Rilakkuma and Kaoru on Netflix!

It’s out! And I just binge-watched the whole thing!

I was waiting and waiting for this from the moment I saw the trailer: Rilakkuma and Kaoru, an adorable Netflix original made using stop-motion animation!

Rilakkuma is by far my absolute favorite cute character to emerge from Japan. Rilakkuma (the brown bear) is a character from SanX. He made his debut in 2003, and is a lazy bear with the most endearing face I’ve ever seen. Just seeing Rilakkuma, or his friends Korilakkuma and Kiroitoiri, gives me a really warm, happy feeling that is instantaneous and all consuming.

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I don’t know quite what it is that makes Rilakkuma so squee-inducing. Perhaps it’s his black eyes— perfectly round and peering into my soul— or the placement of his ears, or the way he creases when he moves. Everything about him is proportioned and outfitted to positively scream “CUTE”. Japan has cute down to a science. I have my own Rilakkuma and friends at home, I just couldn’t resist them.

I enjoyed Rilakkuma and Kaoru very much— at first glance it might look like a simple children’s show, but it’s got a lot more depth than one might expect. Kaoru is an office worker in Tokyo who comes home one day dreaming about getting a pet cat, only to find Rilakkuma has randomly appeared in her apartment, with Korilakkuma (the white bear) following shortly after. Kaoru, and her pet bird Kiroitori, quickly become accustomed to having these two strange bears around, and they build a friendship.

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Kaoru struggles with questions that any young woman might- why am I so indecisive? What is my worth in this life? What am I meant to do? Am I being held back? Will I decide what I want in life? Rilakkuma and friends are there as a comforting presence and help Kaoru learn lessons throughout the show. They are also very funny, ridiculously cute, and genuinely heartwarming.

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This is the kind of show that I will probably watch again someday, and put on an episode now and then to have as a comforting background while I go about my day— the stop-motion animation is lovely in its details, and the overall feel of the show is very calming, relaxing, uplifting and cosy.

That said, it often went places I totally wasn’t expecting, and certainly wasn’t boring. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that not even aliens or ghosts are immune to the charms of Rilakkuma!

 

 

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New Fruits Basket- First Impressions!

Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket was one of the first manga series I began collecting in my teen years, and I also loved the original anime.

When I moved out from my parents’ house, I left behind my Fruits Basket manga in their attic (there were too many for me to fit in my suitcase!) and eventually ended up donating them to a library a few years later (still couldn’t fit in my suitcase!)

I haven’t read Fruits Basket, or watched the original anime, since those years long ago, so I was excited to see that the manga was being remade and accompanied by an anime reboot! I have a Crunchyroll subscription, so I watched the first new episode today and found myself getting sucked back into the story.

This new Fruits Basket keeps the humour, optimism, and sentimentality of the original while presenting a fresh, detailed new art style that I really love. The shading is lovely and the highlights really pop!

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For me, the casting and animation of Tohru is most important for this story- she is the main protagonist of course, but more importantly she’s also someone who was really inspiring to me when I was younger, so for me to enjoy this new reboot Tohru has to feel right. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed! The voice acting by Iwami Manaka captures Tohru’s bright personality perfectly.

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When I worked my first job in high school, as a grocery store cashier, I was thrown onto the till with very little training, and customers would get mad at how slow I was ringing through their purchases and looking up their product codes for produce. The store I worked at was very busy, lines were long, and I struggled a lot at first. I would sometimes be driven to tears.

During this time I specifically remember looking up to Tohru as a role model- from the very beginning of the story we come to know that she has a hard life, but she works hard through every circumstance to try to make things better, not just for herself, but especially for others. Her work ethic made me want to be strong too- and I did get better at my job eventually!

The story of Fruits Basket involves the animals of the Chinese zodiac- each member of the Soma family is cursed with an animal form, so it’s fun to see each one revealed as the story progresses. In the first episode we see three such transformations happen in quick succession- I love the powdery & otherworldly mist that is unleashed in the new anime!

