Tuesday’s Top 5: Horror Anime Released in the Last 5 Years

Tuesday's Top 5

It is seriously hard to find a good horror anime and that isn’t surprising given how few are released in general (when compared with the plethora of isekai stories or cute girls doing whatever anime). But it does make it hard to do a Halloween anime list each year when very little has changed. So to shake things up, this year I’m just looking at my favourite horror anime released in the last 5 years (so since the beginning of 2014). My only requirement for this list is that I enjoyed the anime and it is tagged as a horror anime. That said, I’d love to know your favourites so please leave me a comment below with some of your recent favourite horror anime.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Devilman Crybaby and The Lost Village. Both had potentially good ideas but neither really worked for me in the end. Still, they are both better than the Ito Junji Collection anime.

Number 5: King’s Game

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It would be so wrong for me to not include King’s Game on this list. As terrible as it was, it was the kind of terrible that ended up just being a joy to watch. With a number of other bloggers on board watching this weekly ended up being pure fun even as the show descended into every sillier lows (I’m still stuck on the girl who was on fire calmly spouting exposition before jumping). It is ridiculous, over the top, violent, and mostly senseless, but it is still one of the most entertaining horror anime I’ve watched in a while.

Number 4: Ajin

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Okay, creepy animation style aside, Ajin delivered a fairly compelling plot and an interesting cast of characters. Did it always use them to their best advantage? Not so much, but Ajin did manage to keep me entertained. Whether it was the tense feeling of needing to escape, the horror of confinement and human experimentation, or the outright shock and gore of some fairly bloody fight sequences, Ajin delivered and it did it with style and consistency for the most part.

Number 3: Parasyte

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There’s something genuinely unsettling about the idea of having your hand eaten and replaced by a parasitic being that awakens you by lamenting that it didn’t manage to eat your head. Throw in the cold and alien intelligence with no regard for life outside of its own survival and you have the makings of a really interesting story. Now, Parasyte may not have lived up to the expectations set by its premise and it did have a lot of wasted side quest moments, but the core story is one that provides plenty of unsettling moments and if you want blood you will certainly find that here.

Number 2: Tokyo Ghoul

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Speaking of blood, Tokyo Ghoul managed to slip in to the time frame and so I had to include it. Season one begins with a lot of gross out body horror with slicing and dicing and vomiting. It’s a generally visually disturbing opening to a show that continues to bring shocks and grossness with over the top violence, cannibalism, and finally descending into a slow torture sequence before ending its first season with a bang. While the narrative has its issues and the pacing is all over the shop, if you want something that knows how to get a visceral reaction out of an audience, Tokyo Ghoul is going to do the trick (at least the first season did).

Number 1: School-Live!

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There’s not a lot I can say about this one without getting straight into spoiler territory but if you’ve never given this anime a go and you like horror at all, I’m just going to tell you to go watch the first episode and watch the whole episode. What you do after that is up to you but if you are anything like me you’ll be hooked. Again, the mid-season of this anime flounders a bit but with a solid opening act and some genuinely horrific sequences for the cast coming your way, this one is well worth watching and attempting to watch cold. The less you know the more impact it is going to have.

Have I missed your favourite horror anime released since 2014? Let me know your picks in the comments below.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters That Creep Me Out

Tuesday's Top 5

Here we are and it is October and this year I’m going to be running Halloween themed top 5’s all month long (not that Halloween is actually a thing where I live but any excuse to dust off some of my favourite anime and characters). Starting out with this list of anime characters that I just find disturbing or unsettling for whatever reason. I will admit, it was a tough list to narrow down but I’m pretty happy with the final list. But as always I would love my readers to join in the fun and share their top 5 creepy character lists in the comments below. Hopefully you like my list.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Miki (Parasyte) and Tsukiyama (Tokyo Ghoul).

Number 5: The Millennium Earl (D Gray Man)

The Millennium Earl - D Gray Man

Look, the guy has a permanent smile that is almost bigger than his head and the deals he offers people are worse than any deal you could make with the devil. He’s responsible for so much misery and pain and he does it all with that ridiculous grin and a laugh. So many characters claim they are going to destroy the world but I actually came to believe the Millennium Earl would eventually succeed in D Gray Man and given the story isn’t finished let’s just say he’s currently winning.

