Chibi (slang)

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Chibi (ちび or チビ) is a Japanese slang word describing something short (a thing, an animal or a person). It comes from the verb 禿びる (chibiru), which means 'to wear out and become shorter' (the tip of something). Chibi-debu (ちびデブ or チビデブ) is used to describe something or someone that is both short and chubby. Chibi is widely used in Japan to describe a specific style of caricature where characters are drawn in an exaggerated way. Typically these characters are small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads to make them resemble children. This style of artwork, also known as super deformed (shorthanded as SD), has since found its way into anime and manga fandom through its usage in manga works. Chibi can be translated as 'little' (e.g. Chibi Maruko-chan, which means Little Miss Maruko), but it is not used the same way as chiisana [小さな] and chiisai [小さい] ('tiny', 'small', 'little' in Japanese), but rather 'cute'.

Example of a character drawn in chibi style
Angry Wikipe-tan in chibified form.


The head of a super deformed character is normally anywhere between one third and one half the character's height.[1] In addition to their modified proportions, super deformed characters typically lack the detail of their normal counterparts. As a result, when a character of average proportions is depicted as a super deformed character, certain aspects of their design will be simplified and others will be exaggerated. Details such as folds on a jacket are ignored, and general shapes are favored. If a character has a signature characteristic (odd hair, a particular accessory, etc.) this will typically be prominent on the super deformed version of the character.[2]

Media usageEdit

One example of chibi's usage in Japanese, which brought the term to the attention of Western fans, is Chibiusa; this diminutive pet name for the daughter of Sailor Moon comes from Chibi Usagi ('Little Rabbit').[3] The chibi art style is part of Japanese culture,[4][5][6] and is seen everywhere from advertising and subway signs to anime and manga. The style was popularized by franchises like Dragon Ball and SD Gundam in the 1980s. It is used as comic relief in anime and manga, giving additional emphasis to a character's emotional reaction.

The art style has also appeared in anime-influenced American series such as Homestuck, Teen Titans, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, which feature super deformed shorts.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""A Super Deformed Tutorial"". Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  2. ^ How to Draw Manga Volume 18: Super-Deformed Characters 1: Humans. ISBN 9784766114355
  3. ^ "Sailor Moon volume 3 translation". Retrieved 23 May 2008.
  4. ^ "Japanese student turns philosophers into super-deformed anime-style characters - WOWJAPAN". 4 August 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  5. ^ Rose, Mike. "Clash of Clans ' 5 keys to success". Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Why Japan Is Hands Down The Coolest Country On The Planet - SMOSH". Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Applying 2D Japanese Super-Deformed character to traditional American animation" (PDF). Retrieved 5 July 2018.