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Most die-hard fans of Fruits Basket (that I knew of, anyway) were either Team Kyo or Team Yuki- these two boys are the major contenders for Tohru’s heart, but I found it hard to pick sides, myself!

I always did have a little thing for Shigure, though…

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There are also lots of other interesting characters who will be revealed as the show goes on, each with very distinct personalities, so it will surely be increasingly entertaining!

Overall, I’m impressed with this first new episode, and I’m sure that this new Fruits Basket will capture the hearts of fans both new and old!

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Smuggling Rats Across Canada: A Charming Family Memory

Did you know that rats, particularly domesticated “fancy rats” are available in many parts of Canada as pets? Much like a hamster, these little guys are cute and charming companions. My family has a history of having pet rats, starting with my Father.

Before I was born, my Dad had a rat named Studley. He would tell me about how Studly would accompany him on walks, and even swims, and that he was just The Best Rat Ever. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, rats are cute. Look at this ‘lil guy!

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So, one Easter morning in the mid to late 90’s, when we were living in New Brunswick, my little sister and I awoke and ran into the den, where we found the usual candy, chocolate, and little toys awaiting us. After surveying our treasures, our parents peeked into the room and asked if we’d observed the cage yet. We had a large cage on one side of the room which, until recently, had been home to our rather grumpy rabbit, Peter. While Peter was quite old and sadly didn’t make it till Easter, I gazed inside and saw that two new friends were quietly exploring the cage.

My sister and I were delighted and each named one of the rats- we decided to name them after the Rugrats, Tommy and Chuckie. Tommy was my rat, and he was white with grayish markings on his back. Chuckie, my sister’s rat, had a more reddish tinge to his spots (like Chuckie’s hair!)

The rats were so adorable- while many of our family and friends who visited were squeamish of them (particularly of their tails), others would remark at how cutely they munched on their food, how diligently they cleaned themselves, and how curious and smart they were. We would let them crawl over and around us, and they loved perching on our shoulders as we watched TV or did our homework. The two were brothers, and would sleep nestled up curled around each other.

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We loved our rats very much. Domesticated rats live longer than their wild counterparts- about 3 years. Tommy and Chuckie both passed away of “old age” within short time of each-other, and it was one of my first real-life experiences with the end of the natural cycle of life and death.

A short while after Tommy and Chuckie died, my parents got us two new companions to fill the rat-shaped holes in our hearts. I asserted my tween power and declared their names would forever be known as Frodo and Sam, as I was in the middle of reading The Lord of the Rings and enjoying it immensely.

Our new rats were again white with some grayish colorations. Frodo was my little guy, and he was very active, always climbing things and wanting to have a look around. Sam was a bit lazier, but again they were best buddies as well as brothers. Sometimes we would give them pieces of French Toast Crunch cereal, and laugh at how cute they looked crunching on their little rat-sized toasts.

After we’d had Frodo and Sam for a little while, our parents informed us that we were moving to Northern Alberta, to a province far away in the middle of the Boreal Forest. I pictured us living in a quaint little wooden cottage in the middle of nowhere. Great! Sounds fun! But, although my parents didn’t want to alarm us, they mentioned that rats are banned in Alberta. While this policy is meant to keep Alberta free of wild rats, it affects pet rats too.

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This poster is so dramatic. “White rats can only be kept by zoos, universities and colleges as well as recognized research institutions in Alberta. Private citizens may not keep white rats, hooded rats or any of the strains of domesticated Norway rats.” – Alberta.ca

My family is united and defined, perhaps more than anything else, by our love of animals. My Mom has worked at vet clinics and at the SPCA, and we’ve had all sorts of creatures in our home over the years. Our pets are our family, and it was inconceivable to us that we wouldn’t bring the rats to our new home in Alberta. So, we prepared ourselves for Frodo and Sam’s potentially perilous journey.

