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Netflix to Premiere Japanese Animated Series Featuring Toy Bear Rilakkuma

Variety logo Variety 7/12/2017 Variety Japan
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Netflix is set to premiere an original animated series based on Rilakkuma, an extremely popular Japanese toy-bear character in the vein of Hello Kitty.

The show is set to debut next year to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Rilakkuma’s debut and will be released simultaneously across 190 territories.

Rilakkuma was launched in 2003 by Japanese company San-X, which specializes in character creation. Known as a “kawaii” character, meaning a cutesy cartoon-type figure, Rilakkuma soon drew a large following, mainly among adult women. The toy bear has spawned 16,000 commercial products and almost 250 licensing contracts. The Rilakkuma market is estimated to be worth 250 billion yen ($2.2 billion) and is probably second only to Hello Kitty in the kawaii world.

Dwarf, the studio that created the NHK character Domo and the stop-motion movie “Komaneko: The Curious Cat,” will produce the animated Rilakkuma series for Netflix. The series will consist of 13 episodes of 11 minutes each. The creative crew has not been announced yet, nor an exact release date.

Up to now, original Japanese animation on Netflix has tended to focus on sci-fi or niche titles for core animation fans, but with Rilakkuma the streaming giant appears to be targeting the family and kids market.

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