I have the following bit of dialogue:




Basically this dialogue is composed of 3 parts, which I have helpfully split into different lines.

First bit is an adjective nominally meaning "fleetingly kind" which I'lll get back to.

Second bit describes a daughter that loved her mother despite everything.

Third bit is almost irrelevant to the talk at hand, where the narrator expresses how much they liked that girl (BTW, the narrator is not the mother).

My question here is, who does the adjective bit (the first bit) refer to? I'm assuming the mother, because it certainly would fit the context of the mother who was kind, for only a short while to the girl.

Also am I right in my interpretation of 儚くて優しい that it means to be short-lively kind to the girl.

EDIT: Additional context.

This line is part of recollections of a nanny/teacher of the girl in question. (well she is actually a magical being that... but that's besides the point, since her role was to teach the girl) Girl's mother hired her to teach a certain type of skill to the girl, at which point her contract would be over and the teacher would depart. The mother in question, never really took to the girl, and was REALLY cold towards her, even though the girl loved her very much. So, since the girl was lacking motherly role figure, the nanny, while she was with the family, kinda took the role of the mother and got attached to the kid. Which is hardly surprising given that the girl was honest, hard working, strong etc. But even though she REALLY liked the girl, once her job was done, once she had taught the girl what she was contracted to teach her, she HAD to go away.

So now, you might think of this as her end of the line thoughts, she is looking back at the time with the girl, she is remembering how much she loved the girl, but is also being sad and worried. Sad that she was never able to repair the bridge between the mother and daughter, and worried because she was not given the time to learn what happened of the girl.

OH and YEAH. One kinda important note, the girl DOES/DID remember of a time, before the nanny when her mother was kind and nice to her, but then suddenly she almost discarded her and put the teacher to be in charge of her. Note, the change of attitude happened BEFORE the teacher came. And this weighted heavily on the girl, who at the time didn't know what caused the change in her mother's behavior, yet still earnestly wanted to please her despite the cold treatment. Which is why I thought fleetingly kind was a better description of the mother than the daughter.

The daughter herself survives it all, despite the abuse that is going to get worse later on, and escapes and becomes strong, caring and kind individual. The nanny doesn't know this eventual fate (or about the later abuse, since while she was there she was a buffer and the mother was just cold, not outright physically abusive), but saying that girl was insubstantial and fleeting would be doing her a disservice.

The problem in my mind is that between this adjective and mother is the adverb どこまでも and it didn't feel right grammatically that the adjective could be describing an object of an action THROUGH the adverb. Even though context wise the fleeting bit doesn't really apply to the daughter.

1 Answer 1


It's referring to the girl.

The source of your confusion seems to be interpreting


As "fleetingly kind", but it is "fleeting and kind". This is reinforced by the fact that the immediately following sentence talks about how nice she was.


In regard to くて and why I am translating it as "and", see here and here.

Edit: it is worth noting that 儚い does not always literally mean "short lived", and can also be used to refer to a certain type of beauty/appeal. See here.

  • Doesn't fleeting mean that she was short lived or something? Coz that doesn't sound right either o_0? Considering the girl in question is not dead. The narrator just has not seen her in a long time. Jan 25, 2018 at 17:59
  • It sure sounds like she was short lived, but as is always the case with Japanese, context is everything. If the girl is still alive in the source material then it may very well mean something else; I need more context.
    – Mindful
    Jan 25, 2018 at 23:10
  • I think that's plenty of context :D Jan 25, 2018 at 23:46
  • Okay, there are two possibilities I can see. One is that even if the girl is still alive, because this person can no longer see said girl, the girl is "儚い" to them - basically their experience with the girl was short lived. However, 儚い is also used to described people's 雰囲気/appearance, which I realize in retrospect I should have mentioned off the bat. Let me update my answer.
    – Mindful
    Jan 25, 2018 at 23:57
  • Okay, that DOES make more sense. Oh well, in the end I ignored the first bit and just elaborated more on kindness in my translation. But that is something to note. Jan 27, 2018 at 21:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .