Amid Amidi, editor of the animation news site Cartoon Brew, once wrote that “certain aspects of Japanese cartoons […] turn me off, and surprisingly these elements remain consistent throughout all of the anime I’ve seen, whether it’s a cheaply-produced OAV or a classy Miyazaki production. Namely, it is the unappealing and cold nature of their character designs, and the general lack of dynamics and complexity in their personality animation. The death of animation is if you don’t find the characters believable because subsequently the value and effectiveness of the stories those characters are telling is diminished,” praying “that the next international animation fad will be more visually stimulating and appealing.” Amidi’s opinion isn’t an outlier; in reviewing Hayao Miyazaki’s films, esteemed historian Michael Barrier remarked that “Miyazaki’s human characters, typically for Japanese animation, are little more than ciphers, their appearance and their actions almost wholly dictated by formulas,” with Thad Komorowski adding that anime “violates so many principles of animation—where’s the squash and stretch? the secondary action?—that it would make more sense to just shoot it in live action,” much of it showing “disdain for what makes animation a unique medium.” One could chalk this up to that characteristically American provincialism but this opinion isn’t uncommon elsewhere. In defending the older generation of Soyuzmultfilm artists, Fyodor Khitruk contrasts them with “those Pokemon”, arguing that at least the Russians mastered the essentials before breaking the rules. Even Giannalberto Bendazzi, an open-minded advocate for animation across the world, has plainly stated that “anime is badly animated” and that, barring a few exceptions, TV animation “requires little attention as far as creativity is concerned.” If any concession is made for the Japanese it’s usually in terms of their layouts and direction, the implication being that those layouts come at the expense of what actually counts. Listen to most intelligent animation writers and you might come to the conclusion that the individual animator is of absolutely no value in the Japanese system.
This must come as a surprise to sakuga fans, enthusiasts who value the animation in anime above all else (作画 ‘sakuga’ meaning ‘production drawing’ but also serving as a fan term for animation in general). The activities of sakuga fans and Western cartoon fans are much the same: they both read up on the history of their respective industries, catalog and attribute scenes to specific animators, discuss the theory behind technique, and edit together showreels. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of showreels for Japanese animators on sites like YouTube and Catsuka yet there seems to be a wall of separation between sakuga fans and the Western establishment. Why is that?
There’s a number of reasons. One of the most obvious is that the best examples of Japanese animation are usually hidden in relatively cheap OVAs, TV shows, and non-Ghibli films. It’s generally true that the best Hollywood cartoons cost a lot to make, and Miyazaki’s films are some of the most expensive in Japan, so one might reasonably infer that Miyazaki’s films are the best the Japanese can offer. Among sakuga fans, however, Miyazaki has something of a pernicious reputation for watering down the quality in his films, “correcting” nearly every shot to match his uniform style. It’s become a running joke that Miyazaki will invite talented animators from outside of Ghibli to animate on his films only to have them produce their least interesting work. That Miyazaki regularly badmouths the rest of the industry no doubt contributes to this misperception. As a result many Americans assume the only alternatives to Ghibli are low quality long-runners like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z.
Exacerbating this is a lack of competent gatekeeping. American anime fansites and magazines have until recently shown complete indifference to the art of animation. Anime became popular overseas not for its contributions to craft but for its novel take on certain scifi conventions, its explicit sexual content, and its longform storytelling. The few genuine anime researchers like Fred Patten and Jonathan Clements are more often interested in the macro- aspects of the industry, its economics and social impact, than the labors of individual artists. It’s not uncommon to see a supposed expert display cavalier ignorance to the basics of animated technique.
