"It can take a while to wrap your head around the concept of “character goods” in Japan. It’s a term used to refer to licensed merchandise such as notebooks, stickers and figures featuring the likenesses of fictional characters. What sets character good apart from plain old cartoon or movie merchandising, however, is that its characters generally don’t appear anywhere else, and are created solely for the purpose of having an excuse to produce their associated knick knacks.
It’s a tradition that was firmly established by Hello Kitty, and carried on by newer characters such as Rilakkuma. A blending of the words “relax” and “kuma” (Japanese for “bear”), Rilakkuma is exactly what you’d expect, a bear who loafs around, usually depicted in the prone position.
But what if the world had greater things in store for Rilakkuma than just yawning and eating stack after stack of pancakes? If humanity needed a savior and destiny called, could he be bothered to pick up the phone?
One of this spring’s biggest anime hits was Attack on Titan, based on the comic of the same name. The story follows a group of plucky kids who make up the Recon Corps, an organization tasked with defending their town’s citizens from the horde of grotesque giants that wants to eat them.
It seems Rilakkuma caught the show on one of the many days he spends chilling at home watching TV. Apparently it struck a chord with him to make something of himself, as shown in this photo taken at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, the West Coast’s largest Japanese animation convention.
Japanese Internet commentators pointed out how Rilakkuma’s equipment completely changes his vibe. His constant blank stare usually just makes him look lazy or uninterested, but give him a pair of edged weapons, and that same look is transformed into the steely gaze of a battle-hardened veteran. “You can immediately tell that he’s already had to put his life on the line countless times as a member of the Recon Corps,” one noted. The effect was only heightened by the bear’s stony silence, as he uttered not even a single word.
This career change probably spells fewer afternoon naps for Rilakkuma, but I know I’ll sleep better knowing he’s protecting my hometown from monsters."