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Otakon 2022

The growing pains of a growing convention
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If the measure of a convention’s success is the number of attendees, then Otakon 2022 was a resounding success. With more than 40,000 memberships, this year’s event was record-breaking and represents a growth of 56% over last year’s approximately 26,000 attendees. The previous attendance record was in 2013 with 34,211 memberships.
“This year we saw an amazing increase in attendance. Our membership jump was the largest increase in the last 20 years.” said Brian Cutler, the Otakon 2022 Con Chair. “Our all-volunteer organization really tries to keep things fresh at the event, and we have been working on events that came to fruition this year following several years of planning. We hope to continue this trend with new and exciting events in the years to come, but really want to thank our attendees for their patience and support this year as we continue to grow."
The record attendance was also good news for vendors and artists. “Business has been so good. It’s nuts. A much larger uptick over last year.” said one seller in the artist alley. Business was good indeed. Their booth saw enough customers to sell out many of the prints they were showing. Glancing around at other artists’ booths more “sold out” signs could be seen.
Due to high attendance, artist alley vendors were selling out of their merch.
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Due to high attendance, artist alley vendors were selling out of their merch.

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The vendor hall queue ran the length of the convention center.
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The vendor hall queue ran the length of the convention center.

It was likely the same story in the spacious vendor hall next door. Attendees were definitely eager to get their hands on some anime merchandise. They waited in very long queues which ran the length of the convention center on Sunday. Saturday’s queue was most certainly longer. Since there was just a single set of escalators providing entry to the room, it was a slow going. Besides vendors, the hall was also home to itasha cars, the Otakon merchandise booth, food vendors and tables and chairs for a sit down meal.

With Big Numbers Comes Big Troubles

The entrance queue wrapped around the building.
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The entrance queue wrapped around the building.

The increase in attendance is great for business but not so great in other ways. The hallways were more crowded and long queues formed for entrance to the convention center. The queues on Saturday were so long that they literally wrapped around the building three times! With temperatures in the 80s and the sun shining, you can guarantee that people were uncomfortable and annoyed at the wait. Surely a facility like the Walter E. Washington convention center can manage large crowds better than this, but it didn’t. Attendees had to walk single file past metal detectors at just three entrances. It was unnecessarily slow given that they could have had many more security checkpoints. You could call this the growing pains of a convention, but it just seems like bad planning when you think about it. The need for security at an event like Otakon is questionable as it is. Events like Sakura-Con and the much larger Dragon Con and San Diego Comic Con have no security checkpoints. You simply walk in and show your badge to staff.
The vendor hall booths were spaced extra far apart.
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The vendor hall booths were spaced extra far apart.

In an effort to socially distance, booths in the vendor hall and artist alley were spaced ridiculously far apart. Despite the general shift in attitude towards coronavirus, treating it more like the common flu than a deadly virus, Otakon leadership held onto 2021 protocols with full mask and vaccine or negative covid test requirements. Larger events such as Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) and Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) have dropped requirements for both, although ECCC reversed course and returned to full mask/vaccine requirements in the wake of people complaining on social media. Events in states like Florida and Texas have either never required them or dropped them in 2021, so decisions around these requirements seem to fall along political ideological lines. Whatever the situation, these requirements are annoying and have little apparent benefits. People contract COVID at conventions with or without mask and vaccine requirements. I’m personally tired of these unnecessary measures and they will certainly play a part in my decision of which conventions to attend in the future.
The decision to require masks and vaccines seems to be as much about public relations and optics as it is about health. The appearance of doing something is better than not doing anything, especially when those in support of masking are so publicly vocal about it. That was the case with Emerald City Comic Con and Anime Expo. Both conventions dropped their mask and vaccine requirements for their 2022 events, but were then met by the vocal mask supporters. These people made a big stink on social media claiming to have the higher moral ground by supporting masking and vaccine requirements. Both conventions then backtracked and reinstated the requirements, frustrating those opposed. It's really a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. The problem with this kind of decision making is that it shows how it revolves around public sentiment and not actual health data. Otakon at least held onto their policies from the beginning.
The Marriott Marquis atrium.
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The Marriott Marquis atrium.

