Disclaimer: these tips are specific to the smaller ~22 cm collectible plushies (like this, this, and this) sold in stores and events, not the UFO catchers, licensed goods, larger sizes, or extra-company collaborations (like Lawson plushies). These guidelines may be more applicable to recent releases and may not hold true for older ones. I am not affiliated with San-X; this list was compiled strictly from personal observation and experience.
1. Do your research
First, if you’re new to the scene, get acclimated to what genuine Rilakkuma plushies look like by browsing through the San-X website:
Net shop / Net shop timeline
Net shop blog (before March 2013 / Net shop blog (after March 2013) – for net shop exclusives, posts non-studio pictures occasionally, which may be better for comparison
Character timeline, by year / Rilakkuma timeline
Rilakkuma blog – for general products, limited editions, and caravan editions
Rilakkuma store blog – for more recent limited store-only editions
Once you have a specific plushie in mind, save the official San-X image for the product so you can compare listings to it.
2. Search thoroughly
I’ve made a longer post on this before, but briefly: searching for your plushie means you might have to scour different avenues of the web before you find listings for it, depending on its rarity. This may mean plugging the name of the plushie into the search bar of your favorite search engine, eBay, etc. a bunch of times depending on how rare the item is. It might be helpful to know different versions (like picnic, happy holiday picnic, happy picnic, and hamburger can all refer to the same series) or translations of the series you’re looking for. Or, perhaps using an agent for sites such as the Japanese auctions or Taobao – certainly not necessary, but may be helpful. Ideally, you will want to find a handful of listings to compare quality later on.
Once you’ve found a listing…
3. Assess listing quality broadly
Before getting into the specifics of genuine versus fake Rilakkuma plushies, just use your first impression and your gut instincts – you can easily weed out many fakes based on overall quality alone. Make sure the listing pictures are of the actual product, not just a reposting of the catalogue image. If it helps, use the following tips:
- Body proportions: does the head size look expected compared to the body size? Rilakkuma has a pretty big head, but it should stay proportionately cute. Overall, what’s the size of the plushie? For the small collectible bears, they’re generally about 22-23 cm from foot to ear depending on their pose and costume.
- Fabric/fur: how does it look? Rilakkuma’s fur should look very soft and fuzzy to the touch. It can generally be brushed in one direction. Check that the tone and shade look accurate – camera settings may vary (for example, catalogue photos tend to be a little washed out), but it shouldn’t be a vastly different color.
- Construction: does the stuffing look even? Fakes tend to be asymmetric and lumpy, with a lot of puckering. Their stuffing is generally not well-distributed, creating a deflated or overinflated appearance. Like fake designer purses, the seaming on a counterfeit will be conspicuous and will likely not have the subtlety of a genuine plushie.
Now for specifics…
For some reason, counterfeiters consistently mess the nose/snout area up, making it too large, too small, or simply the incorrect shape.
The mouth area should be pure black (#000000), and be embroidered (not printed) on. Because of the embroidery, the black part will dip in slightly from the rest of the white snout, so the white fur around may be visible; an immaculately smooth nose outline may indicate that it has been printed on. The bottom mouth part should flare out, but end with a rounded tip, not a point.
The snout should be a very smooth, fuzzy, and centered oval. Many counterfeiters get sloppy sewing the snout on, resulting in a lumpy amorphous shape.
If the target Rilakkuma has a standard face, his eyes should be perfect circles the same black embroidery as the nose/mouth. The middle of the eyes (transversally) should be near level to the round top part of his black nose, with about a third to an eighth of the top above the white snout. Obviously, this may not apply to plushies with a different expression. Proportion is the key here, so this is where looking at how genuine plushies look beforehand will help. I find that even with genuine plushies, there is still a bit of variation, but for fakes, the difference is obvious.
There should also be Y-shaped seaming across the face that is noticeable, but not overbearingly heavy (an indicator of fine vs. crude detailing). There will also be two smaller seams that flare out from the base of the head, as well as a seam that begins at the top of the head, and goes down the back to the base of the head. These seams should be symmetric across the midsagittal plane.
MaryRilakkuma has an extremely well-researched guide to sorting out the real plushies from the fakes, so definitely check it out. She extensively covers tag placement, content, and design. I urge you to look at her guide before confirming a purchase.
You can also try browsing through this website by Korichan, which has an assortment of swing tag scans.
Rilakkuma’s trademark back zipper, like Korilakkuma’s red button, is essential to his character. For most series, the zipper itself is deep brown plastic, and the pull should be the same color brown: a simple rounded pull with a circular hole. The zipper should start at the base of the head seam down to just above the tail. It should unzip to reveal a white/baby blue polka dot pocket. One major exception is the Bonjour Series, which has red and blue polka dots. For the collectible size bears, the pocket fabric is quite generous.
However, there are some genuine Rilakkuma series that do not have a functioning zipper; they will instead have embroidered stitching with a zipper pull sewn to the top (mine has 8 notches). So if you see this stitching on an otherwise accurate plushie, don’t fear! There is a possibility that it is inherent to the design – check around collectors websites to confirm (many of them post back shots). So far, I know of the Happy Holiday Picnic series, Christmas 2012, and the Year of the Dragon 2012 plushies that have this alternate zipper look (though there are likely more). Korilakkuma should not have a zipper; she should have a red button in front instead.
Rilakkuma’s ears should be round, full, spherical, and in plane with the rest of his face (along the coronal plane). The yellow part of his ears, since it is only a front section, will tilt toward the face, but not laterally. Note that this is unlike the illustrations and character costumes San-X has for events, whose ears are rotated slightly outward. The yellow part of the ear should have a continuous round arc, not a lumpy one. The brown part of his ears may be slightly angular because of the pattern they use (it is sewn into an X in the back).
Rilakkuma’s ears (and paws and feet) should be a warm egg yolk yellow spongier fabric, while Korilakkuma’s will be the same material as the rest of her (furry, not spongy) but in a baby pink. Not sure why they chose to do this, but it happens.
9. Direct compare
The most important part! This is more up to your judgment – compare the listing to the official photo to make sure major and minor details are all accounted for: costume, props, bows, lining, fabric tags, etc. Don’t forget to check the back!
Here’s an example, with the Marine Series:
10. Finally, if unsure, ask the seller for more photographs!
Keep in mind that these are only guidelines, not rules; even genuine plushies may not look EXACTLY like the catalogue photos, but they should be pretty close! Genuine plushies will only have minor variations (for example, I’ve seen a lot of slightly rotated noses for whatever reason) especially if the series is several years old.
If your plushie does not match these guidelines – not to fear! It is possible that your plushie is from a licensed toy company instead of directly from San-X. Finding words such as Green Camel, Dream, or AQI on your tag might tip you in the direction of a licensed plushie. Learn more about licensed plushies here.
Got more tips to add? I’d love to hear! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.