Rilakkuma and Kaoru

    Rilakkuma and Kaoru is probably the sweetest yet most crushingly realistic stop-motion animated series you'll ever see. It focuses on a typical office worker named Kaoru, who happens to live with Rilakkuma (a lazy stuffed bear), Korilakkuma (Rilakkuma's best friend and a smaller bear), and Kiiroitori (the best character, I mean, a bird).

    With such short episodes, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is easy to watch and learn from in bite-sized sittings. It's a nice addition for users already watching or reading other manga like Yotsuba&! or Polar Bear Cafe.

    Each episode is only about twelve minutes long and takes place in one month of a year, for a total of thirteen episodes. Most of the show covers mundane situations with surreal elements sprinkled in. A woman lives with what appear to be three stuffed animals who move around and communicate on their own… so what's a couple of mushrooms or a ghost on top of that?

    The language is simple at times, but each episode has a few trickier sections in which the protagonist (or antagonist) speaks quite quickly. You'll also meet a few different character types—fast-talking kids, weird bosses, lazy ladies—who all speak differently, to help you sharpen your listening skills.

    With such short episodes, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is easy to watch and learn from in bite-sized sittings. It's a nice addition for users already watching or reading other manga like Yotsuba&! or Polar Bear Cafe. Thanks to Netflix, the show also has Japanese and English subtitles to help with your listening comprehension. If you're looking for something depressing yet uplifting, slice-of-life yet surreal, and beautifully crafted, put Rilakkuma and Kaoru on your study list.

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