do recommend this one. Actually, this is the only anime of the typical moe variety that I would recommend to non-core fans.

I want to be clear. You aren’t finding anything revolutionary here or the anime to change your mind on moe, but it is still a good anime regardless.

One final note – should a dub be your preference, avoid the original Animax dub. Absolutely lifeless. The Bang Zoom redub is close to the Japanese in tone and energy and a fine experience.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for “cute girls doing cute things” fans. This might appeal to those not already predisposed to the moe genre. K-On is good though still very moe.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: 

Fluid Animation

Negative: None

Oh! My Goddess – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Aa! Megami Sama!

 

Related: Oh! My Goddess (anime)

 

Genre: Comedy Fantasy Romance

Length: 308 chapters (48 volumes)

 

Positives:

  • Gorgeous character art and designs (after a few volumes)
  • Good fun
  • Starts and ends well

Negatives:

  • Art begins in an ugly state
  • Main thread goes nowhere for ~30 volumes in the middle

Oh! My Goddess (sometimes called Ah! My Goddess) was one of the first anime I loved after having seen the 5-episode OVA and movie. It would later receive another adaptation with the first season retelling the OVA and several other volumes to be more manga accurate. It was enjoyable, but still the same section of story, more or less. The second season came about and was just comedy slice of life, much to my annoyance. Season 2 felt like a waste of time. The lack of closure has bothered me ever since.

My dive into the world of manga had me thinking of incomplete anime I could conclude in the source material. Oh! My Goddess was my first candidate. It has taken a while – 308 chapters over 48 volumes – but I did it. Does it have everything I’d hoped for?

The first shock came to me with the art of chapter one. To me, Oh! My Goddess has always had characters designs in a beautiful style I cherish. However, I find the manga starts ugly. How did they get the anime designs from this? I considered the possibility of a redraw of the manga that I hadn’t heard of, but the covers for later volumes showed what I was used to. And I must say, it is impressive to see how quickly the art improves from chapter to chapter. The art is years better within a few volumes. Thank the goddess, for I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate that Belldandy with the melting face for long. Oh! My Goddess ends up with elegant characters, expressive features, and detailed backgrounds where needed. The chibis are adorable too.

The premise in brief, for anyone not familiar with the franchise: University student Keiichi accidentally calls the Goddess Helpline and the goddess Belldandy answers his call with one wish. Thinking it’s all a joke and as a “manlet” (his words) with no chance of getting a girlfriend, he wishes for someone as beautiful as Belldandy to stay by his side forever. Wish granted! Since his dorm doesn’t allow girls, he finds himself homeless with his…girlfriend? They settle in a temple and begin to go about daily life in this unexpected relationship. No one at uni can believe someone like him got a woman like her. Her two sisters, Skuld and Urd, soon join them on Earth and the pandemonium only increases.

The anime’s second season that annoyed me so much turns out to be canon. It’s not exactly the same, but content is in line with the manga. See, Oh! My Goddess the manga stops main story progression – the Keiichi-Belldandy relationship – around volume 5 and doesn’t restart until the volume 38-ish mark. That is over 30 volumes of no progress and I could it feel more acutely with each passing chapter. The issue isn’t that the “filler” is bad (I’ll get to that in a moment), but rather that we don’t seem to go anywhere. Doesn’t even have the decency to focus on the main thread for one in four volumes – would still be a bad ratio, by the way, though it would be something. It recalls when classic Naruto was in filler mode while waiting for Shippuden. A filler arc would finally end and you’d start the next episode thinking, “Are we finally done?” only to have more filler molest you.

This middle section of arcs across 30 plus volumes focuses on side characters and most are decently fun. Urd arcs will often play on her demon half with visits from other demons, included her powerful demon mother (different mother to the other two sisters). Hers are quite good. Skuld arcs, on the other hand, are more child-like and about growing up as she crushes on a human boy or relies on her gadgets to solve all problems. I didn’t find these good or bad either way. Keiichi arcs are very much university centric, especially involving the motor club, where he has to build or repair some vehicle and partake in a race. These are among the better sub-arcs as author Kosuke Fujishima’s gearhead nature spills across the pages (he has a couple of other racing-focused manga). The background art also shines in these segments.

As for Belldandy arcs, they generally involve a challenge from a heavenly visitor. Someone either wants to bring her back or just wants to toy with Keiichi. These are among the weakest arcs. For one, they are all similar. What is it with the adult male gods/demons appearing as a child to mess with her? I don’t recall a single adult male god throughout the series (turns out the one featured in the movie is non-canon). These arcs could have been the focal points for progression, but they don’t amount to more than weird magical trials. Belldandy shines in other people’s arcs (she’s my favourite character).

My favourite of the sub-arcs has the interdimensional whale. Keiichi’s motor club seniors are going away for a time and need him to look after a couple of boxes of expensive parts. A couple of boxes ends up being a garage full. Since temples don’t have garages, they store it all in lounge room, but now they can’t use the lounge! Skuld has the idea to build a device that can create a TARDIS effect – “It’s bigger on the inside.” The intention is to expand the interior of the lounge room without affecting its exterior volume. However, the device doesn’t operate as planned and expands the room to infinity. They have no idea where their things are in this space. A creature called Schrodinger’s Whale soon appears before them, and it can navigate the space with ease as a being of negative dimensions. It’s an interesting concept clearly inspired by Star Trek (they are watching The Next Generation on TV before meeting it). I like those arcs that explore a mysterious concept. But no matter how much I like these, the total absence of main plot is nothing but infuriating.

