An artistic style in anime that is generally considered both "cutesy" and humorous, in which a character is rendered in a shorter, blobby and rounder form, somewhat resembling a caricature of themselves as a tiny yet plump toddler.
Although most commonly used in parody or as part of promotional material, it can be found in some shows at points of extreme comedy/slapstick, or when characters are seen to be acting extremely "cute" or immature. This use of Artistic Age can mask the true age of characters, making forty somethings and fourteen year olds seem the same age.
Also known as "chibi" (Japanese for "small") in some circles, although not just confined to anime — it's a very common form of Fan-Art. Name any popular character, chibi exists of them. In fact, it's almost as common as Rule 34.
In older video games with small characters compared to screen, Super-Deformed style was used mainly due to graphical limitations so a head size wouldn't be just a single pixel. In newer games, characters in cutscenes or character portraits will still depict them in more realistic proportions (for an example, in Disgaea and Cave Story). See Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed for that.
Compare Top-Heavy Guy and Puni Plush. Contrast to Noodle People. See also Big Head Mode.
A Sub-Trope of Fun Size.
Not to be confused with an extremely deformed character.
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Around 2009, Kellogg dropped its Don Hertzfeldt-inspired "Crazy Good" ad campaign for Pop-Tarts toaster pastries in favor of "Made for Fun", which has super-deformed CGI children along with far-less-deformed adults. But then you realize that the kids' heads are bigger than those of the adults, and the only conclusion you can draw is that adults in this world don't eat Pop-Tarts. This video exposes the Fridge Logic.
Anime & Manga
At least a quarter of Dragon Half is spent with various characters — up to and including the story's Big Bad — Super-Deformed.
Similarly, the trainee angels and demons in Wish have chibi forms; Angels being full-size during the day and chibi in the night, and vice versa for the demons.
Rozen Maiden contrasts its characters' elegant designs with ventures into Super-Deformed states.
In The Wallflower when Sunako is in one of her darker moods (i.e., almost all the time) she is shown in Super-Deformed style. She only looks normal when she is kicking ass in one form or another. She later gains a "hybrid" form, that is sort of "elegant chibi".
Displayed and somewhat subverted in Fushigi Yuugi. For most of the characters, it's simply an artistic style; for the shape-shifting Chichiri, comments by other characters imply he actually takes on that appearance, or at least the height.
Sailor Moon characters (particularly Usagi) often lapse into chibi style.
Some of the episodes of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien had short comedy sketches after the closing credits starring chibi versions of "Ayu-Ayu" and "Mayu-Mayu", an interesting contrast to the generally serious nature of the anime itself.
Surprisingly prevalent in Gundam. SD Gundam is a sub-franchise in and of itself with model kits, shows, and games. Some stories (like the comedy shorts and BB Senshi Sangokuden) have the super-deformed mecha as characters who talk and interact with super-deformed human characters, while in others (like the SD Gundam G Generation games) the mecha are still piloted weapons as normal. Interestingly, the design of the super-deformed MS has evolved over time: in earlier works they had proportions like regular SD characters, while later works like SD Gundam Force and MS Saga use a less exaggerated version where the head and torso are large but the limbs are still detailed and jointed, making them more reasonable.
From the New World has an online show that defines characters and terms hosted by super-deformed versions of Saki and Squealer. Check it out here and here.
Prince of Tennis occasionally has entire episodes devoted to showing the adventures of the super-deformed main characters in alternate universes. When the first of these gag episodes was shown just before a much-anticipated showdown, it cemented the show's reputation as one of the most bi-polar creations in all of anime.
Ginji of Get Backers sometimes becomes super-deformed for extended periods of time, even when the rest of the characters are drawn normally. Other characters even comment on it in the manga.
The Tokyo Mew Mew manga includes a few side stories called Petite Mew Mew, set in a fantasy land and involving kid/chibi versions of the major characters playing in a kindergarten.
Used heavily in Kare Kano. The female lead spends at least half her time onscreen in this form.
Slayers does this quite frequently for a laugh. One notable instance in Slayers Next has Lina casting a Dragon Slave to save Seillune and Amelia asking Shabranigdu to make it work; Gourry and Zelgadis are quick to berate her in Super-Deformed style ("You're a shrine maiden! Don't pray to Dark Lords!").
Luffy's Heroic RROD after using Gear 3rd has him temporarily turning into a chibified version of himself.
In the Shirow Masamune manga Dominion Tank Police, the puma sisters join the police force. Ani-puma gets bored, and wants to go out on a tank police raid. But she is over six feet tall, and can't fit in their mini-tank. Ani-puma is a type of android (or bioroid, who can tell with Shirow), and she reveals the power to release all the water in her body, and become a chibi version of herself. After the raid, Ani drinks up the contents of several water coolers, and embiggens herself again.
