An Uneasy Feeling
Game battle with Emiri
Eiji and the jungle tour
Clown in love
Suzune’s an idol
The secret of the theme park
Strategy meeting in the dark
The last parade
When Rilakkuma and Kaoru dropped on Netflix back in 2019, it brought with it a charming and beautifully animated stop motion treat. The short chapters were easy to watch, the characters absolutely delightful and the heartwarming messages would have been enough to melt even the coldest of watchers.
It was perhaps inevitable then that the cuddly bears would be back sooner or later, and what better way to celebrate than a trip to the theme park. Or, Nakasugi Land to be precise. Split across 8 episodes, each clocking in at around 13 minutes a pop, Theme Park Adventure is precisely what it says on the tin. Rilakkuma and his friends head off for a visually stunning and highly enjoyable trip to an amusement park.
The first episode works to set the scene, with Kaoru leaving her bag on the bus and forced to stay behind. Rilakkuma heads on with Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori to try and enjoy the rides. The only trouble is, Rilakkuma is way too big to ride some of them, so he’s forced to watch from the sidelines. However, that doesn’t stop him getting into trouble and making new friends.
With a more experimental edge to the animation, including virtual reality which makes use of CGI and flashy neon lights, Rilakkuma ends up meeting some new characters who have their own subplots and stories. This is ultimately what makes this series both better and worse than its predecessor. On the one hand, there’s a much more expansive structure and more emphasis on fleshing out this world. The flipside is that there’s much more screen time dedicated to these new people instead of Rilakkuma and our usual cuddly friends, which is a bit of a disappointment.
This is certainly an ambitious project and as one may expect, animating a theme park through stop motion is a daunting and mammoth task. For the most part, the animators actually do a pretty decent job, although there are a few segments that don’t quite fire on all cylinders.
While the first season essentially worked as a snapshot of Rilakkuma and Kaoru’s life, depicting different moments and mixing that in with heartwarming messages, the second season doesn’t quite have that same depth. Instead, this is a straightforward, by-the-numbers adventure story and as such, the big message is held off until near the end.
Ultimately, Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure is an experimental and ambitious follow-up that’s full of amazing moments, and points that could be improved. The scope is certainly more expansive and extra characters are a plus, but it also lacks that same fluffy, warm, slice-of-life goodness that made the first season so good. Desspite that, this is still a highly enjoyable series but it doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders like it did back in 2019.