Yuri (百合, "lily"), also known by the wasei-eigo construction Girls' Love (ガールズラブ gāruzu rabu), is a Japanese jargon term for content and a genre involving lesbian relationships or homoeroticism in light novels, manga, anime, video games and related Japanese media. Yuri focuses on the sexual orientation or the romantic orientation aspects of the relationship, or both, the latter of which is sometimes called shōjo-ai by Western fandom.
The themes yuri deals with have their roots in the Japanese lesbian fiction of the early twentieth century, with pieces such as Yaneura no Nishojo by Nobuko Yoshiya. Nevertheless, it is not until the 1970s that lesbian-themed works began to appear in manga, by the hand of artists such as Ryoko Yamagishi and Riyoko Ikeda. The 1990s brought new trends in manga and anime, as well as in dōjinshi productions, along with more acceptance for this kind of content. In 2003, the first manga magazine specifically dedicated to yuri, Yuri Shimai, was launched, and this was followed by its revival Comic Yuri Hime, which was launched after the former was discontinued in 2004.
As a genre, yuri content could target either a male or a female audience. Although yuri originated in female-targeted works, today it is featured in male-targeted ones as well. Yuri manga from male-targeted magazines include titles such as Kannazuki no Miko and Strawberry Panic!, as well as those from Comic Yuri Hime's male-targeted sister magazine, Comic Yuri Hime S, which was launched in 2007.
The word yuri (百合) literally means "lily", and is a relatively common Japanese feminine name. In 1976, Bungaku Itō, editor of Barazoku (薔薇族, lit. rose tribe), a magazine geared primarily towards gay men, first used the term yurizoku (百合族, lit. lily tribe) in reference to female readers in the title of a column of letters called Yurizoku no heya (百合族の部屋, lit. lily tribe's room). It is unclear whether this was the first instance of this usage of the term. Not all women whose letters appeared in this short-lived column were necessarily lesbians, but some were and gradually an association developed. For example, the tanbi magazine Allan (アラン Aran) began running a Yuri Tsūshin (百合通信, "Lily Communication") personal ad column in July 1983 for "lesbiennes" to communicate. Along the way, many dōjinshi circles incorporated the name "Yuri" or "Yuriko" into lesbian-themed hentai (pornographic) dōjinshi, and the "zoku" or "tribe" portion of this word was subsequently dropped. Since then, the meaning has drifted from its mostly pornographic connotation to describe the portrayal of intimate love, sex, or the intimate emotional connections between women.
As of 2009, the term yuri is used in Japan to mean the depiction of attraction between women (whether sexual or romantic; explicit or implied) in manga, anime, and related entertainment media, as well as the genre of stories primarily dealing with this content. The wasei-eigo construction "Girls Love" (ガールズラブ gāruzu rabu), occasionally spelled "Girl's Love" or "Girls' Love", or abbreviated as "GL", is also used with this meaning. Yuri is generally a form of fanspeak amongst fans, but its usage by authors and publishers has increased since 2005. The term "Girls Love", on the other hand, is primarily used by the publishers.
In North America, yuri has initially been used to denote only the most explicit end of the spectrum, deemed primarily as a variety of hentai. Following the pattern of shōnen-ai, a term already in use in North America to describe content involving non-sexual relationships between men, Western fans coined the term shōjo-ai to describe yuri without explicit sex. In Japan, the term shōjo-ai (少女愛, lit. girl love) is not used with this meaning, and instead tends to denote pedophilia (actual or perceived), with a similar meaning to the term lolicon (Lolita complex). The Western use of yuri has broadened in the 2000s, picking up connotations from the Japanese use. American publishing companies such as ALC Publishing and Seven Seas Entertainment have also adopted the Japanese usage of the term to classify their yuri manga publications.
Among the first Japanese authors to produce works about love between women was Nobuko Yoshiya, a novelist active in the Taishō and Shōwa periods of Japan. Yoshiya was a pioneer in Japanese lesbian literature, including the early twentieth century Class S genre. These kinds of stories depict lesbian attachments as emotionally intense yet platonic relationships, destined to be curtailed by graduation from school, marriage, or death. The root of this genre is in part the contemporary belief that same-sex love was a transitory and normal part of female development leading into heterosexuality and motherhood. Class S stories in particular tell of strong emotional bonds between schoolgirls, a mutual crush between an upperclassman and an underclassman.
