|Created by||Aki Kondo|
Rilakkuma (リラックマ, Rirakkuma) is a fictional character produced by the Japanese company San-X and created by Aki Kondo. After the character's launch in 2003, Rilakkuma has been featured on stationery and merchandise created by San-X, as well as several collaboration cafes. Along with picture books and comics, a stop-motion animation series titled Rilakkuma and Kaoru was broadcast in 2019.
San-X employee Aki Kondo had previously created characters such as Amagurichan and Mikanbouya. At the time, San-X ordered staff members to create one character per month. After watching a TV show about dogs at the height of the pet boom in Japan, Kondo not only wanted a pet dog, but also envied its life, as she was busy with work and hoped to relax more. This inspired her to create Rilakkuma, with its name a portmanteau of the words "relax" (リラックス, rirakkusu) and "bear" (熊, kuma) Rilakkuma was designed with a slightly sloppy posture because Kondo found it amusing, believing that it should look "cute", yet "out of place." Kondo had also designed Rilakkuma with a zipper on its back, which became one of its quirks. San-X initially found Rilakkuma too gangly and had preferred characters with small hands.
Rilakkuma was launched in 2003 and first seen in San-X's four-panel comic series titled Rilakkuma Seikatsu. In Rilakkuma Seikatsu, which describes its origin story, it appears one day in the apartment of a female office worker named Kaoru, who only appears as a silhouette. Rilakkuma spends every day relaxing. The zipper on its back reveals that his appearance is a costume, and its true form is unknown. It is accompanied by other creatures in the series, who also have their own character lines.
Korilakkuma (コリラックマ) is a white bear introduced in Rilakkuma Seikatsu in 2003. Like Rilakkuma, it appeared in Kaoru's apartment one day and was named by Kiiroitori. It has a red button on its chest and does not appear to be a real bear. It has a mischievous personality and loves pranks.
Chairoikoguma (チャイロイコグマ) is a brown honey bear introduced in 2016. Korilakkuma finds it one day in the forest and befriends it, bringing it to meet Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori. Chairoikoguma has defined fangs when its mouth is opened, as well as bear-shaped honey patches on its feet and rear. Its friend is Kumanbachi, a honey bee.
Marketing and distribution
In September 2017, Aliquantum International became the exclusive distributor of San-X products in North America. In partnership with Aliquantum International, San-X opened its first temporary pop-up Rilakkuma shop in Florida, USA. In September 2018, a second pop-up shop opened at the New York City's Times Square.
A stop motion animated series called Rilakkuma and Kaoru began streaming on Netflix on April 19, 2019. The series was made at Dwarf Studio. It is directed by Masahito Kobayashi and written by Naoko Ogigami, with Mikako Tabe voicing Kaoru in Japanese and Lana Condor voicing Kaoru in English. On October 2020, it was announced another stop-motion series Rilakkuma's Theme Park Adventure will be released on Netflix.
Initial sales for the Rilakkuma product line were low but slowly picked up popularity in 2004, with Rilakkuma breaking the stereotype of cute characters needing to be energetic. In May 2010, Rilakkuma ranked as the fifth most popular character in Japan in a survey of the Character Databank. As of March 2020[update], character merchandise has generated a total of $10 billion in retail sales revenue across Asia.
- Rilakkuma Seikatsu - Daradara Mainichi no Susume (Aki Kondo, March 2004)
- Dararan Biyori - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 2 (Aki Kondo, November 2004)
- Tori Dayori - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 3 (Aki Kondo, May 2005)
- Kuma Goyomi - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 4 (Aki Kondo, September 2006)
- Utatane Kibun - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 5 (Aki Kondo, September 2007)
- Bonyari Kinenbi - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 6 (Aki Kondo, August 2008)
- Yanwari Jozu - Rilakkuma Seikatsu 7 (Aki Kondou, October 2010)
- Rilakkuma Daradara Seal Book (Aki Kondo, November 2004)
- Rilakkuma Dara Pika Seal Book (Aki Kondo, May 2005)
- Rilakkuma Gorogoro Seal Book (Aki Kondo, September 2006)
- Rilakkuma Howa Pika Seal Book (Aki Kondo, September 2007)
- Rilakkuma Nohohon Seal Book (Aki Kondo, August 2008)
- Rilakkuma Daradara Seal Book (Aki Kondo, August 2017)
- Rilakkuma na Mainichi (Rocket Company, Game Boy Advance, April 2005)
- Rilakkuma ~ojamashitemasu 2 Shuukan~ (Interchannel, PlayStation 2, September 2005)
- Watashi no Rilakkuma (Rocket Company, Nintendo DS, April 2007)
- Chokkan Asonde Rilakkuma (Smilesoft, Nintendo DS, September 2008)
- Rilakkuma Minna de Goyururi Seikatsu (MTO, Nintendo Wii, March 2009)
- Norinori Rilakkuma Hit Song Ongaku (Smilesoft, Nintendo DS, December 2010)
- LINE Rilakkuma Loop (LINE), (Android, iOS 2016)
- Rilakkuma Farm (Imagineer, Android, iOS 2019)
- Rilakkuma at Home (Nintendo Switch 2020)
- St. Michel, Patrick (2019-04-18). "Bear essentials: Rilakkuma's adorable stop-motion debut". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- 子どものインタビュー一覧 コンドウアキ. Yahoo! Japan (in Japanese). 2006-11-11. Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- リラックマのこと。. San-X (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2015-10-28. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- Ohanesian, Liz (2010-08-17). "Cute Japanese character Rilakkuma hits Los Angeles with parties at Japan LA, Umami Burger". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- Pineda, Rafael Antonio (2019-04-16). "Rilakkuma and Kaoru Stop-Motion Anime's Special Video Reveals 'Costume'". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- "San-Xネット リラックマ「コリラックマと新しいお友達」テーマ". San-X (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- リラックマがクリスマスツリーに!? リラックマ「森のクリスマスツリーソファぬいぐるみ」サンエックスネットショップ限定受注販売スタート. PR Times (in Japanese). 2016-08-26. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- Savov, Vlad (2009-07-13). "Bandai Rilakkuma netbook suffers from serious supercuteitis". Engadget. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- "リラックマ × TOWER RECORDS CAFE". Tower Records (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- Ogasawara, Haruka (2019-03-06). リラックマバーガーが可愛すぎる。「ジェラート ピケ カフェ」がコラボした理由は？. Huffington Post (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- Gurbal Kritzer, Ashley (2017-09-26). "Japanese retailer known for its 'stress-free' bear will open first U.S. store in suburban Tampa". Bizjournals. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- "Rilakkuma Pop-up". Times Square. 2018-09-14. Archived from the original on 2018-09-17.
- "Rilakkuma to Kaoru-san Stop-Motion Anime's Promo, Visual Revealed". Anime News Network. May 22, 2018.
- "Rilakkuma and Kaoru Stop-Motion Anime Unveils Cast, Trailer, April 19 Debut". Anime News Network. November 26, 2018.
- Tabuchi, Hiroko (2019-05-14). "In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Gets Closer to Goodbye". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
- "Blanc Cerise Inks Deal with Rilakkuma". License Global. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2021.