Featured image credit by アガハリ via Twitter
In our previous analysis, we have concluded that one of the most popular type of kigurumi we have seen so far in anime are bear kigurumi.
In fact, bear kigurumi actually ranks the second in terms of pure number of appearances alone. And needless to say, this consequently resulted in the emergence of many different variations and technical versions of them as well. Including... one specific "licensed" kigurumi based on an in-universe franchise character.
But what makes bear-themes so staple a choice when it comes to featured kigurumi? In celebration for the penultimate episode of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, we have compiled a few possible points that may explain this "wild" phenomenon.
1. Bear Kigurumi are Anatomically More Direct (to Humans)
Obvious but not openly apparent, being anatomically close to a human (or land vertebrates, in general) is actually an "unconscious" element of some of the most stereotypical kigurumi that we usually wear.
No, no, not popular. Stereotypical.
Monkeys/Apes Bear-related themes, specifically, are in a way already a "ready-made" kigurumi for us weird hoomanz. They have body proportions that are already similar to the loose and low-crotch design of a basic kigurumi without too much modifications. All you need to do is to add the necessary thematic-elements (maybe a few ribbons and ties here and there), pick the main color(s) to match the visual look, and voila! Bear kigurumi.
In fact, although this might sound a bit gruesome, you can probably even just snatch the entire skin of a bear, and use it instantly as a costume. That's how default it gets.
For its anime representations, there is also an ample amount of background stories that involve directly using the bear kigurumi as a disguise for the real animal. As an example, such an idea is the central plot of Acchi Kocchi episode 10, where Mayoi concocts a plan to surprise and scare Miss Kikue with her special transforming kigurumi.
Even Yuna, our beloved bear kigurumi hero herself, often gets mistaken for a bear, and is a running trope throughout the series when she meets characters for the first time. Though to be fair, I would surmise that writing your job class as "Bear" on your adventurer application form kind of probably helped solidify that identity.
In any case, bears are a safe bet for kigurumi designs simply because you don't have to change the proportions too much to fit the basic human physique.
2. Accessories, not Colors, are (Usually) the Design Focus
Uhh... what I meant to say is that, bear kigurumi tend to focus a lot more on the variations of the suit's bits and pieces, instead of just splashing single solid colors. No, we're not saying that bear kigurumi is unable focus on colors, as it can definitely still be part of the creative design of bear kigurumi. In fact, we usually point to the immortal reference of a certain dual-color bear kigurumi whenever this subject is mentioned.
But bear kigurumi does seem to have a lot more additional... elements, that are not necessarily part of the original animal's real-life body features. It may have additional clothing elements, for example, even though it is not referencing any particular mascot or licensed character. It may wear other external peripherals, like how Yuna's equipment set automatically includes a pair of kigu shoes and its signature transformable puppet gloves.
Or... if it is indeed inspired by a fictional, in-universe mascot character, the proportions would be custom-built, and additional accessories would tend to automatically wrap around tightly around as a result.
My personal theory for this, is that bear kigurumi designs typically reflect default designs seen on teddy bears. Throughout the decades, teddy bear products have enjoyed a wide variety of different looks and styles that focus on accessory choice and arrangement, rather than just changing proportions or spinning the natural colors wheel.
Most unmistakable of this "analog" conversion is the frequency of bear kigurumi designs that includes a bowtie, ribbon, or other similar accessory. When you think about it, it does make sense. After all, if we are to trace the original etymology of the Japanese term, the word "stuffed" (kigurumi, nuigurumi, etc.) becomes the dominant theme.
3. Represents the Best Balance Between Cuddly and Deadly
A pretty straightforward observation, which is often shared across most (land-based) mammalian carnivores. If you see those ever-so-familiar beastly characteristics, the first instinct, is to run as an ancient hunter-gatherer is generally to want to somehow pet the creature.
And that includes bears, with their chonky cute body and fierce balance of predatory characteristics. Their most docile forms just make it seem like they're friendly enough to be held and hugged, and yet at the same time you definitely know it can outrun you no matter what, and it can easily crush the frailer form of your dainty human body.
In fact, this "effect" seems to be even more apparent when we combine it with observation #1. Probably even more than what canine-themed kigurumi can do similarly, though strangely not as convincing when pitted against feline-themed kigurumi (d*mn you cats!).
Huh, so maybe there's logical merit to Tsubame "disguising" Misha with a bear kigurumi during their surprise camping trip after all.
4. Bears are Simply Mascot Staples
Sports teams, brands, educational institutions, and even prefectures all adopt animal-themed mascots one way or another, and bears seems to be one of the most common staples of their chosen designs.
Why? Perhaps a combination of all observations we described earlier: easily comparable anatomy, non-color-inspired details, and the all-familiar mammalian balance of cuteness/fierceness. Though, this is more of a cultural subject now at this point though, which may perhaps be beyond the general scope of our topic of interest (for this blog).
In any case, I think we can all agree that bear kigurumi can function similarly to their mascot counterparts in terms of overall aesthetics (as opposed to something significantly more unique, like birds, or even aquatic-themed kigurumi).
5. Actually, We Don't Really Know at This Point
But if we are to point at a single, definitive reason for why bear kigurumi are popular in anime... well, we're not really sure either. The sheer number of their appearances suggest that there may be more to it than meets the eye, but nothing is really too apparent to conclude. Most of these anime exist separately within their own series bubble anyway, so any assumptions of co-referencing each other is immediately(?) out of the window.
As for the base conditions of a bear kigurumi's appearance, one might think that we most likely need a setting that allows the existence of modern kigurumi in the first place, and thus we expect by default that bear kigurumi should appear in present era Earth.
And yet here we are, dedicating this vey blog post to the penultimate episode of our kigurumi hero's adventures. That is, in a setting that's probably the least likely you'll ever find a bear kigurumi with.