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Anime / Rilakkuma and Kaoru

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Her life might be a little mundane, but Kaoru gets to go home to her endearingly lazy roommate who happens to be a fuzzy toy bear.

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a Stop Motion anime that began streaming on Netflix on April 19, 2019, based upon the popular San-X characters. It depicts the 12 months that office worker Kaoru spends with Rilakkuma, a stuffed bear with a penchant for eating and lazing around, in contrast to her own stressful and anxiety-filled life. Joining them on this adventure are Korilakkuma, a smaller stuffed bear, and Kiiroitori, Kaoru's pet chick. Along the way, viewers also get to meet various side characters who become a part of Kaoru's life.

There have been various Stop Motion and animated shorts featuring Rilakkuma, but this is the first full-length series featuring the character. It is also the first piece of media to depict Kaoru, who is featured as The Voice in earlier Rilakkuma cartoons, and otherwise has not appeared at all besides being part of Rilakkuma's backstory.

A follow up series called Rilakkuma's Theme Park Adventure was released August 25, 2022. The follow up series involves Kaoru, Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, Kiiroitori, and Tokio visiting a soon to be closed Amusement Park as they experience active incidents at the park itself.

Tropes included in the series include:

  • Alien Episode: Episode 11 is centred around Korilakkuma's determination to summon a UFO, after apparently spotting one at night. She succeeds in doing so.
  • Anachronism Stew: The characters use smartphones, watch flatscreen TVs and order things online, but the clothing, hair and architecture styles all look more like they belong in the seventies.
  • Big Eater: Rilakkuma, of course. Several teasers and trailers for the show include cuts of Rilakkuma constantly eating. This is a problem when he gains weight later in the show.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: The humans have no problem understanding what Rilakkuma and friends are saying, despite the latter mostly making grunts and other miscellaneous noises. In Episode 12, the bears are seen introducing themselves to Kaoru, with their noises directly translated to Japanese on-screen.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most episodes end not with Kaoru's problems being outright solved, but her learning to find a Hope Spot amidst her anxieties. The finale sees Kaoru still single, stuck in her old job, being dissuaded from returning to the family cherry farm, leaving her old apartment and Tokio moving away; however, she still has her animal friends, and is now connected to her crush Hayate through Tokio.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Kaoru considers adopting a cat, but Sayu attempts to talk her out of it for two reasons: 1. she owns Kiiroitori, who is a bird; and 2. it's considered "the end" for a single woman to own a cat.
  • The Ditherer: Kaoru is unable to make clear decisions on what she prefers until Rilakkuma shows her it's okay to pick both.
  • Easily Forgiven: Tokio harasses Kaoru by sending her fake threatening notices, throwing rocks at her window, and even kidnapping Rilakkuma (to play video games with him). However, when they find out that Tokio is lonely because his parents are never home, they forgive him and he hangs out with them from time-to-time.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: Korilakkuma still has the button the alien gave her, proving that her visitation actually happened.
  • Festival Episode: One episode has Kaoru and friends going to a summer festival. Korilakkuma plays the balloon game; they eat festival foods like dango, takoyaki, and shaved ice; Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori even participate in the dance. This culminates in them watching the fireworks.
  • Fever Dream Episode: Rilakkuma hallucinates a musical sequence with Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori's snowmen when he contracts a fever.
  • Gentle Giant: Rilakkuma is positively huge for an animal, and almost the same size of an adult human. He's also the most passive and mild-tempered of the protagonists.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Sayu, Kaoru's co-worker, shows a lot of Brutal Honesty that can come off as tone-deaf on her part. In one episode, she is also heard telling a co-worker that she decided against inviting Kaoru to a group date because she felt Kaoru was too serious.
  • Karma: Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori try to cheer Kaoru up by creating a luau for her when she complains about wanting to go to Hawaii. Instead, Kaoru tells them that she'd rather go to Hawaii with her future boyfriend or husband. Later, the three's performance goes viral on the Internet, and they even get the opportunity to perform in Hawaii. Kaoru obviously wants to go, but the three shut her down and take Tokio instead. And to solidify the burn? They gave her macademia chocolates as a souvenir, something she complained about earlier in the episode and what she said she would have bought them.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Hayate is seen tending to an abandoned kitten.