Number 4: Hisoka (Hunter x Hunter)

I probably don’t need to explain why I consider Hisoka a creepy customer but right from the first time he graced the screen in Hunter x Hunter he left me unsettled. He’s a little bit violent, a little bit sadistic, gets way too in to his pursuits, and seems to be entirely indifferent to any kind of moral code outside of his own. That and his fixation with Gon at times is very creepy. Still, I’m thinking if I ever end up in an anime world and see someone who even looks vaguely like Hisoka coming I’m running for it (not that it will do me much good mind you, but it might make me feel better).

Number 3: Urado (Ghost Hunt)

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Probably not a well known character given Ghost Hunt isn’t the most popular anime out there, but while most of the ghost stories the characters encounter in the various arcs are more interesting than scary Urado is one character who could definitely leave you with nightmares. That’s probably because unlike so many of the other stories, Urado seems to be based off of tales of real life figures like Elizabeth Bathory and the like so with a more familiar context, and a lot of blood, Urado managed to really get under my skin for the brief time he was in the story.

Number 2: Megumi (Shiki)

Shiki - Megumi

No surprise Megumi made the list. It isn’t that I’m actually scared by Megumi, but there’s that scene where she slides out from under the bed and no matter how many times you watch it, it is still unbelievably creepy. That and Megumi is just so incredibly malicious in the way she attacks people as a vampire. She well and truly earned her number two spot.

Number 1: The Colossal Titan

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Right, so future revelations in the story may have reduced the impact, but The Colossal Titan appearing behind the wall was one of those moments where you just kind of stared at your screen and froze. They really just nailed the perfect combination of factors to make this character someone who would lodge in your memory and haunt your dreams well and truly after watching the episode. For me, no other titan since has had as much impact, not even that insanely creepy smiling one.

There you have it. My top 5 anime characters that creep me out. Now it is your turn so remember to share below.


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Karandi James

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Should We Stop Mocking Stories For Trying?

It’s become a fairly common criticism of a number of shows. It’s trying too hard to be…It’s just trying to be edgy…It’s trying too hard to be deep…And this week we added the question of whether or not Banana Fish was trying too hard to be shocking.

As I read these sorts of comments and questions, I just have to wonder if we’d all prefer writers didn’t try. If they all just settled into a generic status quo where you never stick your neck out, never take your plot too seriously due to fear of someone accusing you of trying too hard, and where every character has that knowing and self-deprecating personality so that they could never be accused of trying too hard.

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Honestly that doesn’t sound like such a fantastic alternative and even while I might agree that some shows miss their mark for what they were attempting to achieve or came across to ham-fisted in conveying their emotional angst rather than providing a nuanced watching experience, I still find the comment ‘trying too hard’ to be fairly meaningless. Of course they were trying. They may not have succeeded but you can see what they were aiming for. And that is where more useful criticism can come into the equation. Why haven’t their efforts hit the mark? Why aren’t you moved emotionally but rather being critical? Was it all too far removed from reality or was it more that they hadn’t developed the characters sufficiently for you to care about their overwrought experience?

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So do we address the question of whether or not Banana Fish is trying too hard to be shocking? Not really. What we need to ask instead is does Banana Fish succeed in being shocking or has repeated rape attempts, violence, and torture of characters we’re still only just getting to know (because the plot hasn’t slowed down for even a moment) diminished the impact of the shocks? Opinions will vary on that and that’s just fine but saying the show is trying too hard to be shocking doesn’t help. Quite clearly it is trying to shock. Whether it is succeeding is the question of the day.

Your Lie in April

Likewise, do we address the question of whether Your Lie in April is trying too hard to hit audiences’ in the feels? Again, that is exactly the purpose of the writing, the narrative, and everything else in the show. Of course it is trying to make audiences feel. So let’s ask instead, does it succeed? Given the huge fan base (and my own personal experience in tears toward the end) I would suggest for the most part, yes. Then again, there will still be viewers who are either more cynical or just don’t connect with these particular characters would say no. And there we can have a discussion about what does and doesn’t work. When we just accused the show of trying too hard didn’t further the discussion in the slightest.

You mean they tried to do something?

