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Earl: "How come we haven't been seen in so long?"
This allows for enough characterization, because we always see them together and that's enough net personality for characters whose physical descriptions are probably longer than those of their personalities.
This can be really obvious when you notice that with the exception of perhaps the main Cast Herd, all the others Herd Leaders only talk to their own herd, or other Herd Leaders; A huge amount of the people are never given casual conversation. If you can't quite tell who the spokesman of a Cast Herd is, imagine it in terms of screentime value. Only a Cast Herd's spokesman would probably appear in the Non-Serial Movie or OAV.
Shows which allow for the format of a literal team will always use this trope. See also Geodesic Cast which repeats the structure of the main character's group and Planet of Hats when this is done with entire worlds/species.
Anime and Manga
- Axis Powers Hetalia has this. Since all the characters are the embodiments of countries, each Cast Herd is usually built around or named after a shared geographical, historical or cultural element, which often vary based upon what time period is being shown and/or what topic is being discussed. Some examples:
- Axis: Italy, Germany and Japan
- Allies: Russia, France, China, England and America 
- Germanics: Germany, Austria, Prussia, Liechtenstein and Switzerland
- Nordics: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Sometimes extends to include Sealand
- Baltics: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia
- Former USSR: The Baltics + Ukraine and Belarus
- Micronations: Sealand, Wy, and Seborga. Recently extended to Kugelmugel, Molossia, Hutt River, and Ladonia.
- Mediterranean: Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. Sometimes Cyprus and Northern Cyprus.
- Benelux: Belgium and Netherlands, but Luxembourg gets mentioned a lot but never really appears.
- Far East: Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Macau.
- Oceania: Australia and New Zealand, but also includes Tonga, Wy, and Hutt River.
- Baccano does this due to having nearly 2 dozen 'main' characters in addition to the countless other Mooks and crooks. So you get groups such as the Lemeurs, the Martillo, Russo and Runorata Family, Jaccuzzi's gang, and more featured in the light novels.
- Durarara, set in the same universe (although loosely connected) and with the same cast size, follows suit. Mikado's Two Guys and a Girl gets the majority of focus, though Celty cycles through multiple herds and winds up with at least as much individual screentime, most often as Blue Oni to Shizou's Red.
- Lampshaded in Kare Kano, where aside from Asaba, Yukino and Arima have mostly exclusive friends to themselves. Miyazawa's tomboy friend and Arima's friend are left over after everyone else leaves and fall into awkward conversation because they are explained to be "the characters who never talk to each other".
- With more than thirty girls in the class taught by the protagonist, Negima makes the most of this, though there is less shifting as the popularity of characters has solidified. Most of the class is divided into reasonably logical Cast Herds based on interests: the jocks, the cheerleaders, and dormmates. Some shift around into the other herds. Naturally, Negi's group is made of the most popular characters. This is lampshaded in a filler chapter involving the quirky but rarely seen 'leftovers', who according to Evangeline are boring and lack sex appeal.
- In addition, the series takes the concept to the max with the soundtracks for the anime adaptations. Image Songs are done by groups rather than just individuals, and the second series' opening theme has multiple versions of its theme song: one lyrical, one each with spoken lines from each herd, and on final version of the lyrical verse with all the girls singing it at once.
- There is also a truly staggering number of herds outside the class, as well. There's the staff of Mahora, there's Chamo and Chachazero, there's the inhabitants of Mundus Magicus (who are themselves divided into innumerable herds, such as Fate's group, the Government, the Gladiators, the Royal Knights, the Bounty Hunters, Mama Bear, and a random group of adventurers), there's the Welsh mages, there's the non-3A students of Mahora, there's the Kyoto villains, there's Ala Rubra... the list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on....
- Don't forget the Baka Rangers! More of a plot point than a herd really, but still.
