It is not uncommon for popular anime to include special episodes where the characters are drawn in a chibi format. Chibi is a Japanese slang word to describe something short. For instance, we often see short characters being called ‘chibi.’ However, it later became an entire form of art. In the chibi art form, characters are drawn in an exaggerated manner. They are given a big head, big eyes, and a small body. With this exaggerated method, the characters look cute (yes, even the scary ones). Thanks to the chibi style, a lot of merchandise such as keychains, T-shirts, and toys were born. Even the western market began to create characters and toys in the chibi style.
Some of the episodes have very tense storylines. These tense situations can be forgotten for a while, thanks to these special episodes. Sometimes they follow the same plot but with hilarious twists. Below are some of the most popular chibi-style anime that fans have come to appreciate. It is not a ranking list, as ranking them depends on the person. But it is guaranteed that you will have a fun time watching these, as long as you are aware of the original series.
1. Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals
Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, originally known as Rock Lee no Seishun Full-Power Ninden, is a spin-off series from Naruto Shippuden. It consists of 51 episodes and debuted in February 2012. The story follows the daily life and training of our protagonist Rock Lee. It is the first spin-off series that does not follow the Naruto Shippuden storyline. The story is purely for comedic purposes, and even villains like Orochimaru are presented in a funny way. Aside from Rock Lee, his teacher Might Guy and his teammates Neji and Tenten are also shown in every episode.
You can watch all 51 episodes on Crunchyroll and Hulu.
2. Himouto! Umaru-chan
Himouto! Umaru-chan is a manga series written and illustrated by Sankaku Head. What is special about Umaru-chan is that the main series is presented in a chibi manner. Or rather, the lead character is. Umaru Doma is a gifted high school girl and is the depiction of elegance. Her classmates admire her beauty and her academic and sports skills. However, Umaru holds a secret that only her big brother Taihei knows about. She is secretly a big gaming nerd with fast food addiction.
The moment she reaches home, she transforms into a chibi version, pulls on her hamster hoodie, and starts playing games. She can be seen with a bottle of cola and a packet of potato chips next to her at all times. Despite her brother’s worries, she doesn’t shrug away her lifestyle. But the anime is a great comfort-watch, and the characters are interesting.
3. Isekai Quartet
Isekai Quartet is the ultimate crossover presented in a chibi format. The series brings forth characters from KonoSuba, Re:Zero, Overlord, Saga of Tanya the Evil, Cautious Hero, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. The first season aired between April to June 2019. Season 2 came shortly after and aired from January to March 2020. And now, a movie called Isekai Quarter – Another World is set to release in 2022. A third season is also in the works.
The story follows characters from various isekai anime coming across a mysterious button. When they press it, they get transported to a whole new world. In that world, they are put in a high school, and hilarious situations and friendships ensue. The series is a fun watch and not connected to any of the main storylines, despite the references.
4. Attack on Titan: Junior High
You knew this was coming. Attack on Titan is one series that badly needs a stress-free version. Right from season one, we saw death and carnage in every episode. Have you got attached to a character? Too bad they won’t make it to the end of the season. But enter Attack on Titan: Junior High, where titans exist, but humans are not dying.
The series reimagines all the characters as students and teachers at Attack High School. Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, along with the other characters, are all presented hilariously. Yes, even Levi. In fact, Levi is one of the funniest characters, despite never cracking a smile. All the events in season 1 of the anime are given a funny twist in a collection of 12 episodes. What’s more, the characters that died too soon in season 1 have bigger roles here.
5. Toradora SOS!
Toradora! is one of the best high-school romantic comedies out there. However, the series focuses more on romance than comedy after some time. Not that it was a bad thing, but if you needed something funnier, here’s the alternative. Toradora SOS! is just as good as the original, and the chibi forms elevate it. The specials have a runtime of 5 minutes and consist of 4 episodes. They mainly discuss food in these episodes, and they are very informative. Plus, Taiga’s reaction to everything she eats will make us laugh out loud.
6. One Piece: Straw Hat Theatre
A true classic for chibi anime, Straw Hat Theatre or Mugiwara Gekijou aired alongside episodes 279 to 283 in October 2006. They are based on creator Eiichiro Oda’s side comics. These five episodes still never fail to make a fan laugh.
Episode one is about Chopper Man getting into Dr. Usodabada’s secret lair. The second one discusses how food was like in the Straw Hats crew before Sanji’s arrival. Episode three asks a hypothetical question: If they were all obahan (older woman), who would be the strongest? All the characters are shown with bob haircuts and old lady voices. Spoiler alert, the strongest is Nami or Namijima in this case. Episode 4 showed Luffione, Zorocia, and Sanjino as mafia families fighting for control. The final short showed them all as monsters.
7. Kimi ni Todoke Season 2 Specials
Kimi ni Todoke is a cute and heartwarming rom-com with lovable characters. The anime also presented a surprising amount of chibi characters, which was much appreciated. Protagonist Sawako’s chibi version is to die for. Three special episodes were released following season 2, and fans loved them just as much.
The specials are adorable and funny short episodes presented in a fairytale manner. Cinderella and Snow White were the stories. Kazehaya is, of course, the prince. However, Sawako was made the witch, making it surprisingly funny. Episodes one and two channeled the cuteness very well, but episode three caused some division. The makers decided to go for a 3D format, and not everyone is a fan. But you will enjoy the stories nonetheless.
8. Bungo Stray Dogs Wan!
Bungou Stray Dogs was an epic show, and its chibi version is just as epic. Titled Bungou Stray Dogs Wan!, the miniseries is much more recent. It follows the original storyline but with humorous twists. The characters of the Armed Detective Agency and the Mafia are all chibis. In fact, the manga is longer than most chibi spin-offs, with eight volumes. The anime consists of 12 episodes and shows the mundane yet hilarious life of the two agencies.
9. Damekko Doubutsu
Damekko Doubutsu, literally translated to “Useless Animals” is a series from Noriko Kuwata. It consists of characters wearing animal onesies, and together, they live in the “Useless” Forest. Uruno, the main character, wears a wolf costume but is as shy as a rabbit. Meanwhile, his best friend, Usahara, the rabbit, has the aggression of a wolf. He is also smoking all the time. There are 26 episodes in total, with a duration of five minutes. They are hilarious and truly enjoyable.
10. Shakugan no Shana S Specials
Shakugan no Shana has a number of special episodes with chibi-Shana in the lead. The main story is of a high-school boy named Yuji Sakai, caught in an age-old conflict of balance and imbalance. In the process, he befriends a fighter in the balance side and names her Shana. Together, they fight against the forces of imbalance.
The specials do a wonderful job at parodying the original, and sometimes it’s much needed. The anime has some very serious characters, so it is good to see them in a humorous light. While we are at it, I would recommend you to take a look at the other specials as well.