Format is another consideration. The format of a typical Hollywood cartoon is seven minutes of uninterrupted motion. The animation is always active and, when the stars align, always engaging. By contrast, even the most tricked-out sakuga anime will have moments of downtime: stills, pans across background art, flapping mouths. Most of the time sakuga fans are fishing standout scenes from largely uninvolved productions; even Naruto has moments of inspired animation here and there. That doesn’t negate the great work that still gets turned out but to Western eyes this is seen as an abdication of the medium’s demands – “I like my animation animated.” Moreover, this difference in format puts American animation at a unique advantage. Because the corpus of American animation is relatively small and complete, fans know their field inside and out. Watching the same handful of shorts over and over again makes the subtleties of great animation easier to discern, even for non-experts (“Rank heresy it may be to say, the list of animated cartoons that warrant a length greater than thirty minutes is minuscule” Thad Komorowski). This means the theoretical core behind the Hollywood cartoon is extremely robust, bolstered by multiple decades of back-and-forth between professionals and historians. It’s easier for the Americans to dismiss alternative styles because the rules they follow have been thoroughly tested; any objection you might think of has already been accounted for. On the other hand because animation quality in anime is generally diffuse, sakuga fans tend to take a pluralistic tack on style. Movement, dynamism, panache of any kind is welcome since it loosens up normally stiff drawings. That isn’t to say there isn’t rigorous, theoretically dense writing on sakuga out there, but most of it is in Japanese or spoken between friends on chat rooms. It’s rarely committed to accessible, English-language text.
Densely packed motion (Bill Tytla – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
But even if the full picture was coming through, it’s unlikely this debate would be easily resolved. What’s at stake here is how we define the medium of animation. That is, strip away all those aspects of animation that have superior alternatives elsewhere – story, music, draftsmanship – and look at what’s left. That is animation. The goal of animation criticism, then, is to determine those things which only animation can provide. The potential answers to this question go far beyond platitudes about “making the impossible possible” and into identifying the fundamental characteristics of setting drawings in sequence one after the other. What might look like trivial quibblings to outsiders – all that matters is whether the film’s good or not, right? – can be enormously consequential in how we discuss animation on a higher level. Animation shouldn’t exist for its own sake, certainly, and there’s no shortage of animated films that are as vacuous as they are pretty, but without any way of meaningfully differentiating itself from other forms of art it might as well not exist at all. The Americans and the Japanese are the two biggest representatives of mainstream narrative animation, yet they differ so radically in their understanding of the medium that it’s impossible for us to judge one by the standards of the other. We have to step outside the fannish, tribalistic in-fighting and try to unpack the underlying theory at work.
Perhaps the best way to go about this would be by looking at the context in which both systems emerged: Golden Age cartoons tend to operate under the same set of standards as live action films from that time period, and the same is true for anime and post-war filmmaking.
Hollywood films from the 20s to the 50s placed a particularly strong emphasis on performance. A night at the movies meant watching stars like Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn act and all other aspects of direction – cinematography, editing, mise en scene – were geared towards serving that end (the so-called ‘continuity system’ of filmmaking). The best films of even the most stylistically individual auteurs like Hitchcock, Welles, and Ford were built on the bedrock of strong (or subtle) performances.
This is echoed in the many distinct personalities that populated Hollywood cartoons. Characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are extrapolations of their live action contemporaries like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Marx Brothers. The guiding metaphor of American animation is that the animator is an actor, that they’re bringing inanimate drawings to life. Hence Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas naming their landmark book on Disney The Illusion of Life, or the English word ‘animation’ itself (‘animus’ being the Latin word for soul). When the Disney studio set about making the first feature-length cel animated film, the bulk of their focus wasn’t on the sets, camerawork, or staging but on how characters like Snow White and Grumpy might connect with audiences as if they were real actors. Though staging and such were important, to not have the human connection would be unthinkable. Not everyone followed this ideology – UPA famously broke from Disney’s methods, rethinking animation, per Zack Schwartz, as a printing-press rather than a duplicate of the live action camera, and early East Coast cartooning had different priorities, favoring all-encompassing spectacle over focused performance – but there’s a clear through-line from Felix the Cat to the West Coast triumvirate of Disney-Warner-MGM that traces the development of these ideas.
The techniques of full animation developed with these priorities in mind. Golden Age cartoons were almost always animated on the 1s or 2s (that is, one drawing per every frame or every two frames), giving a sense of on-screen presence that a lower framerate couldn’t equal. A Newtonian universe of cartoon physics was invented – squash and stretch, follow-through, secondary action, moving holds – to further strengthen the illusion that the on-screen characters exist in an internally consistent version of reality. And even though the overwhelming majority of US animation was cast by sequence, the concept of casting by character first developed at Disney before the war. All this with the intention that audience members don’t see the characters as animation. For Americans, the art of animation isn’t about the individual drawings that compose a sequence but about how those drawings interact with each-other in motion. To call too much attention to a specific frame is to confuse living animation for static illustration (Winsor McCay is often faulted along these lines despite the perspectival accuracy and graphic punch of his films). Likewise, animators such as Norm Ferguson could be comparatively weak in traditional draftsmanship skills but still capable at their job. American animation should be seen the cinematic evolution of figural art, bringing all manner of inanimate or impossible entities to life and placing them in a humanistic context. This is not so much anti-abstraction (most of these critics treat abstract animation as practically a separate medium with separate requirements) as it is a way of narrowing the scope of conventional drama to its meatiest center.