Around the 1970s, yuri began to appear in shōjo manga, presenting some of the characteristics found in the lesbian literature of the early twentieth century. This early yuri generally features an older looking, more sophisticated woman, and a younger, more awkward admirer. The two deal with some sort of unfortunate schism between their families, and when rumors of their lesbian relationship spread, they are received as a scandal. The outcome is a tragedy, with the more sophisticated girl somehow dying at the end. In general, the yuri manga of this time could not avoid a tragic ending. Ryoko Yamagishi's Shiroi Heya no Futari, the first manga involving a lesbian relationship, is a prime example, as it was "prototypical" for many yuri stories of the 1970s and 1980s. It is also in the 1970s that shōjo manga began to deal with transsexualism and transvestism, sometimes depicting female characters as manly looking, which was inspired by the women playing male roles in the Takarazuka Revue. These traits are most prominent in Riyoko Ikeda's works, including The Rose of Versailles, Oniisama e..., and Claudine...! Some shōnen works of this period feature lesbian characters too, but these are mostly depicted as fanservice and comic relief.
Some of these formulas began to weaken during the 1990s: manga stories such as Jukkai me no Jukkai by Wakuni Akisato, published in 1992, began to move away from the tragic outcomes and stereotyped dynamics. This stood side-by-side with dōjinshi works, which at the time were largely influenced by the immense popularity of Sailor Moon, the first mainstream manga and anime series featuring a "positive" portrayal of an openly lesbian couple. Furthermore, many of the people behind this show went on to make Revolutionary Girl Utena, a shōjo anime series where the main storyline focuses on a yuri relationship, which is widely regarded today as a masterpiece. Male-targeted works such as the Devilman Lady anime series, based on a homonym seinen manga by Go Nagai, began to deal with lesbian themes in a more "mature manner" too. The first magazines specifically targeted towards lesbians appeared around this period, containing sections featuring yuri manga. These stories range from high school crush to lesbian life and love, featuring different degrees of sexual content. It is at this point (the mid-1990s) that lesbian-themed works began to be acceptable.
The later 1990s brought Oyuki Konno's Maria-sama ga Miteru, which by 2004 was a bestseller among yuri novels. This story revisits what was being written at the time of Nobuko Yoshiya: strong emotional bonds between females, mostly revolving around the school upperclassman-underclassman dynamic, like those portrayed in Class S. Another prominent author of this period is Kaho Nakayama, active since the early 1990s, with works involving love stories among lesbians.
Around the early 2000s, the first magazines specifically dedicated to yuri manga were launched, containing stories dealing with a wide range of themes: from intense emotional connections such as that depicted in Voiceful, to more explicit school-girl romances like those portrayed in First Love Sisters, and realistic tales about love between adult women such as those seen in Rakuen no Jōken. Some of these subjects are seen in male-targeted works of this period as well, sometimes in combination with other themes, including mecha and science fiction. Examples include series such as Kannazuki no Miko, Blue Drop, and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl. In addition, male-targeted stories tend to make extensive use of moe and bishōjo characterizations.
In the mid 90s and early 2000s some Japanese lesbian lifestyle magazines contain manga sections, including the now-defunct magazines Anise (1996–97, 2001–03) and Phryné (1995). Carmilla, an erotic lesbian publication, released an anthology of lesbian manga called Girl's Only. Additionally, Mist (1996–99), a ladies' comic manga magazine, contained sexually explicit lesbian-themed manga as part of a section dedicated to lesbian-interest topics.
The first publication marketed exclusively as yuri was Sun Magazine's manga anthology magazine Yuri Shimai, which was released between June 2003 and November 2004 in quarterly installments, ending with only five issues. After the magazine's discontinuation, Comic Yuri Hime was launched by Ichijinsha in July 2005 as a revival of the magazine, containing manga by many of the authors who had had work serialized in Yuri Shimai. Like its predecessor, Comic Yuri Hime was also published quarterly but went on to release bimonthly on odd months from January 2011 to December 2016, after which it became monthly.. A sister magazine to Comic Yuri Hime named Comic Yuri Hime S was launched as a quarterly publication by Ichijinsha in June 2007. Unlike either Yuri Shimai or Comic Yuri Hime, Comic Yuri Hime S was targeted towards a male audience. However, in 2010 it was merged with Comic Yuri Hime. Ichijinsha published light novel adaptations from Comic Yuri Hime works and original yuri novels under their shōjo light novel line Ichijinsha Bunko Iris starting in July 2008.
