To Be Constantly Cute

… Chibi?

Chibi is an art style of over-exaggeration. Its origins are said to date back to Japan’s Edo period. The contemporary form of chibi arose from Japanese anime & manga developed in the 1970s; original credit is often given to a robotic cat named Doraemon from a manga of the same name. Anime series such as Dragonball & Sailor Moon, Studio Ghibli movies, & popular merchandise lines such as Hello Kitty are often credited with spreading the art style around the world.

Watercolor of 3 very cute & happy cryptids; a basilisk, a cockatrice, & a dragon with a very long tail. Text reads "Bad Breath Buds".

Isn’t That Just Kawaii?

Yes & no. Kawaii essentially means cute. Lots of things are cute without being chibi. Chibi is a subset of kawaii. Something that is chibi is kawaii, but not everything that is kawaii is chibi. The English word comes from the Japanese word chibi (ちび). This word is considered rude if used to describe an adult, but appropriate when used to describe small children, smol objects, or cute art.

Watercolor of a happy plump little yellow-orange dragon. Their tail is longer than the rest of their body, with wings on their back & tail. It would be polite to call this lil friend a chibi-doragon (チビドラゴン)

The Momentous Importance of Epic Proportions

Chibi art follows a small number of extremely important rules. 1. Chibi characters have very large heads- often anywhere from ⅓ to ½ their total height. (A more realistic proportion would be for a person’s head to be ⅙ to ⅛ their height.) 2. Chibi faces are mostly filled with their huge eyes. The mouth is very small & the nose is often left out entirely. 3. Chibi characters follow an extremely minimalist design.There isn’t space for a lot of detail! Most chibi characters have simple outfits & accessories. Since their enormous heads are the focus, extra effort is usually put into their hair or hat. 4. It must be kawaii! I have seen some “gross” chibi characters as the art form develops over time, but even the gross ones are pretty cute!

TL;DR: Chibi characters’ features are pushed out of proportion to an almost obscene degree. That’s why the chibi style is sometimes referred to as the ‘super deformation’ style or ‘S.D.’ for short.

Contemporary Chibi

Chibi art has only grown in popularity over time. From Hello Kitty to Funko's Pop! Vinyl, this is a style people love. You don’t even have to like anime to want chibi action figures of your favorite live-action characters or mythical beasts.

A happy cockatrice flaps his wings as he dances around.

How-To Books for Chibi Art

[Quick review of my review policy: All of them are unpaid & unsolicited!]

Cute Chibi Mythical Beasts & Magical Monsters by Phoebe Im You Can Draw Manga Chibis by Samantha Whitten & Jeannie Lee You Can Draw Manga Chibi Characters, Critters & Scenes by Samantha Whitten & Jeannie Lee Drawing Chibi by Kikai Anime Manga for the Beginner: Chibis by Christopher Hart Chibi Art Class by Yoai

Watercolor of an adorable blue-purple-pink basilisk, smiling contentedly.

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