Japan is not falling short of cute characters. There are characters almost everywhere you turn from prefecture mascots to cute cafes.
You may have heard about the reigning champions of kawaii characters San-x from Netflix’s popular stop-motion animation, Rilakkuma, and Kaoru. With the outstanding reviews from fans all over the world, the animation has a whopping 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.6/10 on IMDB. There is no denying that Rilakkuma and gang are San-X’s most recognizable characters. However, there are lots of other adorable personalities that you may not know.
That’s why we are here today to rank the most popular San-X characters in Japan, and possibly introduce you to your new favorite kawaii character.
7. Monokuro Boo
There’s nothing better than simplicity. Monokuro Boo are black and white square-shaped pigs released by San-X in around 2005. The two pigs are often with a small bee buzzing around them.
The creator wanted to release something fun and different from the typical colorful kawaii characters. By introducing a black, white, and gray palette, it went against what was cute at the time. The name “Monokuro Boo” is a derivation of the words monochrome and “boo” (the Japanese equivalent to “oink”).
Despite Monokuro Boo’s spin-on the traditional kawaii culture, San-X also released a line called Baby Boo which featured smaller pastel piglets. Like Monokuro Boo they also have a bee hovering around them, but this one looks like a strawberry. Are you a fan of the black and white or the pastel style?
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Meet this adorable lazy panda created by the fantastic Japanese designer Hikaru Suemasa as she was always feeling exhausted. San-X first introduced Tarepanda in 1995 as stickers. Due to the popularity, San-X later released erasers and letter pads that yet again proved to be an enormous hit.
By 1999, Tare-panda goods had reached 30 billion yen, and it was one of the most popular characters at that time. After all, who couldn’t fall in love with a lazy character that moves by rolling?
5. Kutusita Nyanko
Kutusita Nyanko is an intelligent cat wearing white socks. Kutusita Nyanko lives with a human who he calls “Papa,” who works very hard to provide the best treats and toys for his cats. Kutusita Nyanko is also drawn with musical notes around him because he can’t get enough of classical music. His favorite instruments are the violin and piano.
You may also see this lovable cat with his fellow friends and roommates Burme, Norwecci, and Russie. Norwecci is Kutusita Nyanko’s pet kitty which he brought home one day and now lives with him, Burme, and Papa. Outside of the house, Kutusita Nyanko often plays with his excellent friend Russie, a gray kitty who lives with a Papa’s friend.
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4. Sentimental Circus
Sentimental Circus used to be San-X’s second most popular character after Rilakkuma, but things have changed in recent years with the growth of Sumikko Gurashi and Mamegoma. The Sentimental Circus animals are abandoned toys that gather every night from the place they were left to performs acts or circus tricks together.
The Sentimental Circus crew is built up of several different characters. The main character, Rabbit Shappo, is an innocent-looking white bunny wearing a mismatch pink onesie called Rabbit Shappo. Shappo is the ringmaster of the circus and is often seen wearing a fancy top hat with needles, threads, and magic props hidden inside. As you can see by his adorable onesie, he is excellent at patchwork and loves dressing well.
On the right side to Rabbit Shappo is the easygoing elephant Mouton that shines whenever the curtain goes up. He loves balancing balls and performing his unique acrobatics act. Sat in front of Mouton is Lion Rio who can’t get enough of jumping through a hoop and showing the audience his skills. Perched to the left of him is Mr. Bear, a cycling performer who is always running about energetically.
The other members of Sentimental Circus include Kuro, a black cat who performs the rolling globe. And Shappo’s closest friend Toto a sensitive white dog with a pink nose who performs an impressive juggling act.
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Mamegoma is a collection of seal characters in a variety of colors created by San-X. “Mame” means bean in Japanese, and is often used to refer to small versions of things. “Goma” is an abbreviation of gomafuazarashi which means spotted seal in Japanese. The Mamegoma seals may not look particularly small in size, but they are often illustrated as being around 12cm and live a goldfish bowl.
They are also seen resting on hamster wheels and participating in other activities such as surfing and eating your favorite foods. Mamegoma also released its anime in Japan in 2019 called Kupu!! Mamegoma where you follow the main white seal “mameta” around with his friends. Mamegoma has also published four Nintendo DS games, and two 3DS games.
Although the fandom for Mamegoma has slowly started to decline, San-X still produces numerous Mamegoma products from stickers, stationery, and plushies. Which color Mamegoma is your favorite?
2. Sumikko Gurashi
Sumikko Gurashi is a set of characters produced by San-X, and created by Yuri Yokomizo in 2012. The characters were based on notebook doodles Yokomizo drew when she was a student. All Sumikko Gurashi characters feel relaxed when they are near the corner of the room.
The main Sumikko Gurashi characters all have slightly negative personalities and often feel anxious, which makes them stand out from earlier kawaii characters. The main shy polar bear named Shirokuma ran away from the North because he hates the cold. Shirokuma feels most relaxed when he is sitting in the corner, drinking a delicious hot tea. He also loves soaking in hot springs and wants to travel South to reach the warm seas.
Penguin is a green penguin who loves everything green from cucumbers to Japan’s mythical creature the Kappa. Tonkatsu is a slice of fried pork cutlet that consists of 1% meat and 99% fat. Neko is a timid chubby cat who can’t get enough of cat grass, cat food, and rice balls. Tokage is a dinosaur that pretends to be a lizard to ensure he doesn’t get captured. Those are the main characters called Sumikko, but there are sub-characters called Minniko, who also make an appearance now and then.
Sumiko Gurashi is quickly climbing the rankings of the Japanese character popularity charts and was voted as the fifth most popular in 2018. Due to the popularity, San-X has announced that for the 7th anniversary in 2019 they will release an anime movie produced by Studio Fanworks.
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We’re sure you have heard about this brown bear called Rilakkuma with his buddies Korilakkuma a white bear, and yellow bird Kiroitori. After the characters launch in 2003, they have been featured on everything from stationery to kitchen appliances. Rilakkuma has also released magazines, comic books, and an animation series created for Netflix.
Rilakkuma is a portmanteau of the words “relax” and “bear” and is often seen looking cute lying on the floor eating pancakes. Kiiroitori, on the other hand, takes care of both of the bears and tries to stop Korilakkuma from pulling too many pranks. In 2016, a new character called Chairoikoguma was introduced to the series. Chairokoguma was found my Korilakkuma in the forest and brought him home to meet Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori.
This lazy bear broke through the stereotype of kawaii characters needing to be energetic, which has lead to a new era of characters. Rilakkuma has collaborated with multiple brands and even opened its first temporary pop-up store in the US in 2017.
So that’s our Top 7 San-X Characters. Did your favorite make the list? Let us know which kawaii character you can’t get enough of on our social networks below.
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