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'.
The head of a super deformed character is normally anywhere between one third and one half the character's height. 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.
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'). The chibi art style is part of Japanese culture, 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.
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