- One Piece has about a kajillion characters by now. Luckily, the show's premise allows them to be easily split off into various different ship crews. The captain usually serves as both herd leader and spokesman.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S has Riot Force Six divided as Forward Stars, Forward Lightning, and the Long Arch crew. After the group gets split up, they got grouped by TSAB branches, such as Combat Instructors (Nanoha, Vita), Enforcers (Fate, Teana), Investigators (Hayate, Reinforce Zwei), Air Force (Signum, Agito), Disaster Relief (Subaru), and Nature Conservation (Erio, Caro). Also, when the Numbers get a Heel Face Turn, they got split between those that went to the Saint Church and those adopted by the Nakajima family (and those that didn't turn and are currently incarcerated).
- Bleach after the trip to Soul Society, and especially after the first Rescue Arc. The show already has a Five-Man Band, plus a Captain and a Lieutenant from all thirteen squads, plus at least a few dozen other characters who are at least tangentially important to the plot, and this whole cast can be split into almost any combination at any given time, and almost always is.
- Infinite Ryvius splits its huge cast of teenage space refugees into various social cliques. These are helpfully emphasized in the opening sequence, which arranges everyone by their group. Of course, the groups quickly begin to fluctuate, mix and change once the plot gets rolling.
- Saki easily divides each of its four five-person mahjong teams (not counting side characters like Fujita or Touka's butler) by school. Even then, the more distinct a character design someone has, the more likely they are to be an important character. Kiyosumi (the main characters) and Ryuumonbuchi (the rivals) have the highest amount of important characters.
- Naruto (pictured above) has this, with the different four-member squads. Occasionally the groups do get mixed around to form temporary task forces, but most of the time they work in their original squads. The herding doesn't stop there:
- Some individuals, usually never in the same squad, belong to certain clans, sharing skills and talents inherited through blood or tradition.
- A whole community of ninjas, including several entire clans, live in villages. Each has its own unique set of clans, institutions, culture, history and style of governance.
- Then there are formally and purposefully gathered groups that are bigger than squads, have a mix of talents like squads, but because the members all tend to be of elite calibre, do not necessarily operate like squads. Examples: "The Seven Swordsmen of the Mist", "The Twelve Guardians of Fire Country", "Akatsuki".
- The various Gundam series are quite fond of doing this. In particular, three of the five Gundam pilots in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (Quatre, Trowa, and Duo) had their own herds (Wu Fei being an Ineffectual Loner and it's a matter of perspective whether Heero was part of Releena's herd or she was a part of his)
- Ikki Tousen, being based off of Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, has the characters divided into schools that usually parallel their alliance in the novel it was based off.
- Detective Conan has its story arcs select from one of the following herds: the Mouri family itself, the folks in the Metropolitan Police Department, the Junior Detective League, the Osakans, the Eagle Land law enforcement, and so on.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes does this quite effectively: The cast of hundreds is divided neatly in two, Imperial and Alliance. Within the Alliance, the most important Herd is that of Yang Wen-Li, likewise in the Empire with Reinhard Von Lohengramm. This is emphasized when the Alliance is reduced pretty much to just Yang's Herd, and the Empire is taken over by Reinhard.
- Sailor Moon has two good-guy herds that take up most of the screen-time and stay pretty well in their own groups: the Inner Senshi and the Outer Senshi. There's also the Shittenou, the Starlights and the Amazons. The latter causes a bit of fandom friction, since they are technically Chibi Moon's team, but they only ever fight with her in one arc of the manga, and never in the anime. Instead, Chibi Moon almost always fights with the Inners. The fandom fights revolve around whether or not Chibi Moon should be classified with the Inners or the Amazons, and when.
- Enemies are almost always classified in season-specific herds, as well.
- Although interaction between the herds is common, Hayate the Combat Butler has a few herds. '13s', '16s', outside of school...
- Even the 'bad guys' segmented themselves into a herd, though there's little interaction between them anymore, and one of them hasn't even appeared in the manga yet.
- The opening theme of Angel Beats pulls the characters into herds, though the ones in the show are a bit different and constantly interact.
- To Aru Majutsu no Index has so many characters and so many organizations present that it is inevitable that the cast has been split into multiple groups. And even then, the character sheet only lists sixteen out of an unknown number of groups present in the plot.
- By the end of Dragon Ball the main herds were the Son Family, The Briefs, Kami's lookout. Crane School, Kais, the Supreme Kais, New Namek, the Kame House and Mr. Satan and Buu.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang and Maes Hughes are close friends, but their subordinates operate largely separate from each other, which is Truth in Television for many military units.
