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Super deformed or SD is a specific style of Japanese caricature where characters are drawn in an exaggerated way, typically small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads, to make them resemble small children. This style forms an integral part of what Japanese and American anime fans refer to as chibi.
The super deformed 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 anger 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.
The super deformed art style has appeared in anime-influenced American series, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender's Super Deformed shorts. In the shorts, all characters are depicted as chibis, parodying the main series and characters.
The head of a super deformed character is normally anywhere between one third (1:3 ratio) and one half (1:2 ratio) 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.