(adj.) pretty; cute; lovely; charming.
Roughly synonymous with "cute," kawaii is a common Japanese term that occurs frequently in manga and anime. It has also found a place in the vocabulary of North American anime fans, on the short list of borrowed Japanese words that are used to excess by them.
The term often embodies a bit more than just "cute," including a certain element of liveliness or happiness in the object being defined. For instance, "You are cute when you are mad," would never be said using the term kawaii. In terms understandable to Western sensibilities, it might be said that kawaii embodies that quality of saccharine adorableness found in kittens and plush toys.
It has been said that modern Japanese culture is in the grip of a fascination, or even obsession, with the phenomenon of kawaii. Certainly enormous amounts of resources are spent in the production and development of objects and persons embodying this concept, from mascot characters to idols.
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