Why didn’t they make more use of Heaven as a location? There is so much one could do on another world of immortal beings that blends Norse mythology with technology. The movie had more of Heaven than the manga series did before the final arc. So much untapped potential lay wasted.

So, after all these volumes, I reached the final arc that sends Keiichi and the three goddesses into Heaven for a series of trials that will put Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship to the ultimate test. It is a good arc, ending in a lovely conclusion, except for one moronic detail. There is a canonical explanation for the lack of relationship progression. I kid you not, magic prevented development. That has to be the worst defence put forth by any author in the history of literature. Other than that, it’s a fine end.

I got my closure. I simply wish the journey there had been better.

Art – High

Story – Medium

Recommendation: I can only recommend the Oh! My Goddess manga in full to fans of the anime that want closure. For the uninitiated to the franchise, the first season of the anime followed by the movie is the best experience, ending with volumes 39 to 48 of the manga should you want that final tie of the ribbon.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid / Blend S / Ranma ½ – Quick Review

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Japanese Title: Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

Genre: Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 13 episodes

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is about a drunk office lady who accidentally invites a dragon to live with her. It isn’t long before other dragons crash in as well.

There are five dragons: main dragon, little dragon, male dragon, rival dragon, and pedo dragon. Main dragon is the titular maid to Miss Kobayashi. Comedy largely comes from her incompetent but earnest attempts at being a useful maid to Kobayashi – and a strange obsession with serving her own dragon tail meat for dinner. This is typical fish out of water humour from a slice of life anime. Little dragon is just there for the cute factor.

Most characters have no point to this story. I know this is slice of life, a genre thin on purpose, yet even so, most of these characters serve little purpose. The worst character in both purpose and personality is pedo dragon. The old dragon whose job is carrying two massive jugs around answers the summons of a little magician boy. Her purpose becomes to molest him at every possible opportunity. They even called him Shouta… So obsessed is Dragon Maid with this “joke” that it will cut away from unrelated scenes to show her sleeping with this child and using him as a grinding pillow. Furthermore, she is completely pointless.

The other surprisingly pointless aspect is the whole dragon bit. Having these characters be dragons doesn’t play much of a factor outside of a shoehorned bit of plot involving the dragon emperor in the final episode. I think of Hinamatsuri with its alien girls. Sure, Hina’s character designs were uninspired but being aliens made a difference. The dragon aspect is just a gimmick.

Not pulling a “she’s actually a thousand years old” on little dragon was Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid’s greatest surprise.

The two main characters are decent fun and I like the colours and animation. Other than that, it’s a run of the mill moe slice of life comedy and those are never great.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For moe slice of life fans only.

*     *     *     *     *

Blend S

Japanese Title: Blend S

Genre: Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 12 episodes

If you’ve heard of Blend S it’s because of the meme opening (“Smile! Sweet! Sadistic!”). It’s also the only entertaining part. This isn’t a good anime.

Blend S is a workplace slice of life series – of which there are many – filled with a cast of generic characters. The main girl struggles to find a job because despite being small and cute, her smile looks menacing. Anime, seriously, there are only so many times you can use this trope. Please, something else.

The scenarios are typical and crammed to the brim with gags, which gives the feeling that the writers don’t want you to stop and think about how nothing is happening. I don’t find it funny, so this doesn’t work for me. And the sexualisation is creepy, though not that prevalent.

You ever discover an older anime and wonder how it faded into obscurity, forgotten by everyone after the season ended? Watching Blend S reminds me of that. This anime is so dull in the face of such high energy.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Skip it. A new anime of its kind will be out every season anyway.

*     *     *     *     *

Ranma ½

Japanese Title: Ranma ½

Genre: Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 161 episodes

Today we end on a classic of slice of life comedy, an anime from a time when broadcasters wanted 161 episodes from a story that goes nowhere.

Ranma ½ is about a guy called Ranma who turns into a girl when splashed with cold water. Hot water turns him back again. His father arranges for him to marry the daughter from a long running dojo family. Akane plays the main love interest and foil to Ranma.

Episodes of Ranma ½ follow a rather repetitive theme of Ranma fighting someone with martial arts over some misunderstanding or jealousy, a lover spat with Akane, and some gender swapping hijinks. It doesn’t go much of anywhere. The core premise is alright – I have no particular objections there – but episode after episode of mid-level comedy, repetition, and a story that makes one step of progress per twenty episodes is dull. As mentioned earlier, Ranma ½ comes from a time when stations wanted longer anime. They try out a few, find the ones that stick, and play them forever. If you could get the audience interested, you expect their return to your station every week. This anime isn’t meant for the binge viewer. That is true of many older anime. However, many still have reason to watch them today amongst the modern series. Ranma ½ doesn’t hold up.

One final note – avoid the dub. It’s not from a time of quality dubs, but worst of all is the fact that one actress didn’t record using the same equipment. Background noise accompanies her every time she speaks. It’s like teeth against a chalkboard.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For classic slice of life fans only. At 161 episodes long, Ranma ½ is only for the diehard.

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