The mask requirement coupled with the long lines for entry were enough to keep this journalist/video creator at the Marriott Marquis hotel for most of the convention. The Marquis is the main hotel in the Otakon room block and is attached to the convention center via an underground tunnel. It has a beautiful atrium with marble floors, glass railings, an illuminated staircase, and massive art installations like the one that wraps around the stairwell and a tall stainless steel piece shooting up the middle of the lobby. Although it did host some Otakon events, the lobby and atrium were not technically convention space and were therefore not bound by mask requirements. That meant cosplayers were free to go without masks for photos and video which is a much more pleasant experience. If you watch my Otakon 2022 video you’ll see that I did most of my shooting in the hotel. As a video creator I take great pride in the quality of my work. The location is as important to me as the cosplay and cosplayer. The Marriott Marquis adds beauty and style to my videos which the Walter E. Washington convention center completely lacks. Shooting locations at the convention center are limited and none of them are anywhere near as nice as the hotel. Most people pass over the skybridge of the convention center, making it the best place to catch people. It’s also crowded, has poor lighting, and everyone’s faces are covered by masks. The rest of the building is dark and the walls are plain drywall. I would have to walk someone to a better location and that’s too big of an ask of someone I just met. It’s an unfortunate reality that larger cons are often in uglier buildings and that’s certainly the case for the Walter E. Washington convention center.

Why Do You Attend?

The enjoyment that attendees get out of a convention depends on many different factors. Everyone attends for different reasons. Some go for the vendor hall and artist alley, spending much of their time and money buying merch. Some like to meet the guests and get autographs and photos. Others will attend panels, play video and board games, or go to the concerts. A convention has to cater to all of these people. Otakon has all of these elements and they are all done well enough. I want to give special mention to the guest list. Otakon brought in an impressive number of guests this year, both domestic and international, and that's a challenging thing to do. There are a lot of details in any event and one could nitpick about how something could be better if they did this or that. If you find something to be lacking there’s always the option of joining staff and making it better yourself. Otakon is fully operated by volunteers and they are always looking for help. Some people attend conventions solely to cosplay. Cosplay is such a popular activity and one that’s available to everyone. The dedicated cosplayers will spend most of their time at the good photo locations and might not even step into the convention center. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending your entire convention cosplaying and not doing anything else. The photos and video can be enjoyed in perpetuity and the cosplaying experience can lead to opportunities beyond the convention. There are things which can instantly create a negative experience at a convention - things which are preventable. The obvious one I already mentioned: queues for entry. It should be a very simple matter of adding more metal detectors for entry. There were just two doors open at the front of the convention center even though there are other potential entry points for the building. In fact it would make a lot of sense to open doors on “L” street since the main entrance sends most attendees up three levels, over the skybridge and then back down four or five levels to the vendor hall. It’s really a design flaw of the facility, but one that can be overcome with better planning.
The queue to enter the convention center from the Marriott Marquis backed up into the lobby.
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The queue to enter the convention center from the Marriott Marquis backed up into the lobby.

Similarly, the single file entrance from the Marriott Marquis via the underground tunnel was backed up into the hotel lobby. If you were planning on making a 1:00 PM panel, you would have needed to be in line to enter the convention at least by noon. I suppose The Marriott entrance was the better choice since it was air-conditioned, but clearly there is room for improvement here. In comparison, C2E2 has more or less the same attendance count but it handles queues very differently. Attendees can enter the building from multiple locations with lots of doors and be in an air-conditioned space while they wait to pass through security. Security has multiple X-ray machines and staff. No one waits outside and no one waits very long to be through security and onto the convention show floor. It’s a simple and efficient process at C2E2, but a bad memory at events like Otakon. Enough of the bad stuff. At the end of the day I hope everyone was able to enjoy themselves at the convention. Despite my qualms I would return with or without mask or vaccine requirements because I have the Marriott Marquis as an alternative. It’s not exactly representative of what and where Otakon is, but who cares? Clearly 40,000 people were willing to put up with unnecessary queues and covid precautions for this convention, so it must be good enough. There’s always room for improvements however and I hope to see positive changes going forward.