Once Comic Yuri Hime helped establish the market, several other yuri anthologies were released, such as Yuri Koi Girls Love Story, Hirari, Mebae, Yuri Drill, Yuri + Kanojo and Eclair. Houbunsha also published their own yuri magazine, Tsubomi, from February 2009 to December 2012 for a total of 21 issues. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the creator-owned yuri anthology magazine Galette was launched in 2017.
The first company to release lesbian-themed manga in North America was Yuricon's publishing arm ALC Publishing. Their works include Rica Takashima's Rica 'tte Kanji!?—which in 2006 was course material for Professor Kerridwen Luis' Anthropology 166B course at Brandeis University—and their annual yuri manga anthology Yuri Monogatari; both were first released in 2003. The latter collects stories by American, European, and Japanese creators, including Akiko Morishima, Althea Keaton, Kristina Kolhi, Tomomi Nakasora, and Eriko Tadeno. These works range from fantasy stories to more realistic tales dealing with themes such as coming out and sexual orientation.
Besides ALC Publishing, the Los Angeles-based Seven Seas Entertainment has also incurred in the genre, with the English version of well known titles such as the Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl manga and the Strawberry Panic! light novels. On October 24, 2006, Seven Seas announced the launch of their specialized yuri manga line, which includes works such as the Strawberry Panic! manga, The Last Uniform, and Comic Yuri Hime's compilations such as Voiceful and First Love Sisters. Between 2011 and 2013, the now-defunct JManga released several yuri titles to its digital subscription platform, before terminating service on March 13, 2013. As of 2017, VIZ Media and Yen Press began publishing yuri manga, with Tokyopop following in 2018. Kodansha Comics announced its debut into publishing both yuri and yaoi manga in 2019, as well as Digital Manga launching a new imprint specializing in yuri dōjin manga.
By the mid 2010s, yuri video games also began to be officially translated into English. In 2015, MangaGamer announced they would be releasing A Kiss for the Petals, the first license of a yuri game to have an English translation. MangaGamer went on to publish Kindred Spirits on the Roof in 2016, which was one of the first adult visual novels to be released uncensored on the Steam store.
As yuri gained further recognition outside Japan, some artists began creating original English-language manga that were labeled as yuri or having yuri elements and subplots. Early examples of original English-language yuri comics include Steady Beat by Rivkah LaFille and 12 Days by June Kim, which were published between 2005 and 2006. Additionally, more English-developed visual novels and indie games have marketed themselves as yuri games. This has been aided by the Yuri Game Jam, a game jam established in 2015 that takes place annually.
A common misconception about demographics within yuri readership and viewers is that it must mirror the demographics of yaoi, meaning that just as yaoi is primarily made by and for women, yuri must be made primarily by and for men. However, while yuri as a genre has evolved to also target a male audience, its origins in female-targeted (shōjo, josei) works has kept its female audiences over time. Various studies have been done in Japan to try and determine what the typical profile of a yuri fan is.
The first magazine to study the demographics of its readers was Yuri Shimai (2003-2004), who estimated the proportion of women at almost 70%, and that the majority of them were either teenagers or women in their thirties who were already interested in shōjo and yaoi manga. In 2008, Ichijinsha made a demographic study for its two magazines Comic Yuri Hime and Comic Yuri Hime S, the first being targeted to women, the second to men. The study reveals that women accounted for 73% of Comic Yuri Hime readership, while in Comic Yuri Hime S, men accounted for 62%. The publisher noted, however, that readers of the latter magazine also tended to read the first, which led to their merger in 2010. Regarding the age of women for Comic Yuri Hime, 27% of them were under 20 years old, 27% between 20 and 24 years old, 23% between 25 and 29 years old, and 23% over 30 years old. As of 2017, the ratio between men and women is said to have shifted to about 6:4, thanks in part to the Comic Yuri Hime S merge and the mostly male readership YuruYuri brought with it.
