That’s right, Japan’s ultra-cute “relaxing bear” isn’t a bear.

Japan has no shortage of cute characters, but few can match the cuteness of Rilakkuma. With a name that’s a mashup of the Japanese words for “relax” and “bear,” (rirakkusu and kuma), Rilakkuma always brings a smile to our faces with his slow-paced, un-bear-ably adorable lifestyle.

But maybe we shouldn’t have made that pun. Not because they’re a low form of humor (we live in Japan, after all, a country that can’t get enough puns), but because Rilakkuma isn’t actually a bear at all!

Netflix is about to start streaming a new stop-motion animation series called Rilakkuma and Kaoru, which shows a year in the life of Tokyo office worker Kaoru and her new roommates, Rilakkuma and his half-size sidekick Korilakkuma. A full-length trailer was released a month ago, but with the series set to debut this Friday, Netflix has added a new teaser which reminds us that when we’re looking at Rilakkuma, we’re not looking at a bear, but instead a kigurumi, or full-suit costume.

The teaser starts with “Look at this kigurumi, called Rilakkuma,” which is immediately followed by the narrator explaining “Rilakkuma is, actually, a kigurumi.” “It’s washable,” the narration goes on to inform us, “and there are many spares to change into.”

We’re also treated to the surreal scene of Rilakkuma getting undressed, though while still hidden underneath his bedsheets.

This isn’t a character detail that was added for the Netflix adaptation either. While Rilakkuma these days primarily exists to sell toys, trinkets, and other character-based merchandise, in the beginning he was the star of a series of picture books, and his kigurumi status was established back then, as was the zipper on his back.

▼ The back zipper was even present on the Rilakkuma custard pastry we ate last month.

But with Rilakkuma set to leisurely stroll back into the spotlight for his Netflix series, and said series making sure to remind us that he’s not just a bear or stuffed animal, it’s time to once again ponder some important questions.

1. Who, or what, is wearing the Rilakkuma costume?
2. If it’s an animal, is it a bear?
3. If it’s a bear, why is it essentially wearing a costume of itself?
4. If it’s a person, why does he never speak?
5. Is the “machine washable” feature of the costume important because the person inside doesn’t wear underwear?
6. If it’s just a costume, how can Rilakkuma’s facial expressions change?
7. Wait, when Netlfix says “Rilakkuma is a kigurumi,” does that mean that Rilakkuma is the kigurumi itself, a sentient skin wrapped over another living organism?
8. Would that mean that the spare Rilakkuma kigurumi shown in Kaoru’s closet are actually Rilakkuma’s clones?
9. Are we thinking about this way too seriously?

Unfortunately, while the teaser’s music turns ominous as the narrator says “No one knows the mystery of what’s inside Rilakkuma,” it’s unlikely that Rilakkuma and Kaoru is going to provide any hard answers to our questions (though Number 9’s is almost certainly “Yes”), judging from the soothingly listless feel of the full-length trailer.

So maybe the best thing to do is take a page from Rilakkuma’s book, and just not worry about it, or anything for that matter.

Rilakkuma pastry photo ©SoraNews24
All other images: YouTube/Netflix Japan
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he thinks bears have the right idea with this whole ‘eat a bunch of salmon and sleep all winter’ strategy.

[ Read in Japanese ]