Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a delightful interpretation of one of Japan’s most well-known characters. Understated and delicate, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a laidback concept that brings audiences a peaceful depiction of Japans lovable ‘Kawaii’ Rilakkumas.
New to Netflix is Rilakkuma and Kaoru, a stop-motion animation giving life to the much beloved Japanese mascot Rilakkuma. After the huge success of Netflix’s Aggretsuko, it was only a matter of time before the streaming platform used its resources to give a stage to another beloved mascot. Rilakkuma was created in 2003 for a company called San-X by one of its former employees, Aki Kondo. San-X is a stationary company famous for its use of ‘Kawaii’ (Japanese word for cute) characters for its branding. Its reach is worldwide as it takes advantage of Japan’s Kawaii culture. Rilakkuma himself was created by Aki Kondo as a manifestation of her desires to own a pet; as an office worker, she took her inspiration from her yearning to lead a more peaceful life.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru is very much reminiscent of the ideologies of character designer Aki Kondo. The main narrative focuses on office worker Kaoru and her relationship with her 3 roommates who all happen to be Kawaii creatures. The three creatures are Rilakkuma a sleepy, lazy bear that loves nothing more than to nap and eat, he is the personification of our human desire to relax. Next is Korilakkuma, a mischievous little bear that is immature and childish in nature offering a charming distraction of cheekiness to our sleepy bear. Last but not least is Kiiroitori, a hard-working little duck who tried his best to keep things in order, often scolding Rilakkuma for his laziness and Korilakkuma for their immaturity. Primarily concerned with only the present the three creatures remind Kaoru that life doesn’t always have to be grand or fancy, we must make time to appreciate the little things in the now and not dwell on the past or future.
The stop-motion animation and set design in Rilakkuma and Kaoru is delicate and resplendent in its creation of minute details. The colors and architectural choices are marvelously curated in a way that transports you to sub-urban landscapes of Japan. Kaoru’s surroundings are gorgeously meticulous, in a way, much like our protagonist, even in the absence of materialistic wealth we begin to appreciate the intricate beauty of the nature that already exists around us. The set is alive with character as tiny flowers are given the closest attention and rugs are knitted with intricate patterns and design. There is no mistake that Kaoru’s home is lived in and her home’s location is in the middle of an aged community. This authenticity and close attention to detail is certainly a contributing factor to Rilakkuma and Kaoru’s peaceful charm and alluring harmony.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru is very slow in pace; it’s not sharp or witty, nor nimble or dramatic. The show’s alternative does not aim to whisk you off your feet in search of adventure but rather tells you to sit back and unwind. Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a calming series, take pleasure in admiring the beauty in the art work or the cheekiness of the innocent creatures as they worry about nothing further than what’s in front of their noses. Kaoru’s character is caught in the rat race like so many of the show’s viewers, yet when she leaves work behind her and sees her animal friends her mindset changes. Kaoru just wants to escape the pressures of work just like the thousands of people around the world that choose to indulge in the mascots created for the show. Kawaii is by now a worldwide phenomenon and is often invested in for a means of escape, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is no different; it is as simple as admiring the sweet and the small.
Overall Rilakkuma and Kaoru is beautiful and graceful, the details take you to a warm and loving corner of Japan. The show invites you to appreciate the smaller things in life and reminds you to be grateful for what you have. The characters are lovable and sweet, the environment is stunning, and the entire premise is a sleepy joyful haze in the face of modern burdens. Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a great adaptation of what the little bear stands for, offering audiences an inside look into the world of Rilakkuma and his fellow creatures’ antics which until now have only been depicted for merchandise and stationary. Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a stunning accomplishment that will captivate the audience globally for its sweet, pure nature and visually beguiling aesthetics. I would highly recommend Rilakkuma and Kaoru for anyone seeking a bit of pleasant distraction as you indulge in the particularities of a sleepy bear and his friends.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.