The cute character was first created for a 4 panel comic strip in 2003 by Aki Kondo under the San-X corporation, a Japanese stationery company. This issue of Rilakkuma Seikatsu covered his origin story. One day, the “costume” appears in a womans, Kaoru’s, apartment, making his residence there. Rilakkuma spends every day relaxing. He is often depicted lounging, eating, listening to music, and everything else unproductive. His name even translates to, “Bear in a relaxed mood”. While he looks like a regular stuffed teddy bear, the zipper on the back reveals that his appearance is a costume, and its true form is unknown. He is also depicted in a multitude of outfits. He has been seen and can be purchased in any outfit imaginable, canonically a genderless icon. He is joined by Kiiroitori, and Korilakkuma. Korilakkuma is a little white bear, no one knows where he came from. Kiiroitori is a mischievous little chicken that the woman already had as a pet before either of the bears appeared.
Rilakkuma, Kiiroitori, and Korilakkuma have all been on products such as, stationary products, books, video games, themed stores and cafes in Japan, tv shows, and countless other merchandise. The brand has been on more than 16,000 products and by the end of 2016, had a revenue of almost two billion USD. Their biggest adaptations yet have been the stop-motion Netflix shows, Rilakkuma and Karou, & Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure.
In April of 2019, Netflix premiered Rilakkuma and Karou, a stop motion series created by San-X and Dwarf Studio.In the show we see Karou have real life struggles such as making ends meet while providing for a family, workplace struggles, homeless ,and loneliness with a super cute artstyle, chill and calming vibe, all under an adult-coded, bittersweet tone. The show shows the realities and how depressing adult life can be.This series had 8 episodes of 12 minutes. Three years later, the second series premiered, Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure. With the same characters plus a few additions, this season brings you the same cuteness as the first series with a different tone.
Since its inception, the characters have turned into cult favorites and have gained a large fanbase, both international and domestic. The characters have become icons in Kawaii Culture, the culture of cuteness in Japan.