- Most comic book super hero universes have GIGANTIC casts with thousands of characters. These get split along various lines, including what team they tend to belong to (X-Men vs The Avengers, for example) what sort of crime they fight (a street-level hero like Batman vs a world-saving hero like Superman) and their ages (young heroes like the Teen Titans, old hands like the Justice Society of America, and so forth.)
- When Brian Bendis left Ultimate X-Men, incoming writer Brian K. Vaughan was left with a team of thirteen people, and spent much of his time Cast Herding. Throughout his run, various characters would pair off and leave, but continue to make appearances in their own storylines. The remaining characters were constantly split up based on plot demands.
- Gotham Central divided its characters, which are all cops of the same unit, into two shifts, each with their own supervisors and in-house drama. The shifts often had to interact with each other or share information, but the focus tended to be put on one shift at a time.
- Legion of Super-Heroes, whenever written by Paul Levitz or anyone following his style- which most people seem to do, since the title team usually has at least fifteen to twenty characters to keep track of. This is not including various police officers, civilians, important supporting cast members, government officials, family members, other superheroes, villains, villain teams (sometimes as large as the title team), and about three major problems at once. Sometimes more. They are protecting a whole galaxy, after all (and a few times, the entire universe and/or mulitverse).
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a plot that spans across several regions and continents, and often divides groups of characters by where their story takes place (Jon and the Night's Watch in the North, Dany and her royal party in the Free Cities, etc.) Since most of the plot deals with politics and warfare between dynastic houses, characters are also divided further by their family alliance (The Starks, The Lannisters, The Baratheons, etc.)
- Discworld does this between books - most can be classified as Witches, Wizards, City (of which the Watch is the most frequently recurring) or Other, and characters from one herd will never have more than a cameo in another herd's book.
- Death being the exception - he's in almost every book. (He doesn't personally appear in The Wee Free Men.)
- Death has his own Cast Herd (Mort, Ysabell, Susan, Albert and a couple of others), and he occasionally stars in his own story (or rather, in stories where events revolve around something he is doing or has done). Though he's in almost every book, most of them are still cameos lasting a single scene (usually, he's only in it because someone has just died- in that sense, he's the one least likely to interact with another herd, since recurring characters in these stories never die), which isn't much different from the cameos by other characters. He's just more memorable than most.
- The Librarian also manages to get around, even traveling through time in one instance to rescue scrolls from an infamous library fire. However, he's formally part of the Wizard herd, given he's the Librarian for the Wizarding Academy.
- Death being the exception - he's in almost every book. (He doesn't personally appear in The Wee Free Men.)
- Happens in the second and third volumes of The Lord of the Rings - you've got Pippin/Merry, Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, and Frodo/Sam in The Two Towers, and it's even further split in Return of the King into Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, Gandalf/Pippin, Theoden/Eowyn/Merry and Frodo/Sam, and the chapters alternate between each group.
- After a couple of books, The Wheel of Time series splits its Farm Boy Power Trio onto their own paths and gives each their own supporting cast. The main female leads also get their own herds.
- Malevil features a few, while the cast merges together at the titular castle, they tend to stick with their original members while in the background. You have the original Malevil survivors, the "troglodytes" of L'Étang, the oppressed La Roque citizens, and the oppressing La Roque parish.
- Unda Vosari actually started with a small cast of characters, then grew to over several dozen characters (both main and secondary). Some were Put on a Bus (the "Silent Vigil" ship) while others are still on a Long Bus Trip (as the sequel novels are still being written.
- House of Leaves has three separate areas of story. The part about the movie concerning Navidson and his family. Then there is the book itself, which is written by Zampano and commented on by various one-shot academics. Lastly there is Johnny's part, which contains the adventures of the author's author (Or however the hell you describe anything in the book), as he goes absolutely insane. The only interaction comes in the beginning before and just after Zampano dies, and that barely constitutes interaction.