The Cosplayers

What a fantastic turnout of cosplayers! There was a high amount of cosplay at Otakon this year and a lot of them were wise to visit the Marriott Marquis. There was also a number of group cosplays which were fun to see. For 2021 I filmed almost entirely in the convention center and mostly on the skybridge. I'm very glad I shot mostly at the Marriott this year. It really is a beautiful location. Thanks to everyone who shot with me!
Five Nights at Freddy's
@novamatta Glamrock Chica
@crossjessing Glamrock Bonnie
@halfgoatallninja Gregory
@foxbinn Glamrock Freddy
@marun.yume Roxanne Wolf
@calicocr1t Monty Gator
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Five Nights at Freddy's @novamatta Glamrock Chica @crossjessing Glamrock Bonnie @halfgoatallninja Gregory @foxbinn Glamrock Freddy @marun.yume Roxanne Wolf @calicocr1t Monty Gator

Soul Eater
@linxxter Patty
@froppgi Liz
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Soul Eater @linxxter Patty @froppgi Liz

@mangoloo.cos Office Yor from Spy x Family
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@mangoloo.cos Office Yor from Spy x Family

@delcattnip Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew
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@delcattnip Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew

@zerachielamora Chuthulu from Sucker for Love game
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@zerachielamora Chuthulu from Sucker for Love game

@goyarice Sexy Jutsu from Naruto
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@goyarice Sexy Jutsu from Naruto

@candescent_cosplay Jinx from League of Legends
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@candescent_cosplay Jinx from League of Legends

@gillianfoxglove Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagann
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@gillianfoxglove Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagann

@greek_fitness Escanor from Seven Deadly Sins
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@greek_fitness Escanor from Seven Deadly Sins

@grayoranges Tengen Uzui from Demon Slayer
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@grayoranges Tengen Uzui from Demon Slayer

@magicalmari.e Dracula from Monster High
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@magicalmari.e Dracula from Monster High

@manaknight Zach from Final Fantasy
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@manaknight Zach from Final Fantasy

Soul Eater
@geekygainster Black Star
@yepitsstilltori Franken Stein
@robbyepicsauce Spirit Albarn
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@meg.u.mi_tempest Maka
@candescent_cosplay Crona
@itsvictoriayall Death the Kid
@random_chibi.cos Patty
@costay.moo Liz
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Soul Eater @geekygainster Black Star @yepitsstilltori Franken Stein @robbyepicsauce Spirit Albarn @bbygremmie Blair @meg.u.mi_tempest Maka @candescent_cosplay Crona @itsvictoriayall Death the Kid @random_chibi.cos Patty @costay.moo Liz

@meg.u.mi_tempest Maka
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@robbyepicsauce Spirit Albarn
@yepitsstilltori Franken Stein
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@robbyepicsauce Spirit Albarn @yepitsstilltori Franken Stein

@itsvictoriayall Death the Kid
@random_chibi.cos Patty
@costay.moo Liz
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@geekygangster Black Star
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@geekygangster Black Star

@lil_red_bud Blair
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@lil_red_bud Blair

@becauseimbored1 Nobu Naga from Fate/Grand Order
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@becauseimbored1 Nobu Naga from Fate/Grand Order

@sunfloradesu Captain Murasa from Touhou project
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@sunfloradesu Captain Murasa from Touhou project

@tapiochi_desu Lumine from Genshin Impact
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@tapiochi_desu Lumine from Genshin Impact

@virtualfoxcosplay Arcane Ahri from League of Legends
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@virtualfoxcosplay Arcane Ahri from League of Legends

Mizutsune armor from Monster Hunter
@setterspecs
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Mizutsune armor from Monster Hunter @setterspecs @caffeinecraft

@exenityy Hange Zoe from Attack on Titan
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@exenityy Hange Zoe from Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan
@itsvictoriayall Armin Artlert
@exenityy Hange Zoe
@agapecos Mikasa Ackerman
@random_chibi.cos Eren Yeager
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@cobaltcosplay Levi Ackerman
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@chi.snax Bepo from One Piece
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@chi.snax Bepo from One Piece

@rbf.cos Reze from Chainsaw Man
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@rbf.cos Reze from Chainsaw Man

@custardcuttlefish Firecracker Jinx from League of Legends
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@custardcuttlefish Firecracker Jinx from League of Legends

My Hero Academia maids and butlers
bad guys
@eboyprompto Shiguraki
@cupcake_kisses_cosplay Toga
@rackuhnwolf Hero Killer Stain
@decosprops Gentle Criminal
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My Hero Academia maids and butlers bad guys @eboyprompto Shiguraki @cupcake_kisses_cosplay Toga @rackuhnwolf Hero Killer Stain @decosprops Gentle Criminal