Verena Maser conducted her own study of Japanese yuri fandom demographics between September and October 2011. This study mainly oriented towards the Yuri Komyu! community and the Mixi social network, receiving a total of 1,352 valid responses. The study found that 52.4% of respondents were women, 46.1% were men and 1.6% did not identify with either gender. The sexuality of the participants was also requested, separated into two categories: "heterosexual" and "non-heterosexual". The results were as follows: 30% were non-heterosexual women, 15.2% were heterosexual women, 4.7% were non-heterosexual men, 39.5% were heterosexual men and 1.2% identified as "other". Regarding age, 69% of respondents were between 16 and 25 years old. Maser's study reinforced the notion of the yuri fandom being split somewhat equally between men and women, as well as highlighting the differing sexualities within it.
While yaoi (boys love) manga are romances between two men that are created by women for women, yuri is more complicated. Almost all yuri manga are by women, and while many of the stories are aimed at a female audience, there is considerable variety.
Adachi to Shimamura (安達としまむら, transl. "Adachi and Shimamura") is a Japanese yuri light novel series written by Hitoma Iruma and illustrated by Non, which began serialization in October 2012 in ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Bunko Magazine and is published under the Dengeki Bunko imprint. The series has been adapted into two manga series, and an anime television series adaptation has been announced.Adolescence of Utena
Adolescence of Utena (少女革命ウテナ アドゥレセンス黙示録, Shōjo Kakumei Utena Aduresensu Mokushiroku) is a 1999 Japanese anime film directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, written by Yōji Enokido, from a story by Ikuhara, and produced by J.C.Staff. The film is a retelling of the plot of the anime and the manga Revolutionary Girl Utena, but like the two it has its own continuity. In English-speaking territories, it was released as Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie. In 2001, Central Park Media licensed and released the movie, with the English voice cast to reprise their roles from the TV series. In 2010, following the closure of Central Park Media, Right Stuf Inc. announced their license to the film, as well as the TV series.Aoi Shiro
Aoi Shiro (アオイシロ) is an adventure game by Japanese developer and publisher Success Corporation, released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan on April 5, 2008, and was later ported to Microsoft Windows with extra content. A reduced price "popular edition," included in the SuperLite 2000 Series, was released on April 28, 2009.Avenger (TV series)
Avenger (Japanese: アヴェンジャー, Hepburn: Avenjā) is an anime series, produced by Bandai Visual, Bee Train and Xebec, and directed by Koichi Mashimo. It is set on post-apocalyptic colonized Mars. The series premiered across Japan between 1 October 2003 and 24 December 2003 on the TV Tokyo network. It was later licensed for North American distribution by Bandai's distributive unit across the region, Bandai Entertainment.Battle Athletes
Battle Athletes (バトルアスリーテス大運動会, Battle Athletes Daiundōkai) is a Japanese series produced by the AIC studio and released as an original video animation (OVA) and a manga by Yūki Nakano, and later aired as an anime television series on TV Tokyo in 1997.Candy Boy
Candy☆Boy (キャンディ ボーイ, Kyandi Bōi) is an eight-minute original net animation produced by Anime International Company, and directed by Takafumi Hoshikawa. Since November 22, 2007, the ONA is available through streaming on the Cho! animelo audiovisual website and the Nico Nico Douga online video service. This was followed by a seven-episode series, with episodes being streamed between May 2, 2008 and May 8, 2009. Additional episodes were released on DVD, one with the DVD version of the single, "Bring Up Love" by Nayuta, and another released with volume 2 of the series. A spin-off manga series by Hiro Tōge was serialized in Media Factory's Comic Flapper magazine between November 2009 and December 2010, with another series, also by Tōge, distributed on mobile phones.