The "Science Lesson" segments of Gunbuster, where Chibi Coach, Noriko and Kazumi discuss the "science" the show runs on.
There's Suzumiya-chan for your chibi fix of that series. For an inversion, the normal characters and in one episode a blushing shoujo Itsuki are used for comedic effect.
Hikari's SD mode in Amanchu! arguably tends to be rather jarring, especially since it's used a lot, even in situations where one normally wouldn't do that. My gosh, does Amano have to make her eyes so creepy?
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou (both the TV series and the two-episode OVA with the same title) occasionally has short comical scenes with the character rendered in "chibi" size; also worth mentioning are the "Kotengu Classic" segments, always done in this style (if only because Kotengu is "chibi" by default).
Mahou Sensei Negima! uses this sparingly (usually in Exposition Diagrams), although Misora does it in her drawings. While it doesn't use it often in the traditional sense, it makes up for it with Chibi-Setsuna, a shikigami that Setsuna uses to remotely contact people. When Chibi-Setsuna disappears, Chibi-Sayo (a Super-Deformed voodoo doll that Sayo possesses) pops up.
Eyeshield 21 had a joke-strip about this with cell phones. Monta asks whether cell phones should be equally proportioned to their head for actual talking, at the cost of a huge and inconvenient size, or if they should be small like in real life, meaning you can't both listen and talk over the phone. Monta and Sena decided it's best just to stay normal.
Fullmetal Alchemist likes using this to lighten up an otherwise depressing series. Though in the 2003 anime version, it drops this halfway through (with the exception of the Chibi Wrap Party OVA). This trope gives Armor!Al a chance to be absolutely adorable◊.
Happens sometimes in Bleach, for example in anime episode #24 when Orihime was trying to deny that she was hungry.
Happens a lot in Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru. Sometimes they stay in chibi-mode for a moment when in the "real world", then immediately transform back to normal.
After its first season, the Ranma ½ series has Eye Catches with the characters in Chibi form.
Though it comes and goes with humorous scenes in The Weatherman Is My Lover, the producer is notable for never appearing as anything but Super-Deformed, even when the rest of the characters are in their normal state.
Similar to Hidamari Sketch above, in Sketchbook the characters become chibified all the time. Especially Sora, who possibly spends more than half of her panel appearances Super-Deformed.
Berserk's Puck. In the latter part of the manga, he's relegated to so much comic relief that he's most always playing this trope.
The Record of Lodoss War series had a bit at the end called "The Second Part", where Chibi versions of the characters ran around acting ridiculous. These skits were often a silly version of the episode you'd just watched, but often (especially in the second half of the show) The Second Part was following it's own inane plotline.
The title character of Himouto! Umaru-chan changes into this form every time she steps into her house.
Sakura Trick depicts the characters this way during the ending and some extra segments.
In The Sandman, Abel tells a sweet story about how he and his brother Cain came to live in the Dreaming. It's far more sugary than what really happened, and is drawn in this style by vaunted Jill Thompson.
She went on to produce two actual Endless kids' books in the same style, The Little Endless Storybook and Delirium's Party.
Inverted in the Precious Girls Club books. Precious Moments drawings, figurines, animated specials, etc. ordinarily use SD proportions, roughly 2.6 heads tall, for child characters. To appeal to young girls, the Precious Girls Club brand extension intentionally went with less-deformed proportions while keeping the distinctive eye shape.
Hasbro has chibi lines of several franchises. "[Word related to franchise but not always actual franchise name goes here] Heroes" is usually going to be chibi. In fact, guess who makes the toyline for the Super Hero Squad?
Bandai has created toyline history by doing this with Mobile Suit Gundam. Even without tie-in anime like SD Gundam Force or BB Senshi Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors, the SD Gundam line has spawned over three hundred model kits and countless other forms of merchandise.
Nendoroid figure line from Good Smile Company is this to all sorts of anime characters.
A British company, Speed Freaks Studio, makes super-deformed clay models of real life cars and bikes, including Ferraris and Lotuses, as well as super-deformed clay models of people.
Most games in the Super Robot Wars series portray the mecha as being Super-Deformed in their battle animations. Characters, close-ups of the mecha in battle, and in the Original Generation animes, are shown at normal sizes and proportions. This is at least party done to hide the immense scale differences between the various units, given it is entirely possible to have a 12 meter tall Macross Battleroid backing up the 250 meter tall Gunbuster. This does, however, occasionally lead to odd consequences in attack animations. Super Robot Wars W finds a way to complicate thing even further, Not only having such things as as a seven-foot-tall Tekkaman lifting up a 300-meter-long Battleship one-handed and impaling it on their spear, but also things like the differences in size between the cyborg Renee in KorRyu and AnRyu's attacks, and the Powered Armor-wearing heroes who are their own units. One game, Shin Super Robot Wars, used non-SD models for battle animations, and so did Super Robot Wars Gaiden.
