by Inigo del Castillo in New Design on Saturday 18 January 2014

‘Chibi’ is a Japanese term for ‘short person’ or ‘small child’. In popular culture, chibi has mostly referred to characters with oversized heads and small bodies – similar to babies – to emphasize cuteness and child-like spirit. Graphic designer Junichi Tsuneoka has taken the concept of chibi to a whole new level by transforming terrifying and menacing robots into cute and adorable little mechs in a limited art collectible he calls ‘Chibi Pocket’.

If the figures don’t look quite robot-y to you, that’s because they’re of the hybrid kind! To be more precise, Junichi combined traditional concepts and modern design to create a line of toys that have the best of both worlds. The designer used natural materials like wood and bamboo because they were ecologically-friendly and traditional Japanese material. He then applied traditional woodworking techniques and modern digital laser printing to flesh out the beautiful details of the figures. For colouring, he used Sumi Ink, and for the accent parts, he used green florescent acrylic plates.

Looking at the design, I say there was a lot of attention to detail and craftsmanship that went into the development and production of these little collectibles. Different patterns and little quirks add personality to each robot, making each one a must have for the entire collection. It’s also a refreshing break to see toys that were made with recyclable materials in mind.

Junichi had been working as a graphic designer for several years, creating vibrant and wacky illustrations of fantastical characters, when he was commissioned to make a soft vinyl toy design for Stubborn Sideburn. After that, an idea hit him. He says, ‘I realized the possibility of my illustration being in 3D form as a different way of expressing my art. I started looking for some ways to make this happen’. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Chibi Pocket is available for purchase at their online store.