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Apocalypse Wow
The Apocalypse never looked so spectacular

Okay, so they've spent the entire series talking about it, and it finally happens: The giant, crazy, blow-the-budget scene where they show the apocalypse.

Or, y'know, they open the movie with it. Whatever.

This can't just be a brief shot of a planet popping out of existence like bubblegum — the sound, fury and destruction should be as spectacular as it is complete and total. Disaster Porn if you will.

In an academic sense, this trope has a wide variety of uses, from Ending Tropes to the Cold Open and everywhere in between. Equally capable of introducing a setting or establishing a character, it can be used to underscore how brutal a situation has become, or render an Eldritch Abomination Deader than Dead. Often an After the End scenario will have one as part of the flashback backstory. When it comes right down to it, the only true constant between all the uses of this trope is the spectacular nature of the event itself.

This trope is the visual, descriptive embodiment of The End of the World as We Know Itnote . Said event will usually be on the Apocalypse How scale, but not always. Often invokes the Distant Reaction Shot, since that's the cleanest way to show something of this magnitude. If it's a recording in-story by a firsthand observer, it doubles as an Apocalyptic Log.

See also Apocalyptic Montage, Earth-Shattering Poster. Compare Storyboarding the Apocalypse, which uses a (generally hypothetical) description (with or without Spreading Disaster Map Graphic) of an apocalyptic event to create dramatic tension. Contrast Scenery Gorn, which has a rather specific narrative use. If the audience is Just Here for Godzilla, this is usually what they've come to see.

There are, of course, some very serious spoilers detailed below.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • This is how Neon Genesis Evangelion ended.
  • This is how AKIRA started... and ended (the movie at least).
    • Same with the manga (although the ending was under very different circumstances)... except that the manga has yet another Apocalypse about halfway through. All three have the same cause though (namely Akira).
  • It wasn't permanent, but late in Fullmetal Alchemist Father succeeded in turning the souls of everyone in Amestris into a giant Philosopher's Stone (Including shots of Dying Winry, Gracia, and Elicia, among many others), turned himself into a giant Living Shadow covered in eyes, ripped open the door to Truth, ate it, then turned into a younger version of Hohenheim.
  • Bokurano shows an Earth being consumed by an exploding sun, followed by every star in its universe blinking out of existence.
  • In Kurohime, the end of the world is this plus Mind Screw. The Gateway to Hell opens and drowns almost the entire world under an ocean of corrosive blood. Skeletons and dead souls are running rampant eating people, trees are dying and to cap it all off, the Head God is eating the sun.
  • The final chapter of Elfen Lied has 10 or so pages dedicated to Lucy initiating The End of the World as We Know It while simultaneously repairing Kouta's gunshot wound. While singing. For comparison, 2 or so chapters are the destruction of the research facility, ending with it being annihilated from below. Why so short? Because that's how long it lasted.
  • Go Nagai's Violence Jack, after the introduction of its title character, spends the first chapter of the manga destroying Japan via massive earthquake and mass volcanic eruption before introducing us to the Crapsack World that the Kanto region has become.
  • In the final episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka's wish causes one of these in the process of rewriting the universe multiple times - with Homura watching the whole thing.
  • Angel Sanctuary loves this trope.
  • Dragon Ball Z's Frieza Saga had Frieza blowing up Namek, only for it to have a 5 minute delay (and a much longer one episode-wise). This is the only time that the destruction of a planet is not instantaneous in the series.
  • Heartcatch Precure, a usually happy-go-lucky magical girl series, has one. When the true Big Bad, Dune, arrives, he promptly curbstomps the heroines, kidnaps the lead's grandmother, regains his full power and turns Earth into a massive desert, the only survivors being the main heroines and the people whom they purified from being monsters.
    • Also happens in Smile Precure, where the Big Bad succeeds in rendering the world into a wasteland... and when that wasn't enough to drive the girls into a Despair Event Horizon, promptly smashes a large chunk out of the planet for good measure.
  • Gundam Seed Destiny has the infamous Break The World incident. After the previous episode was spent fighting a rogue faction of Omnicidal Maniac ZAFT soldiers, most of the cast gets a prime view of the fragments of Junius 7 carpet-bombing Earth with each impact producing a fireball visible from orbit. All the while Lacus is singing this to calm down a group of children on the verge of panic from their underground shelter being shaken up by the impacts' seismic shockwaves. It's pretty obvious where the writers got the idea for this scene...
  • Although on a smaller scale, the anime adaptation of Fate/Zero shows the destruction wrought by the Grail, overlaid by Ilya recounting her Prophetic Dream for extra creepiness.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Many Superman continuities open with the destruction of Krypton. This serves the purpose of establishing Jor-El's character, and actually getting Superman to Earth.
    • All-Star Superman averted this with Krypton but played it straight with a certain character.