My Mom actually had both of the rats anesthetized and neutered at her vet clinic (I’m thinking this procedure, for pet rats, is a medical rarity?)- they were both boys, but now there was no possible way they could breed even if they somehow escaped into the wild. I suppose she did this partly so that if we DID get into any trouble at the airport, we’d have at least a chance of keeping them.

So, we finally set out to move, with a large number of critters. Each of us was responsible for at least one pet-carrier, and we took our babies to the airport- a cockatiel (Jerrie), 2 cats (Jill and Smudge), an aging Labrador Retriever (Stinker), and the two rats.

The rats’ carrier was made of thick plastic with thin slots on the sides. Panic gripped me as we approached the security gate to get cleared for our first flight. I watched in terror as the airport staff inspected the carrier, peering inside and craning his head.

“These are…?”

He looked at me quizzically. I steeled myself.

“My hamsters.” I squeaked.

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Whether it was an act of mercy on his part, ignorance of rodent species diversity (or the regulations of our destination province), apathy, or simply not wanting to initiate a dramatic scene, he let us through without any difficulties. I can only imagine the absolute chaos that would have ensued if they had tried to take away our Frodo and Sam. It would have been devastating and traumatic for our whole family, and probably the entire room…

And so, we made it to our new home, safe and sound with our entire family, including the rats. We settled into life in Alberta. You might think that Frodo and Sam, once they lived out their few years on this earth with us, were the last rats my family would know in our new home province. However, this was not the case…

My mom continued to work in SPCA and vet roles in our new town, and as had always happened before, we often ended up fostering or adopting animals that didn’t have homes. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out that other people in Alberta had pet rats, and in some cases (such as moving into an apartment with an inquisitive landlord) they needed to re-home their rats.

In steps my Mom, of course- she can’t bear to see an animal in need- and so over the years we acquired three more rat companions. One was a lone rat who we named Sir William after the character in A Knight’s Tale. Bill, or Billiam, as I often called him, was white with black spots, and had the softest and sweetest temperament of any rat I’ve yet met. Later we also became the guardians of two sister rats named Sugar and Spice for their respective fur markings.

I’m still living in Alberta, but my family has since gotten a home back in New Brunswick- they’ve had more rats since moving back. I haven’t myself, but I’d be willing to bet that there are more pet rats in Alberta living out their quiet lives in secrecy today.

 

Japan Memories Day 4: SHINee Day, Harajuku Purikura Fail, and a Shiba named Hamu!

This is day 4 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 4, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 4, October 4th, 2017

After powering up with some konbini snacks, I decided to go on a solo adventure today. I headed out to Ikebukuro station, where I took a non-JR train line for the first time using my suica card. It was easy! I took the Maranouchi line to Akasaka and sought out Theme Cafe/Bar #2 of the trip: SMT Tokyo (SMT is the company that my favorite Kpop group, SHINee, works with!). My goal was to have a drink at the SHINee bar where they have huge portraits of each member adorned by artistically placed neon tube lights. I asked the man at the door if I could dine in the SHINee area, but he said something about “unfortunately…” and I knew reservations were often standard at places like this, so I felt a bit let down, but no biggie. I asked to see the gift shop, which was upstairs, and he pointed me in that direction. The walls going up were covered with portraits of SM artists; I saw Taemin, Jonghyun, and Key.

To my surprise, the SHINee bar was directly next to the gift shop, on the same floor! A woman offered me a stool and handed me a menu. I got to “dine with SHINee” after all! I got a korean soda and a sort of bibimbap salad that was delicately presented with edible flowers, kimchi, and light broth. At first I was alone, but then two girls came up and sat near me.

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After my success at SMT I took a brief stop in Harajuku on my way to Shin Okubo. Being a Wednesday it was pretty busy, but not insane. I bought some limited edition Halloween Sanrio stuff, explored a couple clothing shops, gawked at huge cotton candy poofs, and attempted doing purikura… I accidentally chose a 2 person set, which I did by myself, and then I couldn’t figure out how to print my pics (there was another booth I was supposed to go to, but I couldn’t find it?) so I left awkwardly without my pics… ^-^’ Oh well, maybe I can go with one of my friends sometime and they can show me how to do it.

