Perhaps one of the first words Japanese language-learners pick up is “kawaii,” which makes sense considering how often you’ll hear it in everything from TV shows and anime to a stroll down Takeshita-dōri. However, “kawaii” isn’t just “kawaii” anymore–there’s also kimo-kawaii (“gross but cute”), among others.

And now there’s a new kawaii that’s spreading through the Japanese Twitterverse: Itami-kawaii, or “painful but cute.” It might be hard to visualize, so check out some pictures below and get ready to groan “kawaiiiiiii” in agony.

▼”Itami-kawaii ♡” (Illustration by Saccstry)

Before we really get into “itami-kawaii,” we first need to get two other things out of the way. The first is “guro-kawaii,” which is basically “grotesque but cute,” sort of like the tweeted images below.

▼”Right-brain-chan and Left-brain-chan, together the two of them are one pair of twins.”

▼Mmm…blood! The breakfast of champions!

gurokawaiiSaccstry via Twitter (@sayu_0906)

You could probably think of it as the intersection of Suicide Circle (warning: link contains very gory/bloody scenes, definitely NSFW) and Hello Kitty. If musical genres help more, it’s like someone combined grindcore and J-Pop.

Guro-kawaii seems to have been around for a while, but it has some slight (but important) differences from itami-kawaii. In fact, itami-kawaii seems to be an extension of yume-kawaii (dreamy and cute), which is similar to normal kawaii except that it uses mostly pastel colors and often has fairy tale themes.

▼Like this!

▼Or this! We think…

So far, both of these “subtypes of kawaii,” probably make sense and are fairly easily identifiable. Now we can get to itami-kawaii, or “painful but cute!”

If “guro-kawaii” is like grindcore, then itami-kawaii would probably be closer to emo or goth musicians dressed up in sailor uniforms and overlaid with Instagram filters. Like this!

▼”BTW, I’ll kill you if you say I’m ugly.”

While there does seem to be some overlap between guro-kawaii and itami-kawaii, it looks like itami-kawaii is less bloody. This should make sense since itami-kawaii is basically an extension of yume-kawaii, just with more ennui than dreaminess.

▼死んじゃえ (shinjae) basically means “Let’s just die.” However,
the context is intentionally unclear here, so it could mean
“Why don’t I just die?” or even “Why don’t you just die?”

The pastel colors give the photo a cute-but-melancholy look, almost like a suicidal doll. A perfect example of itami-kawaii!

This next one is a bit more ambiguous, and you could probably argue that it’s more yume-kawaii or moe-kawai than itami-kawaii. That said, there’s also something vaguely unsettling about this galactic girl that we would say slots it into the itami-kawaii category.

▼Please note that this image was created by Saccstry,
as was helpfully pointed out in the comments.

The illustration in the tweet below reads “I wish I had been born more beautiful. Or, I wish I had not been born at all,” and the tweeted message is, “The world is unfair, isn’t it?”

And moving into even more depressing territory, here’s an itami-kawaii illustration someone tweeted. They seem to be quite proud of their work–and it is a pretty good illustration. It’s also just incredibly depressing.

▼No. Just…no.

Itami-kawaii also sometimes features medical imagery, such as pills, scalpels, and needles. This is another deviation from guro-kawaii, which tends to depict more visceral, immediate grotesque images.

▼Can’t forget the pastel filter!

▼Someone really needs an apple a day.

▼We’d say that this got dark fast…but it started pretty dark.

Itami-kawaii also aims for depressing over gross-out, which probably makes it marginally more safe for work. But only a little bit. In the image below, the top word is “watashi (I or me)” and the bottom word is “anata (you),” and in middle it says “Cut along the line.”

▼Maybe they want to be stapled together instead?

And, for our final itami-kawaii image, here’s another tweet.

The image text reads: “I always refrained from crying, and one day I couldn’t smile anymore.” The text of the message is arranged so that it could be read as either “I want to die” or “I want to be happy.”

And now that we’ve wandered down that depressing-but-cute path, we need something to cheer us up. And when we need cheering up, nothing works quite as well as Namakopuri! We guess they’re kind of kimo-kawaii, but this video is sure to put smile on your face at the very least.

Be sure to tell us what you favorite kind of kawaii is in the comments section!

Sources: Naver Matome, Mery, Charisma Talk
Images: Twitter (@Neymar11Yui, @Dream_Cute_, @hinaxxroid, @banana_pamyu)