This is why the expectation for a good character animator is that they disappear into their role. Michael Barrier compares the Hollywood animator to a method actor, except the ‘actor’ created by the animator has no distinction between their exterior role and their inner psychology. It’s important to emphasize that although technical skills and consistent drawings are what separates a professional from an amateur, the soul of Hollywood animation is in the performance. Hence why most historians rank the rougher pre-war films like Dumbo and Snow White above the lavish features of the 50s and on. 101 Dalmatians might be polished to a mirror shine, but the characters are empty shells, stock gestures drawn to consummate perfection.
Caught up in the acting (Rod Scribner – Baby Bottleneck)
It’s obvious that anime doesn’t share these priorities. Even though there were a few personality animators of the Disney mold early on at Toei Doga (notably Yasuji Mori), Japanese animation quickly diverged. Character acting in anime is often symbolic. That is, personality is conveyed through shorthands for a particular emotional response (one doesn’t need to watch more than a few yonkoma comedies to learn what those shorthands are). Most of the time the ‘roles’ in anime are little more than stock archetypes or emblems of a particular social class, give or take a few distinguishing quirks. Even in serious productions like Miyazaki’s the animation rarely has specificity of character – any given Miyazaki heroine is interchangeable with any other. And when we’re able to be emotionally affected by what happens to a character or empathize with their situation, the acting is almost never the reason why. This is probably why anime characters are appealing to fanartists and fanfictionists; they’re nearly blank slates.
Furthermore, anime is limited animation, utilizing a significantly smaller number of drawings per minute of film than even the worst studios of the Golden Age like Famous and Terrytoons. Not only do less drawings mean less of an on-stage presence but the fundamental principles of traditional animation – the squash and stretch, the follow-through, and so on – are no longer presumed. From a Western point of view, this is much worse than the false sincerity of post-war Disney: Disney was driven by cliches, sure, but the Japs can’t even do the basics! The party line in America has been that limited animation “paved the way for the destruction of the cartoon art form,” so it’s no wonder the entirety of anime is passed over with quasi-ethnic rationalizations about “the stylized extravagance of kabuki” and the supposed cold indifference Japanese animators have towards their subjects (Miyazaki has voiced a similar argument, unsurprisingly).
But the notion that Japanese animation came about in unenlightened savagery doesn’t square up with historical fact. On the contrary, the industry’s founders actively sought out knowledge about how things were run on the West Coast. Yasuo Otsuka religiously studied Preston Blair’s book on Disney technique, Sadao Tsukioka went through Disney film stock frame-by-frame, and Toei executives even sent Nichido head Taiji Yabushita on a fact-finding trip abroad before setting up their own studio. When Makoto Nagasawa broke from the Disney tradition, his inspirations were Warner and UPA. Though the intent was different, the seconding system of the early Toei features was not unlike Disney’s supervising animator system, where one veteran oversees a team of subordinate animators. And even Hayao Miyazaki, quite possibly the harshest critic of Disney at Toei, found much to enjoy in their competitor the Fleischers. In general the 50s were great for animation consumption in Japan. The removal of the imperial government’s xenophobic censorship laws and the discounted prices of foreign imports led to an influx of animation from all over the world, not only from America but also from France (Paul Grimault), Czechoslovakia (Jiri Trnka), Canada (Norman McLaren), and Britain (Halas/Batchelor). Squint and the early days of anime start to resemble the various New Waves that were happening in live action cinema around the same time. Like the New Wave, anime was built on an admiration for the tradition that came before it, but also like the New Wave its artists consciously went in a different direction.