    Fan Works 
  • In the fanfic Gender Confusion, the end of humanity, and possibly the rest of the world, is described in excruciating detail.

    Films — Animated 
  • The desperate evacuation and subsequent Earth-Shattering Kaboom at the beginning of Titan A.E.. The rest of the movie deals with making a new one. Inverted at the end of the movie. Not particularly important if it was scientifically inaccurate; it was freakin' cool, and you know it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The nuclear holocaust that Skynet unleashes in the Terminator franchise. Both Terminator 2: Judgment Day (inside Sarah's dream) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (for real at the end) show it in great detail.
  • The Road Warrior begins with one of these.
  • Inverted at the end of Star Trek II, only to be played straight in III. Both times with the same planet (Genesis).
  • The Doomsday Device in Dr. Strangelove, while "We'll Meet Again" plays.
  • The meteor impact in Deep Impact, which causes a huge tsunami that floods the U.S. eastern seaboard as far as the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Roland Emmerich has made a lot of disaster movies with visual effects work focusing on showing the end of days and the destruction of populated centers. Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012...
  • The ending of Knowing.
  • V for Vendetta ends with the exact event the plot's been building towards: The destruction of British Parliament. It might not even count as a Class-Zero, but dang was it well done.
  • The 2009 Star Trek film had the mightily impressive destruction of Vulcan.
    • Not before (well... actually, yes, before...) the destruction of Romulus in a super nova, which sparked off the whole chain of events.
  • Surrogates ends in a way with this, all the surrogates just shut down.
  • Subverted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. the Vogon constructor fleet has surrounded the Earth and are about to demolish it. You expect a spectacular explosion, but the Earth just disappears in a pathetically small puff of smoke.
    Often this section is preceded by the words In a World [Earth explodes] but sometimes not.
    • Played straight in the TV miniseries, where Earth heats up to a brilliant red before detonating.
  • Escape from L.A.. "He did it, he shut down the Earth."
  • The original Nihon Chinbotsu(1973) featured an extensive sequence of Tokyo being swallowed up in the disaster done by Teruyoshi Nakano, who is nicknamed "Japan's Michael Bay" for his love of Stuff Blowing Up.
    • The 2006 remake didn't lack in the catastrophe department either, though it saved Tokyo (for last).
  • Lars Von Trier's Melancholia does it twice. At the start of the movie, the titular planet engulfs Earth while classical music plays. The movie also ends this way, but now we see the collision on a human scale from the Earths' surface.
  • The start of Superman Returns shows the destruction of Krypton.
    • The destruction of Krypton also featured prominently into the beginning of Superman.
  • Ender’s Game showcases precisely what Dr. Device did to the bugger homeworld.
  • The obliteration of Alderaan in the original Star Wars, showcasing just how powerful the Death Star's superlaser is. The scene was especially spectacular, as Star Wars may be the first film to actually show an entire planet exploding in this manner.
  • One of Godzilla's themes is him being nuclear apocalypse in the form of a giant creature. Just look at Honolulu and San Francisco in the wake of the monster. This also ties into Gareth Edwards' "delayed gratification" approach to showing the monsters; Godzilla and the MUTOs don't fill the screen as often as the CGI stars of other summer blockbusters do, but the aftermath of their rampages can still be used to imply their recent presence. In fact, that's the major indicator of their presence.

