So, Why Can't Hello Kitty Rejoin Our Rilakkuma Kigurumi Lineup?

Aside from Pokémon, you may have noticed that one of our longest running (still available in good varieties today) licensed character lineups involves Rilakkuma and gang.

Through the time that other licensed characters popped in and out of the store, there was always one constant question related to them that gets asked:

"Why won't you bring back other Sanrio characters in the same lineup as Rilakkuma?"

Well, for one thing, character-based licenses can be quite tricky to get. Besides, they're not actually from the same brand. 


Thirty Years, Before and After...

The Sumikkogurashi, another 'corner' stone character series of San-X

Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma are both characters from San-X, a Japanese stationery company. So yeah, first and foremost, San-X and Sanrio are not related to each other. Most San-X characters feature cute-fied anthropomorphic animals, although a few inanimate things such as vegetables and home appliances are also mixed in.

As hinted by the subtitle, San-X goes all the way back to 1932. However, it went under the initial name Chida Handler. It did not gain its official name today until 1973. In fact, it did not even gain its current identity today (with its colorful cast of characters) up until the very late 20th century.

Yup, all three of them on our store. Wait a minute...

Rilakkuma, probably the biggest and most popular character of San-X (and of course, the kigurumi theme we have in our lineup), did not even exist until 2003, when Aki Kondo designed the character for the company. Up until that point, Tarepanda, which first appeared in 1995, acted as a mascot and a sort of representative-ish figure of the company.

Never goes out of style, ever.

Sanrio, on the other hand, was founded in 1960 under its original name and business, the Yamanashi Silk Company. It eventually changed to the current name later in 1973(?) after focusing more on its strategy of designing small cute characters on standard merchandise. Hello Kitty, which is probably the company's most identifiable character, then came only one year after its official establishment, in 1974.

So in an ironic and confusing twist, we have:

  • two separate companies with almost similar themes of using cute, but deformed anthropomorphic characters
  • two separate companies that established their known names today in the same year (1973)
  • two separate mascot characters created three decades away from each other (1974/2003), with the company foundation dates also three decades away from each other (1932/1960)

As such, it is not surprising why San-X and Sanrio are often mistaken to be affiliate companies, or at least somewhat related to each other. Doesn't help that when you Google search either of them, image suggestions would usually also include one or the other party, adding further to the false connection.

For our part here in this blog/website though, there is actually another element to this weird confusion...


Yet Another Cuddly Confusion

Perhaps even more egregious than mere coincidences and thematic similarities, the root of all of this confusion lies... in the existence of our Gudetama kigurumi! Yes folks, for those who are not familar at the other side, this is not a San-X character, but a Sanrio one!

Getting a sunny-side up has never been this contradictory.

Looking at Gudetama's original design, it is quite obvious that it is designed after a cooked egg. Its name is essentially the portmanteau of the Japanese words gudegude (indicating laziness/sluggish action) and tama (egg).

gudetama kigurumi

However, this theme kind of gets muddled when Gudetama's eggshell version is translated into a kigurumi. Those unfamiliar with its name and design would most likely instead associate the kigurumi version with a duck, who presumably (based on appearance) still carries the egg it hatched out of.

Right image: Before. Left image: After.

Worse yet, the overwhelmingly orange color scheme of the Gudetama kigurumi (as opposed to mostly white) meant that it is possible to confuse it with Kiiroitori, (lit. yellow bird) the signature avian resident of San-X.

Well okay, the distinction is blatantly obvious to those who know the characters. But for those who only have a passing familiarity to their general designs, the difference would never be totally apparent (on the kigurumi version) until directly compared with each other.


Possible Future Sanrio Revivals After All?

So there you have it. San-X and Sanrio are two completely separate companies that, while having the same theme, owns very different lineups of signature/mascot characters. In our lineup, San-X represents Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma, while Sanrio (at the moment) represents Gudetama.

Rilakkuma kigurumi

As for whether or not Hello Kitty, Keroppi, and the others will return in our store, who knows? Might not be a cause to get your hopes up, but other Sanrio characters might be given the kigurumi spotlight in the near future.

You just never know.