  • Lethal Chef: Rilakkuma is seen making burnt hotcakes in Episode 1, much to Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori's chagrin.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Rilakkuma has multiple identical fursuits.
  • Lighter and Softer: Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a lot more peaceful and innocent, not to mention adorable, than many other Netflix Original anime which tend to go Darker and Edgier.
  • Mushroom Samba: Mushrooms start growing in Kaoru's home due to the rainy season, and she suggests eating them. A frog, however, comes into her house and trips out after eating them, which causes her to change her mind.
  • Neat Freak: Kiiroitori does most of the cleaning at home. In episode 8, he even takes a cleaning part-time job and is complimented for his attention to detail.
  • New Job Episode: Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori get part-time jobs in episode 8 after Kaoru complains about their expenses, especially after losing 10% of her winter bonus, spending most of her income the previous month on exercise equipment, and upon discovering she needs to save money to move out of her apartment soon.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The story takes place in the fictional city of Ogigaya, a mashup of Tokyo's suburban Ogikubo and Asagaya neighborhoods.
  • Octopoid Aliens: The alien that Korilakkuma encounters is squid-like in appearance, complete with masses of tentacles.
  • Office Lady: Kaoru is your typical worker in a small, traditional Japanese firm, who's struggling to cope with stagnant wages and a lack of career progression.
  • Origins Episode: Episode 12 recounts the time when Kaoru first meets Rilakkuma.
  • Parental Abandonment: Tokio is lonely because his mom works late and his dad is no longer around.
  • Phony Psychic: In one episode, Kaoru decides to invest in fortune-telling and even visits a psychic, who convinces her to buy prayer beads and kick out her animal friends. Later, Sayu tells her that the psychic was a scammer and that she was selling 20 yen beads for 50,000 yen.
  • Picnic Episode: In the first episode, Kaoru goes to a spring flower-viewing picnic, only to find out that none of her friends are coming. Rilakkuma and friends later invite her out for one in the evening.
  • Quitting to Get Married: Sayu, Kaoru's co-worker, later quits her job because she is getting married in June.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What form of life exactly is Rilakkuma under his fursuit?
  • Rotoscoping: Yuriko, the horror film Kaoru and friends watch, is displayed as a rotoscoped film.
  • Sick Episode: Rilakkuma gets sick in the December episode after giving his hat to a snowman.
  • Slice of Life: The episodes are generally centered around Kaoru interacting with Rilakkuma and friends outside of work, in various settings such as snowfall and the sakura season.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Kaoru, Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori spend one summer evening watching the horror film Yuriko, featuring a ghost of the same name. Later in the episode, a ghost girl visits them for real, except she isn't hostile and is just looking for emotional support to move on.
  • Supreme Chef: Kiiroitori cooks delicious hotcakes for Rilakkuma and Kaoru in Episode 12. Why he did not do the same later in Episode 1, where Rilakkuma burnt the hotcakes, is a mystery.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Kaoru's scheme to get closer to Hayate is by constantly ordering exercise equipment online, so that he will deliver them to her house and she can get to see him. Not only does their relationship not grow deeper, but Kaoru also racks up a huge credit card debt that forces the household onto a stingy budget.
  • Tagalong Kid: Tokio, a boy who lives in Kaoru's apartment complex, sometimes hangs out with Rilakkuma and friends.
  • The Voiceless: Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori are unable to speak beyond grunts, gasps and squawks respectively, but they clearly understand the humans, and also communicate through their expressions, actions and gestures. The humans even seem to understand their utterances.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one seems particularly unnerved by the fact that Kaoru has two sapient bears and a bird as pets. In fact, they are even allowed to take on jobs in Episode 8.
  • Villainous Gentrification: Played with. Kaoru is reluctant to move from her old apartment, which is going to be demolished, as she thinks it's charming and cozy. However, no one else seems to share this view, with Tokio expressing relief that he will be moving to a newer home. The critters are more upset over losing contact with Tokio.
  • Weight Woe: Episode 7 sees Kaoru and Rilakkuma considering exercising because they've gained a considerable amount of weight. They end up dieting involuntarily because Kaoru unknowingly spends her entire salary on exercise equipment just to see Hayate.