    Literature 
  • Mark Geston's novel Lords of the Starship is about a vast rocketship that takes well over a century to complete, at which point two immense armies fight for control of it. Then the ship uses its rocket exhausts to incinerate the armies, and then reverses thrust to incinerate itself. Then the shadowy enemy that designed the ship in the first place sends a couple of city-sized fireballs to finish the job.
  • The great freezing at the end of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, which sounded like "the great door of heaven being closed softly" and, within moments, caused the sky to fill with tornadoes.
  • At the end of Greg Bear's The Forge of God, the Earth's destruction is described in loving, agonizing detail.
    • Same for the asteroid colliding with Earth and breaking it into pieces in Remnants, near the end of the first book.
  • Though the actual Shattering is not described, the vivid imagery of huge fragments of landscape tumbling through the Void in The Shattered World makes it clear that the titular world's breaking must have been an Apocalypse Wow. The collision between two fragments in the sequel, The Burning Realm, gives an ominous preview of the surviving fragments' impending doom.
  • This happens in the 1933 classic When Worlds Collide, in the kind of spectacular fashion that you'd probably have guessed from the title. The 1951 film adaptation did the best it could with this, but the upcoming remake certainly should provide more of the disaster porn as described in the book, to say the least.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Songs of Distant Earth had its doomed planetbound inhabitants set up cameras to record images of the end of the Earth for the posterity of those stargoing vessels which just managed to escape its final destruction. Michael Oldfield's album The Songs of Distant Earth which is meant as an accompaniment to that novel has a music track that chronicles the Earth's destruction.
    • Clarke's early story (in fact, the first story he sold) "Rescue Party" also had the people of Earth set up cameras to beam images of Earth's end to the huge escape fleet in which they evacuated. It was following the line of those transmissions that led the alien rescue ship to the fleet.
  • The last remaining normal human broadcasts this at the end of Childhood's End.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Bible's Book of Revelation is one huge Apocalypse Wow: disasters unleashed on the world, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rise of The Antichrist note , the final battle of Armageddon, the last judgment, a visual tour of New Jerusalem... Evidently, the Trope Namer and the Trope Codifier.
  • The end of Narnia is described in detail at the end of The Last Battle — which, by no coincidence, heavily draws upon the Biblical Apocalypse.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novel Caves of Ice ends with the detonation of a gigaton range Fuel Air Explosive. It completely obliterates the sole settlement on the planet, and the shockwaves are felt by ships in low orbit.
  • The demolition of Vavatch Orbital in Consider Phlebas is so spectacularly donenote , it almost qualifies as performance art.
  • In Lucifer's Hammer, Niven and Pournelle detail the end of the world with beautiful descriptions. The meteor leaves behind a fiery rainbow trail that blinds anyone who looks at it. The resulting multiple-impacts cause earthquakes and giant tsunamis all arond the earth, flooding entire mountain ranges.
    • And when they finally got around to finishing Footfall (Word of God is the publisher took a look at a partial draft, and suggested they do a book just on this event, which is Lucifer's Hammer) it included the aliens, after being driven off Earth once, dropping an asteroid in the Indian Ocean to soften up resistance before trying again.
  • The aftermath of Operation Oyster Bay in the Honor Harrington series is described in substantial detail, despite being "only" a set of class 0 events.
  • In Cerberon, the complete destruction of Loethess and everything around it is described in detail from multiple perspectives, from a mage in the center of the city paralyzed with Oh, Crap, to a family nearby hoping they'll survive, to a distant overview by a pair of people being carried away by a flying dragon.
  • That Is All goes through every day of 2012 as it deals with Ragnorak via the awakening of the 700 Ancient and Unspeakable Ones. All the oceans are flooded by a giant sentient pool of blood. All the dogs gather together and eat most of humanity, while the animatronic presidents finish off any remnants. Finally, all the Iron in the world magnetizes, burrowing into the Earth, cutting it in two.
  • Despite the subversion of the film adaptation, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays it straight:
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
  • Although the visual effect of the Earth being vaped by the Vogons, on the TV series, is good enough to provoke a shudder.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica starts with one in both the original and the reimagining. Galactica 1980 starts with a computer simulation of one, and goes downhill from there.
  • Dollhouse deconstructs its premise to this conclusion: after a season of ridiculously, incredibly Misapplied Phlebotinum, the Season One finale skipped forward 10 years and revealed that the Dollhouse's technology would destroy civilization if used just a little bit more creatively.
  • The end of the final episode of Walking with Dinosaurs.
  • An alternate universe episode of Star Trek: Enterprise shows the Xindi super weapon kabooming Earth.
  • Shows up in the end of the pilot episode of SGU, and again about halfway through the 19th episode, where both the Icarus-type planets capable of dialing Destiny, end up suffering an Earth-Shattering Kaboom as a result.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the episode "A Matter of Time" starts with one of a pair of binary stars collapsing into a black hole, while SG-10 desperately scrambles to reach the Stargate in slow-motion... at least, that's how it appears because of the massive time-dilation.
    • Carter later invokes when she comments they can actually witness spaghettification and the planet being torn appear by the black hole, earning her a rebuke from O'Neill who reminds her that she's talking about watching good men die horribly, in extreme slow-motion.
    • This pales in comparison to some of the Season Finale episodes. The writers often didn't know if the series would be picked back up for another season and would blow the entire SFX budget. Extreme examples are the season 6 finale destruction of Abydos by Anubis' super weapon, and the famous season 4 Sam Carter triggered super nova which decimated Apophis' fleet.
  • While the series itself averts this (with a 33-year Time Skip after a brief shot of the Votan fleet descending), the intro to Defiance episodes shows the ships spectacularly falling to the ground and some of the effects of the uncontrolled terraformer tech, such as plants mutating into strange and colorful versions and also showing the Old St. Louis folded in on itself before moving the camera up to the titular town built atop the ruins.

