Netflix continues to expand its original animated offerings. While several video game adaptations and interactive children’s stories have been announced recently, the big red streaming giant just announced what should be a welcome addition for a small subset of subscribers: an original animated series based on Rilakkuma, the Hello-Kitty-esque bear whose name translates (in a way) to “relax bear.”
Rilakkuma was created by Sanrio competitor San-X, a merchandising company behind many similar dead-eyed-but-adorable animated creatures popular throughout the world, particularly in Asia. Rilakkuma first appeared in series of children’s books called Rilakkuma Seikatsu, but soon become a worldwide pop culture icon beloved mostly by adult Japanese women, and now appears on various merchandise ranging from school supplies to dishware to underwear. Nintendo has six licensed Rilakkuma games for their various handheld gaming consoles, and Bandai even has a line of Rilakkuma-emblazoned laptops for sale in Japan. It has been estimated that the market for Rilakkuma merchandise is worth somewhere around 250 billion yen ($2.2 billion USD), trailing only behind the massive Hello Kitty brand empire. The Japanese love their kawaii characters.
In the various Rilakkuma media, the cuddly bear lives with a woman who works in an undisclosed soul-crushing office job and lives mostly to provide her much-needed comfort and companionship when she returns home each evening. Rilakkuma is usually joined by his fellow bear pal Korilakkuma, a smaller, white teddy bear.
Details about Netflix’s upcoming adaptation are still scarce, but the release will consist of 13 episodes of 11 bear-filled minutes each. Japanese animation studio Dwarf will produce the series, but neither a cast nor crew for the series have been announced. Netflix’s new adaptation will be released in 2018 to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Rilakkuma’s debut and will be available for streaming simultaneously in each of the 190 countries where Netflix can be found.