Shocking Truth

We could also look at the regular criticisms of shows like Attack on Titan and Tokyo Ghoul as trying too hard to be dark, edgy or whatever else the buzz word of the week might be. Now, those two descriptors in and of themselves (dark and edgy) have been used to the point of almost meaninglessness and again you have to ask whether or not it is succeeding at making something that is dark in its themes that is still enjoyable for you to watch or whether the need to repeatedly throw blood and violence at the screen is something that detracts from the viewing or not. And again, answers will vary and these are ideas that can be shared and discussed with evidence and reasons.

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I don’t mind shows that try. I want them to. I want them to aspire to achieve great things and to tell their story with conviction. I want the writers and directors to have a vision, commit to it, and bring it to life. I want people to try so hard to produce something and then I want them to try some more. The end results may not hit the mark. They may have more ambition than talent. Their aspirations may rise far above their budget.

But you know what?

If they stop trying we’re going to have a lot more bland stories out there as no one is game to take a risk or to try to be anything.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Bookworms

Tuesday's Top 5

As an avid bookworm myself I definitely appreciate seeing characters who read, who talk about books, and who generally respect stories and it is no surprise that some of my favourite characters ever are bookworms (though there are plenty of book reading characters who are neither here nor there really). Today I’m counting down my top 5 anime bookworms and why I enjoy them so much (though those who have been following the blog for awhile will already know who number one is sure to be).

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mention: Sunako from Shiki and Makashima from Psycho Pass. Okay, I seriously want to add Makashima onto the list and I just can’t fit him so here’s a picture anyway.

Number 5: Jibril (No Game No Life)

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Jibril loves knowledge. As a member of the Flugel race she craves it and after defeating the King of Imanity in a game she claimed the library as her own. There’s something really special about a character who is powerful enough to have more or less anything and she picks the library and while her reaction to a tablet full of books from a world she didn’t know may have been a bit over the top, you have to appreciate the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge.

Number 4: Kaneki Ken (Tokyo Ghoul)

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While I haven’t much liked much of Tokyo Ghoul since season one, it is undeniable that I quite liked Kaneki’s character way back when. The shy book loving boy who just wanted the pretty girl to notice him and discuss books with him was adorable and the tragedy that befell him suitably heart wrenching. If only they’d continued to evolve his character sensibly from that point I probably would still love Kaneki as a character. Still, any guy who thinks of a bookshop for a date is definitely going to get a spot on my list.

Number 3: Nagato Yuki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)

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The only member of the literature club who then is forcibly joined into the SOS brigade, Nagato is very seldom seen without a book. She even passes message to Kyon about meeting by lending him a book (a failed strategy when he at first just forgets to read the book and it isn’t until the second night he gets the message). Still, she’s persistent. It is hard to figure out whether Nagato actually enjoys reading or whether it is just a habit, but she’s one bookworm you do not want to mess with, or apparently try to verse at any kind of computer strategy game.

Number 2: Chito (Girls’ Last Tour)

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Chito’s genuine joy and love at finding a book and her genuine horror at Yuu’s callous destruction of a book, is something that really drew me to her character during Girls’ Last Tour’s run. There’s a lot to like about the quieter and more contemplative of the pair, and I definitely think that anyone who wants to save books even at the end of the world deserves to be mentioned on this list with love.

Number 1: Maka Albarn (Soul Eater)

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In fairness, I think Maka loves studying more than she actually likes books, and yet she’s a badass character who takes time to read, to learn, and to genuinely bury herself in words. Although, she isn’t above using a book as a weapon of mass destruction should the person near her annoy her enough. Honestly though, Maka and books are more or less inseparable in my mind and they are a part of what made her character so incredibly relatable and memorable to me all those years ago. I love Maka as a character and she well and truly deserves the number one spot on this list.

Maka Chop

So I’m dying to know who your favourite anime bookworm is. Be sure to let me know in the comments.


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Karandi James

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Series Review: This Franchise Demonstrates How Not To Adapt Something

Given I stopped doing episode reviews after episode 4, it should be fairly clear that this anime didn’t really do much for me. And normally I would just drop it and call it a day, but I decided to finish watching it. Mostly because the madness of creating an anime season that follows on from the manga but not the previous anime season just struck me as being a particularly harsh slap in the face for anime fans.