    Radio 
  • Given, it doesn't last particularly long, but the sound of the Earth exploding in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is absolutely perfect.
  • The Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds should be mentioned. An hour long description of Humongous Mecha from another planet destroying everything in their path. Bonus points for making people actually believe it was happening.

    Role-Playing Games 

    Video Games 
  • As can be seen here, Xenogears does this with Weltall- Id fulfilling its programming and taking out main parts of the superstructure of Solaris. The resulting "reaction weapon" explosion leaves a significant hole in one of the nearby continents on the game map.
  • The glassing of Taris near the beginning of Knights of the Old Republic. A good minute of cutscenes showing a Beam Spam of turbolaser fire blowing up buildings and turning the sky red as the Ebon Hawk takes off.
  • The moon crashing and destroying the world in a fiery inferno in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
  • The opening of Meteos, involving a number of planets getting obliterated in seconds.
  • The ending of Mother 3, which features lingering shots of all of the places you've visited crumbling away to nothing. Though the "The End?" screen shows that at least the people somehow managed to survive.
  • NieR opens up with an intro beginning shortly after the apocalypse hit, with the hero scraping by to support himself and his daughter, fighting off monsters in the process. The game then skips forward thousands of years after the apocalypse, with humanity now struggling to scrape by.
  • The opening sequence of Primal Rage shows the Earth being struck by a meteor, triggering the cataclysm that reduces humanity to a primitive state and frees the god-like dinosaurs that rule the planet in the new After the End setting.
  • The end of the mission "Shock and Awe" in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which comes complete with satellite images of the nuclear detonation that kills your character and most of his unit.
    • A striking point...the people who made the game showed us part of how you would die if you were within about 3 miles of ground zero and not vaped in the blast. Yes folks, expect your death to include barfing your organs out in your last moments on earth to the sound of radioactive wind blowing away the last of your Organ of Corti, that is, the organ that does the actual hearing in your ears.
    • Things get even worse (or better, in way of trope examples) in the sequel. We see the US East Coast being invaded by the Russians, Washington, DC in ruins, and an EMP occurring over the city wiping out all forms of electronics on the US East Coast!
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
    • The planet turned inside-out and all but five people on the planet were wiped out and replaced with demons before you enter a single battle.
    • Six if you count Hijiri. But he was Dead All Along, so not really.
    • Seven if you count Dante, since he's only half-demon.
  • The PS2 version of Deus Ex has its New Dark Age Ending cutscene showing the lab explosion being seen from space, and the lit cities of Earth all going out.
  • Darksiders opens with the Biblical Apocalypse. Angels, Demons, the whole shebang. You get to run around and kill things (briefly).
  • Losing to Lavos in Chrono Trigger will "treat" you to a scene where you see the world getting fried by Lavos's explosive fury. The most iconic scene is watching the viewscreen in the dome fill up with red dots that each represent a big crater, driving the point home that the world is now FUBAR.
    • The Fall of Zeal is also a pretty destructive scene in its own too.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is the setting that gave us Exterminatus, so when it gets adapted in a visual medium expect to see major fireworks. Fire Warrior features a spectacular orbital bombardment for its ending, but was one-upped by Dawn of War II: Retribution, where the sudden death of a world serves as a potent Wham Episode.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, after Kefka destroys the balance of the Warring Triad, the world is torn asunder. This is depicted as the land shaking, shifting, mountains rising and chasms opening, all while helpless people run for their lives. Then the view changes to a distant view of the planet, covered in hundreds of explosions... and all of a sudden, to drive the point home that everything has changed, a chain of explosions travels across the planet and splits the continents apart.
