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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogRilakkuma and Kaoru: A Closer Look at This Series!

Rilakkuma and Kaoru: A Closer Look at This Series!

By Thuy Fang
June 26, 2024
A scene from Rilakkuma and Kaoru at a table.

Rilakkuma is an adorable character beloved by fans worldwide. Its popularity has sparked a wide range of products, themed items in stores and cafes, and celebrated adventures in the acclaimed animation series Rilakkuma and Kaoru.

The series featuring famous San-X characters has continued the success of shows like Domo-kun in Japanese stop-motion animation. Next, let’s dive deeper into this popular series!

What is Rilakkuma and Kaoru?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a delightful stop-motion animated series that debuted on Netflix in 2019. Created by Dwarf Studio in collaboration with San-X, it’s based on the popular Rilakkuma character franchise. This heartwarming show follows the daily life of Kaoru, a hardworking young woman. She lives with her three quirky roommates: Rilakkuma, a big brown bear who loves lounging and snacking; Korilakkuma, a mischievous white bear cub; and Kiiroitori, Kaoru’s diligent yellow chick.

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, Kaoru and Kiiroitori sitting at a kotatsu.
The show was initially a Netflix original series. Image via Moshi Moshi Nippon

Set in a cozy apartment, the series shows everyday life with a bit of magic. Each episode, about 11 minutes long, explores the simple yet sweet moments between Kaoru and her plush friends. From handling work stress to making friends, the show mixes fun adventures with touching lessons.

Beyond its kawaii characters and captivating animation, the series celebrates simple joys and everyday challenges. It’s genuinely about finding beauty in everyday moments! Overall, the show reminds us to enjoy the little things and feel comfortable sharing experiences.

How did it get made?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is set in the fictional city of Ogigaya, inspired by the Ogikubo and Asagaya neighborhoods in Tokyo. The show stands out with its detailed stop-motion animation, uniquely appealing to the characters and their surroundings. Director Masahito Kobayashi was inspired by Wes Anderson’s beloved films, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs

Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori standing in a room together.
These teddy bears have taken the world by storm! Image via IMBd

The production of this series took around two years to complete, with filming taking seven months and over 220,000 shots. They carefully created and decorated the characters’ fuzzy appearance and all the miniatures for houses, rooms, and goods. Detailed backgrounds looked realistic, adding a touch of everyday magic to the series. Additionally, the team also made great efforts to set up ten different areas and filmed about ten seconds of scenes each day at the same time.

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What did the critics think about Rilakkuma and Kaoru?

Critics have shared the most positive thoughts about Rilakkuma and Kaoru. For example, James Whitbrook of io9 characterized the series as a “love letter to the need to escape,” emphasizing its message of seeking comfort in a short break from daily life.

A crew member touching up the Rilakkuma and Korillakkuma models for the show.
This show uses stop-motion animation. Image via The Japan Times

And Petrana Radulovic from Polygon loved the show, noting how it mixes playful moments with Kaoru’s real-life struggles. Even Anime News Network also applauded how the animation looked and the ideas behind the show though they said they didn’t go deep enough into Kaoru’s problems or solve them well.

Moreover, this series also received positive reviews from hundreds of film and television critics on the famous platform Rotten Tomatoes. It has been certified as 100% Fresh, meaning all movie or TV show reviews are positive. Rilakkuma and Kaoru also achieved a rating where 92% of users gave it a star rating of 3.5 or higher.

What themes are in this show?

With a total of 13 short episodes, the content of Rilakkuma and Kaoru features several notable themes:

Friendship and companionship

Kaoru and her roommates usually bond with neighbor Tokio through playful exchanges, including a pancake ransom, and later hang carp streamers together. In the episode “Getting a Job”, the girl and her plush friend face financial setbacks but receive unexpected compensation for their impending move, bringing them together for a comforting meal and future preparation. 

The seasons of the year and simple pleasures

Rilakkuma and friends had delightful experiences throughout the year, such as viewing cherry blossoms in the spring, attending summer festivals to watch fireworks, and building their snowmen together in the winter. Also, even though Kaoru’s gloom mirrors the weather during the rainy season, she finds comfort in her friends and enjoys a sunny day.

Korilakkuma giving Karoru a gift.
These teddy bears help Kaori with the power of kindness and friendship! Image via Wrong Every Time

Strange phenomena

In one episode, the guys encounter a ghost girl during a storm-caused power outage but find closure and resume their meal once the power returns. In another development, Korilakkuma has a magical experience with an alien after witnessing a UFO. This leaves Kaoru excited and intrigued about the possibility of meeting aliens in the future.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia plays a major role in the episode “The First Day”, which depicts the day the little apartment’s current residents meet each other. In the episode, our girl yearns for a pet cat but unexpectedly welcomes a large bear named Rilakkuma into her apartment. Over time, she also grows fond of her unconventional new companions, including Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori. 

Rilakkuma, Kaoru and Korilakkuma walking among the cherry blossoms.
Have you ever watched “Rilakkuma and Kaoru” before? Image via Sinema SG

Why should I watch it?

You should watch it because Rilakkuma and Kaoru could bring everyday life to enchanting heights. Whether it’s the whimsical adventures of Rilakkuma and friends or Kaoru’s reflections on life, the show captures the beauty of ordinary moments. Furthermore, this charming stop-motion series is an awesome blend of friendship and seasonal joys. Join them for heartwarming and peaceful stories, and share your favorite moments below!

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