- In Dragons in Our Midst, we start with the main True Companions, Billy, Bonnie, and Walter, and the professor. From there, we have each of their families, the other anthrozils, the dragons in Sheol, the dragons in Dragon's Rest, the slayers, Morgana and her henchmen, the Watchers, all of those who were at Doctor Conner's lab, and several different factions within Sheol.
- Then we have the sequel series, Oracles of Fire. Cast members added include all of the Nephlim, the characters from the Arc time period, which somewhat overlaps with the characters from the Tower of Babel time period, more anthrozils, the ten men from Sheol, characters in Heaven... the list goes on and on and on.
- Warrior Cats starts off book one with ThunderClan, WindClan, ShadowClan, RiverClan, StarClan and the Twolegplace kittypets. The story has since grown to include SkyClan, BloodClan, The Dark Forest, The Tribe of Rushing Water, The Tribe of Endless Hunting, The Ancients, Daisy's Barn and Jingo's Clan. Now to take a breath.
- Gone, especially in later books. There's the Sam's group, Caine's group, the Human Crew, and the Island kids, plus whoever the Gaiaphage is using at the moment. People do occasionally switch from one group to another, though, like Diana and Quinn at the end of Plague, and the Island kids have now kind of merged with Sam's group.
Live Action TV
- This was becoming a problem on Farscape at one point, the solution of which was to clone the main character and send one of each off with roughly half the cast and then alternate between the groups until enough characters had died to recombine them.
- If that was the case, then it didn't work - only one of the Crichtons died, and of the other characters only Stark left the show. Zhaan died at the start of the season, and Crais and Talyn died at the end of it - long (respectively) before and after the split-up)
- In the second season of Oz, the Unit Manager of Emerald City begins to identify his inmates as being in one of ten groups: Muslims, Homeboys, Italians, Latinos, Aryans, Bikers, Irish, Gays, Christians, and Others.
- Lost makes use of distinct character groups, though they tend to merge by the end. Season 2 split them into the Tailies (with Ana-Lucia as spokesman and most important, and most appearing character) and the fuselage survivors; season 3 had the herds of the people in the camp and people captured by the Others (and it changed regularly as it went on); and season 4 featured Jack's group, Locke's group, the people on the boat, and the people from the boat. Notably, the latter two were prone to vanishing from the plot often. Season 5 continues the trend: on the one hand, we have the on-island characters, and on the other, the off-island characters. More recently, the division has shifted to 1977 characters and 2007 characters, which in turn splits into the 316 survivors (lead by Ilana) and the people on the main Island. The off-Island plot-AKA Desmond's-vanishes here outside of a flashback and a few brief scenes in "The Variable".
- Averted by season 1: A big deal is made initially about who is on the beach and who is in the caves, but this distinction quickly became meaningless as characters go from camp to camp so often that it's hard to remember who chose to go where. This split is ultimately forgotten and the survivors all move back to the beach in early season 2.
- Also early on there was a core group of characters who did everything. If something was going on, it included some combination of Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer and Sayid. Fan Nickname for them was the 'A-Team'. This was because at the beginning Lost's Myth Arc was just forming. We were treated to a lot of 'life on the beach' subplots with characters like Boone, Shannon, Charlie, Claire, Hugo, Jin, Sun, etc. The writers made several Lampshades Hung to this. Characters would drift in an out of the two groups, but it was removed completely later on. Arguably by the fourth or fifth season all the characters were directly involved in the mythology of the island.
- This was also lampshaded repeatedly after the on-screen introduction of the Others, with characters using the phrase(s) "my/your/their people."
- With more than 20 recurring characters, period drama Upstairs, Downstairs has its two distinct Cast Herds conveniently marked in the title. Upstairs is the well-off Bellamy family; Downstairs is their staff of servants, a sort of family of its own.
- Brazilian primetime soaps, which always have Loads and Loads of Characters, tend to cluster the cast like this, even using an official term: nuclei. There may be the "protagonist nucleus", the "comedic nucleus", the "suburban nucleus", the "favela nucleus" etc.
- Battlestar Galactica Reimagined had its share of this; it wasn't until halfway through the second season that all the characters were actually in the same place, with other significant splits since then like the group left on New Caprica, or Starbuck's crew while she's finding the way to Earth.
