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This seems like it is very basic, but it was never resolved in the past, so here I am.

This was in a Reddit post recently, but it never received a good answer; most of the answers were along the lines of "I wouldn't call an old war story with sad elements 'interesting'," "just use「そうなんだ」or「なるほど」、" and things like that.

Essentially, I want to be able to call something interesting in its own right without any connotations of amusement. That way, if I encounter something that would upset the speaker to be amused by it yet still find the subject matter to be interesting to all audiences, I can reply with such.

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    「興味深い」でどうでしょうか? – Angelos Jan 26 at 21:36
  • 「興味深い」が珍しいやフォーマル場合に使っただけだと聞いました。しかし効いたら、使い選びます(自分の複合動詞を作ってみた; いいでした?)。ありがとう。 – DeityofAutomation Jan 26 at 21:52
  • How about something more indirect? Like 戦争に興味があります。I feel like it might help avoid the literary nuance that 興味深い might have – Shurim Jan 27 at 6:56
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Is the word "interesting" (or its Japanese counterpart, whatever it is) something you insist upon? It's a word that by definition suggests a positive evaluation. Sure, it doesn't have a "funny ha-ha" kind of connotations but if, for example, someone told you about a sad, tragic or serious event and you responded with "Oh, that's interesting./それは興味深い話ですね。" you probably deserve to be accused of insensitivity, if not frivolity, even if said event did have some interesting aspects. (Although a lot depends of the context, like how sad/tragic/serious the event is, whether it's a true story or fiction, who the teller is, and what kind of reaction is expected by them.)

If you want to use it and still make sure you are not misunderstood, I think you have no choice but to carefully state what you mean and do not mean by it in so many words.

But if you'd rather spare words, and can do with something other than "interesting", here's a suggestion:"考えさせられる" ("makes you(/me) think", or "thought-provoking"). It implies more or less serious thinking, and, generally speaking, it's a safer option than "興味深い".

(While I'm at it, let me give you some usage suggestions:「考えさせられる話ですね」「何か色々と深く考えさせられます」「それは考えさせられるところの多い話ですね」)

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  • This is the best suggestion. "Thought-provoking" carries exactly the same meaning as I meant with "interesting." Thus, as basic as using「考える」is,「考えさせられる」is likely my best option. – DeityofAutomation Jan 27 at 21:15
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I don't recommend 興味深い either. That's not safe either because it basically means "I'm curious".

Considering how English speaking youtubers say "hmm, interesting", なるほど… or そうでしたか… seem reasonable to me, but if you are somehow not content with those phrases, how about compromising settling for either of them with "勉強になります"?

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  • Thanks. 「(subject)に興味があります」was suggested. Would that explicitly state an interest without any double meaning or nuance issues? – DeityofAutomation Jan 27 at 8:06
  • That’s off in that context. Do you really say “I’ve been curious about it” or “I’m kind of into it”? – user4092 Jan 27 at 11:42
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    @user4092 They sound perfectly fine to me in English. – Eddie Kal Jan 27 at 18:38

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