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Isn’t this Arisa? I recognize her from Key & Ari’s “We Got Married” season!

At Shin Okubo I found some really cool SHINee merch and got a tasty drink at theme cafe #3 of the trip, Kpop Cafe Caesar, which was decorated with kpop stuff, including SHINee!

Before heading back to the hotel I donated some money to an animal rescue and got to pet an adorable Shiba Inu named Hamu, who was blind. Then I visited a 100 yen shop CanDo, and went back to donate again and see Hamu a second time before calling it a day!

Tomorrow is day 5: Akihabara, Eorzea Cafe, Pokemon Centre, and meeting up with a friend!

 

Ruff Starts and Becoming Family: Tegan

As of this month, it’s been 6 years since we adopted our dog Tegan. She is my first pet outside of living with my parents, and it turns out that having your own pet (and all of the responsibilities that go along with caring for another living creature) is a lot different than being in the house while your parents take care of the pets. Who would have thought?

It has been 6 crazy years so far, and I absolutely love Tegan with all my heart- she is family. In the beginning though I didn’t know what I was doing! So, here is our story.

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My family has always had lots of pets. Growing up, my friends joked about our house being a sort of zoo. You weren’t sure when you rounded the corner in my house if you’d come face to face with a grumpy, overweight cat, an energetic Labrador retriever, or even a couple of young Fancy Rats on somebody’s shoulder. My mother worked in vet clinics and shelters, so there were always lots of animals around, including occasional foster puppies and ill or injured creatures that needed round-the-clock care.

It wasn’t until I moved out of home and in with my then-boyfriend-now-husband that I began to consider getting a dog of my own. Life felt like it was missing something vital without a dog around. I love all animals, but I’ve always had a special affinity with dogs. I pored over our local SPCA website regularly, occasionally seeing a dog that seemed like a perfect fit but who was already adopted by the time we went, or was too large to be allowed in our small apartment.

One fateful day I came across a photo on the SPCA site of a mixed breed dog named Amelia. She was referred to as a “puggle”, a beagle and pug mix. She was around a year old, and looked like she had some real personality.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you, when I get an idea in my head I can’t rest until I see it through and make a decision. She was all I could think about. I wanted to see Amelia. Dustin wasn’t sure if he wanted a small dog, but I just had to see her. So we went to the SPCA and there she was in the dog room, standing alert behind the cage door. The dogs all around were barking very loudly, but she just stood there looking up at us, expectant. The kennel attendant took her out so we could take her on a walk.

As we exited the SPCA with Amelia on a leash, it wasn’t like the movie scene I might have envisioned in my head- she didn’t shower us with love or run joyfully in circles around us. She wasn’t starved for affection or cuddles- in fact, she seemed like she didn’t really care that we were there, only that she was outside and could go for a walk. So, we walked. We took her down some of the industrial streets in the area, amused when she would hop up onto the brick and concrete ledges and trot along them.

After our walk we sat down on a bench for a few moments, and I patted her and stroked her short fur, but again she was very independent and stood alert, looking around at seemingly everything but us.

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That under-bite… ❤

Despite her aloofness, I was smitten with her. Dustin was on the fence about adopting her. However, we returned the next day to walk her again, by which point I think he realized I was serious about this dog and now that she was in my head, she wasn’t going anywhere. So, we decided that I would sign the application for adoption and see what happened. I hoped desperately that we would be able to adopt her.

When I asked for the application, the staff were very excited. That must be a good sign, I thought? I filled everything out and handed it in. The staff gave it a good look over and told me the cost of adoption for an adult dog. Then they asked if we wanted the kennel staff to go get her now, and if I would pay by cash, credit, or debit.

I looked at Dustin in surprise. Wow, this was fast. I’m going to be a dog mom!?

