Sumikko Gurashi is a Japanese franchise whose primary goal is to sell stationary. But it is also a set of adorable cartoon animals that look like they are all shaped like dumplings.
The name roughly translates to ‘life in the corner’. I assumed that had some kind of melancholy, depression vibe. Instead, it’s the idea of cuddling up in a corner and feeling safe. It’s actually a reassuring vision.
The most frequently merchandised characters include a polar bear who wants to be warm, a green penguin who isn’t sure he’s actually a penguin, an anxious cat, a dinosaur pretending to be a lizard to dodge scientists, and a leftover pork cutlet who wants to be eaten. I don’t really get that last one.
Our household quite likes Sumikko Gurashi but we hadn’t really looked into any of narrative media. But we took the jump and watched Sumikko Garoshi the Movie - The Pop-Up Book and the Secret Child.
In the movie, the characters are pulled into magical pop-up book at their local coffee shop and become parts of the stories. The stories include the legend of Peach Boy, the Little Mermaid, the Little Match Girl, Little Red Riding Hood and Arabian Nights. Yeah, just Arabian Nights. They also meet a baby bird who has no idea what story he should be in or where he belongs.
The movie is very sweet and gentle, despite having more drama and pathos than I was expecting. The characters are trapped after all so there is an actual danger. And the baby bird’s sense of loneliness and isolation is the centerpiece of the movie.
Of course, the characters are deeply invested in the baby bird’s plight. Penguin? is our son’s favorite Sumikko Gurashi character so them bonding with the baby bird over identity issues worked particularly well for us.
The Pop-Up Book and the Secret Child was better than we expected. In fact, it embodied we like Sumikko Gurashi. Gentle and suitable for small children but not condescending.