We could extend this (admittedly crude) analogy further. It’s sometimes thought that with the collapse of the classical Hollywood system, the director’s profile was raised. No longer the invisible steward of actors whose individuality strained against the demands of continuity filmmaking, film form could be used as expression in its own right. Cinematography, editing, and mise en scene usurped the significance of performance and staging. Moreover, the Paramount Decrees weakened the studio monopoly, resulting in a democratization of the means of production. This meant more low budget features with nonprofessional actors and verite photography. Of course film history doesn’t cut nearly this cleanly but it’s a reading which influenced one of anime’s seminal figures, Isao Takahata. Takahata, leader of the young turks at Toei Doga, completely reconceived creative authorship in anime under the aegis of French film theory, Italian neorealism, and Brechtian dramaturgy. The anime storyboard would be the conduit for personal expression, every cut, every pan, every sound cue under the absolute control of the director. This isn’t completely removed from the conception of the director in the West – Warner directors famously exerted close control over the look of their films – but it reflects changing priorities. It’s no accident that the anime industry has produced far more idiosyncratic directors than the Disney machine: Mamoru Oshii, Masaaki Yuasa, Kenji Nakamura, Koji Morimoto, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Osamu Dezaki, Hideaki Anno, Kunihiko Ikuhara, Mamoru Hosoda, and Akiyuki Shinbo, to name only a few.
However, the above seems to confirm the stereotype that anime is a “director’s medium” and not an “animator’s medium”. If the guiding metaphor in traditional animation is that the animator is an actor, and the Takahata storyboard isn’t dependent on strong performances, then there’s the risk that regardless of what anime might achieve they are, in the final analysis, “mere manga,” motion comics that don’t exploit the unique properties of the animated medium. Yet Japan’s animators evolved in tandem with the industry. After all, before Takahata it was the animators at Toei Doga, not the directors, who held the most creative responsibility for the finished product. But they were in most cases not actors. A better metaphor would be that Japanese animators are like cinematographers. They’re concerned with how a scene is shot, how it’s choreographed, how things move in-frame. This is predicated on a far more generalized understanding of animation, animation as the medium of artificial motion. The word douga (動画, ‘moving drawings’) captures this sense better than the Latinate animation. Thus character animation in Japan isn’t about character per se but the human form in isolation. If a Japanese animator is assigned a scene where someone is tapping their fingers on a desk, the questions they’re asking aren’t “How can I use this scene to illuminate the character’s personality? What does this action tell us about how they think and feel?” but “How does the finger tapping itself look? How should the fingers move as they tap the desk? How can I make this gesture expressive in isolation?” Peter Chung sums it up succinctly: anime is the “art of creating and controlling movement. It’s all about using motion itself as a means of self expression.”
Naturally, this conception of the medium had trouble fitting in Disney’s Newtonian universe. Though the most skilled Japanese animators make use of certain aspects of full animation, a new set of tricks was necessary for limited. One of the most essential tricks was framerate modulation. This is a fan jargon term prone to a lot of confusion as it can describe anything from merely animating two characters on two different framerates to animating a single character on multiple different framerates in a single arc of motion. The latter is the more common usage when describing anime, though the term 中抜き (‘disintermediation’) is perhaps more fitting. Yasuo Otsuka and Makoto Nagasawa began experimenting with framerate during the heyday of Toei Doga (though traditional animators like Yasuji Mori played with framerate in a more minor capacity as early as Hakujaden) and their experiments bore fruit during the transition to television. Rather than animate steadily on the 3s, Japanese animation ranges from 1s to 4s at the drop of a hat. The idea is that by producing more drawings for slower arcs of motion and fewer for the fast parts, the eye is tricked into inferring movement that wasn’t actually there. This is impressionistic motion, more representative of how the eye sees movement in real life than the ideal form found in traditional animation. Think of it as anime’s jazz to Hollywood’s classical. Of course American animation is extremely varied in its timing as well but varying the framerate between extremes, as opposed to varying the spacing and composition of forms under a stable framerate, most strongly characterizes anime (though as with most innovations of this type you can find earlier examples elsewhere, as in Bill Nolan’s Oswald cartoons). In general, manipulation of framerate has become an important tool for Japanese animators, such as how Yoshihiko Umakoshi in Mushishi animated the mystical Mushi on a smoother rate than the humans in order to evoke their alien strangeness, or how Takeshi Koike alternates lighting-fast syncopations with slowmo to give his work the slick texture of a graphic novel.