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“Right- right now!?” I asked, unable to hide my surprise.

The staff explained: my application was good, the kennels were overfull, and the SPCA was stretched to its limits that summer. Normally it would take more time to adopt a dog because they would be sifting through multiple applications, but right now they were desperate for space and were ready to let me take Amelia home.

“Of course! But we don’t have a leash or anything yet…” I stammered. They told us not to worry, and provided us with a few basic items to get us started. And so, that’s how I found myself pulling out my debit card and becoming a sudden dog Mom.

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We headed out to the truck with Amelia, a little stunned but full of excitement. We headed right to the grocery store- I went in and loaded up on dog blankets, treats, food, dishes, spill mats, anything and everything I could think of.

And so, we brought Amelia home, but her devil-may-care attitude had disappeared, replaced with a demeanor of perpetual confusion and concern. We tried to be really relaxed at home and let her get used to her new surroundings, but by the third day I was worried that Amelia would never feel comfortable in our small apartment- I didn’t realize how long it can take for dogs to adjust to a new home.

She was driving me crazy with her anxious habits- staring at me with bulging eyes when I was trying to read and study, army-crawling underneath the couch, vaulting herself from the couch to the bed like a hovercraft malfunctioning, whining incessantly for no apparent or discernible reason.

I thought, she’s miserable! She hates our little bachelor pad. 

But, again, all we needed was some time. It took a couple of weeks, but Amelia began to show her true colours- dorky, full of energy, and happy to nap on the couch or bed. We didn’t think “Amelia” suited her very well, so we renamed her- Tegan. (We were listening to a lot of Tegan and Sara at the time…)

As she became more comfortable with us, Tegan began to get more assertive, nipping at our fingers and eventually trying to hump us. I had no idea how to train a dog, so I did what I always do when facing a problem: explore the library!

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The books helped, as did internet forums. It wasn’t long before we had our routines and habits, and Tegan fit right into our family, wrapping her little swirly tail around my heart. I got curious one day and called the SPCA to ask if they had her background on file- I wondered, did she come from previous owners, or was she abandoned somewhere? The woman on the phone looked her up and told me that she was found wandering downtown with a couple of other dogs. Wow, I thought. I couldn’t imagine our derpy dog being a part of some doggie street gang!

Over these six years we have made lots of memories

and Tegan has made lots of derpy faces

I hope we still have lots of memories and derps to come.

Lastly, here is a little video compilation I made of Tegan, featuring clips from our earlier years together!

Beasts of Burden- A New Comic Fave!

A lovely woman at the Comic Hunter shop in Charlottetown PEI highly recommended this book, and it was an easy sell for her because I love dogs, I love comics, I love dark and creepy stories, and I love it when someone shares their favorite reads with me!

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If you aren’t into animal stories, I’d suggest you still give this one a chance, because this series is more than meets the eye. While it’s full of sniffing-sleuth shenanigans and humour, the series focuses on arcane paranormal activities, strange creatures, and carnage!

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I felt there was a very good balance between each story, flowing from disturbing tales into more (relatively) lighthearted stuff and with bits of charm and laughs throughout. Jill Thompson’s gorgeous watercolour illustrations are perfect for this comic- together with Dorkin’s writing the characters really come to life, each with their own distinct personalities. I have a fondness for Pugsly!

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Highly recommended!

 

 

*note: this review also appears on my Goodreads 🙂

Spoiler-free review: The Tea Dragon Society

This charming story was even better than I imagined! When I saw the cover I knew I would love this book. I got what I was hoping for. The art is gorgeous, the characters are diverse, and the tea dragons are ADORABLE.

Like Princess Princess Ever After, The Tea Dragon Society is short, sweet, and full of moments that make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

It only took me half an hour to read, and yet I felt like the characters were very well represented.

Yup, I adore this book and I am going to recommend it to everyone, of every age, at the library where I work.

Can I just say that I really want a Rooibos dragon of my own?