Review:

Let’s get the biggest point out of the way and then I can get on with reviewing this somewhat troubled narrative on its own merit, or lack of it, rather than the perceived slight of being literally dropped into the middle of a mess without any attempt to bridge where anime viewers were left after the previous season and where this began. I actually do get that a lot of anime exists just to sell manga or for fans of the source material. That’s all fine. But I have to wonder if even fans of the manga are happy by how this played out. It isn’t as though they can watch the anime from start to finish and get a coherent story. Instead they’ll get an introduction, a trainwreck of original material and then a jarring leap back to the source. Without heavy reliance on the source there is genuinely no way to follow this leap because characters aren’t where they were and half of them are either unknown or poorly introduced. As someone who never read the manga, I can assure you it is incomprehensible without at least some reading on various wikis and fan sites.

And that is not okay.

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Who is entertained by this? Anime viewers can’t possibly be because this franchise has no rewatch on its own without using the manga as a bridge. Manga fans may as well just read the manga because at least the story might be cohesive rather than what this presented. This is possibly the worst decision they could have made. A full reboot would have been better. A filler original series to somehow skew events back in line with the manga might have satisfied. Honestly, a ten minute character narration explaining events from point A to B would have been something.

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But no. That kind of courtesy is apparently not given when there is a clear expectation by producers that people will watch this franchise regardless of what dribble they drop on them. And given I watched it all the way through, I can’t say they were wrong. And yet, I know on hearing the announcement that Re was getting a second season, my only thought was that I was done. I have no desire to revisit this franchise. Not even the first season which I actually quite liked. And that lack of desire for more comes from the issues in this story on its own rather than from the annoyance that they did nothing to soften the jarring change in narrative for anime fans.

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Standing on its own, Tokyo Ghoul Re is riddled with issues. The central conceit that Haise has no memories of who he is and somehow this is a journey to find himself is poorly executed at best. With a visible transference of hair colour to indicate his current mental state (something that doesn’t play well given Kaneki’s hair went white due to trauma and that is a believable phenomenon whereas hair changing back from white sure isn’t) essentially everything about this struggle is blunt forced into the story bringing the current action sequence to a screeching halt while Haise/Kaneki play around in mental la-la land.

While it might be argued this mirrors Kaneki’s original transformation with Rize acting as a guide, this lacks any of the finesse or poignancy of that encounter. Superficially it is much the same and yet it is inelegant and, to be perfectly honest, quite dull to watch play out.

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Equally, the new characters introduced under Haise’s care are incredibly flat and one dimensional. They barely get screen time and when they do it is to the detriment of the story. And while some new bit players isn’t the worst thing Tokyo Ghoul drops on its audience, it seems it doesn’t realise that nobody cares about these characters building to what is set up as a tragic moment during its final episode that falls flat because to be perfectly frank I was more than happy to see that particular character bite the dust. I only wondered why more hadn’t joined him.

They are clutter and distractions from the older cast members who really just make cameo appearances. Arima gets talked about a lot but barely appears on screen. Touka shows up briefly and Haise gets all teary, but nothing ever comes out of this sequence. He then just moves on. Tsukiyama spends the majority of his time being crazy for reasons unclear to anime only viewers, and then his fate makes up the majority of the final battle sequence and I’m still not sure why anything about that plot line mattered.

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Basically, this entry into the franchise lacks any kind of central theme or driving force. Done better, Haise’s identity might have carried the episodes, but it really didn’t have anywhere near enough power to do that in its current state. And there’s literally nothing else. They go out. They investigate ghouls. They fight. Occasionally a ghoul investigator gets killed (or lots do) and everyone acts all outraged. There are some large scale fights with even more ridiculous antics going on than earlier seasons and none of them look very good.

I guess if you are a really big fan of this franchise there might be something here to cling to, but I didn’t find it. I watched the final scenes play out and breathed a sigh of relief that I was done. So clearly I’m not recommending it.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Reasons The Anime of Spring 2018 Have Been a Bit Disappointing

Tuesday's Top 5

I normally try and keep the top 5 posts pretty upbeat, but I can’t deny I’m a little disappointed with the last season of anime. No, it isn’t a sign that modern anime are dreadful or that seasonal watching is the problem. It is just that there were a lot of anime that just didn’t live up to their potential or deliver. As the season comes to an end, I’m reflecting on reasons why I was so disappointed this season.