As a romantic school comedy setting, the story focuses on the budding romantic relationship between Kanade and Yukino Sakurai, twin sisters in their second year in a Tokyo high school, and the conflict provided by freshman Sakuya Kamiyama's feelings towards Kanade.Class S (genre)
Class S (クラスS, Kurasu Esu), or "S kankei", abbreviated either as S or Esu (エス), is an early twentieth-century Japanese wasei-eigo term used to refer to romantic friendships between girls. The term is also used to designate a genre of girl's fiction (少女小説, shōjo shōsetsu) which tells stories about the same, typically focused on senpai and kōhai relationships wherein one girl is senior in age or position to the other. The "S" is an abbreviation that can stand for "sister", "shōjo" (少女, lit. young girl), "sex", "schön" (German: beautiful), and "escape".Although Class S can broadly be described as a form of love between girls, it is distinct from a romantic relationship or romance fiction in that it is used specifically to describe platonic relationships based on strong emotional bonds and very close friendship, rather than sex or sexual attraction.Comic Yuri Hime
Comic Yuri Hime (コミック百合姫, Komikku Yuri Hime, lit. Comic Lily Princess) is a manga anthology magazine published in Japan by Ichijinsha. It began as a quartlery publication in July 2005, but was issued bimonthly on odd months from January 2011 to December 2016, when it became monthly.It is the successor to Yuri Shimai and features manga with the same yuri (lesbian) themes. Comic Yuri Hime was financially dependent upon Monthly Comic Zero Sum, but from 2008 on the magazine has become independent. To celebrate this, the eleventh volume, released on January 18, 2008, included an extra called Petit Yuri Hime, a collaboration of artists from Comic Yuri Hime, Comic Yuri Hime S and Yuri Hime: Wildrose. Comic Yuri Hime S was Comic Yuri Hime's male-targeted sister magazine.Fight! Iczer One
Iczer One, known in Japan as Fight! Iczer-1 (戦え!!イクサー1, Tatakae!! Ikusā Wan), is a 1983 sci-fi horror and yuri manga published in Lemon People magazine. It was created by Aran Rei. In 1985 the story was adapted into a 3 part Original Video Animation directed by Toshihiro Hirano. The story is of an alien invasion of earth, which is opposed by Iczer-One and her schoolgirl companion Nagisa. Together they can pilot the Iczer-Robo, a giant humanoid robot. The story features strong body horror.
Iczer-1 also featured two "sound novel" dramas released. The first sound novel was released on an LP record, and was based on the first volume of the Iczer-1 manga, entitled Golden Warrior Iczer-One. The second drama CD is a crossover with the anime Dangaioh.Happy Sugar Life
Happy Sugar Life (Japanese: ハッピーシュガーライフ, Hepburn: Happī Shugā Raifu) is a Japanese psychological thriller manga series written and illustrated by Tomiyaki Kagisora (鍵空とみやき). It has been serialized in Square Enix's shōnen manga magazine Gangan Joker since May 2015. The series is licensed by Yen Press. An anime television series adaptation by Ezo'la aired during the Animeism programming block between July and September 2018.Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu
Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu (春夏秋冬) is a Japanese erotic romance yuri manga written by Eiki Eiki and illustrated by Taishi Zaou. It was serialized on Yuri Shimai and Comic Yuri Hime and published in a single volume by Ichijinsha. It was published in English on JManga and in French by Taifu Comics. Two drama CDs were also released.Kiddy Girl-and
Kiddy GiRL-AND (キディ・ガーランド, Kidi Gārando) is a 2009 sequel to the science fiction anime series Kiddy Grade, created by gímik and Satelight and directed by Keiji Gotoh. The manga adaptation Kiddy Girl-and Pure (キディ・ガーランド ぴゅあ, Kidi Gārando Pyua), illustrated by Yukari Higa, ran in Comp Ace and was released as two collected volumes.Rakka Ryūsui
Rakka Ryūsui (落花流水) is a Japanese 4koma manga written and illustrated by Ikki Sanada. The series began its serialization in Manga Time Kirara Max in 2006. The main character is Akiho Hayama, and the story is about her comedic days at the kyūdō club at Sakuraba Girls' High School (桜庭女子高校, Sakurabajoshikōkō), an all-girls school. The series ended on February 19, 2015 with a final 9th volume release on the March 27, 2015.Sakura no Sono
Sakura no Sono (櫻の園, literally Cherry Blossom Garden) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akimi Yoshida. It was serialized from 1985 to 1986 in Hakusensha's manga magazine LaLa. The story focuses on individuals from a drama club that are putting on the play The Cherry Orchard.
