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Mono no Aware

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"Summer grasses—
the only remains
of warriors' dreams."
Matsuo Bashou
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All things in life are fragile and impermanent. Everything we love is doomed to fade... but at the same time, isn't that what makes it beautiful?

An aesthetic first popularized by the 18th century scholar Motoori Norinaga, Mono no Aware (often translated as "the ahh-ness of things") is a kind of wistful sadness that would come to be considered the Central Theme of Japanese art, and one of the pillars of Japanese identity. Cherry Blossoms, the national symbol of Japan, are considered to embody this sentiment — blooming for a short time in vibrant colours before falling away. This also extends to the seasons in general, leading to the heavy emphasis of seasonal motifs in Japanese poetry. Because it is so short-lived, Mono no Aware considers childhood to be beautiful, which may go a way to explaining Kawaisa culture and the tendency of Japanese works to portray (non-active) paedophilia as a character flaw rather than an outright villainous trait.

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On the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism Mono no Aware tends towards the idealistic, while in the conflict of Romanticism Versus Enlightenment it falls somewhere in the middle, embracing change while mourning the past.

Stories built on Mono no Aware rarely have big, climactic endings, and are more likely to be bittersweet or fizzle out gently.

Compare The Anti-Nihilist, Bathos and Martyrdom Culture. Contrast They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, The Fatalist, Mortality Phobia and Nostalgia Filter. See also UsefulNotes.Buddhism and It Can't Be Helped.

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Tropes associated with Mono no Aware

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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Girls' Last Tour: The world as we know it has been destroyed by some vague apocalyptic event. Two young girls are left alone with only each other as company, as they travel around the ruins surviving the best they can, enjoying what little creature comforts they come across, and wondering how the world around them might have been.
  • Haibane Renmei
  • Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions portrays Chuunibyou as something we need to grow out of, but which is beautiful for precisely that reason, and should be looked back on without shame.
  • Kino's Journey: A young teenager wanders across the world, with the self-imposed rule of only staying three days in each country she visits. Yet the world is as beautiful as it is dangerous, and she is often confronted by the uglier aspects of human nature.
  • Both Mushishi and Natsume's Book of Friends narrate gentle explorations of the supernatural with heartwarming and tearjerking results, though Mushishi is much more episodic.
  • Only Yesterday
  • In the anime adaptation of Shaman King, this is Hao's motivation. To remedy the sorrows of a changing world, he plans to destroy the past and the future, creating only "a neverending stream of now".
  • Sound of the Sky
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

    Literature 

    Newspaper Comics 

    Religion and Mythology 
  • From The Bible, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes seems to take this view. Everything created by human hands is doomed to be forgotten, but at the same time, the world isn't actually getting worse so you should make peace with it and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
    "What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is the Ur-Example, with Gilgamesh only becoming a wise king after coming to terms with his own mortality.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

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