If you have a favorite character from an anime, manga, or video game, chances are you’ve seen them being turned into chibi. With their giant heads, short bodies, and funny little arms and legs, chibi’s are very easy to spot and recognize. But what exactly makes something a chibi and not just a regular caricature?
The word chibi originates from chibi kyara (ちびキャラ), meaning “tiny character.” It also connects to chibiru (禿びる), meaning “to wear down,” and kyara (キャラ), similar to “character” in English. Another term for chibi is “super deformed” or “S.D.” It comes from the Japanese deforume (デフォルメ) meaning “stylistic distortion,” derived from the French word déformer.
“Chibi” and “S.D.” are interchangeable and widely used in anime, manga, and video games. Spin-off series aimed at younger viewers, like S.D. Gundam (based on the popular Mobile Suit Gundam series) often employs this art style. Additionally, artists frequently use the Chibi and S.D. styles to comedic effect during flashbacks and dream sequences.
While drawing a funny character version might seem straightforward, the chibi style has a specific style. An average anime character stands about seven to eight heads tall. For chibi characters, they stand at only about one-third to one-half the character’s original height. Additionally, chibi characters typically have short torsos, arms, and legs.
In the chibi style, artists ignore ordinary details like clothing folds and zippers. Instead, they exaggerate unique elements like hairstyles, weapons, and accessories. Moreover, chibi drawings usually ignore finer body details like hands, fingers, and feet. As a result, the characters have an adorable effect!
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Because chibi characters are kawaii or cute, they are prominent in many marketing campaigns in Japanese media! Chibi allows typically dark and severe characters and entities to appear as cute and accessible, which then, in turn, makes them more appealing to a larger audience. Not only is chibi a fun art style to look at, but it does wonders for marketing!
Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, a chibi spin-off from Naruto, was created by Kenji Taira in 2012. The series ran for 51 episodes and follows the ninja Rock Lee as he trains to become powerful. The series focuses on more comedic situations Rock Lee finds himself in, emphasizing his thoughts.
Attack on Titan: Junior High, a chibi parody of Attack on Titan, was created by Saki Nakagawa in 2012. The original show is grim, but Junior High has a lighter tone, focusing on “Class 1-04” at Attack Junior High School (進撃中学校, Shingeki Chūgakkō).
This work was written and illustrated by Sankaku Head in 2013, Himouto! Umaru-Chan tells the story of Umaru Doma, a gorgeous and successful girl attending high school. However, when she gets home, Umaru becomes a silly chibi version of herself obsessed with video games and snack food. The series focuses on her misadventures while in her chibi form.
Chibi influences have extended beyond Japanese series to American-made shows like Homestuck, Teen Titans, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. They use the chibi art style effectively to make characters cute and appealing to anime and manga fans. Utilizing chibi correctly can bring positive attention to an established brand and character.
And who doesn’t like seeing silly versions of their favorite characters? Chibi is an easy and effective way of lightening the mood, getting some good laughs, and allowing characters to share lesser-seen sides of themselves.
The chibi style has brought massive success to some video games and anime series, like The Great Battle. Taking a break from the usual art style is always enjoyable for anime! What’s your favorite chibi anime to watch? Are there any other series out there with awesome chibi designs? Let us know in the comments below!
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