  • In Super Metroid, after defeating the Mother Brain and successfully making it back to your ship, the camera zooms out, showing massive cracks in the surface of the planet Zebes, which are apparently even visible from high orbit, before the planet is reduced to space debris. There is a secret sidequest at the end where the last surviving natives of Zebes escape with just moments to spare.
    • SR-388 in Metroid: Fusion, the Biological Research Laboratory space station plummets into the plant and self-destructs, wiping out both in a titanic Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Planet Phaaze in Metroid Prime: Corruption, with added drama with the Galactic Federation fleet trying to escape in time. Subverted in Metroid Prime: Echoes with the destruction of Dark Aether, we only get a space view of the half-visible Dark Aether fading from Aether.
  • The aptly named "End of the World" stage in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). You see some really trippy colors while playing the level as it slowly gets more and more screwed up. Orbs appear as it gets more intense, and then there is a purple glaze that goes over the levels you are playing, until it is a very dark green all over. Somehow, statues with eagles on them can reverse this effect temporarily. It's intense, but for all the wrong reasons. Accompanied with very echoey music which is incredible.
  • Nobody does nuclear apocalypse like the guys behind Fallout. Ron Perlman's narration is just the icing on the cake.
  • The LC campaign ending from Earth 2150.
  • Final Fantasy IX Kuja destroys the entire world of Terra at the end of the third disk. This makes him one of the few FF villains to actually succeed in destroying a world.
  • Final Fantasy X has (Sin) do this regularly. The fun comes when the rest of the world fights back.
    • It was taken up to eleven at the conclusion of the game, when Sin was shown punching holes in continents, leaving trails of explosions vissible from space, and releasing gravity magic that made the moon visibly shudder...
    • The sequel has this as one of the optional endings. Lose the final battle on purpose to see it.
  • Though hardly appocalyptic, in Final fantasy XII Revenant wings, we get treated to a rare fully animated scene when Bahamut first appears, just in time to show it shattering an entire floating continent, crumbling it almost to nothing....
  • Freespace 2 ends with the Sathanas Fleet causing Capella to go supernova.
  • In Mass Effect 3, you are right in the middle of the action when huge swarms of Kaiju-sized Eldritch Abominations descend on planets and start to rip them apart while swarms of Cyborg Zombies pour through the streets.
  • Tiberian Sun's ending of the Nod campaign has Kane teleporting off the world while his Apocalypse missile starts, then launches its capsules and finally unleashes the Tiberium bomb that sets Earth's atmosphere ablaze and turns everything into pure Tiberium.
    • Maybe — the cinematic doesn't go close enough to show us if certain things Nod (and the rest of the world, right before the end) was told about what would happen was true or not. The claim is that it would turn the world into a true Tiberian world — complete with humans being adapted to the new ecosystem, but not turning everything into pure Tiberium. This isn't actually contradicted by the visible effect of a green Earth.
  • The ending cutscene (one of only two not rendered using the game's engine) in Assassin's Creed: Revelations shows exactly how the First Civilization was destroyed. There's a Kick the Dog moment with a terrified mother clutching her child as an explosion slowly engulfs them. After this, the hologram simply mentions that out of two civilizations (humans and the First People), only about 10,000 individuals survived after only a few days of the catastrophe.
