BY JOHN CARTER JR
Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a slice of life stop motion animated series which recently appeared on Netflix. It is simply cute, heartwarming, and refreshing in terms of the messages it’s individual episodes convey. Moreover, the overall message that the show sends to individuals is one of self-love and peace. The cast includes a group of adorable characters with vivid expressions which is seen through the nearly seamless animation. The characters include Rilakkuma (the brown bear), Kaoru (the woman), Korilakkuma (the white bear), Kiiroitori (a little chicken), and Tokio (the little boy).
The plot of the story is summarized simply: Kaoru is a working-class woman trying to maintain her independence from her family but the everyday struggles of her life sometimes cause an imbalance that she attempts to address.
The show covers many complex themes in a simplistic and easy to swallow manner. The show isn’t melodramatic and does not make an attempt to be super edgy when it comes to the expressions of these life lessons. A major theme the show continues to teach throughout its episodes, and maybe the central topic of this season is that according to Kaoru everything in life changes or nothing stays the same. This lesson is especially apparent in the episode “Snowman,” when winter comes and the cast is saddened by the fact that their apartment building is going to be torn down.
The episode addresses that eventually Tokio will have to grow up, Kaoru will get old, the Bears and Kiiroitori will change in their own way as well, and that as friends they may have to separate. This is driven home with the Snowman sequence, where Rilakkuma is crying after realizing that his snowman dance partners would melt as the seasons change. The show has a consistent continuity in terms of its understanding of time and the passing of seasons. This is shown through each episode slowly moving across the scale from Summer to Winter (and everything in between).
This is what this show does excellently. Not only in its aesthetic does it represent the lessons that it is trying to teach but it also does so in its character design and their philosophies without seeming synthetic. Although I slightly disagree with the concept that Kaoru comes up with concerning things changing, it is well expressed in the show that things change and stay the same equally. It is a beautiful sentiment that the show executes very well.
If the voice of Tokio sounds familiar, it is because the character is portrayed by an actress who played another (rather famous/popular) adolescent protagonist: Veronica Taylor, who portrayed Ash Ketchum in the first 8 seasons of Pokemon the anime. It seems that her voice was simply made to perform roles like these, and the excellent performance of her character in this project is an example of her talent. Lana Condor performs as Kaoru and does a proficient job at portraying a character who is different from her in terms of age. Her performance also does Kaoru’s personality quirks justice in execution.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a show that expresses life lessons, these don’t have to be force-fed like a lot of the modern sitcoms that are on many different platforms. It takes the approach of a literal passing of time in terms of its continuity, this is made apparent through the seasons changing both in the aesthetic of the world design and in literal dialogue. This works to its benefit. The show uses these changes in time to deliver its life lessons (as one of the major ideas conveyed is that nothing stays the same, yet they can also stay the same simultaneously in different ways). The show does have areas to improve on, however, but it is the first season and it has a very bright future.
I give this show 8 out of 10 cute stuffed bears for its excellent concepts, the way in which they’re expressed, and the adorableness of the show overall.