- Then of course later on there were splits between Cylon-centric scenes and human-centric scenes. This started with the Cylon-centric second season episode "Downloaded," which was the first time we really got a look at how Cylon society functioned, but it became a lot more frequent after that. To complicate things further, there were plenty of Cast Herds in human society as well (Baltar's harem being one of the most obvious ones).
- Happens in Downton Abbey with the Earl's family and the Servants
- Happens a lot with Heroes, with the cast being split up almost constantly (the Petrellis; the Bennets; Nikki, DL and Micah; Hiro and Ando; etc)
- Super Robot Wars can, of course, split characters among their own series (but they may need their usual herds anyway), and occasionally mixes characters into new herds depending on the story. In the Original Generation games, they're usually divided by their military units (ATX Team, SRX team, Octo Squad, Aggressors, etc...), couples (and there are a lot of them), and sometimes by ship (whether they usually travel with the Hagane or Hiryu Custom).
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn involves three separate armies. Only the army leaders wind up talking to each other. When they team up to fight the Big Bad, only the leaders and mandatory characters say anything. Justified because of the game's Anyone Can Die nature - if a character was to say something, and they had died earlier on, there would have to be a different conversation involving a different character, and if that one had died.... It just keeps going on. Using the characters that would net you a Game Over if they died was really the only solution.
- The Subspace Emmissary of Super Smash Bros Brawl has several groups of characters that intersect, divide, and ultimately all converge for the finale.
- The ever-growing Touhou cast is often divided by where they live (most endgame bosses work with that principle), their race, their occupation (Team Magic), their status (most demo bosses, Team (9)), pairing (again, Team Magic) or even all or most of these at once (The protagonists).
- The cast is somewhat of a Geodesic Cast, where all the final bosses tend to have similar sets of servants that form cast herds, as well. It's only the characters outside of those cast herds (like the low-level bosses that make up the (9) squad) that form cast herds elsewhere.
- The witches trio actually has a member, Hot Librarian Patchouli, that belongs to two separate cast herds - she's a live-in member of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and a partially-willing inductee of "Team Marisa's Harem".
- Kingdom Hearts' Cast Herding is the only thing stopping it from being unfollowable as a series; there's at least 200 unique characters from Disney, Final Fantasy, and original characters that are thankfully separated into worlds with only a few characters in each one, and only about half of the characters in each world are important. Still, there's at least 25 worlds so far since Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and there's at least 30 characters who can go between worlds.
- The King of Fighters is also notable for this. Although already has team separation; more and more teams came later on. Considering the unstoppable climax of sequels flowing and flowing all time, the entire list of teams is too long to specify here: if you're a KoF fan, you already must know 'em all by heart.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog series from Sonic Adventure to Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 generally herded its characters into groups of three. Sonic Heroes took this and made it the game's central mechanic.
- Schlock Mercenary slowly evolved into this, though the focus remains mostly on Tagon and the Special Ops team.
- Homestuck certainly Loads and Loads of Characters arranged as a Geodesic Cast, the result being that the groups have been (mostly) subdivided into the 'Kids' (A group of four), the Trolls (Of which there are twelve), the Exiles (Another group of four), the Midnight Crew (another -another- group of four...), the Sprites (four), the Guardians (four)... The list goes on.
- After the End of Act 5 in October 2011, many characters have died or been reshuffled into new groups, and new characters have appeared. The main groups now are: those on the golden battleship (John, Jade, Davesprite, Jaspersprite, and a whole lot of Chess people and consorts); those travelling through the Furthest Ring on the trolls' Meteor (Rose, Dave, Karkat, Terezi, Kanaya, Gamzee, and WV); those chasing the Meteor group (PM and Bec Noir); those in the dreambubbles (Tavros, Vriska, Feferi, Eridan, Meenah, Aranea, Hussie; presumably Nepeta, Equius, Sollux, Aradia, and the rest of the pre-scratch trolls as well); those beyond the Fifth Wall (Lord English, Ms. Paint, A2 Jack); and the new group of four kids who live on Earth and are now entering their session of the game (although two of them live in the future). The former groups now only appear in the intermissions, with the main acts focusing on the new kids.