  • The opening cinematic of X3: Albion Prelude. The Torus Aeternal is a giant space station around Earth's equator that serves as a docking ring, trade center, orbital defense station, and shipyard, as well as a symbol of Earth's prestige and might. Saya Kho suicide-bombs with a nuke it one year prior to the start of the game, an event akin to the 30th century equivalent of Hiroshima and 9/11 rolled into one: it kills thousands of people on the Torus alone, never mind the millions potentially killed by deorbiting debris. It touches off an all-out interstellar war between the Terrans and Kho's own Argon Federation. The event is at least Planetary/Societal Disruption.
  • The trailer of Heroes of Might and Magic IV depicts the cataclysmic battle between Gelu and Kilgor, the ensuing impressive Earth-Shattering Kaboom and some of the aftermath in loving detail.
  • Space Siege opens with the Kerak devastating Earth and eliminating nearly the entire evacuation fleet.
  • The still canonical extended opening cutscene from Freelancer features a massive Nomad ship triggering a supernova, eliminating almost everything in the solar system.
  • Might and Magic VI features an optional case — at the end of the game, you are tasked with destroying a reactor. If you do this but fail to take certain steps you were instructed to follow afterwards, you get to visit a cinematic showing first several explosions rocking the building the reactor was in, and then the scene shifts to a view of the planet, zooming out until you see the planet and its moon. Then the planet explodes, with the shockwave obliterating the moon.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Dangan Ronpa, it is later revealed that The Most Despair-Inducing Event in the History of Mankind happened, converting most of the world into a wasteland, prior to the events of the game.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: The Movie: Unicron, while on-camera, graphically and messily devours a small planet, a moon, and rips into a larger planet with his bare hands. It's kind of like The Worf Effect, but with a planet...
    • The Unicron Trilogy version does it a bit differently: he generates sort of a suction that causes a planet to be torn apart as it's pulled toward him. By the time it reaches him, the planet is in chunks small enough to be pulled inside the (relatively) small circle on his body. Ouch.
  • The Beast Planet, at least twice a season in Shadow Raiders.
  • The Trope Namer is The Critic, which sees Jay reviewing a musical version of Apocalypse Now called Apocalypse, Wow!. However as this is a parody of the Coppola film, the plot would have little to do with the trope itself.
  • One episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers ("Planeteers Under Glass") has the Planeteers and a female scientist (Dr. Derek) enter a virtual planet where pollution is sickening the planet in centuries (sped up in minutes), starting from societal disruption up to planetary devastation and species extinction. But then Dr. Blight traps them all in the rapidly wasting virtual planet, bringing the Apocalypse Class up to total extinction and closer to physical annihilation before destroying them all (not even Captain Planet can save them)... or so Blight thinks. Fortunately, the team of Planeteers have a backup spot before they vanish so they can return safely to stop Blight.
  • Futurama, in "The Late Philip J. Fry": The one-way time machine goes so far into the future that Fry, the Professor, and Bender watch a time-lapse of the end of the universe, complete with stars exploding like fireworks and receding into the distance, while drinking beer and generally treating the events as a spectacle.



And Your Reward Is InfancyEnding TropesArmy of the Dead
Apocalypse NotApocalyptic IndexApocalyptic Log
Apocalypse HowSpeculative Fiction TropesApocalyptic Log
TurboFilm Brain ListMarvel Cinematic Universe
AnviliciousOlder Than FeudalismApple of Discord
Anti-VehicleMilitary and Warfare TropesAvoiding The Great War
Apocalypse NotJust for PunArc Welding

alternative title(s): Disaster Porn
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