Whether you liked the season or not, I’d love to know your thoughts on the anime from Spring 2018 so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Number 5: Sequels and Spin-offs That Just Didn’t Land

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Whether it was the debacle that was the continuation of Tokyo Ghoul (reverting to the story in the manga without providing explanation for anime viewers) or the disappointment of SAO Alternative: GGO where viewers were asked to watch a pink bunny girl play a game without much in the way of stakes and were expected to care, the Spring 2018 season has definitely had its share of mis-fires with sequels and spin-offs. Even if we look at the ending of Cardcaptors, most people are expressing a general sense that it just didn’t manage to live up to its predecessors and My Hero Academia took a fair while to get going (though fortunately it has now gotten going and it has certainly stepped up).

Number 4: Scattered Viewership

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Normally with seasonal viewing there’s the couple of shows that everyone is watching. Spring 2018 hasn’t had one of those unifying shows that has ignited the entire community. Instead we have small groups of people proclaiming a love for Megalo Box while older mecha fans have been rejoicing over the return of Full Metal Panic, some people praising SAO Alternative: GGO for not being SAO and a few who have gone for one romance or another. But there’s been no single show that has gotten everyone really excited. With so many big titles out that would seem really odd and yet nothing has really captured the masses this season.

Number 3: Controversy and Fan Idiocy

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While I like to avoid the fandoms are toxic debates, some of the stories going around this season really do emphasise that sometimes people just go too far. Death threats to writers and voice actors just should not be a thing. I know I don’t want someone coming into my workplace and threatening my life just because they disagree with how I go about doing my job, or spamming my email or twitter feed for the same. And then of course we have the issue of post plagiarism sweeping the blogosphere with quite a number of bloggers impacted. The last few months have not been great for community spirit and like it or not, it does impact on the enjoyment of the medium when the community is very much focused on some of these more negative aspects.

Number 2: Recaps, Fillers and Gaps

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How many shows this season have done recap episodes or fillers? And how many have skipped airing one week or another due to some event of the like? It has made following shows more challenging than normal as episodes are delayed or skip a week, or worse they put out a recap episode four episodes in as if the entire community suffers from short term memory loss. While I get production delays happen and that sometimes schedules do go awry with broadcasting, the Spring 2018 season feels like it has just been one interruption to the schedule after another making it even harder to get into some of the shows on offer.

Number 1: Broken Narratives

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Whether it is Record of Grancrest War, Darling in the Franxx, or even the abomination that is Devils’ Line, there are so many anime this season that just make no sense in terms of how they have structured and delivered their story. Maybe they are trying to avoid the label of generic but we’ve got time skips, random characters dropping in and out, reveals that make no sense, themes that get built up and then abandoned, and all and all its just a mess. This hardly makes for a satisfying viewing experience. There’s a reason narrative structure is almost identical in every culture, and that’s because people figured out a long time ago how to deliver a story in a way that made it interesting. A lot of these shows need to go back to basics and just figure out what they wanted to be because honestly Spring 2018 has definitely been a bit of a miss in terms of delivering anything resembling a compelling story line.

So those are my reasons for feeling a bit disappointed. I’d love to know if you were disappointed with the season and why, or whether you ended up loving the season and why. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also you can vote for your favourite and least favourite anime of the season below.


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Karandi James

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Episode 4: They All Fight

Ever have a feeling like you’ve seen something before? That’s what I’m getting from this episode of Tokyo Ghoul: Re.

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Who has time for questions such as who they are and what their purpose might be when we can plunge into an all out battle at the auction. We’ve got the doves, aogiri tree and whoever else they want to throw into the mix all just kind of going at it for about half the episode. Not that I dislike violence but there is so little reason here for it and cutting from one fight to another with a whole bunch of characters I either don’t know or don’t care about isn’t exactly a way to re-engage me with a story that threw off my interest mid-way during the second season.

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Just so you know, this guy died less than thirty seconds after this. Great introduction.

More importantly, it gives us zero reason to become invested in anything introducing a character who gets a line or two about how they are going to improve, overcome or whatever and almost immediately after cuts them down. The only real winner this week are the sound effects because squelching blood never sounded that gross.

And if you are thinking I haven’t said anything about Haise or any of the actual characters we’ve met this season, that’s because other than bait boy who was in the auction, they didn’t do anything other than run into the scene and then disappear for the rest of the run time.

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