Slow-fast-slow (Yoh Yoshinari – FLCL)
Secondly, due to the greatly simplified power structure in Japan, animators have more leeway in experimenting with workflow, processing, and extended technique. Except in the case of a dedicated layout man, all key animators are required to draw their own layouts, which has a significant effect in how animators conceptualize their work (think of all the ostentatious camerawork you see in anime-style action scenes). The more adventurous get involved in other aspects of production as well: Kou Yoshinari handling the digital post-production on all his cuts, Shinya Ohira layering his scenes so densely they can’t be filmed by traditional cameras, action animators like Yutaka Nakamura choreographing their own fights instead of the director, and Mitsuo Iso’s “full limited”, where the key animator does every drawing himself with no inbetweeners touching the scene at all. Since Japanese animation is relatively decentralized, with subcontractors, small studios, and freelancers outnumbering big corporations, artists are inclined to think in terms of their scene or their episode rather than the show as a whole. This is why the best cuts in anime can feel like their own film-within-a-film, entirely disconnected from what surrounds them. Diversity, variety, and unevenness are the principal virtues of sakuga.
That isn’t to say there’s no such thing as consistency in anime. Frequently it’s the constraints of time rather than money that causes directors to spread their talent thin. One countermeasure against this is the sakuga kantoku (作画監督, ‘animation director’, also know as the sakkan), a remnant of Toei’s seconding system. The sakkan is an animator, usually the character designer, responsible for overseeing every key frame in a given project. There’s a spectrum of opinions on how to approach the role, ranging from close correction of every drawing to letting everything in untouched. Some animators, like Kenichi Konishi, are arguably as famous for their sakkan work as they are for their animation. Sakkans are present on every production from top flight features to bottom of the barrel TV shows, and though their importance to the former is obvious, a good sakkan can help compensate for the lapses of animation in the latter. Lip flaps and minimal gestures are significantly more tolerable when the lineart is jolted alive by the hand of skilled animator. Of course directors can help improve consistency too by carefully doling out assignments and pacing their storyboard so the best animators can make the biggest impact. There’s also the phenomenon of the “one man episode” where a single animator draws all the keys alone (see Space Dandy 18 for a recent example).
Yet the profoundest development within anime was the collapse of the distinction between character, background, and effects. Traditional Hollywood animation relied on a hierarchy of genres: aside from a few exceptional cases (Fantasia), effects animators never held the prestige that character animators did. In anime, however, many of the most renowned animators – Shinya Ohira, Yutaka Nakamura, Yoh Yoshinari, Shinji Hashimoto, Norio Matsumoto – are known for integrating all components of the frame together into one cohesive whole. It makes sense that if Japanese animators are cinematographers, then everything that can be filmed must be taken as their subject. Generally this results in a lot of flashy and gimmicky action scenes, and old-school Hollywood partisans, never the biggest fans of macho action cinema anyway, will sometimes accuse this style of animation of being ephemeral and superficial. Besides the fact that action, like slapstick comedy, shouldn’t be brushed aside as categorically thoughtless, it’s simply untrue that Japanese animators are only interested in making a first impression. Just as in the best of Western animation, the best of sakuga can depict the inner world in vivid detail, but if traditional animation is seen in the ‘third person’, as it were, then anime should be considered ‘first person’. We see what the character feels, not how they act. For instance, in Ohira’s Wanwa the Doggy the surrounding environment is an expression of the main character’s emotional turmoil, such that it’s sometimes hard to tell where a character ends and the effects begin. I’ve seen it suggested that this approach would be better served with live action actors swaddled in CG effects since you would have the best of both worlds but I find this argument off-base. Putting live action and CG animation in close proximity can only highlight their differences, whereas an expressionistic mindscape like the one in Wanwa only works if everything – characters, effects, backgrounds – is made of the same material and composed by the same hand.
