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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" (for the tip of something). The term 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, 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 etc.), but is not used the same way as chiisana [小さな] / chiisai [小さい] (tiny, small, little in Japanese) but rather cute. One example of the usage in Japanese which brought the term to the attention of Western fans is Chibiusa, a pet name for the diminutive daughter of Sailor Moon formed from Chibi Usagi ("Little Rabbit").
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 his or her 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.
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 often also used on anime and manga in brief interjections to show an extreme or exaggerated emotion, such as annoyance or surprise, that would be difficult to portray or would seem out of character if expressed on a more realistic face. They are meant to be cute and are often used in humorous diversions from the storyline.
- "Sailor Moon volume 3 translation". Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "A Super Deformed Tutorial" on Bakaneko.com
- "Chibi Drawing! " on Polykarbon.com
- How to Draw Manga Volume 18: Super-Deformed Characters 1: Humans. ISBN 9784766114355
- Japanese student turns philosophers into super-deformed anime-style characters
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- Why Japan Is Hands Down The Coolest Country On The Planet
- Applying 2D Japanese Super-Deformed character to traditional American animation
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