Rilakkuma’s Planetarium

Rilakkuma’s Planetarium

SAN-X Co. Ltd. / Dwarf / GOTO Inc.

Film review by Monika Staesche, Berlin

This Japanese Fulldome show is, in some respects, unusual for the “Western” viewer and this is already apparent in its title – until you find out that “Rilakkuma” is a fictional character invented in 2003 by the Japanese company San-X, producer of much merchandise. This merchandise is perhaps best compared, in this country, with such figures as “Hello kitty”, “Lilifee” or, in earlier times, Monchhichi, which is also of Japanese origin. In the name “Rilakkuma” the words “bear” and “relaxed” are combined – and the latter can also be used to describe this Planetarium show.

First of all one notices the calm pace of the narrative and the character of the show. The quietly rippling, simple background music and the quiet voice narrative with simple, in part, almost poetic formulations do the rest. However, this does not mean that no content is conveyed in the show, on the contrary: some of the topics which are dealt with, make the target age level of this show extremely difficult to pin down, especially in light of the constant “floating” across the dome of the very simple and rather childishly designed figures of Rilakkuma and his two friends Korilakkuma (a white Bear) and Kiiroitori (a yellow bird). It should also be noted that the purpose of the figures is not necessarily apparent to the viewer. They are neither explained nor do they take a truly active role in any action. They are not even mentioned or presented by name – probably because they are well known enough in Japan so that this is not necessary. They simply float through the picture in a playful way – across the sky, in the space between planets, stars and comets. They rarely interact with each other or with the celestial objects.

Rather, they do it in a gentle, unobtrusive way, which is also unlikely to disturb at least smaller children.

I would categorize the show as a children’s or maybe a family show – with, as already indicated, a difficult target age recommendation. Despite the “childlike” companion characters of Rilakkuma and his friends, the content is quite demanding and above all unusual. I have not seen a Planetarium show – especially for children! – where one of the first topics addresses the different brightnesses of stars and, above all, the subsequent categorization addressing magnitude! It is explained simply, but the simplification of such a “technical” term as stellar magnitude one will not find.

Also the introduction of the important constellations for each of the Four seasons takes place in a rather unusual way – by following the course of the sun along the ecliptic (here, called the “Zodiac”). The zodiacal constellations are oddly referred to as “astrological” zodiac signs (perhaps a translation problem?)

Apart from that, the show has a very broad arc – which in some places is a bit too lacking in context for my taste and some real transitions are missing. Individual objects, such as comets or nebulae such as the Orion Nebula, are explained in a short, simple and fundamentally coherent way, but not related to each other. And to go from there out to the concept of the Milky Way and other galaxies, seems a little exaggerated.

The graphics are by no means childish (not even the constellation figures), but rather realistic with a certain aesthetic claim – for which sometimes the floating “cuddly animals” do not fit stylistically.

I would give an age recommendation of at least 6 years old, whereby some topics would be understood by older children.

Overall, a very unusual but atmospherically interesting and affectionately poetic show, which one should see more than once – and which can certainly provide one or another food for thought also for “Central European” shows.

11th FullDome Festival, May 18, 2017