In our last few kigurumi analysis blogs, we have come to realize that there is actually a commonality trend, a line to which one or two types of kigurumi can consistently appear, regardless of an anime's genre or disposition towards kigurumi themselves.
Bear and cat kigurumi for instance, can have multiple iterations over different Japanese animated media. They could even appear in multiple instances within the same series, provided that there is still ample context for their seemingly random cameos.
While these appearances are always fun to see, this unfortunately leaves us with some of the other lesser known, but equally interesting kigurumi having so much lesser opportunities to see the anime limelight. Even more ironic, is that some of these are actually quite common in real-life, and that the likelihood of these appearing should have been no more different than any of the ones that seem to get cameos over and over.
Anyway, we could discuss a lot of them at length. But we shall primarily discuss my personal top five kigurumi that are relatively common in real-life, and yet don't really appear as much as they should in anime.
1. Panda Kigurumi
How in blazes can bear kigurumi appear way too often, when it is usually the other way around for panda kigurumi?! Well, I guess not as much. But in my personal experience at least, the adorable white and black color scheme of pandas make them a staple choice as this not-too-subtle pajama onesie getup, as opposed to the instantly recognizable all-black or all-brown design scheme (polar bear kigurumi excluded!) of typical bear kigurumi.
To be fair, panda kigurumi at least appeared in quite a number of anime titles (yep, more than three), with at least one even becoming the signature visual aesthetic of a particular personality-shifted lil' sis. But it pales in comparison to its alternate visual representative, which probably had most of its ideas already exhausted, and are even starting to delve into fictional licensed territory.
So, here's to hoping that panda kigurumi get even more appearances in the future (more than the number that are supposed to be frequently teased by other series please). That would definitely be one hell of an animal motif to keep exploring alternative designs with.
2. Raccoon(?) Kigurumi
Here's another kindred creature that also shares the same burden of its kigurumi version being not-so-popular in the anime realm. Raccoon kigurumi are not essentially part of any staple theme lineup, but they have been around since the earliest days of kigurumi onesies as we are familiar with today.
Okay, wait a second, I have to admit that I always imagined the tanuki (raccoon dog) to be a direct analog of the actual raccoon (collectively called araiguma along with badgers in Japan) despite having completely different genetic origins. But regardless, both raccoons and raccoon dogs are still culturally similar to humans, very well known as the animal incarnation of mischief. Both raccoon and raccoon dogs are quite popular as folklore reference pieces in many, many anime media.
Thus, you would naturally expect that in some form or fashion, a raccoon themed kigurumi would surface every now and then whenever appropriate. Well, there's almost none of those around. So far there is only one series that actively made it into a central topic, and another making it into some kind of character-quirky cameo.
Most disappointingly perhaps, is that recent references to the cultural significance of the tanuki in these raccoon-kigurumi cameos are too generalized, with the real-world quirks of the araiguma being practically non-existent.
Ah well, there goes the legacy and foundation of that historical and legendary raccoon kigurumi of 1988.
3. Bat Kigurumi
Image Credit by ちゅり via Twitter
Now we come to the somewhat weird outlier of the anime kigurumi gang. Bat kigurumi is definitely within the less usual side of the real-life kigurumi range, but they are still quite common enough that you'd see enough variations of them regularly, either in the west or east. Color scheme is of course pure black, but you'd see splashes of either purple or red occasionally depending on the aforementioned variations.
Part of the charm of bat kigurumi is probably due to basic design. The unique bird-but-not-actually-bird configuration of its looks most definitely helped sparkle the interest of appreciating enthusiasts. Because it is definitely not on every occasion that you can get a winged kigurumi that is NOT in any way a type of avian creature.
This makes me really sad that bat kigurumi hasn't become that much more prevalent in anime media. Though at least, this one is quite understandable. As "common" as bats are compared to more whimsical or licensed creatures, the context to where they could be directly worn by a character is pretty limited in fictional settings.
In the one single case that we had, it was Halloween, and thus the bat motif simply came about quite naturally. Incidentally, this is also where the wolf and pumpkin kigurumi appeared, also appropriate byproducts of the setting's occasion despite being themselves supposedly quite common.
4. Shark Kigurumi
Thematically, shark kigurumi is kind of an oddball despite being a regular one due to sea-creature based design mechanics. Despite having the same fundamental structure as humans (fellow vertebrates), anatomical representation is almost never completely perfectly replicated with its kigurumi onesie. I mean, you got the signature jaws and everything on the hood. But it's not like you're going on a complete 1:1 with the appendages and other "key " components as easily as, let's say, a dog kigurumi.
From this limited perspective, we can somewhat understand if Japanese animation studios didn't really consider putting some confusingly configured sea-creature based kigurumi first, instead of the usual four-limb cutesy land mammal-themed ones.
Hmm, but that didn't stop shark kigurumi from being featured in a few anime series right? And those did not just appear in the stick-in-a-tube fish kigurumi style. The overall design is exactly the one we are accustomed to, even if the hood configuration may look somewhat odd.
Is it context? Is it context yet again? Unlike bat kigurumi, though, there isn't really any specific occasion (not location) where shark kigurumi would be thought of as a natural, first-rate choice...
5. Tiger Kigurumi
Wait, wait, wait. Tiger kigurumi don't appear that often in anime? You really thought such an animal theme staple would be an anime regular eh.
To be fair, they do actually appear with somewhat typical regularity, at least as much as dog or sheep kigurumi does. The variety is also what you would expect, I mean even the yellow hues in some of these series match our very own tiger kigurumi.
But as the last entry in this blog, I really wish that they would appear even more than they already have. I had the expectation that tiger kigurumi should have the potential to be as prevalent as... let's say bear kigurumi, or even their animal family relatives, the freaking universal cat kigurumi!
And this is more than just my personal preference. Tigers have a distinct design that is generally agreed as a good combination of cool (terrifying?) and cute. A lot of characters in anime can typically embody the (human-assumed) cultural characteristics of tigers. And lastly, tiger kigurumi can easily fit into the particular "wild animal" pack, where at least one series we already explored actually used this fact to its complete advantage.
Besides, that yellow body with the signature black markings can be seen from a mile away, and will never, ever be mistaken for something else.
So please animators, I know I already had my fill. But I really think tiger kigurumi has the potential to be as universal as cat kigurumi, if only it is given the opportunity to digitally flourish.