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Chibi (ちび or チビ) is a Japanese slang word describing something or someone short. It comes from the verb 禿びる (chibiru), which means 'to wear out and become shorter' (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. This style, also known as super deformed (shorthanded as S.D.), 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 his or her design will be simplified and others will be grossly-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.
- Kawaii, 'cute'
- Moe (slang), expression of fascination or infatuation
- Artistic canons of body proportions – Criteria used in formal figurative art
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