Many Japanese games have characters drawn chibi-style in long shots (I.E.: overworld mode, in towns, etc.) and normally during combat or cutscenes. This is likely to keep them recognisable when drawn small at console resolution.
The first handheld port of the Guilty Gear games was a Super-Deformed version of the arcade game, Guilty Gear Petit (also known as Guilty Gear Puchi because of romanisation issues).
All the characters of the Final Fantasy series appeared like this up to Final Fantasy VII. The eighth game was the first with realistically proportioned characters, and while the ninth went back to slightly Super-Deformed (mostly for nostalgia's sake), every game since has had realistic characters.
Most of the death scenes in Time Gal render Reika as a chibi for some reason.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and its customizable minions are taking part here. You can choose your own littled bodies big headed characters and have them cheer for you.
The Japanese website for Guild Wars features Gwen-chan and Dr. Boar, chibi versions of the already cute Gwen and the tamable boar. Gwen-chan was eventually included in the game as a miniature, tonic, and April Fools joke transformation.
In the Tiger Dojo in Fate/stay night, Taiga and Illya sometimes take chibi form. Any other characters in the Dojo always appear as chibi.
A brief scene in Higurashi: When They Cry, when Rika gets mad at Hanyuu's fatalism and punishes her by eating spicy food and drinking alcohol. "Our senses are linked..." The original◊ sound novel art◊ is also chibi-like.
Katawa Shoujo uses chibi versions of the female characters as gallery buttons and on its pop-ups. Most famously, the "Are you sure you want to quit?" pop-up features a picture of chibified Hanako Ikezawa huddling in the corner, invoking You Bastard - no-one wants to make a tiny Hanako cry!
Tower of God - the giant, godzilla-like Alligator Rak Wraithraiser gets shrunk to a chibi by Y Han Sung after being rude to him. As of Volume 2, he appears to be able to control this at will, even staying small as a disguise and reverting back when in battle.
The now-defunct Ghastly's Ghastly Comic has chibis as their own subspecies of humanity. One recurring character, Chibi-Sue, is a thirty-six-year-old chibi woman who can't have a normal relationship, as the only men interested in her are pedophiles. She also lacks fingers (a common trait of super-deformed characters), making her life suck all the more.
Durkon, Belkar and all other dwarf and halfling characters in The Order of the Stick have smaller bodies than humans and elves but their heads are the same size, and so look disproportionately large on them.
Blip uses this during a Pensieve Flashback: Partway through Liz's memory of a nasty argument, both K and Mary transform into chibis and remain that way until the flashback ends. This seems to be indicative that Liz thought they were both acting immaturely, and it's certainly indicative that Liz is deliberately exaggerating the events for the benefit of her audience.
Lesser angels and demons are depicted as chibis all the time.
Done stealthily in Homestuck: It's hard to see because it's permanent and the protagonists are kids, but when they do something awesome (AKA Hero Mode), they're dechibified.
Many El Goonish Shive sketchbook strips have the main and/or supporting characters chibified. This was done often for the "party" or "holiday" strips presumably as it was a convenient way to fit all the characters in without it being crowded. This strip is a good example of this.
Lord of Dorkness was ruining the fun of the Elf Only Inn room, with permission from Lord Elf. Duke and Nimoy went to Demon Citadel to try to recruit a demon to fight Lord of Dorkness. When they were laughed at, they decided to ruin the dark mood by being silly for as long as it took to get someone. One of their stunts was Duke bringing back his Super-Deformed avatar.
Drowtales concludes every chapter with one or more chibi pages which parody the chapter's events.
Super-Deformed also occasionally makes an appearance in the actual storyline. The most notable example is here, when Phani'nath gives a rather abridged summary of the previous council meeting.
A series of shorts called "The New Teen Titans" was nothing but super deformed gag strips, proving popular to Green Light a "Teen Titans Go!" series which will be even more deformed.
Used in the out-of-continuity shorts of Avatar: The Last Airbender that were available online and on the second season DVD. To achieve the main series's particular sense of realism, the creators set down some boundaries as to what they could and couldn't use for comic effect. With the shorts, Mike and Bryan, who are fans of the crazier variety of manga and anime, were able to pretty much let themselves go.
One episode of Danny Phantom had Jazz revealing her plans to Maddie and Sam on how to stop the villains, shown in Super-Deformed style. Also, Chibi Paulina.
Wakfu's season 1 has a whole spin-off, Mini-Wakfu, using the characters as Chibi for short vignettes mirroring the plot of the episodes they follow. Super-Deformed version of the characters appears also in the series proper, in Flashbacks or Imagine Spots.