My Hero Academia maids and butlers
good guys
@bbosensei_cosplay Kirashima
@treesa_cosplay Ochako
@icefoxcosplay Tamaki
@cheerykokiri Momo
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My Hero Academia maids and butlers good guys @bbosensei_cosplay Kirashima @treesa_cosplay Ochako @icefoxcosplay Tamaki @cheerykokiri Momo

@elizawitchcosplay "Yeehawkes" from My Hero Academia
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@elizawitchcosplay "Yeehawkes" from My Hero Academia

@fullmetaldaddycosplay Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist
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@fullmetaldaddycosplay Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

@virtualfoxcosplay bunny suit Dio from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
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@virtualfoxcosplay bunny suit Dio from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Samus from Metroid
@melpoolcos
@syzygy.lily
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Samus from Metroid @melpoolcos @syzygy.lily

@si.yarta Tengen from Demon Slayer
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@si.yarta Tengen from Demon Slayer

Neir:Automata
@si.yarta A2
@grayoranges 2B
@cano_cos 9S
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Neir:Automata @si.yarta A2 @grayoranges 2B @cano_cos 9S

@grayoranges 2B
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@si.yarta A2
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@cano_cos 9S
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@ladybloof Cammy from Street Fighter
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@ladybloof Cammy from Street Fighter

@thisinstaisnotreal Emilia from Re:Zero
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@thisinstaisnotreal Emilia from Re:Zero

@me.bigboy Shikimori from Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie
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@me.bigboy Shikimori from Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie

@lainey.cat Zero Two from Darling in the FRANXX
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@lainey.cat Zero Two from Darling in the FRANXX

@sophirusse Triss Merigold from The Witcher
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@sophirusse Triss Merigold from The Witcher

@familyguyeatsa Nico Robin from One Piece
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@familyguyeatsa Nico Robin from One Piece

@mangoloo.cos Reflective Panty from Panty & Stocking
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@mangoloo.cos Reflective Panty from Panty & Stocking

@howlstrashcan Lightning McQueen Hatsune Miku mashup
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@howlstrashcan Lightning McQueen Hatsune Miku mashup

@ghostieemuffinn Zero Two from Darling in the FRANXX
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@ghostieemuffinn Zero Two from Darling in the FRANXX

@livicolecosplay Titania from Final Fantasy XIV
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@livicolecosplay Titania from Final Fantasy XIV

@grayoranges Kainé from Nier:Automata
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@grayoranges Kainé from Nier:Automata

@si.yarta Tifa from Final Fantasy
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@si.yarta Tifa from Final Fantasy

@michacosplay Evelyn from K/Da
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@michacosplay Evelyn from K/Da

@elle.chu Destiny from Takt Op. Destiny
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@elle.chu Destiny from Takt Op. Destiny

@natly_cosplay Lechonk from Pokémon
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@natly_cosplay Lechonk from Pokémon

@lonelyspaceprince Yumeko from Kakegurai
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@lonelyspaceprince Yumeko from Kakegurai

@me.bigboy Nina Kosaka vtuber
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@me.bigboy Nina Kosaka vtuber

@_sammills Gyutaro from Demon Slayer
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@_sammills Gyutaro from Demon Slayer

@_sandirwin_ Himiko Toga from My Hero Academia
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@_sandirwin_ Himiko Toga from My Hero Academia

@_shani.theplanet_ Uzui from Demon Slayer
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@_shani.theplanet_ Uzui from Demon Slayer

@candescent_cosplay Crona from Soul Eater
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@candescent_cosplay Crona from Soul Eater

@costay.moo Yor from Spy x Family
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@costay.moo Yor from Spy x Family

@grayoranges Tengen Uzui from Demon Slayer
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@grayoranges Tengen Uzui from Demon Slayer

@kalaynokay Haru Hara Haruko from FLCL
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@kalaynokay Haru Hara Haruko from FLCL

Winx Club
@skittles_cosplay Stella
@virtualfoxcosplay Dark bloom (wings by @fairytalesbydeanna)
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Winx Club @skittles_cosplay Stella @virtualfoxcosplay Dark bloom (wings by @fairytalesbydeanna)

@fuzzythespyder Anne from Bravely Default
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@fuzzythespyder Anne from Bravely Default

Fate/Grand Order
@_kenshin_cosplay Ramesses
lyrium_x Nitocris
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Fate/Grand Order @_kenshin_cosplay Ramesses lyrium_x Nitocris

@dragonlance311 Silco from League of Legends Arcane
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@dragonlance311 Silco from League of Legends Arcane

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