Bear Pajamas

One of the things I like about watching foreign movies are the cultural differences that don’t quite make it through (it’s a novelty thing, perhaps). Sometimes this is due to poor translation and sometimes it’s due to a physical mannerism or custom that simply can’t be translated. There is a perfect example of this in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Towards the beginning of the film, the main character Chihiro is taken to the boiler room where she meets an old man with several arms who runs the place. At one point, this man puts up his hands in what looks sort of like a football goalpoast gesture and Chihiro pushes her hand through it (alas, I do not have a copy at my hands, so I can’t give a screenshot). I have no idea what this means, but it’s clearly something children in Japan do (I’m not sure how I picked up on this – I think I might have watched the movie with the commentary on at one point, which might actually explain what this means).

Most of the Anime I’ve seen are films, not series. I’ve seen a few Miyazaki movies, and some other movies like Akira and the Cowboy Bebop movie, amongst assorted other stuff. A few months ago, I watched Haibane Renmei because of the enthusiastic recommendations of Steven Den Beste (and pretty much everyone else who has seen it). Their enthusiasm is certainly warranted. Again, my expectations were constantly thwarted, which I think is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much (I’m sure this series will come up again here). I have since moved on to Serial Experiments Lain. I haven’t gotten too far into the series, but one thing that really struck me as funny was Lain’s bear pajamas, which she seems to wear whenever she’s feeling down:

(Click images for a larger version)

Lain's Bear Pajamas

Lain's Bear Pajamas

Lain's Bear Pajamas

As you can see, it’s adorable (I believe the appropriate word is Kawaii). Now, what I don’t know is if such pajamas are normal garb for young Japanese girls, or if it’s just a quirky Anime trope like washpans that bonk people on the head or Absurdly Powerful Student Councils (not that I’ve seen either of those). Like I said, I haven’t seen much anime, but I’ve fallen into the habit of reading blogs in the Otakusphere, many of whom seem to delight in posting screenshots and I seem to remember some similar type pajama/costume type stuff coming up from time to time. So is this a pseudo-trope, another cultural difference, or is it just an oddity limited to Serial Experiments Lain (one could certainly find symbolic meanings in such a visual)?

6 thoughts on “Bear Pajamas”

  1. Like Steven, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the animal pajamas in anything else. I know it was an image that was definitely part of the appeal in Lain- a lot of the posters and gashapon and figures I remember seeing were in the bear pajamas.

    Good choice, though. Lain is very good. Heavy, but extremely well done.

  2. Hrm, well I guess that rules out the anime trope theory (though I could have sworn I’ve seen similar kawaii in costumes type images – there’s one that looks like a little girl in a blue penguin suit or something on your site from time to time in the top pane… granted, that’s not a bear costume, but still).

  3. Well, there are lots of animal themed… things. I mean, bear back-packs, animals hats- girls with cat-ears and things like that, and there’s definitely the furry fetish. You know, if that’s your thing.

    I’m not passing judgement here on you, Mark.

    In fact, given the Hamster Rebel Fliers, maybe you’d get a kick out of Squirrel Girl? (not really anime, but animal themed).

  4. Heh, it’s just something that struck me as odd. The first time it came up, I was like, what the hell is she wearing? It seemed out of place. My immediate thought was that it was a Japanese cultural thing. Plus, I’d just rewatched Better Off Dead (and during the Christmas scenes, the mother and father are wearing these silly animal costumes). It just struck me as bizzarre and I was wondering what the deal was.

    I’m not sure what the deal is which furries, but I understand that they’re pretty much at the bottom of the geek hierarchy:


    IIRC, I didn’t come up with the Hamster Rebel Fliers, that was grenville. Or not. I don’t remember. I should read that story again sometime.

  5. These pajamas are indeed a cultural thing in Japan. It’s a part of Japanese street fashion and the costumes are called kigurumi. People wearing them are called kigurumin. There are a few firms in Japan that produce these costumes, the most popular one of them is Sleeper’s.

    Here’s a link to their site which has pictures of different kind of animal kigurumi:

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