- It's interesting to note that while Homestuck certainly has long list of characters, the defining events of the story mean that about two-thirds of the cast account for the entire surviving population of two universes, the other half being dead themselves. Not many stories can claim to feature literally everyone in the world.
- Tru Life Adventures brings us the morning shift (Darby, Edith, Dan), the closing shift (Bob, Jack, Bert, Stephanie), the overnight crew (Brick, Derek), the group working against Big Bad Leonard Zachary (Bob, Jack, Darby, Neal, Hatch, Alex, Kate), and the groups trying to work against Bad Boss Simon DeVere and/or deal with the time travel situation (various members of the morning and closing shifts). Loads and Loads of Characters indeed.
- At Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, people get split off by their 'team'. Team Kimba has the core protagonists. Outcast Corner has four more main characters who mostly appear together. Carmilla has split off from Team Kimba and has her own team now: The Pack. Aquerna mainly appears with the Underdogs. The Whitman Literary Girls have their own stories. And even the school villains usually stick to their own teams.
- In The Gungan Council, the factions group like minded characters (Lightside characters joining Jedi, darkside character joining Sith) together and instill a sense of galactic conflict, due to hundreds of characters being written at once.
- Protectors of the Plot Continuum usually work in pairs or trios.
- Justice League Unlimited does this with the many superheroes it portrays, usually grouping them by sub-teams like the Seven Soldiers of Victory or by respective creators. This is visually explicit in the Grand Finale, which has the heroes moving out in their specific herds, finishing off with the seven founding members, and within that the trio of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at the end.
- The Venture Brothers does this, but not for lack of characterization. If anything, it's because the ancillary characters become too well-rounded, so now we have to check in with 21 and 24, even if nothing's going on. Lesser villains like Phantom Limb and Underbeidht get less screen time.
- This is also by design: almost the entire recurring supporting cast is voiced by either Doc Hammer or Jackson Publick, and they try to avoid Talking to Himself.
- Thomas the Tank Engine has the standard gauge engines and the narrow gauge engines, who rarely interact.
- However, that didn't necessarily hold true in either the novels or the early seasons. Gordon and Sir Handel could often be found bitching about being underappreciated, Peter Sam and Henry did not much care for each other, and Skarloey and Edward were best friends.
- The original Transformers series has herds within herds, which is to be expected of a show that is trying to sell toys. The entire original G1 toyline, by one rather rough estimate, contained 314 toys.
- Bionicle splits the cast into numerous different species and organizations. The Toa, Matoran, Turaga, Skakdi, Vortixx, Zyglak are the species, and the Dark Hunters, Brotherhood of Makuta, and the Order of Mata Nui are the organizations. Some species have a tendency to join specific orders.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender does this with the Avatar group and the Zuko/Iroh group before they meet up.
- The second season also added Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee into the mix, and occasionally showed glimpses into what Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors were doing, as well.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. First off, you've got the main six ponies and Spike. The Cutie Mark Crusaders form a Power Trio with a smaller version of the main group, having an earth pony, pegasus and unicorn, with the latter also falling into Tomboy and Girly Girl. Then you have Celestia and Luna. The Apple family, with Big Macintosh and Granny Smith, is also very prominent, especially in season 2. Even the background ponies fall into this, with Derpy, the Mayor, Doctor Whooves, Rose, Daisy and Lily, Daisy and Colton Vines, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, and also Lyra and Bon-Bon, tending to show up around each other.
- Many of the background ponies aren't really characters, as much as they are scenery. Lyra, Bon-Bon and Doctor Whooves, for example, have no real personality (And don't even have consistent voice actors) in the context of the show. However, recently, they have begun to be more scripted (if still unimportant to the plot) as a fan-service.
- They are also a literal Cast Herd.
- In Total Drama Island, there are 22 campers, plus host Chris and Chef Hatchet. In Season 1, they are divided into two teams, The Screaming Gophers, and the Killer Bass. In Season 2, they are the Screaming Gaffers and the Killer Grips. In Season 3, there are three teams, Team Amazon, Team Victory, and Team Chris Is Really Really Really Hot.
- Oh, and Canada too!