Through the eyes of a child (Shinya Ohira – Wanwa the Doggy)
Speaking in abstract terms, Japanese and American animation tend to have their own distinct sense of beauty. Anime is often wrought, deliberate, and charged with a kind of anxiety that demands a visceral reaction, whereas American cartoons strive to appear effortless and graceful, as perfect without an audience as with, full of balance and poise even in the extremes of caricature. There might be a technological explanation for this – the Japanese use a top-mounted peg on their drawing desks while the Americans use a bottom-mounted one, a difference which Peter Chung describes in terms of animating analytically (top) vs animating by feel (bottom) – but I think it goes somewhat deeper. As a pulp industry with relatively little oversight from executives, the style of anime is in large part driven by the id of its makers. It’s democratic (instead of merely collective), with all the messiness and incremental advancement that entails. There’s a reason why both Miyazaki and Otsuka have said that young people make for the best animators.
However strong an effect technology has exerted on the development of the two industries, the most salient differences remain aesthetic in nature. This is born out by the fact that in their free time Japanese animators don’t draw or animate like Americans. They prefer to animate in limited, perverse though it may seem. Trying to compare their output without this in mind would be like comparing an ink wash landscape with a Renaissance nude. The fact that both traditions can be highly refined while entirely incommensurable is testament to the broad sweep of animation as a medium.
That none of this has reached the mainstream of cartooning can certainly be blamed on the stubborn ignorance of the other side, but ultimately it’s a two way street. The average Japanese animator is astonishingly insular and even the best sakuga writers like Ben Ettinger often have no interest in how things are run in the States. Even when someone like Toshiyuki Inoue, the veritable Dean of Sakuga, lists Bill Tytla and Milt Kahl among his favorites, it’s without an understanding of the full context behind those artists and their accomplishments. We live an artistic culture far more international than ever before. An American film critic not knowing who Hou Hsiao-hsien is would be seen as amateurish as a Taiwanese film critic not knowing the name Monte Hellman. Yet in animation, scarce few recognize equally the genius of a Shinji Hashimoto and a Jim Tyer, of a Yoshinori Kanada and a Ward Kimball, of a Hisashi Mori and an Emery Hawkins, to say nothing of the many great artists from the rest of the world. No one can claim be a fan of this medium without giving the bare minimum of engagement to the entire medium, especially in an age when the internet has made this information as easy as ever to find. And even if it were true that one side is “right”, that “Only the Americans know how to animate properly” as Tissa David once said, such broadsides aren’t the result of empirically-informed inquiry but are instead the laziest form of imperialism, generalizations from a sample size in the double digits. It might be that Japanese animation is flawed at a fundamental level, but there’s a massive, complex chunk of history one must wade through before that conclusion can become defensible.
This ignorance is harder to justify in recent years with the changing landscape of commercial animation. In the US, mass market 2D is all but dead. Features are exclusively CG and TV shows are lifeless flashtoons with virtually none of their animation produced domestically. This isn’t a new state of affairs and many seasoned animation fans have made their peace with this fact. Undoubtedly the best of US animation since the 60s has been independent: John and Faith Hubley, John Canemaker, early Ralph Bakshi, Suzan Pitt, Michael Sporn, Mark Kausler. Still, many struggle to talk about any animation from the last 50 years without reflexively comparing it to the Golden Age. The traditional cartooning establishment has their head stuck in the past.
Meanwhile, anime is slowly becoming the lingua franca of animation worldwide. The best animators in China and Korea are strongly influenced by the Japanese style, and prominent young talent in the West like Ulysse Malassagne and LeSean Thomas are trying to bridge the gap. Talk to any professor at CalArts or Gobelins and they’ll tell you the influence of anime on the younger generation is unavoidable. And in terms of raw technique, television shows like Dennou Coil, Cowboy Bebop, Hyouka, and Space Dandy have no parallel in the States. This is not an argument that the US should abandon their unique tradition in favor of foreign influence. Rather, the Japanese took the challenges of modern production seriously and we should pay attention to what they can teach us. Even if you remain unconvinced, even if the best Japanese animation will always seem somehow lesser, it can’t be denied that, more than anyone else, the Japanese have furthered animation as an artform within the economic confines of the modern world. Any attempt to build a viable industry around 2D animation in the future will have to look towards the Japanese for guidance, just as the Japanese looked towards the Americans when they first set out.
[The paragraph on framerate modulation was reworded and restructured based on input from lovcrimson in the comments below. The third to last paragraph was rewritten because I felt my tone was too strident, polemics and rhetoric getting in the way of what I was actually trying to say.]