The manga was adapted into a film in 1990 by Shun Nakahara, and a remake was released in November 2008. Theatrical stage productions debuted at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space in 1994 and at the Aoyama Round Theatre in 2007 and 2009.Shattered Angels
Shattered Angels (京四郎と永遠の空, Kyōshirō to Towa no Sora, lit. "Kyoshiro and the Eternal Sky") is a Japanese manga created by Kaishaku which was first serialized in the Japanese shōnen manga magazine Monthly Dragon Age in May 2006. A 12-episode anime, adapted from the manga, aired in Japan from January 5 to March 23, 2007. The series refers to several of Kaishaku's past works: Kannazuki no Miko, Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie and Steel Angel Kurumi.Simoun (TV series)
Simoun (Japanese: シムーン, Hepburn: Shimūn) is a Japanese anime television series that was broadcast in Japan in 2006. It ran for 26 weekly episodes from 3 April to 25 September.
A manga adaptation was published in three issues of Comic Yuri Hime. The manga shared the same characters and setting as the anime, but presented a different storyline. A second manga was serialised in Megami Magazine, with a radically different setting and a comic rather than serious and dramatic tone. There is also a two-volume light novel adaptation, which unlike the manga has a storyline close to that of the anime.
In May 2007, Simoun was licensed for release in North America by Media Blasters.Strawberry Panic!
Strawberry Panic! (ストロベリー・パニック!, Sutoroberī Panikku!) is a series of Japanese illustrated short stories written by Sakurako Kimino, which focus on a group of teenage girls attending three affiliated all-girl schools on Astraea Hill. A common theme throughout the stories is the intimate lesbian relationships between the characters. The original artist was Chitose Maki, who was succeeded by Namuchi Takumi when production of the manga and light novels began.Following Strawberry Panic!'s first run in Dengeki G's Magazine it was six months before results began to indicate that the series was a success, and that its fans were growing in number; the manga and light novels which followed were a reflection of its popularity. The series became sufficiently popular for Seven Seas Entertainment to license the manga series and light novels for English language distribution. Strawberry Panic! was one of the debut titles on the company's light novel and yuri manga production lines. An anime television series was produced in 2006 by Madhouse and is licensed by Media Blasters. A visual novel was produced in 2006 by MediaWorks for the PlayStation 2.
There is a slight difference in the title of the series between media and national affiliation. The original short stories, manga, light novels, and video game used the exclamation mark in the title; the anime excluded it. When the manga and light novel series were licensed for English language distribution, Seven Seas Entertainment did not use the exclamation mark in the title. The appearance of the logo for Strawberry Panic! has changed four times. The subtitle "Girls' School in Fullbloom" was added during the short stories stage, and later appeared on the Japanese covers of the light novels, manga, and video game version, but was excluded from the anime adaptation and the English covers of the light novels and manga.Yuri Seijin Naoko-san
Yuri Seijin Naoko-san (百合星人ナオコサン, lit. Lesbian Alien Naoko-san) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kashmir. The manga began serialization in the May 2005 issue of ASCII Media Works' monthly shōnen manga magazine Dengeki Daioh. A six-minute OVA adaptation by ufotable was released on December 18, 2010, followed by a thirty-minute OVA released in February 2012.Yuricon
Yuricon was an anime convention geared toward fans of yuri anime and manga. The first Yuricon event was held in 2003 in Newark, New Jersey with about 200 attending, although Yuricon has existed as an online entity since 2000. The event was organized by Yuricon, LLC., which continues to run Yuri-focused events of its own and to collaborate with other organizations to hold unique events. In 2005, Yuricon hosted an event in Tokyo and co-sponsored Onna!, together with the Shoujo Arts Society, which focused on women's roles in animation and comics. In 2007, Yuricon ran a small one-day event to recreate the feel of the Tokyo event from 2005. Admission to convention events is restricted to people over the age of 18.
Yuricon has a publishing arm, ALC Publishing, which is the only all-yuri publisher in the world. Publications include translations from the Japanese—such as Rica 'tte Kanji!? and WORKS—as well as the original English-language anthology series Yuri Monogatari.
Friedman has run guest lectures about yuri at the University of Illinois and MIT.
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